ACC: 2009 ACC media days

FSU's Carr suspended

July, 26, 2010
7/26/10
6:17
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said linebacker Nigel Carr will be suspended indefinitely after he was arrested on felony charges.

School policy states that a player charged with a felony must be suspended.

Carr, 20, was arrested by Tallahassee police Sunday on two counts of auto burglary, criminal mischief, credit card theft and fraud.

"He's got some felonies so he's suspended until the judicial process runs its course," Fisher said. "It breaks my heart because I know it's somebody's baby. That's the way I look at it. He's got a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister. That's the way I look at it. It's very disappointing. You try to get all the facts before you make a decision."

Preseason ballot

July, 28, 2009
7/28/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Before I leave, I wanted to reveal my 2009 ACC Preseason Football Team Ballot. There were a ton of great options, but at some point, you've got to pull the trigger. Here goes:

OFFENSE
QB -- Riley Skinner, Wake Forest
RB -- Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB -- C.J. Spiller, Clemson
WR -- Jacoby Ford, Clemson
WR -- Aldarius Johnson, Miami
TE -- Caz Piurowski, Florida State
T -- Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
T -- Jason Fox, Miami
G -- Thomas Austin, Clemson
G -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State
C -- Ryan McMahon, Florida State

DEFENSE
DE -- Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
DE -- Willie Young, NC State
DT -- John Russell, Wake Forest
DT -- Vince Oghobaase, Duke
LB -- Sean Spence, Miami
LB -- Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech
LB -- Dekoda Watson, Florida State
CB -- Stephan Virgil, Virginia Tech
CB -- Chris Chancellor, Clemson
S -- Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
S -- Wes Davis, Boston College

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK -- Matt Bosher, Miami
P -- Travis Baltz, Maryland
SP -- Torrey Smith, Maryland

Lights out fun at the kickoff

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
7:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Well, a thunderstorm just knocked the power out of the interview room as I was in the midst of asking Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen a question about how much speed and young talent he has on his roster. Suddenly it was pitch black, save for the tiny red lights of our tape recorders, and Friedgen said, "Watch out Heather," to which I replied, "I'm already running, Ralph." And that was officially the last question asked here at ACC media days.

The coaches were all in good spirits, relaxed and upbeat about the possibilities ahead for the ACC this fall. Frank Beamer thinks he has a team capable of contending for a national title, if everything falls into place, and Miami coach Randy Shannon thinks he's got an offensive line capable of paving the way for a 1,000-yard rusher. Dabo Swinney? He's still looking for a quarterback but voted for Tim Tebow, if anyone asks.

More to come from the kickoff, so don't worry, you won't be left in the dark.

Land Shark Stadium recruiting tool for the Canes

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
4:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Miami coach Randy Shannon has developed a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the country, but recently, he's gotten some help. Moving into Land Shark Stadium has been a vast improvement over what he had to flaunt at the old Orange Bowl.

"When they tore down the Orange Bowl, somebody hit it with a sledgehammer and a whole side fell down," Shannon said. "That's how bad it was."

While the pro stadium might not be the best college football atmosphere in the ACC, it's certainly an impressive venue and a little more stable than their former home.

Bowden and Fisher ... splitskies?

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
4:29
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said he's still taking it "year to year," and after each season deciding whether he wants to come back or not.

Well, if offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher isn't named head coach by January 2011, then FSU owes Fisher $5 million -- something outgoing president T.K. Wetherell has made quite clear the university has zero intention of doing.

I finally got the chance to ask Bowden this question: How bad would you feel if the decision you made cost the university $5 million?

Bowden laughed a hearty laugh.

"You ever heard of me n' Jimbo splittin'? Bowden said. "Me and him could make $2.5 [million] out of it, if we play it right."

Bowden got a really good laugh out of that one, which leads me to believe he's not taking that option quite too seriously.

Notes on the votes

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
2:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A few notes for you off of the results that recently came in:

  • The 87 media members who voted surpassed the high of 83 set two years earlier.
  • Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer is the first ACC Player of the Year to seek a repeat of the honor since FSU's Charlie Ward in 1993. Ward not only repeated as POY, but he also won the Heisman Trophy en route to the national championship that season.
  • Is the Atlantic Division the more wide-open of the two? Four of the six teams got first-place votes.
  • In predicting the championship game's outcome, 69 of the 87 (79.1 percent) voters chose the Hokies. That percentage is in line with the way the votes totaled in the past two seasons, with Clemson (78.5) and Virginia Tech (83.1).

MY TAKE: Maryland and Miami have the best chance to rip this projection to shreds. If the Terps' offensive line comes together quickly, there are enough fast, talented athletes on offense to have them in contention. And Don Brown's defense will feature the Terps' strength -- the secondary. As for Miami, there's no questioning the talent. It's there.

Considering this event is held smack in the middle of ACC country, the lack of votes in favor of the Carolina schools is a testament to just how convinced this media contingent is in the Hokies. Guess I was overruled on Duke's progress this year.

As for the Preseason Player of the Year? Hey, you can't go wrong with Dwyer. He's a remarkable player who is sure to wow college football fans again this season. To me, the more interesting number is the lone vote Tyrod Taylor got. This is a team expected to contend for a national title, and the quarterback gets one vote? That seems to reiterate the belief that Taylor still has something to prove.

The votes are in: Hokies, Dwyer picked as tops in the ACC

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
2:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The results are in, and Virginia Tech was predicted to win the ACC championship -- again. Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer was picked as the 2009 Preseason ACC Player of the Year. There were 87 total votes.

Here's how the voting broke down:

ATLANTIC DIVISION

  1. Florida State (56)
  2. Clemson (14)
  3. NC State (10)
  4. Wake Forest (7)
  5. Maryland
  6. Boston College

COASTAL DIVISION

  1. Virginia Tech (78)
  2. Georgia Tech (9)
  3. North Carolina
  4. Miami
  5. Virginia
  6. Duke

PREDICTED ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WINNER

  1. Virginia Tech (69)
  2. Florida State (7), Georgia Tech (7)
  3. Clemson (2), NC State (2)

2009 PRESEASON ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  1. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (39, and Happy Belated Birthday to Dwyer, who turned 20 on Sunday)
  2. C.J. Spiller, Clemson, (28)
  3. Russell Wilson, NC State (16)
  4. Christian Ponder, FSU; Vic Hall, Virginia; Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech; Riley Skinner, Wake Forest (1)

Wolfpack's concerns for Irving far outweigh football

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Having seen firsthand the damage done to his friend and teammate's car, NC State defensive end Willie Young said football was the last thing anyone in the Wolfpack's program was thinking about when they first learned of linebacker Nate Irving's devastating one-car wreck.

Irving is out indefinitely, and his absence means the Wolfpack will be without their top player on the roster and his leadership. They'll miss him during summer camp, but they have been more concerned about him than their season. Only recently have they begun to think how his absence might impact the team on the field.

"With Nate, I don't think so much about football," Young said. "For him to still be breathing is a blessing alone, just by itself. Most people I don't think would have survived that. You can't even imagine how someone survived an accident like that. It's something that happened you have no control over. I don't feel that we'll be set back by it. True enough, Nate had a major impact on the program, and I know right now we have someone that can come in and play up to that potential, but right now they're young. It's not that they're not capable, it's just that they're young and inexperienced. That's the biggest thing right now, inexperience. But we have young guys that right now are progressing as we speak."

Young said he talks to Irving every day, and "he's always been a fighter."

"If you could talk to him right now, you would think he's jumping on a trampoline or something," Young said. "I'm sure he's somewhere doing some cardio."

Running back Jamelle Eugene said the entire team was affected by Irving's crash, not just the defense.

"Nate's situation, from my personal standpoint, it was more a matter of, 'Is he all right?' We found out he was all right. Then it was, 'Is he going to be able to play again?' He's going to be able to play again. So I felt like, 'OK, he's all right, he's going to be able to do the thing he loves the most. How's his family doing?' They're cool-headed, and keeping him together to pull him through it and staying strong," Eugene said. "So now everything is intact. Now, football-wise, that's what comes last. How is the team going to be affected?

"We're going to take every game as it comes and be appreciative of being able to go out there and play football because we know Nate wishes he could be doing it. We've got young guys waking up like, 'Man, we can't rely on Nate.' So everybody has to elevate their level of play. If you thought you were working hard then, now you've got to work even harder. You're not going to replace a Nate Irving, but you can have everybody get a little bit better so that you can close the gap with missing Nate. With him probably going to be on the sideline, that's motivation for the team. He's going to be a big part of us having success."

Who's the best back in the ACC?

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
11:12
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There's one pressing question here nobody seems to be able to agree upon an answer to: Who is the best running back in the ACC? The two front-runners -- Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer and Clemson's C.J. Spiller -- both happen to be here, and both of them are drawing equal praise from their opponents throughout the league.

 
  Chris Gardner/Getty Images
  C.J. Spiller said that he doesn't want the workload on his shoulders alone.

Spiller has gotten a lot of the attention because of the grassroots Heisman campaign that's sprung up on his behalf, featuring a life-size poster of the school record-holder. And it hasn't seemed to affect his competition much. In fact, everyone seems to agree he deserves it.

"I think it's pretty cool for him," said Georgia Tech rushing leader Jonathan Dwyer. "I wish him the best of luck and hopefully he can represent the ACC. I think the poster is pretty cool. Maybe I'll get him to sign one for my brother or something."

(Dwyer, by the way, insists his little bro is even better than he is.)

"To be honest, they both deserve the credit," said NC State running back Jamelle Eugene. "Spiller is a great running back and Dwyer -- if I had to choose one of the best running backs in the country he'd be amongst them. They're both deserving of all the credit they're getting, and all the accolades. They've earned it, they've put in the work and it shows on paper. Good guys don't always get noticed in the stat sheet. They did."

Spiller will no doubt be the focus of the Tigers' offense this fall, but guess what? He doesn't want to do it by himself. That's a completely different attitude from a player like Graig Cooper, who has already said he wants to be Miami's next 1,000-yard rusher.

"I already told them I don't really want to carry the load by myself," Spiller said of a conversation he had with the Tigers' younger backs. "I'm going to need their help to make our team successful. They understand that, and they took that to heart and worked hard in the offseason."

 
  Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  Jonathan Dwyer led the ACC in rushing last season with 1,395 yards.

Me: You mean that? You really don't want to do it all by yourself?

"I mean it," he said. "I want all my other teammates helping me win the game."

It will be a group effort for most of the teams throughout the ACC, as the running back position is deep. Spiller and Dwyer are hardly the only talented backs in the conference this year. In fact, Dwyer gave votes of confidence to Eugene, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans and a surprise rookie.

"I think the most surprising back is going to be Jermaine Thomas at FSU," Dwyer said. "I saw a spark when he played against us. He's a fast guy, he can make some big plays. With Jimbo Fisher's offense, you never know what he's going to do."

Nor do we know yet how the carries will be divided in loaded backfields such as Georgia Tech's, Miami's and Virginia Tech's. Which is why Spiller -- who so far has proved to be the most accomplished and versatile of the backs -- seemed like the obvious front-runner to put up the most dazzling numbers this fall. Apparently, though, he'll need a little help.

Can we fast-forward to September?

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
8:50
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- I'm up. I'm awake. I'm ready to talk to the coaches. But they're golfing, eating and getting their pictures taken until 3 p.m. And that's the reason we're all here. This event -- the ACC Football Kickoff -- is like watching a trailer for a blockbuster hit that doesn't come out for another month. There's an exciting story here waiting to unfold, and it's going page by painfully slow page.

On Sunday, we interviewed the players from 2:30-6:30 p.m. and everyone I talked to thinks his team has a legitimate shot at winning the ACC title or at least playing in a bowl game. If there's no hype around a team (Wake Forest) its players relish flying under the radar. The players were all humble, well-spoken and genuine in their thoughts about the upcoming season. That session is easily my favorite part about this trip, and because it's my second full season as the conference blogger, I now have a rapport with most of them. (Riley Skinner forgave me for his admittedly-too-low ranking in the top 30 and obliged me by answering a question, while Christian Ponder wondered, "Who let you in here?")

There's a buzz around the ACC right now that has been missing. The players are getting asked questions about how competitive the conference is, and how the talent at quarterback seems to be improving. But there's more hoopla and hospitality than there is football talk around here.

It kicked off Sunday with a luncheon and commissioner John Swofford's forum. The players had a luncheon, too. They also had a video game tournament. (At last check last night, Miami and Georgia Tech were going at it, with the winner playing Virginia Tech. Superstitious, anyone?) There was a fancy reception on a perfectly manicured lawn outside with an open bar, followed by a dinner that didn't end until around 9:30 p.m. There is a non-golfer's clinic being held this morning on the driving range, which is where I belong, but even that would be a disaster. So I'll stick to the blogosphere and ACC football updates knowing that eventually today we'll all be on the same page.

If only we could have flipped the calendar to September yesterday.

Virginia Tech's Boone defends embattled OC

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Ever heard the saying "It's not the X's and the O's, it's the Jimmys and the Joes"?

Virginia Tech tight end Greg Boone apparently has, and it's his defense of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who has constantly been under fire for the Hokies' less-than-spectacular offensive production over the past few seasons.

On Sunday, at the ACC football kickoff, Boone said Virginia Tech fans will see a "much better offense" this fall, and it has everything to do with the players and nothing to do with Stinespring.

"It's not really the playcalling, it's the players on the team, the want-to factor," Boone said. "You could put any coach back there calling the plays, but if the player doesn't execute to his full potential, disaster is going to happen. It's not really the coach's fault, it's the player's fault. We've just got to show we're taking the extra efforts, we need to focus better and practice better. So me personally, I don't think it's a coach's fault, it's a player's fault, so if you're not ready, just let the next man step in who's ready to play and wants to play."

ACC in need of a national contender for respect

July, 27, 2009
7/27/09
6:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- During a group photo shoot for the players on Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff, Clemson bandit end Ricky Sapp asked Virginia Tech tight end Greg Boone what it felt like to wear his ACC championship ring -- the third one. Boone's bling was impossible to miss.

"He said it felt good," Sapp said, almost wistfully.

Clemson, the team that at this time a year ago was expected to be a formidable opponent for Alabama and cruise through the ACC to make some noise on the national level, has officially switched places with the Hokies, who now bear the brunt of the league's expectations.

Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech -- quite frankly, nobody around here seems to care much who it is, just as long as somebody in the ACC is a legitimate national title contender. It's exactly what this conference needs to give its reputation a boost.

An NCAA-record 10 ACC teams were bowl eligible in a crazy, competitive and unpredictable 2008 season, and the conference took a step forward in polishing its image. There is still plenty of progress yet to be made, though, said ACC commissioner John Swofford, who added the ACC has "unlimited potential."

"I think if you really step back and take a look at the conferences a year ago, top to bottom, we may well have been the deepest conference in the country a year ago," Swofford said. "What we didn't have is a team or two involved in the national championship race down the stretch. I think that has a lot to do with how a conference is perceived competitively, maybe more than it should. But the fact of the matter is it does have a lot to do with that."

Swofford said that once teams are involved in the national championship race and win certain games outside the conference, "then I think that our league will receive the kind of respect it deserves."

The Hokies are the front-runners to win the Coastal Division title, and should be a preseason top-10 team, but it's not as if they're strangers to the top of the BCS standings. Boone remembers what was lost in 2007 when the Hokies were humiliated 48-7 at LSU. That season, the Tigers bumped Virginia Tech to No. 3 in the final BCS standings.

Can Virginia Tech be the team the conference can depend on?

"We have been that team," Boone said, "we just didn't win the games we should have."

Of course, Virginia Tech isn't the only team with the hope -- or the potential -- to make a splash on the national stage. In fact, the Hokies are going to have a difficult time getting through their conference schedule unscathed, let alone the lone nonconference schedule in the league that doesn't include an FCS team. It's the parity in the ACC, the players say, that makes title talk so difficult.

"I think that's why the ACC is so competitive -- because everybody wants to take that role and become that leader of the pack," said Miami offensive tackle Jason Fox. "I think we're really close. [The freshmen] have had a year under their belt, we have a great senior class, great senior leadership, and we've got two great coordinators. ... We're getting all the pieces together."

It's a rebuilding challenge both Miami and Florida State are facing simultaneously, and many say it's the resurrection of those two programs alone that can make the difference.

"For the ACC to really be a top-tier conference, there needs to be some people fighting for that national championship and being top five," said FSU quarterback Christian Ponder. "But the problem is, the ACC is so competitive and the ACC is also known for great defenses, so it's hard to really get up there. But I think we're close. There's a bunch of good teams this year that are getting better, getting up to that top tier, so we'll see. Florida State has a lot of potential. Virginia Tech should be ranked high up there. There's a lot of potential in the conference."

The question is when that potential will be realized.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis has told his players that they should want to play "when the blimp is in the sky," meaning it's a nationally televised game that holds postseason consequences. UNC defensive end E.J. Wilson said the Tar Heels are building the program into a national contender, but in order for the league to be taken seriously, they've got to have some company.

"I do agree with that because you have the Pac-10, who has USC, which is competing for a national championship almost every year, then you have the SEC, and they have four or five teams every year that's competing for it," said Wilson. "So in order for us to get talked about in the same respect with those conferences and be mentioned in the same breath with those, we have to have a few teams -- not just one team -- consistently every year competing for the national championship. We need to get more teams that can actually be successfully on the national level and not just around here."

UNC's Yates confident in young receivers

July, 26, 2009
7/26/09
4:36
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The hype surrounding UNC freshman receiver Joshua Adams is warranted, at least according to the quarterback who's been throwing to him this summer.

T.J. Yates said Adams definitely has what it takes to become an immediate contributor this fall. Adams, who enrolled in January, has shown flashes of his potential already with three receptions for 20 yards in the spring game. He had his knee scoped in May, but returned in time for summer conditioning and should be completely healthy entering the fall.

"He's one of the hardest working receivers I've been around," Yates said. "Especially for his young age. Coming right into school, he was 100 percent ball, all the time. He was watching film everyday, catching the ball. Even when he was hurt he was catching the ball, running routes, so his work ethic is really going to pay off for him. He's definitely going to contribute for us. He's got great hands, he runs really good routes, and he can go up there and make the catches guys aren't supposed to, so he's definitely going to make some plays for us."

Yates said all of the young receivers have been "bugging" him this summer to throw with them, even if they've been out throwing all day.

"I really like their work ethic, and trying to really take in what Hakeem (Nicks) and Brooks (Foster) and (Brandon) Tate did in the past, and mimic their work ethic," Yates said. "They see that if they work as hard as them, that they can get to that next level just like they did."

Also good news for Heels' fans, is the fact that not only has kicker C.J. Feagles arrived on campus, but so has his father, Jeff, who has played 21 seasons in the NFL and is the punter for the New York Giants.

"He was out there with his dad a couple of days ago," Yates said. "I mean that's who you need to be learning from. He's definitely got the talent and the work ethic, too."

Spiller-fest

July, 26, 2009
7/26/09
2:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- In addition to all of the media guides and conference notes which are available for reporters to pick up here, we can also take home one of the life-sized posters of Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. (I said can. This thing is big enough I'd have to buy a separate plane ticket on the way home.)

Clemson is serious about making a push for Spiller for Heisman, and he's also got his own bio sheet floating around, boasting accolades like his school-record 12 touchdowns of 50-yards or more. We all know Spiller is good. And I have no doubt he'll get the ball enough to prove it this fall. But unless the Tigers suddenly morph into national championship contenders, titles are one thing he's missing on his resume that the last two Heisman Trophy winners are not.

Greetings from Greensboro

July, 26, 2009
7/26/09
1:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Hello from the posh Grandover Resort, where I'm sitting in the Commissioner's forum listening to John Swofford answer questions from the media.

He's been asked about a variety of topics so far, including the BCS, the SEC's latest television contract and how that will affect the ACC competitively, and how the conference is regarded nationally. Associate commissioner Michael Kelly spoke briefly about the the ACC championship game being in Tampa again, and coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads spoke about the rules changes which I reported back in May from the ACC spring meetings. I'll break down the highlights for you in a bit, in addition to a few notes from the player interviews which are also today.

I'm not expecting any SEC-like drama here, this is usually a relatively quiet event, though there is a record turnout here for media members. It's literally up the street from ACC headquarters, so it's in a good location for members of the Carolina media to make the trip. The players have been milling about, and I heard NC State defensive end Willie Young was going to try and sneak in some fishing before he answered any questions today. (Rumor has it he was going to throw a line into a pond on the golf course, even if he got hit with a ball in the process). So we'll see how that goes. Check back later for more.

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