2004 brings the Hokies to a new conference with new coaches, new venues, and perhaps most interestingly, new stars.
The addition of Miami and Virginia Tech will make the ACC arguably the premier football conference in the nation. For
those of you unfamiliar with the names to watch, here’s my preseason take on the best the ACC has to offer.
Whitehurst, Clemson, 6'4", 220 JR - Whitehurst is coming off a breakout sophomore season in which he passed for
over 3,500 yards and completed nearly 62% of his passes. He has a strong arm, a quick release and good accuracy. He also
leads by example, much like Bryan Randall does for the Hokies. His father was a former NFL QB, Green Bay Packers QB
David Whitehurst, and Charlie has the ability to be a top five QB in the next NFL draft if he continues to progress. The
area he needs the most work on is reading coverages, as evidenced by his relatively modest TD/INT ratio (21:13).
Others to watch: Chris Rix, FSU, 6'4", 210 SR (fantastic ability, can run and make all the throws but loses
mechanics and historically makes key mistakes); Darian Durant, UNC, 5'11", 217 SR (holds numerous career records at
UNC with a middling supporting cast); Bryan Randall, VT, 6'0", 222 SR (great intangibles, solid short passing game,
one of the best running quarterbacks in the country).
McClendon, NC State, 5'11", 216 JR - McClendon made a big splash as a true freshman, but suffered an injury
plagued sophomore season. Still, he enters his junior year with over 1,700 career rushing yards and 27 touchdowns, so he’s
been incredibly productive. Runs much bigger than his size would indicate, and reportedly has added size and strength
for the fall. This probably will be his last year in Raleigh and the Pack has an unproven QB, so expect him to get the
rock a lot.
Daniels, GT, 5'10", 210 JR - A former walk on, Daniels is a bowling ball that loves to run downhill. He won the
league rushing title last year with 1,447 yards thanks to late season games against UNC (36/240) and Tulsa (31/307). He
still has room to improve as he hadn’t seen a lot of time prior to last season, and that’s a scary proposition for
Others to watch: Leon Washington, FSU, 5'9", 202 JR (very elusive, great between the tackles and a special teams
dynamo, he’s my pick as the most underrated player in the ACC; the presence of Lorenzo Booker is the only reason he
isn’t first team); Chris Barclay, WF, 5'10", 174 JR (rushed for 1,192 yards and 12 touchdowns in an option attack
despite being slowed by an ankle injury early; a very underrated player); Lorenzo Booker, FSU, 5'11" 187 SO (the
Mr. Outside to compliment Washington’s Mr. Inside, he has electric speed and terrific pass catching ability which
makes him very dangerous on the flanks); Wali Lundy, UVa, 6'1", 212 JR (workhorse back on first and second downs,
should improve his yards per carry from 4.1 last year with veteran line in front of him); Tyrone Moss, UM, 5'10",
218 SO (powerful yet quick to the hole, he’s a terrific prospect who may see a lot of carries if Frank Gore has lost a
step from two knee surgeries).
Moore, Miami, 6'3", 205 SO - Welcome to the next installment of the tall, fast athletic Miami wide receiver. As
a freshman last year he had 44 receptions for 637 yards. Don’t be surprised to see him approach the 60 catch range
with 1,000 yards even though the Miami receiving corps is loaded (Roscoe Parrish, Sinorice Moss, Akieem Jolla, and
especially Devin Hester all have big-time talent).
Thorpe, FSU, 6'2", 185 SR – Gives the conference corners a case of the runs as he has legitimate 4.3 speed
and nice height. He is the conference’s premier deep threat this season. He averaged nearly 20 yards per catch with 11
touchdowns last year. If he can heal from a broken leg suffered in spring practice, he will be an impact player on a
loaded Florida State offense.
Others to watch: Jason Anderson, WF, 6'3", 190 SR (Anderson’s numbers are deflated by Wake being an option
team and having inconsistent quarterback play, so his 751 receiving yards and 17.1 per catch average last year are
really impressive; he’s an underrated talent); Airese Currie, Clemson, 5’11", 185 SR (has tremendous ability
and should breakout as a senior with Charlie Whitehurst at the helm, but his relatively pedestrian 13 yards per catch
average last year is a surprise given his "blow by" speed); Tramain Hall, NC St., 5’11", 183 JR (very
productive for the Pack with 69 receptions last year, but a new quarterback could diminish his numbers); Jarwarski
Pollock, UNC, 5’8", 173 JR (very quick and a real threat for the Tar Heels, he set a UNC single season record
with 71 catches last fall).
Miller, UVa, 6’5", 255 JR – Miller has size, agility, great hands and productivity. Last year he caught 70
passes for nearly a 12 yard average, very impressive numbers for a tight end. He projects as a first team all America
and the preseason favorite for the Mackey Award. He also might very well be a first round draft choice next April.
Others to watch: T.J. Williams, N.C. St., 6’4", 258 JR (a very good pass receiver with 28 catches for 444
yards last season, he will be a security blanket for the new State QB); Jeff King, VT, 6’5", 256 JR (tremendous
run blocker who plays consistently well and – drum roll if you’ve heard this before – should be more involved in
the passing game this year); Kevin Everett, UM, 6’6", 251 SR (he won’t be a first round pick like the last
three tight ends at UM – Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, and the Chosen One/The Soldja – but he is a good player who
blocks well and is a viable goal-line option on play action); Andy Roland, Duke, 6’4", 235 JR (he will play more
of an H-back role this year with Ben Patrick getting some TE reps, but Roland is a solid blocker with good hands who
should catch at least 25 balls this year).
Winston, Miami, 6’6", 305 JR (LT) – Winston was the "other" tight end in the Winslow class, and
he was moved to tackle last spring by the Canes. Good decision there. Winston’s footwork is fantastic and he’s got a
mean streak too. Although he lacks Bryant McKinnie’s sheer size, he’s a similar shutout type left tackle. In the
clip and save department for those of you who actually read my articles: I think he’ll be the highest drafted player
from the ACC next April.
Barron, FSU, 6’5", 313 SR (LT) – Some veterans around Tallahassee believe he may be the most athletically
gifted tackle FSU has ever had and that takes some pretty good players into account. Barron also projects as a first
round choice next April, and he’ll be the linchpin of what should not only be the ACC’s best offensive line, but
probably the best line in the country.
Brooks, Maryland, 6’5", 320 SR (OG) – Did not perform up to his standards early last year because of an
ankle injury, but played well as he healed down the stretch. He’s a smart, capable lineman with the ability to swing
out to right tackle as needed. Brooks should be in line for a great senior season.
Brown, UVa, 6’6", 333 SR (OG) – While Winston, Barron and Brooks garner a lot of the headlines, Brown won
the Jacobs Trophy for being the ACC’s best offensive lineman last year. Brown’s size belies the fact that he’s
very technically proficient, and his game would go to an even higher level if he got a little meaner. He rates highly on
the boards of most NFL folks.
Castillo, FSU, 6’2", 304 JR (OC) – Castillo won second team all conference honors last year while playing
with a fractured foot. With offseason surgery to correct the problem, he should be even better this fall. He also will
benefit by playing on a line with two tackles (Barron and Ray Willis) talented enough to handle defensive ends
one-on-one, so the ‘Noles interior line can play three on two.
Others to watch: Ray Willis, FSU, 6’6", 320 SR (RT) (probably forms the second half of the best tackle tandem
in the country, Willis is a better run blocker than his counterpart although he is not nearly as nimble); Will
Montgomery, VT, 6’3", 298 JR (OC/OG) (a terrific interior lineman who has toughness and strength, Montgomery is
best suited for his natural position of offensive guard); D’Brickashaw Ferguson, UVa, 6’5", 295 JR (LT) (great
footwork and added bulk this offseason, he has already been a two year starter and is poised for a very good campaign);
Chris Myers, UM, 6’5", 287 SR (OG) (on a team loaded with athletic freaks, he is a lunch pail guy that helps
solidify the middle); Kyle Wallace, GT, 6’6", 295 SR (LT) (shifting from right tackle to left tackle to fill the
void created by the early departure of Nat Dorsey, Wallace is a three year starter who should be able to protect Reggie
Ball’s blind side).
Novak, Maryland, 6’0", 183 SR (K) – Was first team all conference last year when he kicked 24 of 32 field
goals, and that included a whole lot of team tries (10 of 16 from beyond 40 yards). Novak is a real weapon.
Others to watch: Connor Hughes, UVa, 6’0", 178 JR (phenomenal year for the Cavs in 2003 when he converted
every extra point attempt and 23 of 25 kicks including 3 over 50 yards; tough not to put him on the first team and could
end up there easily); Jon Peattie, UM, 6’3", 200 SO (a very good freshman season made Canes fans feel comfortable
that the wide right syndrome wouldn’t migrate south; Peattie hit 22 of 28 last year).
Hester, Miami, 5’11", 185 SO (KR) – Averaged 28.7 yards per return with a 97 yard jaunt for a touchdown as
a freshman. Hester is a master of broken field running and if he can learn the Cane offense, he’ll be really dangerous
on bubble screens.
Mike Imoh, VT, 5’7",
196 JR (KR) – Imoh’s numbers don’t lie: in his first year as a kickoff returner, he averaged over 30 per return
and brought one to the house from 100 yards away. Imoh is quick and compact, a tough combination for cover teams to
handle. He’ll be out the first three games, but he should be a factor during the bulk of the conference schedule.
Others to watch: Senterrio Landrum, Duke, 5’9", 185 SR (might be the biggest single threat on the Duke offense
with Chris Douglas and Alex Wade gone and promising quarterback Mike Schneider still young); Steve Suter, UMd, 5’9",
192 SR (made his name as a punt returner taking an absurd six punts back for touchdowns, but he’s very dangerous on
kickoffs as well).