Caulton Tudor

What to watch: ECU, TOB and NC stars in Georgia

Posted August 30, 2013

Selected items of interest as the long opening week continues through Monday’s ACC game between Florida State and Pittsburgh:

Can Rick Smith upgrade the Pirates’ defense?

When South Florida gave Skip Holtz the boot at the end of 2012, ECU’s Ruffin McNeill moved quickly to bring veteran defensive aide Rick Smith back to Greenville.

Smith, 64, was on the Holtz Pirate staffs that won two Conference USA titles and groomed some of the best secondaries in the country.

Now Smith is charge of the entire Pirate defense, which had hemorrhaged points and yardage under Brian Mitchell’s direction for the past three seasons.

In Saturday’s 7 p.m. opener in Greenville against Old Dominion, Smith’s defenders will face an offense that averaged 45 points and 394 yards per game during at 11-2 stand at the FCS level.

The TOB’s return to UVA

After a 6-year stint as head coach at N.C. State, Tom O’Brien will back on the Scott Stadium sidelines (or in the pressbox) when Virginia opens against Brigham Young on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPNU).

O’Brien technically is Mike London’s associate head coach and directly in change of tight ends. But throughout the preseason and off-season, O’Brien spent a lot of time helping with the entire offensive line. That was his primary duty during 15 years on George Welsh’s UVa staffs in the 1980s and ‘90s.

It’ll be interesting see how much impact O’Brien has had on a ground game that averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last season.

Big stage for Marshall and Gurley

The best game of the entire opening weekend very likely will be No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson on Saturday (8 p.m., ABC).

The Bulldogs feature two of the best running backs in the nation – both sophomores and both products of North Carolina high schools.

Millbrook High’s Keith Marshall (5-11, 219) rushed for 759 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman last season. Tarboro High’s Todd Gurley (6-1, 230) was even more spectacular as a rookie with 1,385 yards and 17 TDs.

Although they are close friends, the two have asked Bulldog fans and the media to stop referring to them collectively as “Gurshall.” Marshall told reporters in preseason interviews that he didn’t like the term from the start. "That's not my name,” he said.

Too bad he didn’t pick an in-state college during recruiting. That way, there would have been no identity problem whatsoever.


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  • Deacons Aug 30, 2013

    View quoted thread

    I agree, why would any player that is good enough to start in the SEC go to the ACC??? Clemson and FSU are good and Va. Tech has been good, but last year disappointed. Other than that, as far as being considered good on a national scale, that is it for the ACC, excluding the "new" teams just added to the league.

  • JPack Aug 30, 2013

    View quoted thread

    I was actually very interested in the ECU portion, but lost interest after being distracted by the amazing editing. Must be a high paying position at WRAL.

  • lec02572 Aug 30, 2013

    Tried to tell the staff at NCSU about Gurley and Marshall years ago. Neither probably wanted to go to in state schools probably anyway. Some thought Gurley came from Tarboro a 2A school at the time, so they didn't give him the credit he deserved. I guess neither were good enough for the ACC, but somehow they were able to fit into the SEC fairly easily. One or both could be on the SEC teams this year. Both probably have NFL futures ahead of them, but the ACC didn't recruit them hard enough. Well, they missed out on numerous receivers at Wakefiled and a quarter back also, who will be playing in that little SEC conference and starting for the OBC. But then again if you could start in the ACC or the SEC, which would you chose?

  • 78FJ40 Aug 30, 2013

    Boy, what a great article. Probably hit about 5% of your viewing audience that really cares much about any of those things on opening weekend.

  • kmorcomeback2 Aug 30, 2013

    Gurley is the man!!!!

  • baldchip Aug 30, 2013

    2 backs at Georgia that should not have gotten away from NC.
    Ga vs Clemson should be a great game. GO ACC-GO CLEMSON!!

  • Pirate01 Aug 30, 2013

    Rick Smith is a great coach and even better man. He will have the ECU's defense where it needs to be.

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