Preseason notes from around the ACC
Posted August 3, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — NC State running back Tony Creecy loves the Wolfpack’s ever changeable uniforms and helmets. As he puts it: “You don’t want to wear the same thing to class every day. It’s the same with football.”
UNC quarterback Marquise Williams credits the Tar Heel offensive line with his success running the ball. “The train’s got to keep moving, I jumped on. I’m an extra wheel in the running game,” he said.
Part of the reason Duke’s defense has improved is Kelby Brown. One of the leading tacklers in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Brown says third-and-one “has become my favorite play.” The Blue Devil linebacker says he looks forward to “making things happen.”
For the second consecutive year, the mantra at Boston College is “Be a dude!”
Coach Steve Addazio hopes his offensive line especially will embrace the “go make a play” mentality, while the Eagles adjust to life without star running back Andre Williams. Addazio believes BC’s newcomers at running back and quarterback will be very good, but notes, “if your line is weak, you’ve got problems.” Up front this fall at Chestnut Hill, they’ll be starting five fifth-year seniors.
Only five schools (Duke, Florida State, UNC, Syracuse, and Virginia) return quarterbacks who were starters at the end of the season. On the other hand, every school returns at least three starting offensive linemen. Conference wide, there are 48 returning starters among the offensive line positions, tackle to tackle, out of 70. Theoretically, every school should be able to provide decent protection while the new QBs are learning the ropes.
Virginia running back Kevin Parks is a North Carolina native yet he was not recruited heavily by any in-state schools. Parks, who ranks No. 1 in yardage among the ACC’s returning rushers, says Virginia “stuck by me. It’s the right school for me.”
Cole Stoudt is the new quarterback at Clemson, but he distinguished himself as Tahj Boyd’s backup. Now Stoudt has been given the keys to Chad Morris’ wide open offensive machine and calls the experience “a huge thrill ride. There’s something new every day.”
Stoudt completed nearly 80% percent of his passes last year, with just one interception in 98 attempts.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston ranked second to Stoudt in interception avoidance -- .026 to Stoudt’s .010. Winston set numerous passing records en route to leading the Seminoles to the national championship. He also tied a record that he didn’t want-most interceptions in an ACC Championship game. Duke picked off Winston twice in that December meeting in Charlotte. Winston said that while the Blue Devils had a good defensive game plan against the pass, the two turnovers “were a wake up call.” Winston says the experience motivated him “not to throw any interceptions” in the national championship game against Auburn.
How good is Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley? Take it from someone who has to play against him, he’s pretty incredible. Syracuse offensive lineman Sean Hickey described Beasley this way: “When you take your first step, he’s on his third. He can bull rush you or he can speed rush you. “He’s a genetic gift.”
Some think the departure of LeBron James from South Florida means that Miami’s star running back, Duke Johnson, is now the biggest sports celebrity in the city. The “Duke” begs to differ.
“D Wade is the biggest,” Johnson says. However, he doesn’t quarrel with those he think “the Duke” might now be second biggest.
Georgia Tech’s Quayshawn Nealy credits one-time Duke coach Ted Roof with bringing fire to the Georgia Tech defense. Nealy, who is certainly aware that Roof wore the Georgia Tech uniform (and wore it well) as a player in the mid-80s, says Roof relates to players better than other coaches.
Louisville defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin recently dyed his long locks to match the school’s color scheme. So if you’re watching a pile of players and you see red hair sticking out of a helmet, Mauldin says, “you’ll know it’s me.”
Wonder what Mauldin’s hair would like if seen from one of Commissioner John Swofford’s proposed helmet cams? Swofford has become a big advocate of the new technology, because it would help coaches learn more about how players perform and how they are impacted by hits. Swofford notes that Miami’s Denzel Perryman wore a helmet cam in the U’s spring game and “forgot it was there.”
Here’s a thought: if incorporated into the ACC’s network TV package, could a helmet cam give a good angle for determining whether a runner in a big pile of players crosses the goal line?
Syracuse coach Scott Shafer admits he is still trying to learn how to comport himself on the sideline. A self-described sore loser, Shafer notes he has spent most of his career in the press box as an assistant. If you’re upstairs away from the public view, Shafer confides, “you can rip your shirt off or throw a chair” when something goes wrong on the field. But as the head coach? You have to respond very carefully.
Bobby Petrino has begun a second stint at Louisville. Petrino, who was dismissed at Arkansas after a series of contract violations, including an undisclosed affair with another member of the athletic department, believes he has now been given a second chance.
Says Petrino, “I’ve grown and I’ve changed. I’m appreciative of this opportunity.”
The Louisville staff seems to have hit the ground running in terms of sizing up its new competition in the ACC. “Intel is much easier now than when I came to Louisville the first time (2003-2006),” Petrino said.
The Cardinal coaches began breaking down video of future ACC opponents practically as soon as they were hired; looking at talent, philosophy, schemes, and other tendencies. As to what they’re seeing, Petrino says “we’re recruiting to that.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked about reports he has mounted a countdown clock for the South Carolina game. Swinney admits the Tigers do have a countdown clock, but it’s for the next opponent -- in this case Georgia. Swinney does say his staff will put more emphasis on the season-ending rivalry game with the Gamecocks.
“We have hit all of our goals except winning the state championship,” Swinney says. The annual late November meeting with South Carolina is “a big game, important for state pride and our national goals.”
Sweeney describes the five-year losing streak to the Gamecocks as “a painful part of our program.”
As a league, the ACC enjoyed one of its finest seasons ever, winning the national championship and a second BCS bowl game. More wins against the SEC would have made it better still.