Seminoles picked to win ACC again; Triangle coaches talk preseason concerns

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GRANDOVER RESORT/GREENSBORO Just like last year — at least at the preseason press rouser.

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Florida State is the runaway winner to win the ACC football in voting by 95 media members at the ACC Football Kickoff.

Seventh-two voters said Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles will win the Atlantic Division and 83 said Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech Hokies will take the Coastal. And then 56 said the ‘Noles will take out the Hokies in the title game Dec. 1 in Charlotte.

Clemson was picked second in the Atlantic followed by N.C. State, Wake Forest, Boston College and Maryland. The Wolfpack actually got five votes to win the division.

Georgia Tech was picked second in the Coastal followed by UNC, Virginia, Miami and Duke. Two voters said the Tar Heels will win it.

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was picked to be ACC player of the year in a close vote over Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and the Tigers’ Tajh Boyd, all of them within seven votes. N.C. State’s Mike Glennon and David Amerson received preseason player of the year votes along with UNC’s Giovani Bernard and Bryn Renner.

Monday’s session consisted of coaches’ interviews along with a morning officiating clinic. There are of course numerous rules changes this season, several of which are in place to prevent players from giving themselves concussions.

NCSU’s biggest challenge this season may be rebuilding the middle of its defense, UNC’s the disappointment of being under a bowl ban, and Duke’s the struggle to get its first winning season since 1994.

UNC coach Larry Fedora


They said it …

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien: “We lost a third of the defense after the bowl game, we knew that, with the two tackles (Markus Kuhn and Jeff Rieskamp) and the middle linebacker (Audie Cole). Now we’re down to half of the defense. The middle part of the defense we thought was gone, and now we lost the two kids at the flank (Terrell Manning, who left early for the NFL, and D.J. Green who is ineligible). The solution has to be the guys up front have to be better. There’s experience there, and I think there’s enough depth there that they can help out a lot, especially in the passing game and getting after the quarterback without blitzing linebackers. Certainly there are some kids that have to step up and make some plays, but that’s what happens in college football. There’s going to be a few more kids that are going to have to play that we wanted to ‘soak’ this year, and sit behind and get some playing times. They have talent and experience. The key is that (linebackers coach) Jon Tenuta comes back. He knows the kids. We’ve changed probably three times since spring practice and we’ll probably have to change one or two times before we get to Tennessee to make sure we have the right combination of guys on the field so that we can win.”

New UNC coach Larry Fedora: “The first thing when we found out (about the sanctions) it was sitting down and being honest with them. This is what it is. And then letting them say what they wanted to say. They expressed their frustration and talked about it, and once they were done, we said ‘Here’s the plan.’ For the first time in my life I know we have 12 games and that’s it. Now if I’m a senior and I know we only have 12 games left, I’m going to take advantage of each and every one of them. No matter how I feel, no matter what the weather is, whether we’re playing on asphalt in the gravel or who we’re playing or what color our helmets and our jerseys are, nothing matters. I’ve got an opportunity — and I’m only going to have 12 of them — to play a game that I love. And to go out and put that interlocking ‘NC’ on the side of my helmet or on my chest and represent the University of North Carolina. For them, it’s ‘I’ve got 12.’ We’re only going to focus on one, and we’re going to make the most of that one. And when that one’s done, we’ll focus on the next one. And we’re not taking anything for granted, because you can’t.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “(The challenge) is two-fold. Number one, it’s being physically good enough. You’ve got to have good football players to win. You’ve got to have speed, you’ve got to have guys that give you some depth. Your squad can’t (be great) on the first line and the other units (be weak), and that’s the sign of a good college football team. You have to address the physical quality of the depth, and then you have to get over the mental hump of believing that you can win. You have to quit trying to pick out games you think are winnable games and realize every game you play is truly winnable. We actually came closer to that a year ago — and it faded and disappeared off and on — but I honestly believe that when we started that Stanford game we believed we were going to win the ball game. … But the toughest fight is ‘here we go again.’ Bad things happened to real successful teams. Fourteen points down is nothing this day and time. Seventeen plays is all it took to take us out of the game (in a 44-14 loss).”

Up next

N.C. State vs. Tennessee (Georgia Dome), Aug, 31, 7:30 p.m.
UNC vs. Elon, Sept. 1, 12:30 p.m.
Duke vs. Florida International, Sept. 1, 7 p.m.

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