by Mike Potter
GRANDOVER RESORT/GREENSBORO Just like last year — at least at the preseason press rouser.
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.
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).”
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.