Coastal coaches discuss spring progress

As part of Wednesday’s league-wide ACC spring teleconference, each of the seven coaches within the Coastal Division broke down some of the highlights from this year’s series of seasonal workouts.

Check out some of what David Cutcliffe, Paul Johnson, Al Golden, Larry Fedora, Pat Narduzzi, Mike London, and Frank Beamer had to say about their respective squads and their spring progress.

teampagedkDuke (David Cutcliffe) on the progression of the Blue Devil defensive linemen this spring…..


I was really pleased with our starters — (they had a) really good spring. A.J. Wolf solidified himself starting alongside Carlos Wray, and he has just become more and more powerful and has done a nice job of improving himself. And he’s played a lot of football, but he’s ready and showed that. Kyler Brown had a great spring. He’s comfortable at defensive end. Britton Grier is coming into his own. Both of those guys played a lot of football, but they played like seniors.

And then I was pleased what we have with our young people inside, Mike Ramsey, Quaven Ferguson, Edgar Cerenord, Keilin Rayner. And then on the outside, we moved Allen Jackson outside, and I thought he had a really good spring. Deion Williams finished strong. Marquise Price, who is a midyear guy, got a ways to go, but he could be as talented as anybody we’ve ever had. So just a lot of positives about our defensive front, and the more we study it, the more we like what we’re seeing. And then I think, obviously, we do believe we have some guys coming in here this summer to join us that could impact us. So I think that’s another great part of what we’re looking at from a depth standpoint.

teampagegtPaul Johnson (Georgia Tech) on the continuity on the defensive side heading into 2015…..


I think any time you can stay within the same scheme and system with the same coaches, that’s a plus. We do have eight starters coming back there, and they’re going to have to play better. We’re going to need our defense to play much better this year because the offense is going to be younger, especially early in the year and starting out.

We’re excited about what they were able to accomplish in the spring. I think we’re hopeful that we’re going to get back a couple of defensive linemen who did not play a year ago, and I think they’re going to be a big, added help to the defense just from a depth standpoint and from play making ability. It’s always good to have a bunch of guys back that have played, and certainly we hope that we’re going to show major improvement on that side of the ball this year.

teampagemiAl Golden (Miami) on replacing Duke Johnson at running back, and the Canes’ candidates for the job…..


I think it’s a great challenge for our guys. I think Gus Edwards had a really good spring. He’s got to continue to show the responsibility and accountability to be that guy. I think Joe Yearby is also a guy that’s competing for that although he’s markedly different than Gus. And then Trayone Gray, Mark Walton, and Walter Tucker will also be in that battle come summer.Again, I’m anxious to see how it plays out. I’m happy with the direction that group’s going, but, obviously, they have a great challenge, and hopefully they have something to prove here over the next four months.

We really haven’t changed who we are philosophically. Again, we’re very excited about Gus and Joe, and Trayone Gray is very talented. He’s still learning the position, and Mark Walton, certainly a young man coming in. So we’re going to have the guys there. It may not be just one. It may be more getting several guys the same amount of touches. But, again, if one of those guys separates themselves as Duke did, then he’ll get the majority of the touches. Right now we’re still in that phase we’re waiting to see one of them break out. If not, we’ll do it by committee. Either way, we’re fine with it and excited about the direction that group is going.


teampageuncLarry Fedora (North Carolina) on the arrival of Gene Chizik as UNC’s defensive coordinator…..


Well, obviously Gene is going to have a tremendous impact on our defense. He’s running it. We have a completely new scheme, and I would say with the additions of John Papuchis and Charlton Warren and the things that they’ve brought also from Nebraska, it’s a great mixture between the two. But Gene is in charge of it. I mean, he’s installing his style of coaching, his style of way, the way he wants those guys to play. Yeah, I’m just excited about seeing the end result once the season gets here.

I would say our secondary, you know, just the things that we’ve changed in our secondary (was our biggest defensive area of improvement this spring). Also those guys have — they’ve all got a year of experience in, and also as far as just playing and being out there, but they’ve adapted well to the new scheme and the new techniques that Gene and Charl want them to play back there, so I would say coming out of spring, I’d say that would have been the most productive area.

teampageundpttPat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh) on the development of the Panther defense this spring…..


There’s so many things, when you take over a defense that, I guess, hasn’t been as good as it needs to be in the past and really has held back the great things our offense has done. There’s so much to learn. I don’t know if I can pinpoint one thing, but the one thing I did like is their attitude and their engagement in spring ball. They’re willing to learn.

Right before I got on the conversation here, as we were waiting on the line to get on (the ACC teleconference), one of our middle linebackers just called me, and I’m kind of watching the spring game — you’ve got so many duties to do here, but trying to get through the rest of the spring game, and I’m texting him back and forth on some little things he didn’t do well in the spring game and some front adjustments and checks that he needed to make up front and just trying to teach him. So there’s so many little things. Our kids are anxious to continue to learn.

teampagesyvacalMike London (Virginia) on the development of safety Kelvin Rainey…..


When you look at us, we’re a multiple defense. So whether you’re playing the nickel, dime package, or regular personnel unit, the one thing that I can say is that Kelvin has done an outstanding job of raising his level of play and making himself to be considered as a guy that can be a safety and play multiple teams for us. So he’s done a good job of really getting better.

We talked about him as far as being one of the MVPs, or most improved players, of spring because sometimes that light factor, the ‘aha’ moment, comes on for some guys, and it has for him. So the better he is, the better he’ll make us back there on the back end. So we need his kind of toughness and leadership, and we’ll see how it plays out as we go into summer here and into the fall, when some new players come in, and just kind of see where he fits and where the whole scheme thing fits as far as personnel.

teampagesyvtFrank Beamer (Virginia Tech) on some of the team’s young running backs, as well as the possibility of redshirting Marshawn Williams and/or Shai McKenzie for the 2015 season…..


I think J.C. Coleman, you know, he finished up the year tremendous and has had a great spring practice. Trey Edmunds has come back, and he’s looked exceptional. We’ve been excited about the (Travon) McMillian kid that we redshirted last year. (Steven) Peoples, I think he’s been — and you notice that guy who’s the new guy. So I think we’ve got some good possibilities.

Yeah, I think that’s certainly a possibility (redshirting Williams and/or McKenzie). Of course, the question is how do they come back? When you’re talking about injuries, it’s not always the same how you come back. We’re fortunate, we’ve got really good running backs in here. I didn’t even mention a guy I thought ran really hard (this spring) was D.J. Reid. I was impressed with him, and you’re talking about a big back that’s got speed too.

We’re fortunate. We’ve got really good backs. I think the thing that we’ve got to be good about is narrowing it down, and even though a guy that serves some carries right now, figure out who’s going to carry the ball and make sure we get them involved in the game and not trying to play too many guys. Because we’ve got several guys that are really good.