ACC: Duke Blue Devils
No. 7 UCLA at Virginia, ESPN, #UCLAvsUVA: In his career as a head coach, Mike London has won all six of his season openers, but this one is the biggest challenge he has ever faced to start a season. The Bruins come in off a 10-win season with a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Brett Hundley. Perhaps the only edge the Hoos have is the starting time. UCLA makes its first trip to an ACC stadium since 1955 and will kick off at 9 a.m. PT. As London joked during his news conference earlier this week, "I'd like to play 6 o'clock in the morning our time, if possible."
Delaware at Pitt, ESPN3, #DELvsPITT: The Panthers are going for their first win in a season opener since 2011 and have learned not to pencil in wins against FCS opponents. The biggest point of intrigue is how often they plan to use running back James Conner at defensive end. Coach Paul Chryst said Conner will be used only on rushing situations, the way he was in the bowl game. Still, two-way players are always a bit of a novelty, and folks are waiting to see how effective Conner can be at both positions.
Georgia Southern at NC State, ESPN3, #GASOvsNCST: Wolfpack players are well aware of Georgia Southern's stunning win over Florida last season and vow not to let the same happen to them. Though NC State is young, its most experienced unit is on the defensive line -- good news against the triple-option Eagles. There's no doubt coach Dave Doeren believes his program has a chance to start fresh after last year's disappointing 3-9 campaign. This is our first shot to see how quarterback Jacoby Brissett fares managing the NC State offense.
Boston College at UMass, ESPN3, #BCvsUMASS: UMass fans had some fun trolling BC earlier this week, tossing a Minutemen jersey on Doug Flutie's statue outside Alumni Stadium. But BC will actually hit the road in this one, which features the debut of Florida transfer Tyler Murphy at quarterback. The Eagles also will feature a revamped running back and receiving group as they try to make a bowl game for the second straight season.
William & Mary at Virginia Tech, ESPNEWS, #WMvsVT: Quarterback Michael Brewer makes his debut for the Hokies, who are hoping to reclaim their spot atop the Coastal Division this season. Running back and receiver are also two key areas to watch, especially freshmen Isaiah Ford, Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie. Trey Edmunds will play but won't start, as he continues to come back from a broken ankle.
Elon at Duke, ESPN3, #ELONvsDUKE: Duke is aiming for its fourth straight win in a season opener as it looks to continue on its momentum from the past two seasons. This is the first of four straight winnable nonconference games, which could have Duke 4-0 before it heads to Miami on Sept. 27 for a crucial Coastal Division showdown against the Hurricanes.
Liberty at No. 23 North Carolina, ESPN3, #LIBvsUNC: The storylines for the Tar Heels have been away from the field, as four players were suspended for this game following a Yahoo! Sports report that alleged a hazing incident between players. Larry Fedora has not publicly named his starting quarterback, but it probably doesn't matter whether Marquise Williams or Mitch Trubisky starts in this one.
No. 1 Florida State at Oklahoma State, ABC, #FSUvsOKST: The Seminoles begin their Dallas-to-Dallas quest against the Cowboys, who return the fewest starters among all Power Five conferences. We all know Jameis Winston returns, but the storyline to watch in this one is who emerges at receiver next to Rashad Greene. A win would give the Seminoles 17 consecutive victories and match the school record set in 1999-2000.
Miami at Louisville, 8 p.m., ESPN, #MIAvsLOU: Miami has been waiting on its chance at revenge since December, when the Cards embarrassed them in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. Much has changed for both programs since then: Louisville has a new coach and new offensive and defensive schemes; both teams have a new starting quarterback; Miami welcomes the return of running back Duke Johnson. And let's not forget this is the ACC debut for Louisville, as well. One pretty interesting note: Louisville was 22-1 at home under Petrino during his first stint as coach.
There's Shaq Mason and Shaq Lawson. Shaquille Powell and Shaq Wiggins. There's even Shakeel Rashad.
Here a Shaq, there a Shaq, everywhere a Shaq Shaq.
Indeed, there has been a proliferation of Shaqs across the ACC and college football over the last few seasons thanks to Shaquille O'Neal.
What does basketball have to do with football? In this case, when O'Neal emerged as an NBA All-Star, his name started to become popular, too. In 1994, Shaquille was the 234th most popular name in the United States, according to the Social Security names database. Shaquille retained its popularity enough to earn a ranking in 1995 and 1996, too.
Mason was born in 1993, when O'Neal would have been going into his second year in the league with the Orlando Magic. The Georgia Tech guard confirms he was indeed named after Shaq Diesel.
"Every time I met a new person, they were always like, 'Were you named after Shaquille O’Neal?' Mason said. "But growing up, I was the only person around me named Shaquille. I didn’t know any others until I got older."
Mason is the only Shaq in the ACC named to the preseason All-ACC team, but he is not the only standout at his position named Shaq across the country. Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson is a preseason All-American candidate; South Carolina's Shaq Roland is one of the better receivers in the SEC.
Back in ACC country, Shaquille Powell will start at running back for Duke on Saturday against Elon. Lawson is the primary backup to Vic Beasley at Clemson; Wiggins has to sit out this season after transferring to Louisville from Georgia. Though his name is spelled differently, let's count Rashad in here, too. Especially since one of his nicknames is "Shakinabox."
Maybe we can spell that "Shaqinabox" just for this exercise.
Naming babies after athletes is nothing new. The name Jordan also started rising in popularity when Michael Jordan became basketball king. So did the name Peyton, after Peyton Manning emerged at Tennessee and then as a perennial NFL All-Pro.
Makes you wonder whether we will see a new generation of Jameises in 18 years.
The Demon Deacons tallied 94 yards of total offense. They notched five first downs. They surrendered seven sacks.
All of it added up to a 17-10 loss that puts further emphasis on just how much of an uphill climb the Deacs have ahead of them in Year 1 of the Dave Clawson era.
Wake actually jumped to a 10-0 lead, kick-started by a punt block that Kevin Johnson recovered in the end zone. Its defense was stout most of the night, holding ULM to 352 total yards and forcing a turnover.
Pete Thomas -- formerly of NC State and Colorado State -- had a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:37 that proved to be the difference-maker for the Warhawks.
Wake gets Gardner-Webb at home next Saturday night, as sure of a chance as any for its offensive line to find its footing and give true freshman John Wolford a chance to make some some progress. Still, it could be a long year in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Thursday did little to alleviate many of the concerns facing the Deacs this offseason.
As for the rest of the ACC ...
- Freshman are likely to make an impact at BC, Michael Vega writes in the Boston Globe.
- The (Charleston) Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner previews Clemson-Georgia with the Macon Telegraph's Seth Emerson.
- Steve Spurrier will be at Duke this weekend for the 25-year reunion of its ACC title team, Laura Keeley writes in the Raleigh News & Observer.
- Georgia Tech is looking to group sales to help with low season ticket sales, Ken Sugiura writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham knows the threat Duke Johnson presents, Jeff Greer writes in the (Louisville) Courier-Journal.
- James Conner is ready to punish with and without the rock, Sam Werner writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- The (Syracuse) Post-Standard's Nate Mink answers fan questions on the Orange.
A few quick caveats:
- If the Orange Bowl selects a Big Ten team this year, a spot would open up in the Capital One Bowl for the ACC. We're not banking on that just yet.
- Either the TaxSlayer Bowl or Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl gets an ACC team, but not both. For the purposes of our preseason projections, we're slotting a team into the TaxSlayer Bowl, but that could change down the road.
- For bowl selection purposes, Notre Dame is treated as an ACC team, meaning the Fighting Irish will grab one of the conference's tie-ins unless it is invited to the College Football Playoff.
- The Birmingham Bowl serves as a backup for the ACC should enough teams become eligible. We're not projecting that yet either.
- After the playoff committee makes its selections and the Orange Bowl makes its pick, the Russell Athletic gets the next choice of teams. After that, the next group of four work together to decide on selections with geography and a fan base's likelihood to travel to the game playing a role. We attempted to account for that below.
With all that said, here's our best guess at what awaits the ACC in December and January.
College Football Playoff: Florida State Seminoles
Orange Bowl (Miami): Clemson Tigers
Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, Florida): Virginia Tech
TaxSlayer Bowl (Jacksonville, Florida): Miami
Belk Bowl (Charlotte, North Carolina): North Carolina
Hyundai Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas): Louisville
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, New York): Notre Dame
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman (Annapolis, Maryland): Pitt
Duck Commander Independence Bowl (Shreveport, Louisiana): Duke
Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit): Syracuse
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech
Defending national champion Florida State Seminoles opens its season Saturday against Oklahoma State. And the Seminoles still have not visited the White House.
"The window for a team visit has likely closed altogether," a Florida State spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ's Ben Cohen and Jonathan Clegg report that FSU offered the White House six available dates in April. The Noles then offered six potential dates in May and June. The president was unavailable for any of them. Nothing materialized in the summer.
FSU would be the first non-repeat college football champion to not make the D.C. trip since 1990. USC's 2004 title team did not visit the nation's capital, but the Trojans had made the trip a year earlier.
UConn's title-winning men's and women's basketball teams made their trip in June, two months after winning their national titles. Hmmm ...
Perhaps old Jimbo Fisher friend Nick Saban cut a deal with President Obama to not let any other college football teams in? The two may be close, after all, as Saban has taken three different Alabama teams to the White House since Obama first took office.
An in-season visit for the Noles is not entirely off the table, but a school spokesman told the WSJ that it would be "very, very difficult."
In other ACC news today …
- SI.com's Martin Rickman looks at the end of Clemsoning.
- There's a bit of "Blind Side" in the story of Duke guard Laken Tomlinson, Laura Keeley writes in the Raleigh News & Observer.
- A Georgia Tech-Tennessee Chick-fil-A Kickoff game is near completion for 2017, Ken Sugiura writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee says Louisville is in a good place as it nears the opener, Jeff Greer writes in the (Louisville) Courier-Journal.
- Syracuse.com's Nate Mink previews the Orange's game against Pitt with the Post-Gazette's Sam Werner.
- The (Newport News) Daily Press' David Teel says Frank Beamer's extension quiets talk about his potential exit.
- Wake Forest has a chance to show its progress tonight, Dan Collins writes in the Winston-Salem Journal.
Where is the biggest shift in your responsibility?
How comfortable are you with doing that?
DH: I'm feeling really good about it. The first few days, it was a little new but now I'm starting to get much more comfortable. Kelby's coming back and we're going to hang out and talk like we did before and I'll be able to have him as coach as well, which will be great. The fact I've been in this defense since my freshman year has been extremely beneficial and has made this transition a lot easier.
You and Kelby had great on-field chemistry. How do you go about building that with C.J. France and the other linebackers now?
DH: Fortunately, our linebacker group is extremely tight knit. Kelby and I were taking most of the reps for the most part for the whole year, but we were always meeting with everyone. All of us were meeting and talking through things. This transition isn't as drastic as it might seem. Me and Kelby have a great chemistry, and we'll continue that. Even though he's hurt, he's not gone. He'll still be working with us and that will be great for all of us. The transition will be extremely smooth.
Kelby has been described as the “heart and soul” of the defense. Now as the middle linebacker, you will have to take on more leadership responsibilities. How do you plan on taking on that new role?
DH: Kelby is an absolute leader on this team. The thing is, as the heart and soul, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to be out there. If he's over there with us on the sideline, it's incredible as far as him being able to lift us up when we need that. He's still that person. It's not as if he's gone. As far as on the field, I definitely will have a growing leadership role throughout the year. I hope to do that. All of us lead in different ways, and I hope to find my way of leading this defense.
What is your leadership style?
DH: I am a growing vocal leader, but I'm definitely more of a one-on-one type of leader. I'm not incredibly vocal when maybe at times I should be or maybe at times I don't need to be. But I'm definitely growing in my vocal role. I've felt like with Kelby out, I need to step more into a vocal role. A lot of my teammates would characterize me as silent, lead by example, but I'll also meet with a bunch of guys in the film room and work with them.
So you're not the guy getting up on the table yelling at your teammates to get them pumped?
DH: As of right now, I'm no Ray Lewis.
You guys have dealt with a few setbacks this fall. Not only is Kelby out, but so is tight end Braxton Deaver. How have you guys dealt with the injuries to two starters?
DH: That's how football is and we realize that there's no choice: you either move on or you don't. When we're faced with adversity, we have to be the people who move on. You can't dwell on what's happened to us. We're adjusting on both sides of the ball to these losses. At this point, I'm really excited for our defense. We have probably the most athletic defense I've been able to be a part of since I've been here.
The ACC has three second-year coaches, each with differing expectations. Athlon Sports took a look at those coaches and what the 2014 outlook is for each coach's program.
Writer Steven Lassan states Boston College's Steve Addazio exceeded expectations in his inaugural season as BC's coach, and there is little doubt Addazio did a great job getting to a bowl game. Without Andre Williams it will be a challenge to get back to a bowl game, but the first half of the schedule sets up pretty nicely.
A bowl game in 2013 and key returners has Syracuse fans believing Scott Shafer will keep the Orange moving in the right direction. There are only two games on the schedule where the Orange will not be given a great chance to win, so there is an expectation for Syracuse to once again be bowl eligible.
At NC State, Dave Doeren is given a partial pass last season after losing his starting quarterback. While the Wolfpack have a long way to go, Doeren has his quarterback in Jacoby Brissett. There is definitely an expectation the Wolfpack will be better, and they can't be much worse after going winless in the ACC last season. Brissett was a highly regarded quarterback coming out of high school, so there is the potential NC State can surprise some teams this season and pull off an upset or two.
Here's a few more links to help you through the day. Remember, we get FBS football tomorrow!
- West Virginia and former Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett says Nick Saban's daughter was his first kiss. (He was 6 years old.) I'm guessing Saban will have a conversation with his defensive line before the opener against the Mountaineers.
- Scandal once again is hitting North Carolina, as allegations of hazing arose Tuesday. The Tar Heels are no strangers to off-the-field issues, and this is another black eye for the university athletic department.
- An eye-opening feature on the plight of Devaughn Darling's family as they wait for the remaining $1.8 million from a settlement in the Florida State football player's 2001 death.
- FSU running back Dalvin Cook could see significant playing time as a reserve this season.
- Miami's quarterback situation will be one to watch all season as true freshman Brad Kaaya, named the starter earlier this week, still has seniors Jake Heaps and Ryan Williams pushing for the role. Williams tore his ACL in April and is hoping to return at some point during the season.
- Many of Duke quarterback Anthony Boone's interceptions came when he put too much pressure on himself to make a play.
- Recovering from injury, Virginia Tech running back Marshawn Williams was initially hesitant, but he moved past that rather quickly.
- Could Georgia be more of a threat passing than rushing for Clemson?
- Last season, Pitt relied on freshmen stars Tyler Boyd and James Conner. The 2014 recruiting class will be counted on to make freshmen contributions, too.
- Expectations have been raised for Louisville's receivers now that DeVante Parker will miss significant time.
- Attendance is an issue across college football stadiums, but the decrease in Virginia's numbers is significant.
1. Jameis Winston will post better numbers -- but won’t win the Heisman.
Much has been made of the depletion of Winston’s receiving corps, but losing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw won’t spell doom for the Florida State QB. In fact, Winston struggled at times last year when getting too greedy down the field, and a renewed emphasis on a shorter passing game could up his numbers. When throwing to RBs or TEs last year, Winston completed 79 percent of his throws and averaged 11.6 yards per attempt, with 11 of his 86 passes going for touchdowns. Add the likelihood he’ll play more fourth quarters this season, and his numbers could well go up in 2014 -- but, of course, winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies is no easy task, and neither Winston nor coach Jimbo Fisher has ever shown much interest in chasing individual awards.
It’s telling that what could’ve been one of the most discussed QB vacancies in the conference was actually among the least interesting this offseason. Coach Bobby Petrino waited until Sunday to make it official, but Gardner was the obvious choice since the spring. Then there’s this: In nine years as a head coach, Petrino’s starting QBs have averaged 63 percent completions, 8.8 yards per attempt, 21 TDs and 8 interceptions -- stats that would’ve rivaled any QB in the league last year, save Winston and Tajh Boyd.
3. Virginia Tech wins 10 again.
The Hokies won at least 10 games in each of their first eight seasons in the ACC, but that streak ended in 2012 and the team is just 10-10 against Power Five conference foes in the past two years. But coach Frank Beamer is giving his young talent a chance to shine, the Week 2 date with Ohio State suddenly looks a lot more winnable and the rest of the schedule shapes up nicely for the Hokies. The offense needs to get a lot better to be a legit College Football Playoff contender, but Virginia Tech will at least be in the conversation.
4. Virginia goes bowling.
The schedule makes this a tough sell. Ten of Virginia’s 12 opponents played in a bowl game last year, and there may not be a single easy win on the slate. But there’s talent in Charlottesville, including 19 four- or five-star recruits inked in the past four years. That’s more than Louisville (16) and just one fewer than Virginia Tech (20). That talent has to translate to wins eventually, right? It’ll take some upsets, but the Hoos will get to six wins.
5. Clemson is a running team.
With Boyd and Sammy Watkins stealing the bulk of the headlines the past three years, Clemson’s passing game got a lot of credit for the team’s success. But the Tigers actually ranked in the top three in the ACC in rushing attempts in each of those three seasons. Now with a new QB and significant turnover at receiver, the passing game is a question, but Dabo Swinney loves his tailbacks. Don’t be surprised if freshman Wayne Gallman tops 1,000 yards -- something a Clemson tailback has done each of the past three seasons.
6. Young runners make a big impact.
Gallman won’t be the only rookie runner to make noise in 2014. The ACC has some impressive veterans in Duke Johnson, Karlos Williams, Kevin Parks and Dominique Brown, but there are plenty of fresh faces eager to make an impact, too. Virginia Tech’s Marshawn Williams, North Carolina’s Elijah Hood and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could join Gallman as freshman sensations, while sophomores like T.J. Logan, James Conner, Myles Willis, Matt Dayes and Taquan Mizzell could all have big seasons, too.
7. Stacy Coley catches a TD from three different QBs.
If there was a more settled QB situation at Miami, Coley might be a niche pick for Heisman honors as one of the game’s most explosive players. Unfortunately, it could be a revolving door at QB for the Canes. Freshman Brad Kaaya gets first crack, and the hope is that Ryan Williams will return from an ACL injury sooner than later. Don’t be surprised if Jake Heaps or Kevin Olsen gets a shot to start at some point, too. Coley will make them all look better, but he’d benefit from some stability at QB.
8. Jamison Crowder sets the standard.
Crowder had 30 more targets last season than any other ACC receiver, and now Duke is without its second-best pass-catcher in Braxton Deaver. That makes Crowder an even more integral part of the Blue Devils’ passing game, and it means he should cruise past former teammate Conner Vernon’s ACC record for receiving yards. Crowder is just 1,152 yards short entering the season.
9. Tyler Murphy and Jacoby Brissett look good.
Boston College and NC State will both be starting QBs who transferred from Florida, and both have a chance to put up solid numbers. In fact, we're predicting both Murphy and Brissett post better stats this season than Jeff Driskel, the man who kept them both on the bench in Gainesville.
10. The Coastal champ will be ...
Is there really any answer here that would feel remotely safe? Heck, Georgia Tech could win the division or miss out on a bowl game. Anything seems possible. But since it’s prediction time, we’ll ante up, just so you can remind us how wrong we were in December. So, let’s say ... Virginia Tech.
Don writes: Your ESPN.com Preseason ACC team has lost all credibility when it failed to feature Tyler Boyd who was arguably the best receiver in the ACC last season as a freshman. While I agree Florida State has the best team on paper in the nation they do not have the top player in every position in the ACC.
Andrea Adelson: No, but they do have the best receiver in Rashad Greene. Boyd had a phenomenal freshman season, don't get me wrong. We all think he is fantastic. But the ACC is completely stacked at receiver headed into the season, and two worthy players were left off -- Boyd and DeVante Parker at Louisville. In the end, we decided on Crowder for a few reasons. His past performance cannot be ignored. Nor can the fact that he continues to be the focal point of the Duke offense. As David Hale points out, Crowder was targeted 174 times last season, and he delivered in every possible way. He is the most indispensable player on that team.
Stephen in Baku, Azerbaijan writes: Yes, there are ACC fans in Azerbaijan. My comment/question is about solving the mystery of the Clustal (cluster/Coastal). As opposed to looking at how they will do against each other, it is better to focus solely on who their two Atlantic foes are as they will likely beat each other up in divisional games. I'll rank the two cross division games per team by easiest to hardest. Duke: (Wake/Syracuse); VT: (BC/Wake); Pitt: (Syracuse/BC); GT: (Clemson/NCSU); UNC: (NCSU/Clemson); Miami: (FSU/Louisville); UVa: (Louisville/FSU) *poor UVa. So I would say a toss-up between Duke and VT for the Coastal in 2014. With recent losses of key personal for Duke, I'll crown VT as the champ and the ACC gets a sold out ACC championship game. What do you think of this logic?
Adelson: Salam, dostum! Your bit of logic is a huge reason why I had Duke as the Coastal champ. Those crossover schedules cannot be ignored. Now, I have been rethinking my choice after the recent Blue Devils injury news and now believe Virginia Tech has the best chance to win the division. Watch out for the Hokies!
Michael Lambert writes: Your piece on Bobby Petrino left out one very important item that helps put Tom Jurich's gamble on the job hopping Petrino in perspective. There is a buyout clause of $10 million dollars he must pay the school if he takes another coaching position within 4 years. The amount gradually lowers beyond that point, but he is paid well and it would make very little sense for him to pay a financial penalty to leave for many years to come. Your article and the associated comments make this relationship out to be one of blind faith and trust. Petrino is pretty much locked in here, but that was what he accepted to get his job back.
Adelson writes: You are absolutely right, Michael. It was an oversight to not include that information. I agree the $10 million is a huge incentive to stay, but there are others who don't ...
Matthew Caldwell in Endicott writes: Andrea, I believe Petrino will build up Louisville again and then bolt again when one of the big boys wants to take a chance on him. He won't turn down a big offer. I'm not buying his transformation.
Ray Marple in Springfield, Mo., writes: So much fluff for a horrible person. Second chance deserved or not -- Lord knows I've needed several -- one must truly go through difficulties in order to 'become a better person.' Living in college football purgatory for two years and 'almost losing his wife and family' aren't enough to arise and get a multi-million dollar job again. The position he put the U of A in and left them, as well as Jessica Dorrell -- NOT MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE -- will take a lot more than two years to overcome. Perhaps his philanthropic Foundation can help everyone concerned. I hope you took a shower after submitting this article.
Adelson writes: Matthew and Ray are just two of many, many skeptics out there. We will only know in time whether Petrino truly has changed.
James Griffith in Moneta, Virginia, writes: Hi Andrea, Which FCS team is going to win this year against an ACC team? It happens every year. I think the Richmond Spiders will pull the upset of UVa. They almost beat NC State last year except for the last minute field goal. What about Gardner-Webb beating Wake Forest? It is time for the ACC to stop playing FCS teams. They have nothing to win by beating these teams and everything to lose. It does not look good for the entire conference when one team gets beat by a FCS team. I do not think anyone wants to buy tickets to a major beat down of a FCS team. They would be better off playing another conference game or at least someone in the same division. What do you think? Part II: Don't you feel that big schools have nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing FCS teams. Ask Michigan fans about Appalachian State or Virginia Tech about James Madison.
Adelson writes: Actually, the ACC won all its games against FCS competition last season. I am going to predict no FCS upsets again this season. Virginia will be better this season and take care of Richmond. Wake Forest is going to have its share of struggles, but Gardner-Webb is an average FCS team. I still think the Deacs win that one. As for the larger point in general, obviously it makes the conference look bad if one of its teams loses to an opponent from a lower division. Makes the program look bad, too, especially an elite one like Virginia Tech and Michigan (and Florida for that matter!). But the ACC coaches are pretty adamant that they want to continue scheduling these games because they believe they are good for health of college football in general. Most FCS programs are dependent on paydays from FBS schools, so it is supposed to benefit both parties. One school gets the "easy" win the other gets money that allows the program to remain viable. Sometimes it doesn't work out, but those upsets are not a comon occurrence.
ESPN.com and FoxSports.com released their preseason All-American teams Thursday, and Marcus Mariota received the quarterback nod above Jameis Winston in both, unleashing the hounds in Tallahassee and the Florida panhandle.
At the end of the day, there can be only one quarterback on the preseason team, and Mariota and Winston have the strongest cases for the nomination, without question. But while Winston is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and had an unprecedented season for a freshman, it is quite conceivable that Mariota will have a better 2014 season, at least statistically. An All-American selection isn’t a qualifier to be the best player in the country, which Winston was voted in ESPN.com’s player rankings. Tom Brady has three Super Bowl rings and a 21-game winning streak, yet has only been a first-team All-Pro selection twice.
Last season, Mariota threw 31 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He has only 10 interceptions in his two seasons. He’s totaled 700 yards rushing in both of his seasons, too. In Oregon’s up-tempo offense, if Mariota remains healthy, he could improve on all of those numbers.
The narrative all offseason was how it will be tough for Winston to replicate his 2013 numbers, which consisted of more than 4,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns. With two of his top receivers gone, the passing game might not be as efficient, and coach Jimbo Fisher could rely on his rushing attack more in 2014.
Is it contrarian to select Mariota over the reigning Heisman winner and a quarterback yet to lose a game? Sure, but that does not mean there is not a legitimate argument for Mariota to be an All-American at the end of the season. And if the preseason team is a projection based on 2014 and not a reflection of 2013, Mariota has a sensible case for the quarterback nomination.
Here are a few more ACC links to get your weekend started:
- Did anyone know there was a quarterback competition going on at Pitt? Coach Paul Chryst named redshirt sophomore Chad Voytik his starter Thursday.
- Clemson fans are hoping bad news really does not come in groups of three after losing a potential starter at running back and depth along the offensive line the last few days.
- Miami quarterback Jake Heaps was back at practice Wednesday. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when Heaps missed a scrimmage.
- Boston College held its final scrimmage before the season opener this week.
- Not sure it's the best way to draw in readers, but here are 10 notes on Georgia Tech that do not qualify as "must read."
- Louisville QB Will Gardner took the long road to Louisville, literally, and he's now on the final stretch of the long road to the starting quarterback position.
- NC State coach Dave Doeren is still offering positive vibes about the 2014 season despite a poor start to his Wolfpack tenure.
- Three things we learned during Syracuse's preseason camp.
- Duke QB Anthony Boone says the silver lining in Braxton Deaver's season-ending injury is that Boone spent time throwing to his other tight ends during the early portion of camp.
- The loss of a physical freak who is now tearing it up for Carolina
- The arrest of a key sophomore
- The departure of another sophomore for academic reasons
- The return of an injured senior and redemption of another
- The likelihood that three true freshmen will get playing time
So, with all that talk about receivers, it’s not surprising that perhaps the Seminoles’ biggest mismatch in the passing game has dipped a bit beneath the radar.
O’Leary could be crucial for Florida State this season as the Seminoles look for a red-zone target to replace the departed Kelvin Benjamin and a reliable receiver to take some pressure off the sure-handed Rashad Greene.
Based on last year’s statistics, O’Leary should be an obvious answer in both cases.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, O’Leary was targeted 10 times in the red zone last season, trailing only Greene (14) and Benjamin (13).
O’Leary also caught 8 of 9 passes thrown to him on third down, easily the highest percentage among FSU’s receivers last season.
And then there’s this: Among all ACC teams, no tight ends had a higher percentage of targets caught than Florida State (79.5 percent) and none averaged more yards per target (13.1) or reception (16.5) than the Seminoles. FSU also tied with Clemson and Boston College for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end last year with seven.
That’s serious production for a unit that also figures to have a healthy No. 2 option in Kevin Haplea this year, too, and it’s made O’Leary a clear All-American candidate.
O’Leary was targeted just 42 times last year, however, and that number figures to increase quite a bit in 2014. Would a 50-catch, 10-TD season be out of the question? That might actually be a starting point for predictions.
But Florida State isn’t the only ACC team with some tight-end talking points. Here are a few more ACC tight-end tidbits, courtesy ESPN Stats & Info.
- Earlier this week, we wrote about Virginia Tech’s emerging weapons at the position. Coordinator Scott Loeffler has made a habit of using his tight ends in every other offense he’s been a part of, but when starter Ryan Malleck went down last year in fall camp, it put a crimp in the Hokies’ plans. Expect much bigger things in 2014.
- Pitt is hoping to use its tight ends more, too, as The Post-Gazette noted earlier this week. That would mark a significant change of direction for the Panthers. Just 9.7 percent of their passing yards last year went to tight ends — the fourth-lowest percentage in the league.
- The three most targeted tight ends in the ACC last year won’t be around in 2014. UNC’s Eric Ebron is off to the NFL, Virginia’s Jake McGee transferred to Florida, and Duke’s Braxton Deaver is out for the season after an ACL injury earlier this week.
- How big might the Deaver injury be for Duke? One notch below O’Leary’s big numbers for Florida State was Deaver. Duke’s tight ends accounted for the league’s second-best completion percentage (78.5 percent) and yards-per-target (9.9). David Reeves likely steps in as the starter, but the guy to watch out for in Duke’s passing game, according to QB Anthony Boone, will be redshirt senior Issac Blakeney (6-6, 225), whom Boone described as “Kelvin Benjamin-esque.”
- The loss of McGee might be a mixed bag for Virginia. No team in the conference targeted its tight ends more (120 times) and none received less production from those targets (4.7 yards per target). Overall Virginia’s tight ends caught just 52.5 percent of their targets, with McGee hauling in just 53.1 percent of his targets.
- Miami’s Clive Walford could be a crucial player for the Hurricanes’ offense in 2014. With a new QB taking the reins, Walford makes for a fun target. No ACC tight end had a higher percentage of his yards come after the catch last year than he did (61.5 percent). The downside? Walford also had more drops than any other ACC tight end (six).
He is small. He gets it. Look around the league at bigger receivers, and he expects to fly beneath the radar. In fact, Crowder kind of likes it. He sneaks up on people, no matter how much they should have seen him coming.
"It’s nothing new to me," Crowder said. "All my life, at every level, I’ve always had to prove myself. Then people saw I could really play."
Crowder has a resume worthy of being an All-American, but the name on the front of the jersey means he will always be a bit overlooked.
"It comes down to, we’re Duke," quarterback Anthony Boone said. "We had a great year, but people still tend to not believe what we’re really accomplishing over here. Which is fine. We don’t worry about that too much. But it’s one of those things where he’s a great player and the more publicity and exposure we get as a team, the more people will see how talented Jamison Crowder really is."
The doubters actually make life a little easier for Crowder. The criticism fuels him, the nitpicking forces him to focus on the little things, and the lack of respect -- well, he’s got a way of earning that pretty quickly. Last year, no one in the ACC racked up more plays of 50 yards or more than Crowder’s seven.
"It’s dangerous," said Duke cornerback Bryon Fields. "Jamison is slept on. That’s why you see him getting those 80-yard touchdowns, because guys don’t respect his speed, and before they know it, he’s by them."
If people wanted to understand how good he was, the evidence of Crowder’s prowess is everywhere.
In the past two seasons, only six other wideouts in the country have tallied more receiving yards. Crowder is the only receiver from a Power 5 conference team that has a shot at a third straight 1,000-yard season.
Crowder racked up 1,360 yards receiving last season, second only to Clemson’s Sammy Watkins -- the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft -- in the ACC. If he were to repeat those numbers again in 2014, Crowder would shatter the conference’s career mark for receiving yards, a record currently held by his former teammate Connor Vernon.
Crowder has scored 19 times in the past two seasons. No returning ACC player has scored more. He has topped 1,200 all-purpose yards in two straight seasons, a feat matched only by Miami star Duke Johnson.
Yet, Crowder knows he needs to do more if he wants to be recognized among the best players in the country.
"I want to be a perfectionist," he said. "I think I run pretty good routes, but when I see videos of NFL players and how detailed their routes are, how the timing is, that’s something I really worked on in the summer so that if I do get a chance at the next level, I’ll go in looking like a pro."
After a dominant season in 2013 as a junior, Crowder said the notion of bolting for the NFL never crossed his mind. He didn’t submit paperwork to the NFL advisory committee and he never spoke about a decision with coach David Cutcliffe. It was simply assumed he would be back because he -- and Duke -- had more work to do.
But the NFL is on Crowder’s mind. For all the stats he has accumulated in the past two seasons, there is still that matter of his height that will dog him with scouts at the next level. The only way he can fight back is by continuing to produce.
"My status as far as the league, there’s still a lot unsure because of my size," Crowder said. "You hear a lot of people telling you, 'oh you’re going to make it,' but those same people aren’t the ones making the decisions on whether I’m playing on Sundays. The only thing I can work on is me, and I’m staying hungry and continuing to work."
If Crowder repeats his 2013 campaign this season, there will be little room left for doubt. Perhaps no player in the ACC is as crucial to his team’s success as Crowder, and after two straight seasons of success, it’s going to be tough to sneak up on anyone this time around.
Last season, Duke quarterbacks targeted Crowder 174 times -- 30 more than the next closest receiver in the ACC (Watkins) and second only to Fresno State’s Devante Adams nationally. If Crowder was the centerpiece of the Blue Devils' offense a year ago, his role might actually grow this season.
Quarterback Brandon Connette transferred this spring and tailback Jela Duncan, the team’s leader in carries, is out because of academic concerns, putting a major dent in Duke’s ground game. Tight end Braxton Deaver, last season's No. 2 receiver, will miss the season with a knee injury. Add it all up, and Crowder accounts for 40 percent of the team’s returning yards from scrimmage from a year ago.
Crowder will demand attention in 2014, but Boone isn’t worried.
"He knows how to get open," the quarterback said. "He has that mentality where he doesn’t think anybody can cover him."
So far, nobody has, which comes as no surprise to the people around Crowder. He has had to work harder to gain respect, and that fits perfectly with how he approaches the game.
But the job gets bigger as his Duke career draws to a close, and that, too, fits perfectly with how Crowder likes to prepare. There will always be doubters, always be bigger challenges. That is half the fun.
"I’m always confident in my game and I feel like I’m blessed with my ability to go play on any level," Crowder said. "But there are things I want to get better at, and I want to work on those things so people can see I’m a big-time player and one of the best receivers in the country."
WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke. One of the most dynamic receivers in the ACC, Crowder has had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and gets the nod over Louisville receiver DeVante Parker in a close call. Given Crowder's past production in the offense, he should be in line to break school receiving records this season.
WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State. Perhaps one of the most underrated receivers in the country, Greene is a virtual lock to catch every pass that comes his way. He is the picture of consistency, and as the top returning target for Jameis Winston, should reach 1,000 yards again.
TE: Nick O'Leary, Florida State. One of the best tight ends in the country, O'Leary had 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He should improve on all those numbers this season.
T: Cameron Erving, Florida State. Erving thought about leaving school early last season for the NFL draft but decided to return, and he now anchors the best offensive line in the country.
T: Sean Hickey, Syracuse. Hickey is going into his third season as a starter and has developed into one of the best tackles in the league. He also may be the strongest player in the ACC, too.
C: Andy Gallik, Boston College. Gallik helped spearhead a Boston College run game last season that averaged 212.5 yards on the ground. As a three-year starter, Gallik has grown into the best center in the league.
G: Tre' Jackson, Florida State. One of the best guards in the country, Jackson also opted to return to school for his senior year. He and Erving are the best players on that line.
G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke. A first-team All-ACC player a year ago, Tomlinson will be relied upon even more to lead an offensive line that has to replace two of its best players. If he has another stellar season, Tomlinson could be one of the first guards taken in next year's draft.
QB: Jameis Winston, Florida State. The returning Heisman Trophy winner had a rough season off-the-field but there is no questioning his credentials on the field. After throwing for more than 4,000 yards a year ago, the expectation is he will be even better this year.
RB: Duke Johnson, Miami. Johnson is one of the best backs in the country, averaging 6.6 yards every time he touches the ball. If he can stay healthy for the entire season, he's a virtual lock to gain 1,000 yards.
RB: Kevin Parks, Virginia. Parks is the only returning 1,000-yard back in the ACC and is hoping for more in 2014. Tough call here between Parks and Karlos Williams, the next two best backs in the league behind Johnson.
DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson. Beasley finished last season with 13 sacks (tops in ACC) and 23 TFL (4th in nation). He’s a preseason All-American and the biggest star on one of the country's top defensive fronts.
DE: Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State. The No. 1 overall recruit in the nation three years ago, Edwards is poised to come into his own in 2014. He was a critical piece of Florida State’s run-stuffing defense a year ago, finishing with 9.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks.
DT: Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech. No returning interior lineman in the ACC had more TFL last year than Maddy’s 13.5, and he was a key for the Hokies' dominant defense. This season, he'll be the centerpiece of a new-look D line.
DT: Grady Jarrett, Clemson. Dabo Swinney calls Jarrett one of the best defenders in the nation, even if he hasn’t gotten much national acclaim. He finished last season with 59 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss, and should be the foundation for a dominant defensive line at Clemson this season.
LB: Denzel Perryman, Miami. Perryman is Miami’s most productive defender, finishing with 108 tackles last season (fifth in the ACC). He’s the lone ACC defender returning for 2014 to have recorded at least 60 tackles in each of the previous three seasons.
LB: Stephone Anthony, Clemson. His 15 TFL last season ranked eighth in the ACC, and no returning linebacker in the conference had more. He added 86 tackles and 4.5 sacks to boot.
CB: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech. One of the top freshman defenders in the nation last season, Fuller picked off six passes as part of Virginia Tech's exceptional secondary. His 17 passes defended tied for eighth nationally.
CB: P.J. Williams, Florida State. Williams racked up three interceptions and was dominant in coverage for Florida State, which finished with the best pass defense in the nation. He also won defensive MVP honors in the BCS national championship.
S: Anthony Harris, Virginia. Led the nation with eight interceptions last season for Virginia, including picking off at least one pass in five straight games in conference play in October and November.
S: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. The first true freshman to start at cornerback for Florida State since Deion Sanders, Ramsey made the transition to safety midseason and didn’t miss a beat, finishing with 49 tackles and an INT.
S: Jeremy Cash, Duke. Cash finished last season second in the ACC in tackles (121), fifth in interceptions (4) and recorded 9.5 TFL, tops in the conference among defensive backs.
K: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State. The Lou Groza Award winner in 2013, Aguayo broke the national record for points by a kicker in a season with 157 points. He is virtually automatic every time he steps onto the field, missing just one field goal attempt and zero extra points last season.
P: A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech. A second-team All-ACC selection a year ago, Hughes averaged 44.1 yards per punt. He placed 24 inside the 20, and had 22 punts of 50 yards or longer.
KR: Kermit Whitfield, Florida State. Whitfield led the nation last year in kickoffs, with an average of 36.4 yards per return. His speed makes him extremely difficult to stop, let alone slow down.
PR: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina. Teams have probably learned to kick away from Switzer at all times. Last season, he had five returns for touchdowns, tying an NCAA record.
Substitute Maguire for Winston and the Noles still win the ACC championship, but without Winston they only average 33.9 points per game and win 9.4 games on average.
The Orlando Sentinel digs a bit deeper, looking at what the ramifications of a Winston injury might be for the Seminoles.
I didn’t crunch any serious numbers, as USA Today did, or dig too deep into the roster the way the Sentinel did, but if I was putting together a list of the ACC’s most irreplaceable players, it’d probably look something like this:
1. Winston — for obvious reasons, as discussed above.
2. Duke Johnson — We saw what happened last year when he went down. Miami was 7-0 with him healthy, 2-4 when he wasn’t on the field the whole game. Not to mention the Hurricanes' rushing average was cut in half.
3. Jamison Crowder - The guy was targeted 174 times last year (40 more than Sammy Watkins) and that was before Duke lost Braxton Deaver and Brandon Connette.
4. Eli Harold - The guy averaged 24 more snaps per game than All-American Vic Beasley did, and Virginia’s defense is predicated on penetrating the line of scrimmage.
5. Jacoby Brissett — OK, NC State might not do much this year even with Brissett, but what’s the option if he goes down? The Pack’s hopes for 2014 are riding almost entirely on his shoulders, and unlike last year, there’s actually some reason for optimism.
Beyond that top five, Mario Edwards Jr., Luther Maddy, Norkeithus Otis and Tyler Boyd come to mind, too.
Of course, there’s surely a few more players left off the list that warrant discussion. So, who’d we miss?
A few more links:
- The (Syracuse) Post-Standard has Virginia’s Mike London as the ACC’s only coach on the hot seat this season. One reason London is on the hot seat: a lack of production in spite of talent. Virginia is 18-31 under London. Only eight other teams have performed worse during the past four years, and of that group, only Cal has signed more four-star and five-star recruits than the 19 signed by London, according to ESPN’s rankings. (Of note: Kentucky has signed 16, but 14 have come in the last two years since Mark Stoops was hired as head coach. The other six programs with worse records than Virginia during that stretch have signed just 30 four-star or five-star recruits.)
- The Wall Street Journal took a look at how each Power 5 conference coach has done against top-25 opposition in his career. The Louisville Courier-Journal followed up with a deeper look at Bobby Petrino’s credentials as well as a look at the individual ACC coaches.
- There are still plenty of starting jobs up for grabs on the Virginia Tech offensive depth chart, as The Roanoke Times points out.
- For years, Jim Grobe avoided playing true freshmen at Wake Forest. In the first season under Dave Clawson, it appears as many as nine will get a chance to play in this year’s opener, the Winston-Salem Journal writes.
- And on related notes, earlier this week Matt Fortuna wrote a bit about Clawson’s journey to Wake Forest, and Jared Shanker looked at the programs most apt to play true freshmen.
- Duke certainly projects to have a speedy secondary, which has earned the unit a unique nickname, writes the Charlotte Observer.
- Steven Daniels is in line to be the next great middle linebacker at Boston College, writes the Boston Herald.
- And lastly, if you don’t hear from me for the next 10 days, it’s because FXX is marathoning every “The Simpsons” episode ever, starting today. Here’s the full schedule if you’re portioning out your time to the most important episodes (“Marge vs. the Monorail is tomorrow at 9 p.m.) and here’s your requisite Simpsons gif to showcase my feelings about the event.
“We have notepads and pencils and you’re required to take notes,” Fisher said last week. “We’ll check them periodically.”
The fifth-year Seminoles coach was referring to his mandate that his players keep their eyes forward and jot down diligent outlines during positional meetings. I asked Fisher’s policy on taking notes after the Wall Street Journal published an article on the philosophy of the Cleveland Browns' Mike Pettine, a first-time head coach.
A former high school coach, Pettine found out from other teachers how actually putting pen to paper improves the odds a student will retain the information and retrieve the lesson when it’s test time. Kevin Clark, the WSJ writer, spoke with a UCLA professor who co-authored a paper on how writing instead of typing is often more useful, this at a time when there might be more laptops than notepads in college classrooms throughout the country.
It’s an interesting concept as it relates to football, which is catching up to the rest of the country in its fascination with technology. Several professional and college teams are using GPS tracking during practice. A handful, Florida State included, have armed players with tablets, and the Seminoles have a tablet in each player’s locker. Advanced metrics, usually reserved for baseball stat heads, are creeping their way onto football coaches’ desks. Drones are even being used to add yet another camera angle of practices.
But, even during football's technological revolution, it goes to show that sometimes simpler is better -- at least when it comes to filing away that the fullback is always option No. 1 on Spider 2 Y Banana.
“They’re taking a test every week, except they have to do it in front of 83,000 instead of a classroom,” Fisher said.
Here are a few more links to check out:
- FSU is No. 1 in both preseason polls. That is due in large part to QB Jameis Winston, who took on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and then nominated his coach to do the same.
- Miami was in the bottom half of the ACC blog's preseason power rankings, and much of that has to do with questions at quarterback and the defensive line. However, freshman QB Brad Kaaya is impressing the team with his maturity, and the defensive front is improving through camp.
- Clemson opens the season at Georgia, but the Tigers will open up their home stadium so their fans can watch the game from inside Death Valley. The Bulldogs might be hurting on defense with a few losses during the offseason, but the Tigers' offense has not consistently impressed the Clemson coaches yet this fall. Chad Morris said quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson made some "really lousy decisions" in the latest scrimmage.
- Louisville also held a weekend scrimmage, and Cardinals fans should be happy with the offense. The unit's pace and its future quarterback were among the five biggest takeaways.
- Boston College's scrimmage looked like Christmas morning, which is not a good thing for an offense. Hint: They gift-wrapped turnovers.
- An Atlantic division outlook from the (Charlottesville, Virginia) Daily Progress.
- A few notes from Syracuse's Saturday practice.
- Defense was optional in the Triangle in 2013, but there are defensive playmakers at Duke, NC State and North Carolina.
- Nobody is quite sure what to expect out of Blacksburg, Virginia, this season: Does Virginia Tech continue to slide or are the Hokies poised for a return to double-digit wins? Frank Beamer believes it is the latter.
- Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof sees signs that the Yellow Jackets' defense is improving, but that doesn't mean the unit is where it needs to be.
- The name Kenechi Udeze might ring a bell for some football fans. He was a first-round NFL draft pick not long ago, but cancer cut his career short. He's back involved with the sport he loves, though, as a first-year assistant strength and conditioning coach at Pitt.
Final Delaware 0 Pittsburgh 62 Final 7 UCLA 28 Virginia 20 Final Wofford 19 Georgia Tech 38 Final Georgia Southern 23 North Carolina State 24 Final Boston College 30 Massachusetts 7 Final William & Mary 9 Virginia Tech 34 Final 16 Clemson 21 12 Georgia 45 Final Elon 13 Duke 52 Final Liberty 29 23 North Carolina 56 Final 1 Florida State 37 Oklahoma State 31