Clemson University

Paulus declines Duke football invitation

Turns out former Duke point guard Greg Paulus inquired about playing football in his backyard before venturing elsewhere.

During Wednesday's ACC football coaches spring teleconference, Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said he and Paulus spoke recently regarding Paulus' desire to play quarterback in his final year of NCAA eligibility.

Paulus, once a heralded high school quarterback, worked out last week for the Green Bay Packers. He also visited Michigan this week and could vie for the Wolverines' starting job.

Duke returns senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, a second-team All-ACC performer, and he's backed up by sophomore Sean Renfree, a highly regarded recruit who surprised recruiting analysts with his college choice.

So Cutcliffe invited Paulus to attend Duke's final six practices and experiment as a slot receiver, but Paulus declined.

"He's a quarterback at heart, but there's no way he was going to be able to compete and play quarterback for us," Cutcliffe said.

Cutcliffe projected Paulus as an ideal fit in Michigan's spread-option offense, in which the quarterback is required to have running ability and toughness.

Another ACC basketball player, Miami 6-foot-6 forward Jimmy Graham, is weighing whether to join the Hurricanes as a tight end, football coach Randy Shannon said.

Injury updates. The most intriguing player coming off an injury is North Carolina State running back Toney Baker, who hasn't played since September 2007 because of torn knee ligaments.

Baker is being brought along slowly, coach Tom O'Brien said, and is not expected to be 100 percent for some time.

Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson (knee) has returned to practice, as has Duke running back Re'quan Boyette, who had knee surgery last August.

Miami tight end Dedrick Epps (torn ACL), a leading preseason All-ACC candidate, is progressing ahead of schedule with his rehab, Shannon said, but his status won't be clear until doctors see how his knee responds in the summer.

Keeping all options open. Last year, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was besieged with questions about whether his flexbone offense would work in a BCS conference.

The Yellow Jackets led the ACC in total offense and ranked sixth in scoring, yet this year's skepticism centers on whether opponents will have adapted to the scheme after having defended it.

Johnson pointed to his success at Georgia Southern and questioned why no one asks whether a pro-style offense will withstand the test of time.

"People will get better defensively, but we're getting better running it," Johnson said. "We weren't very good at it last year.

"It's move, countermove — that's football. So I think that's a misnomer. Anytime you do something different, people are going to question it. There will be something every year."

Catch-all. The receiver position remains an issue at Florida State. One returning starter was dismissed, another was possibly lost to injury, and the next guy in line has been suspended indefinitely.

This spring, 5-foot-8 walk-on Louis Givens has been a pleasant surprise, but none of the tall prospects from the cast of sophomores Jarmon Fortson and Avis Commack and freshman Josh Gehres has emerged as someone who will contribute.

"It's not, do they have any talent?" Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's, can they play up to their potential this early?"

Extra points. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he believes defensive line will be the team's strength, while there are concerns at linebacker and place-kicker. æ.æ.æ. Boston College has yet to find a starting quarterback, and youth across the board is why coach Frank Spaziano said he chose veteran assistant Gary Tranquill to overhaul former coordinator Steve Logan's offense. "We're not going to be throwing the ball all over the place," Spaziano said. æ.æ.æ. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he chose Massachusetts coach Don Brown as defensive coordinator because he brings a unique system to the ACC, citing how Brown divides the field, and the degree of man pressure the scheme employs. æ.æ.æ. Virginia had planned to switch to a spread offense last year until quarterback Jameel Sewell was suspended by the university for academic reasons, coach Al Groh said. æ.æ.æ. Shannon, on his new defensive coordinator, John Lovett, whom Tommy Bowden fired as Clemson's coordinator after the 2004 season. "He brings a lot of enthusiasm. If players sees exuberance and enthusiasm, they're going to play hard for you." æ.æ.æ. Cutcliffe, known to produce analytical measures for just about everything, thinks the Blue Devils have improved because they have more football players and less bodies. By his count, the team had eight ACC-caliber players on defense and seven on offense last spring; this year, he said, the tally is in double-digits on both sides.