ACC media day offers news, notes but no socks

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ACC commissioner John Swofford and ESPN president John Skipper share their thoughts on the benefits of the two sides partnering on a 20-year deal and rights extension to launch the ACC Network by August 2019. (1:50)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Coaches and players convened for the opening of the 2016 ACC Kickoff, and the event began with a bang with the announcement of an ESPN-backed ACC Network.

While much of the buzz surrounded the announcement, the Coastal Division coaches and players had a lot to talk about. Everything from team breakdowns to tie breakdowns, and virtual reality to Valleys of Death was discussed.

Here are a few notable moments from the start of ACC media days:

Thomas Sirk isn't leaving any doubt about his plans for the 2016 season. A little more than five months after he ruptured his Achilles during an offseason workout, the Duke quarterback said he'll be ready for the season opener.

"That's my expectation, is to be back for the season opener," Sirk said.

The start of fall camp, however, may be a bigger ask.

"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent now, but I am running and dropping back in the pocket and throwing," Sirk said. "I'm taking it day by day, and we'll see where I'm at on Aug. 8 when fall camp starts."

Virginia Tech hired Justin Fuente away from Memphis this offseason, but he still has plenty of love for his former school. He said he's hoping the Tigers will find a spot in the Big 12 as that conference considers expansion.

The Big 12 has said it will explore expanding by as many as four teams, and Memphis -- which has significant financial backing from FedEx -- would be a potential option.

Fuente said Memphis "absolutely" fits the bill as a school that can grow into a Power 5 player, and he said the fan base there would eagerly support the move.

"I hope the people of Memphis will get that," Fuente said. "It's something they've been looking toward for a long time, and I'm pulling for them."

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly created a stir when he said LSU's stadium was the real Death Valley and not Clemson's. Kelly was kicked off Clemson's team in 2014.

Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi just didn't know Clemson's Memorial Stadium was nicknamed Death Valley at all.

"Death Valley? That's what it's called?" Narduzzi said when a reporter referenced the upcoming road game at Clemson. "Never heard that before.

"… I talked earlier just talking about measuring up, where will we measure up as a university, as a football program. What better place to go than to Death Valley, OK, and find out how you measure up against a team that was in a national championship game a year ago."

North Carolina's Des Lawrence said he and fellow corner M.J. Stewart have felt snubbed this offseason as a number of other defensive backs in the ACC have reveled in preseason hype, while the Tar Heels' backfield tandem has flown beneath the radar.

"I don't want to downplay anybody else, but I do feel that me and M.J. are getting slighted," Lawrence said.

Lawrence and Stewart finished last season with a combined six interceptions and 28 pass breakups (tied for second in the ACC), while North Carolina's defense led the league in interceptions and finished second in yards per attempt.

"I'd definitely say we're the best tandem," Lawrence said. "If you want to pull up the numbers, you can. Ours look as good as anybody else's that was in the draft or is going into the draft next year. That's the type of mentality we have."

Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora talked a little about his defensive backs and football in general, but he had to answer questions about his new look, too.

Fedora walked to the podium sporting a new beard, but no socks. It wasn't a mistake. He just couldn't bring himself to wear them.

Before leaving for media days, he had spent a few days at the beach and was unwilling to start wearing socks just yet. It's a move Florida coach Jim McElwain approves.

Fedora was wearing long pants, which was news because he said it was the first time he had done so all summer.

Paul Johnson was asked if he liked that the Yellow Jackets are under the radar entering the season, though for him it's nothing new.

Georgia Tech has routinely been overlooked in the ACC Coastal Division despite playing in three conference championship games. When they won 11 games and the Orange Bowl in 2014, the Yellow Jackets were finally rewarded. The media picked them to win the Coastal in 2015.

They went 1-7 in the conference and finished last in the Coastal.

"We've only been picked to win it once, and we finished last," Johnson said. "You guys don't have a great track record."