The preseason has officially arrived, and ACC Coastal Division coaches and players will pack The Westin Charlotte on Thursday for Day 1 of the ACC Kickoff. The two-day event is being divided by divisions this time around, so that gives us a chance to preview the storylines and expected questions for the members of the seven teams we'll speak to.
Among the expected talking points:
New faces aplenty: Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech all bring new leaders with them in 2016, as Mark Richt, Bronco Mendenhall and Justin Fuente will look to build on their previous personal successes and help their teams make the Coastal on par with the Atlantic. Will Richt, the former Hurricanes backup QB, help deliver Miami its first division title? Will Mendenhall get UVA back to a bowl game after four straight subpar seasons? And how will Fuente replace a legend in Frank Beamer? The scene will certainly feel different without the former longtime Hokies coach in attendance.
Can North Carolina repeat? The Coastal is a crapshoot every year, and we in the media never seem to nail it. But UNC brings back plenty from an 11-3 team that ran the ACC table last year and came up just short, controversially so, in the ACC title game against Clemson. It would be a surprise if the Tar Heels weren't declared the favorites. Here's guessing coach Larry Fedora will have little interest in hyping his team up. (But perhaps he can talk more about his new beard.)
James Conner a hot name: Conner, the Pitt running back who announced in May that he is cancer-free, won't be in attendance, but you can be sure he will be talked about plenty Thursday. Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi and players Nate Peterman and Ejuan Price will be representing the program, and given the social media interactions we've witnessed between Conner and some of the other ACC elite players throughout the offseason, his name will come up often throughout the morning and afternoon.
Oh yeah, about that network ... News broke Monday night that the ACC Network will launch by August 2019. Surely, this will be a huge topic of discussion during ACC commissioner John Swofford's time with the media. The network certainly means a secure future for the league and its members, but perhaps Swofford will be able to shed a little more light on what it means for future schedules and other matters.
As a reminder, here's the list of Coastal players in attendance:
Duke QB Thomas Sirk
Duke DB DeVon Edwards
Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas
Georgia Tech DL Patrick Gamble
Miami QB Brad Kaaya
Miami P Justin Vogel
North Carolina WR Ryan Switzer
North Carolina CB Des Lawrence
Pitt QB Nate Peterman
Pitt DE Ejuan Price
Virginia C Jackson Matteo
Virginia LB Micah Kiser
Virginia Tech FB Sam Rogers
Virginia Tech DE Ken Ekanem