There has already been plenty of football played this season, with the high school schedule already three weeks old, NFL exhibitions in full swing and a big Thursday night with games involving N.C. Central and Wake Forest and Russell Wilson already behind us.
All three teams will open on Saturday, and coincidentally all will be hosting Division I-FCS opposition from Virginia. Over 140,000 fans are expected to attend.
Two of the local schools have had controversial preseason practice story lines that a lot of folks are going to be happy to see end.
At 3:30 at Kenan Stadium, UNC (8-5 in ’10) will host James Madison (6-5) in the debut of interim head coach Everett Withers. Withers got the job just as August practice was about to begin after Butch Davis was fired as a result of the Tar Heels’ NCAA woes involving extra benefits to players and academic cheating. It’s the debut of the new starting quarterback, clean-cut, articulate Bryn Renner, after the graduation of clean-cut, articulate T.J. Yates.
“I thought we had a good ending to our training camp,” Withers said. “I think we were right on schedule. Obviously, everyone on our team is looking forward to hitting somebody else besides each other. So we are excited about that and looking forward to the first ball game. I think these guys are just ready to prove a lot this year.”
At 6 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium, N.C. State (9-4) will take on Liberty (8-3) in the debut of starting quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon, of course, got the nod after coach Tom O’Brien told Wilson he was tired of Wilson missing spring practice to play pro baseball and allowed him to go be a Heisman Trophy candidate for Wisconsin. So the Wolfpack trades a short (5-11), clean-cut, articulate African American quarterback whose quick feet can usually get him out of trouble for a tall, clean-cut, articulate white quarterback — who could pass for O’Brien’s son, seriously — whose 6-6+ height is supposed to be able to help get him out of trouble.
“The last sign the team sees as they walk out of the locker room is that individuals play the game but teams win championships,” O’Brien said. “It’s still a team thing. (Glennon) has to operate within the concept of the offense. He can’t win it himself and he won’t be asked to win it himself. He’s going to be asked to execute the offense and make sure we’re headed the right direction and that he throws the ball to the right guy at the right time. “
At 7 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke (3-9) will take on recent nemesis Richmond (6-5). The only controversies there are that Duke hasn’t had a winning season since 1994, and even worse that on its last two trips to Durham the Spiders have accomplished the FCS team’s mega-happy ending of picking up a win to go along with the big check. Led by clean-cut, articulate Sean Renfree — now the ACC’s most experienced quarterback — David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils hope a talented, explosive offense can pile up enough points to win six or seven games.
“I think we are ready systematically,” Cutcliffe said. “I realize that we will be we a work in progress. What I want to see is the consistency. Going in as you review where we were a year ago, I know that we are well ahead as to where we were this time a year ago systematically, and I don’t think there is any question athletically as well. It is one of those things where we are not going to let them talk about what they are going to do. We are just going to let them keep working.”
The talking is over now. Let’s do this.