ACC notebook: ‘Noles rev up passing game
If Florida State’s spring game is any indication, the Seminoles are turning to the air in an attempt to capture the program’s first ACC championship since 2005 this coming fall.
FSU’s ground attack had issues a year ago. The Seminoles ran the ball 437 times and netted just 1,458 yards for an average of only 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. While improving the running game was a point of emphasis this spring, going to the air appears to be the preferred approach by coach Jimbo Fisher.
In last weekend’s spring game, FSU passed the ball on 91 of the 149 offensive snaps. Senior E.J. Manuel, a possible contender for national awards in the fall, attempted 51 passes.
“I just looked at that,” he said, “I was like ‘wow, I threw the ball 51 times.’ My body feels good and that’s what I’m smiling for. I came out of the spring healthy and moving on to the summer time.”
Manuel and backup Clint Trickett got a ton of work all spring with an emphasis on getting the ball downfield. In the spring game, Manuel was 28-for-51 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He was sacked three times.
Trickett was 11-for-23 for 173 yards and two scores. Eighteen different players caught passes.
Fisher was glad to see spring camp conclude with no major injuries, but acknowledged the team is not close to what he envisions for the start of September.
“It was a good spring,” Fisher said. “Glad we got through it relatively unscathed with no season-ending injuries for next year. Some young guys got some opportunities (as) some older guys did and guys are starting to come through.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, know where we’re at. We’ve got a good foundation built. Now it just matters what we do in between now and the first ballgame.”
Virginia’s McGee on tap?
Virginia’s attempt at running a faster offense with more plays between 15 and 25 yards next season may result in a few changes at tight end.
The Cavaliers’ tight ends had just 20 receptions for 152 yards last season, and while several return, including Paul Freedman, who caught 11 passes, the starting job just may end up going to sophomore Jake McGee.
McGee came to Virginia as a quarterback. He played under center in high school and also in the secondary. But once he got to Charlottesville, it became apparent his career wouldn’t include playing quarterback. So McGee, 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, switched to tight end, a position that suits his skills and UVa’s needs.
“He’s had a chance to get into the weight room, he’s had a chance to understand coverages, how not to re-route yourself when a guy’s standing there,” UVa coach Mike London said. “He’s learned to be a better football player. So now, being physically strong he’s faster. Knowing the defense and reading coverages before the snap. … I think Jake can be as good as he wants to be.”
McGee also played basketball in high school, so he’s quite athletic. London loves recruiting players that participate in other sports, especially basketball. If he wins the job, London can further use his transition as a way of attracting multi-sport athletes to the program.
UNC’s Barth is back
Senior Casey Barth was back on the field last Saturday kicking the football in the typically excellent way he did before suffering a groin injury that prematurely ended his season last fall and allowed him to redshirt.
Barth converted a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter of North Carolina’s spring game and actually told the Wilmington Star-News he was “nervous” before attempting the kick. And this from a young man who has kicked game winners at Virginia Tech in prime time on a Thursday night and over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl two years ago.
“It was the best feeling in the world for me, because early in the spring I was really sore,” he said. “I was worried. I talked to my dad a lot, wondering if it was ever going to go away. Finally, after that first week, it finally subsided and I was able to get back to normal.”
Normal for Barth, whose older brother, Connor, kicked at UNC and plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is pretty darn good. He has converted 51 of 60 field goal attempts in his career with the Tar Heels and 116 of 117 extra-point attempts.