Ghost of the Gamecocks materializes - in football!
Posted July 21, 2013
Updated July 22, 2013
Greensboro, N.C. — The University of South Carolina ended its membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference shortly after upending North Carolina for the 1971 league basketball championship in Greensboro Coliseum.
You never would have known the ol’ red Roosters were gone – much less long gone – when the ACC Kickoff event began Sunday at Grandover Resort, which is located only a few miles from the site of that memorable 1971 hoops game between Frank McGuire’s Gamecocks and a young Dean Smith’s Tar Heels.
Thanks to imminently quotable defensive star Jadeveon Clowney, the Gamecocks probably ranked as discussion topic No. 1 as players and coaches from the new-look ACC gathered to discuss their collective outlook for the 2013 season.
Clowney, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound junior end from Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe High, a few days earlier had mentioned that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd seemed to be afraid of the Gamecocks’ defensive line.
Boyd, the likely preseason ACC offensive player of the year pick, more or less laughed it off Sunday.
“I’m not scared at all,” Boyd said with a smile while still maintaining a businesslike approach to one of the day’s first questions.
Assuming both men stay healthy, Clowney and Boyd can settle that issue on Nov. 30 in Columbia, S.C., where the Tigers will attempt to reverse last season’s 27-17 loss in Clemson in the final regular-season game.
But for the here and now, the quarterback who has to be far more concerned about the Clowney havoc factor is North Carolina’s Bryn Renner.
When the Tar Heels (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC last season) visit South Carolina (11-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) on Thursday, Aug. 29 (6 p.m.), Williams-Brice Stadium will be flooded by more than 80,000 fans and at least 20 NFL scouts, many of whom will arrive with a front-office directive to assume Clowney will be among the four or five strongest contenders as the 2014 No. 1 draft pick.
Tar Heel defensive lineman Kareem Martin, a Clowney-sized junior defensive end from Roanoke Rapids High, said Sunday that his team has a “great opportunity” to steal the game and the NFL auditions from Clowney and the Gamecocks.
But Renner, a 6-3, 225-pound senior from West Springfield (Va.) High, understandably took a lower-key approach. After all, Renner is the guy Clowney most wants to present as QB offering No. 1 to those NFL scouts.
“We have a great opportunity to play a team like that _ with the best player in the country,” Renner said. “I’m very eager to get the opportunity to play against him … but he’s phenomenal. There’s no player I can compare him to … I mean, he’s just the best player in the country. But in order to get better, you have to play against better players and better teams.”
In UNC’s chance, it’s a 180-degree change from 2012, when Larry Fedora’s debut resulted in a 62-0 win over Elon.
For both Renner and Martin – well for that matter, Fedora and his entire second-year UNC program – this opening-game ranks among the most intriguing of any on the national schedule, although Boyd and the Tigers might debate that assertion since the have to open against Georgia.
But nationally, Clemson and UGA are more or less proven staples. The Tar Heels certainly are not, and Steve Spurrier in his 9th season with the Gamecocks, still hasn’t really cracked the top-5 ceiling.
“It’s just an opportunity game all the way around,” Martin said.
With 28 touchdown completions (seven picks) and more than 3,330 yards passing last season, Renner made a huge jump on the NFL stock market. He’s obviously not yet in the same draft projection territory with Boyd, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel or even San Jose State’s David Fales, but Renner has emerged as an item.
He dodges that matter – perhaps on Fedora’s advice. But there’s no doubt that opening-day against Clowney and the Gamecocks could amount to a windfall for Renner and the Heels.