NCF Nation: 2011 ACC Media Days

No easy start for new coaches

July, 26, 2011
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Football coaches crave entering the season in the shallow end. Give them a home game against an overmatched FCS school and they're happy.

Especially a coach just starting at a new school.

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AP Photo/Rob CarrRandy Edsall will get a warm welcome to the ACC with an opener against Miami.
For Al Golden and Randy Edsall, introduction to Atlantic Coast Conference football is an immersion in the deep end. On Labor Day night, Golden's Miami Hurricanes must travel to face Edsall's Maryland Terrapins. They have the national stage to themselves, but with potential high reward comes undeniably high risk.

The winner feels great. The loser is a game back in the conference standings and facing 12 days of second-guessing before playing another game.

"I don't prefer it, but didn't have much say in the matter," Edsall said. "We had Towson scheduled, then a week off and then West Virginia. … But it's a great opportunity for us, great exposure, on our home field. Once it's set, you move on and go forward with it."

Joked Golden: "Maybe because we were new, we drew the shortest straw."

Among the added dynamics to the game is the fact that Edsall was considered a finalist for the Miami job that went to Golden. Then Edsall wound up leaving Connecticut for Maryland when the Terrapins fired Ralph Friedgen.

The two new coaches are transplants from the northeast: Golden, a former Penn State player, arrives from Temple; Edsall comes to College Park after 12 years at Connecticut. Both have work to do changing the culture.

Edsall encountered academic deficiencies at Maryland that have led the Terrapins being penalized for a low APR score. The Terps have lost three scholarships and had their 20-hour practice week trimmed back as well.

"There were some things we really needed to clean up from an academic standpoint," Edsall said.

For Golden, the job is to eliminate a popular word from the Miami football lexicon.

"I'm so tired of talking about swagger," he said. "Swagger was the byproduct, it wasn't the product. It came from demonstrated performance and having a chip on your shoulder and being the hardest-working team out there.

"I think [fans] want to see us play with passion, I'll concede that. Last year, they did not. We're working on that. But I think fans want to see results. … I'm just tired of everyone thinking [lack of swagger] is the only problem we have."

Golden's Week 1 opponent, Edsall, certainly is not lacking for swagger.

"I have a tremendous amount of confidence in my abilities, I'll tell you that," he said. "Everywhere I've been, I've won."

Video: Miami coach Al Golden

July, 26, 2011

New Miami coach Al Golden talks about his expectations for the season.
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Georgia Tech A-back Roddy Jones said he was one of the few players who, in 2009, realized the NCAA was looking around.

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Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireRoddy Jones and the Yellow Jackets are focused on winning another ACC title.
"You hear," he said. "You hear things. When the NCAA's around, people tend to notice."

The rest of the world didn't seem to notice the 20-month-long investigation until recently, when it was announced that the Jackets would have to vacate their 2009 title, face four years probation and pay a $100,000 fine. Those within the program, though, say the sanctions haven't affected them.

"It doesn't," said Jones, "it doesn't affect me a bit. I get to keep my ring and I get to tell people we won the ACC championship in 2009, and I get to go out and play this year, so it has no bearing on what goes on this year. We're very focused on getting back to an ACC championship game this year because that would really alleviate a lot of the stuff that's been going on around us."

Defensive tackle Logan Walls said $312 worth of clothing "wasn't worth an ACC championship."

"It bothered me, but then I talked to my mom about it, and she said, 'They can't take away your memories, you have your ring.' We have all of the stuff from the game, I'd just like to show my kids our ACC championship trophy. I guess that's the biggest thing."

Video: ACC Day 2 wrap

July, 25, 2011
For more of Heather Dinich's and Pat Forde's posts from Pinehurst click here.

ACC media days notebook, Day 2

July, 25, 2011
Boston CollegeBoston College: The inconsistency of the quarterback position has been at the heart of the Eagles' recent struggles, but with the maturation of Chase Rettig and hire of Kevin Rogers, coach Frank Spaziani said they're in a much better position than when he was hired. "We're moving forward there. Certainly, we're light years ahead of where we were two years ago when I was sitting here. … Chase has separated himself a little, if you will."

ClemsonClemson: There are several positions freshmen will have a legitimate chance to earn playing time at this summer, starting with wide receiver. "We need some help there," Dabo Swinney said. He also said the team needs immediate help at linebacker, and running back Mike Bellamy will "really spice things up for us." The defensive line is another area of opportunity and possibly one in the secondary. Clemson redshirted 15 players last year and will use 12 to 13 freshmen this fall.

DukeDuke: David Cutcliffe's three-year record with the Blue Devils is 12-24. That's not great -- but it's a heck of an upgrade from the three previous years, when the program went 2-33. "I'm not writing home to my mother about 12 wins in three years," Cutcliffe said. "But we've won six times as many games [as from 2005-07]. There's a lot to be excited about for the future. … I'm glad people talk about [Duke not playing in a bowl since 1994]. They should question it. I tell our players, 'Quit talking about it and go do it. Win more than you lose.' "

Florida StateFlorida State: The Seminoles are among the programs that officials of the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Game would like to bring to Atlanta for a season opener in the future. (The game is currently booked through 2014.) When someone casually suggested to coach Jimbo Fisher that Florida-Florida State would make a nice season starter instead of the traditional season ender, Fisher was not overly opposed. He pointed out the difficulty of playing an emotional rivalry game, then -- if either team is good enough -- turning around a week later and playing with peak intensity in the league title game. Fisher also opined that the Florida State-Miami game should be anchored in a permanent spot on the season schedule, instead of being moved around. He favors the midseason slot the rivalry enjoyed in its heyday during the 1980s and '90s.

Georgia TechGeorgia Tech: Even after 32 years of marriage, Paul Johnson still doesn't wear his wedding ring. So the absence of his 2009 ACC title game ring is hardly a surprise, even after the NCAA forced him to vacate the title. Johnson said the school hasn't decided yet if it will appeal the sanctions, but because there was no loss of scholarships he said it won't affect his program moving forward.

MarylandMaryland: The NCAA has cut 2.5 hours of practice time per week from first-year coach Randy Edsall, so he has adjusted by cutting down film time on Sundays and shortened his practice plan in anticipation of the sanctions. "It's not going to affect us," he said. "We're not going to make any excuses. We're just going to go play. I have a schedule put together for what we need to get done and what we need to comply with, we'll comply with it."

MiamiMiami: Coach Al Golden said offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson has a back injury that has been bothering him since mid-March, and defensive tackle Marcus Forston had surgery. "I don't know what the timetable on them is, but I do know they're probably not going to be full-go as we kick off camp." Golden said Henderson was 388 pounds in January, but is 341 now and has responded well to the adversity and developed maturity.

UNCNorth Carolina: Coach Butch Davis said a leadership committee was formed by the players to help those within the program make good decisions. They meet every Wednesday, and Tony Dungy has been a guest speaker for them. Davis said they were going to start it a year ago, but it was tabled until this spring because of the NCAA investigation. The coaches chose the initial leaders.

NC StateNC State: Coach Tom O'Brien said the decision to release former quarterback Russell Wilson from his scholarship was probably the most scrutinized decision he's ever made as a head coach. Still, he said "we're happy with the decision. … We're confident with the team we have coming in with the decision we made, and certainly we wish Russell the best. I hope he wins a Big Ten championship. I think that would be great for him."

VirginiaVirginia: Defensive end Cam Johnson has a sickle cell anemia trait, coach Mike London said, and it could be affecting his cardiovascular performance. "You can go, go hard for two or three plays and then on that fifth or sixth play be gassed," London said. The staff will closely manage how many snaps Johnson gets and rotate him after fewer plays. It's something Johnson has been aware about for a few years, London said.

Virginia TechVirginia Tech: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said he's still not sure who his punter is going to be, but he's got one advantage in the uncertainty of the position:

"The only thing we know is people will not return punts against us because [if] we don't know where it's going, they don't know where it's going," he said. "There's not a chance in the world for guys to be returning punts on us. That's the only good thing I see out of it."

Wake ForestWake Forest: Coach Jim Grobe said he is still looking for a go-to receiver, and based on this past spring, Michael Campanaro could be the guy. Chris Givens is one of the fastest players on the team, but has been inconsistent and needs a better work ethic. The Deacons could use as many as four receivers this fall, but Grobe said if they don't earn the playing time, "we're going to have a fullback and a tight end on the field all the time."
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said he will show his players film of Appalachian State's monumental upset of Michigan in 2007. He will remind them of their loss to James Madison last year. And he will hope that those examples prevent the Hokies from another flop in what should be one of the most manageable nonconference schedules they've had in years -- and will have in years to come.

"Regardless of who you start out with, whether it's Appalachian State or Boise State, you get your starting point and go from there," he said. "A lot of things can happen in that opening ballgame."

Virginia Tech has faced Boise State, Alabama, Nebraska and LSU in recent years, and not since 2006 have the Hokies escaped playing one of the nation's elite teams. This year the lineup includes Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall, which combined for a 25-25 record last season and one bowl appearance.

While the soft nonconference schedule could hurt the Hokies' strength of schedule, it could also make for a friendlier debut for first-year starting quarterback Logan Thomas. The best thing for Thomas, Beamer said, is the talent that surrounds him this year. With a veteran offensive line, deep and talented group of receivers and rising star in tailback David Wilson, Beamer said Thomas won't have to carry the load.

"I think Logan is going to be fine," he said. "I think the best indication for Logan was when he came in the Miami game last year, third-and-14, and he throws a bullet down the middle of the field. Comes in cold. That says, 'Hey, this guy answers the bell.' He looks forward to that."

Spaz without a 'stache?

July, 25, 2011
PINEHURST, N.C. -- OK, so it's not all business here at ACC media days.

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Lee Coleman/Icon SMIWhat would Boston College coach Frank Spaziani look like without his mustache?
In one of the lighter moments of the interviews with coaches today, Boston College coach Frank Spaziani -- a dead ringer for Tom Selleck-- was asked about a comment he made on a radio station mulling the idea of shaving his mustache -- one of his trademark characteristics.

Q: What was the thinking?

Spaziani: Budweiser was the thinking. [He laughed.] I don't know. It was one of those things where you're shooting the breeze, everyone is looking at each other, and I said, 'I think I'll shave my mustache,' just to start a conversation.

Q: How long have you had it?

Spaz: I'll give you an idea without telling you how old I was: When I was in kindergarten the other kids laughed at it.

If you shaved it, it wouldn't take you long to grow it back?

Spaz: There's another one underneath.
PINEHURST, N.C. -- For the second straight year, it was over before it began for NC State cornerback Jarvis Byrd.

Byrd, who was listed as the starter at boundary corner on the preseason depth chart, tore his ACL last week and will miss the season, coach Tom O’Brien said on Monday. It is the second torn ACL for Byrd, who injured the opposite knee in 2010.

O’Brien said he found out about the injury on Friday afternoon. He said he will meet with the staff this week about the position.

“They were playing seven-on-seven Wednesday night like they do, and he felt something turn, and had an MRI Friday,” O’Brien said. “I don’t know when his surgery is, I just know that the MRI showed he had an ACL. He’ll miss the year, certainly.”

Byrd was one of the Wolfpack’s top special teams players in 2009 and earned a starting role at boundary corner in November. He tore his ACL against North Carolina that year and missed 2010 spring practices and redshirted last year.

O’Brien also said running back Mustafa Greene, who had surgery in April for a foot injury, is expected to return October 1.

ACC media day observations

July, 25, 2011
PINEHURST, N.C. - A few basic observations from this year's ACC football kickoff:
  • BC linebacker Luke Kuechly is huge. Those within the program used to joke he looked like Clark Kent because of his short dark hair and glasses, but the dude is seriously busting out of his shirt these days like Superman. I asked him how much weight he has gained since his freshman year and he said 20 pounds. The funny thing about Kuechly, though, is that he still doesn't really look intimidating. It's the glasses. You know, Clark Kent?
  • The ACC has gotten taller at quarterback. They might not have much experience, but they've got the height. Duke's Sean Renfree, Maryland's Danny O'Brien, and Florida State's EJ Manuel are all towers. And of course, Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech, who's not here, has about six inches on his predecessor, and Mike Glennon is also a height upgrade. O'Brien really looks a lot stronger. It's hard to believe he's the same player who started his first game last year. He's going to be harder to bring down this fall.
  • ACC commissioner John Swofford is pushing change. He's repeatedly said phrases such as "crossroads" and "tipping point" here when referring to the state of college football. His main area of reform has been with scholarships, in that he's a proponent of the full cost of tuition. But when it comes to talking about the NCAA investigations and allegations against Georgia Tech and North Carolina, Swofford only really scratches the surface. It's impossible to tell what he really thinks about both situations.
  • The players here are great representatives of the conference. Georgia Tech's Roddy Jones? His smile is contagious. UNC lineman Jonathan Cooper is a terrific interview. Virginia's Kris Burd and Chase Minnifield had a great time turning the tables on me for a video interview. They did their research and found out I was an Indiana grad. Who will win that game this year? They're trying to take my job I think. Danny Coale is first class. Every one of the players here has been great to talk to. I can't remember coming to this event when they weren't.

Florida State’s EJ Manuel talks about his expectations for the season.

Maryland’s Danny O'Brien talks about adjusting to a new coaching staff and his status as one of the conference’s veteran quarterbacks.

ACC Media Days: Day 1 wrap

July, 24, 2011

For a look at all the day's news from Heather Dinich and Pat Forde from ACC Media Days in Pinehurst follow this link.

ACC media days notebook

July, 24, 2011
Boston CollegeBoston College: Linebacker Luke Kuechly led the nation last year with 110 tackles -- so many that his dad often gave him grief last year about how many were legitimate. “He’s always like, ‘You just walk by the ball and they give you tackles,’” Kuechly said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘Dad, man, I’m working for those.’ He said, ‘No, you’re not, they’re just tallying them up for you.’”

ClemsonClemson: The pace of Clemson’s offense has sped up under first-year coordinator Chad Morris, and it starts at the heart of the line. Instead of looking to the sideline and getting the play, Clemson center Dalton Freeman said he’s running straight to the ball. “When you’re looking at the sideline for a couple of years, waiting to hear the signal, to going straight to the ball and getting into your stance, it’s a big transition but it’s been a smooth one.”

DukeDuke: Quarterback Sean Renfree said his improved decision-making was the biggest difference down the stretch last season. “Towards the end of the season I was thinking you don’t have to score every series,” he said. “Do the little things to give yourself a chance in the fourth quarter.” Renfree, who’s visibly bigger, faster and stronger, said he’s much more confident entering his second season as starter.

Florida StateFlorida State: The Seminoles are already preparing for their Sept. 17 home game against Oklahoma. “I watch film on them every day,” said defensive end Brandon Jenkins. “That’s a key factor.” Jenkins said last year’s 47-17 loss stuck with them for a long time, but they’re “going to try to change that this year.” He said the Noles have grown most in leadership and maturity since that loss.

Georgia TechGeorgia Tech: While Georgia Tech might not find its next 1,000-yard rusher this fall, A-back Roddy Jones said the Jackets will get their yards by committee this year. “I think there will definitely be at least two,” he said of the B-backs. “We have four who are capable of doing the job. I don’t think any of them will be as explosive as [Jon] Dwyer was, but every single one is capable of being as effective as Anthony [Allen] was.”

MarylandMaryland: Linebacker Kenny Tate said his move from safety to linebacker isn’t as significant as some might think. “It’s really not a huge change,” he said. “… I still have the freedom to move around, I’m just closer to the line.” Tate said he has heard that the move could be a boost in his NFL stock because he can showcase his ability to blitz and also play safety.

MiamiMiami: The Hurricanes will be hunkered down in a hotel to stay focused during the first few weeks of summer camp, according to center Tyler Horn -- who said the team could use it. “Obviously what we did last year was not good enough,” Horn said. “The focus has been an emphasis and being mentally tough … Nothing but good can come out of it.”

UNCNorth Carolina: Quarterback Bryn Renner lost a video game to offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, and Cooper immediately got the silent treatment. Cooper said Renner is “very competitive. He hates to lose.” One of the adjustments Renner will have to make, Cooper said, is accepting the ups and downs of his position. “You’re not always going to be the glory guy, you’re going to have to take some of the falls with it as well.”

NC StateNC State: Tight end George Bryan said he kept his personal feelings out of former quarterback Russell Wilson’s decision to transfer. He didn’t know until he found about it on TV. “I trust whatever decision was made,” he said. Bryan said he hopes Wilson does well at Wisconsin. “If it’s on TV, I’ll definitely watch it and be cheering for him.”

VirginiaVirginia: Cornerback Chase Minnifield said he “doesn’t have many expectations” for himself: Just an All-American, All-ACC, and the best corner in the country. “I don’t really care what my interceptions are,” he said. “I think a good corner is a guy who doesn’t give up too many passes and doesn’t give up any touchdowns. If I can get that done, I’ll be all right.”

Virginia TechVirginia Tech: Safety Eddie Whitley said he has seen quarterback Logan Thomas making “big strides, even from spring to now.” Whitley said Thomas is ahead of the curve, but expects opponents to disrespect Thomas’ IQ and arm strength. During voluntary workouts this summer, Thomas would run a play, and ask Whitley what coverage the defense was in and why, and how he can throw the ball better against it.

Wake ForestWake Forest: One priority for the defense is creating turnovers, as the Demon Deacons ranked tied for No. 94 in the country last season with 17. Linebacker Kyle Wilber said the players were young, “cocky and arrogant” and thought they were going to easily strip the ball last year. “If we don’t help out our offense and put them in the best position they can be in, how do we expect to win?”
PINEHURST, N.C. -- If there is any doubt surrounding Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s job security following last year’s 6-7 season, it’s not coming from within Death Valley.

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Joshua S. Kelly/US PresswireDabo Swinney and Clemson went 6-7 last season.
About three weeks ago, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips told a local radio station that Swinney wasn’t going anywhere. It was a message the players took seriously and appreciated -- but also said they didn’t need to hear.

“There was never any question in our mind,” said center Dalton Freeman. “We believe everything is being handled the right way. Fans, they just expect everything to change overnight and we know that’s not real life. That’s not the real world. For coach Swinney to continue to bring in the nation’s top recruits and the nation’s top coaches, it’s just unbelievable. We have all the confidence in the world in him. We really believe once he gets all of his people in his system, set up the way he wants it -- not from another coach, not players from another recruiting style, -- once we get his guys, we’re going to be pretty special.”

Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson said there was no need for any reassurance.

“No one in the locker room feels that way,” he said. “We love coach Swinney, coach Swinney loves us, and we’ll stick with him through the end.”