ACC football notebook: 'Noles still favorites

Jimbo Fisher will look for his second ACC title in 2013, but must replace his quarterback first and foremost.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher saw what he was looking for in the Seminoles’ 130-play scrimmage Monday, as the team reached the mid-point of spring practice.

The coaching staff got an extensive look at the first-, second- and third-team offense and defenses, making building depth a priority, but also extending competition for positions. They wanted to give as many players as they could opportunities to make an impression. It was a good day for the garnet and gold.

“There were some good and bad signs for both sides (of the ball),” Fisher said after the scrimmage. “I think plays were made on each side because the other side didn’t execute. That’s kind of typical for this time in the spring.

“We did some good things. All of the quarterbacks rotated in evenly. Each had their chances with the 1s and 2s in different situations. Guys did some nice things, but we have a long way to go.”

The Seminoles also worked on special situations, such as third downs, redzone, goal line and two-minute offense and defense. Statistics were kept but won’t be released to the public.

As for the quarterbacks, Fisher is positive moving forward in the post-E.J. Manuel era.

“It’s because you aren’t out there with the coach,” Fisher said, noting what was different for the signal callers about this scrimmage than a more controlled one. “You have to be out there on your own. It’s still live in the stadium. I can’t say if there is much more (of a difference), but it kind of confirms things I’ve been seeing at practice. I’m not unhappy at all. We’ve made a lot of progress. We made some really great plays.”

Junior Clint Trickett has the early lead in the race for FSU’s next starting quarterback. Trickett saw plenty of action as a freshman when Manuel went down with an injury, but he didn’t play much last season. Trickett has passed for 947 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions in his FSU career.

Replacing Gio

Well, North Carolina knows it just can’t replace Giovani Bernard, but it can move forward and continue getting tremendous production from the tailback position.

Bernard ran for more than 1,200 yards in each of his two seasons, scoring 25 touchdowns. He also caught 92 passes for 852 yards and six scores. He returned several punts for touchdowns and did this in limited duty both seasons, as starting behind a more experienced player limited his early touches in 2011 and injuries and concerns by coach Larry Fedora kept him to just 29 carries in UNC’s first five games last season.

No one player can replace Bernard, but a group can.

So far, three players have stood out in spring camp. Veteran A.J. Blue, talented sophomore Romar Morris, who showed some Gio-esque flashes a year ago, and Khris Francis, a walk-on freshman from nearby Durham. Tony Logan, a highly-rated freshman, is expected to fight for a spot in the rotation in time.

Blue, who ran for 433 yards and nice scores last season, went to UNC as a quarterback and has battled a knee injury and position switch. He runs powerfully between the tackles and is one of the most respected and well-liked players on the roster.

Morris could turn in a huge season. He ran for 366 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns last fall.

“I’d say we’ve got three guys in Blue, Romar and Francis, you know, have been working really hard on it,” Fedora said after a recent scrimmage. “Where we stand right now if we had to put somebody out there then Blue would go out there with the first unit.”

Hokies cautious with Coles

Virginia Tech is cautious in how it handles wide receiver D.J. Coles, who is back for a second senior year after being given a waiver by the NCAA. And it’s a good thing he got it because the Hokies have many questions at the position.

Coles had surgery to repair ligament damage in his right knee following the 2011 season and had recovered enough he was given clearance to play in the season opener at home against Georgia Tech. But Coles re-injured the knee early in the game and was forced to miss the rest of the season.

Coles told the Roanoke Times he’s “100 percent on everything” and expects to participate a lot throughout spring workouts. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer isn’t concerned about getting Coles out there right away.

“We don’t want to rush it,” he said. “Next fall is when he really needs to be ready to go full tilt.”

As a junior in 2011, the 6-foot-4, 226-pound Coles grabbed 36 passes for 480 yards and three touchdowns for a Tech team that won the Coastal Division title.