College, NFL teams must share Thursday spotlight
Posted September 19, 2013
Thanks primarily to quarterback Tajh Boyd and wideout Sammy Watkins of Clemson, more than 20 NFL scouts will be in N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium press box for Thursday night’s ACC opener for both teams.
In that regard, it will be precisely the sort of center-stage national exposure that college athletic directors had in mind when ESPN launched the Thursday night venture in 1996.
Thursday dates gradually have become such a part of the college football fabric that involved players often see the games as a rare opportunity for collective and personal advancement.
“It’s a big deal to most of the players, and it can be very important for your program in terms of exposure,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said recently.
Over the years, the Yellow Jackets have been a Thursday fixture and will make two more appearances this season – Sept. 26 in Atlanta against Virginia Tech and Nov. 14 at Clemson.
Thursday slots not only have helped the Jackets recruit, the games also have given the school an ideal alternative scheduling option in a city where the baseball Braves and football Falcons are capable of dominating attention.
“Thursdays have been a real positive from our perspective,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said when the 2013 schedule was announced.
In fact, Thursday football has worked so well that the NFL couldn’t stay away.
Where there’s an unclaimed dollar on the street, you can beat there will be a sports stampede from all directions. It was the success of ESPN’s Thursday college venture that helped lead the NFL to form its own network in 2003, and the offspring of that move will be a factor in the viewing audience for the Wolfpack and Tigers.
The third NFL Network Thursday game of the season will compete directly against Clemson-State. And the NFL offering – 2-0 Kansas City with new coach Andy Reid at 1-1 Philadelphia (Reid’s former team) – will be plenty compelling.
According to the NFL, approximately 75 million households can access NFL Network. ESPN reaches an estimated 100 million households.
It’s a curious business dynamic for the NFL.
While the pro league’s personnel developmental framework would be completely destroyed without college football’s feeder system, the NFL obviously has the potential to eventually suffocate televised Thursday night college games.
That’s why the NFL owners will have their scouts in Carter-Finley on Thursday while those same owners are hoping TV viewers will shun that game to watch the Chiefs and Eagles.
As of Monday, injured Wolfpack quarterback Brandon Mitchell had not started rehab work from his Sept. 2 foot surgery.
State coach Dave Doeren said quarterback Pete Thomas and backup Bryant Shirreffs benefited from the off-week practice time.
Doeren said Shirreffs, a freshman, is “a lot more confident” than was the case in his limited time against Louisiana Tech and Richmond.
“He’s starting to grow into the (Wildcat) package. He had like only three or so plays he could run. Now he has maybe five or six,” Doeren said.
Against the Tigers, Doeren also said the plan is for Shirreffs to do some passing. Thus far, he’s thrown three times and completed all three.
Although Clemson has and always will be a recruiting force in North Carolina, only a handful of N.C. prep players will be in key roles.
There are 11 North Carolinians listed on the Tiger roster, including starting linebackers Stephone Anthony (Anson County) and Spencer Shuey (Charlotte). WR Germone Hopper (Charlotte) will play regularly.
Watkins made the trip to Raleigh in 2011 but didn’t play in the 34-13 Wolfpack win. He sat out the entire game after having suffered a shoulder injury a week earlier in a win over Wake Forest.