PINEHURST, N.C. – Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer welcomes the expectations that come along with being an overwhelming favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.
More than 80 percent of the media members who voted in the ACC preseason poll released Monday selected the Hokies to capture the conference title.
"All that tells me is we need to get to work," Beamer said during the ACC Media Days at the Pinehurst Resort. "People think we can be good, but if we're going to be good we need to continue to get our offensive line better, we need to stay healthy on defense and play the way we can, and we need to kick the ball well with some new kickers. We've got some things to work on."
Beamer also said he's ready for the media spotlight that will follow the Hokies all year during their first season since the tragedy of April 16, when Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho shot 32 people to death on campus before killing himself.
"There have never been more people in the country paying attention to what Virginia Tech does," Beamer said. "We're talking never in the history of Virginia Tech. At the same time, as a football team it gets back to preparing each day and taking care of the little things. The big thing is we want the Virginia Tech people to rally around this football team, and to give them something to rally around."
Sixty-nine of the 83 voters selected Virginia Tech to win the conference championship. Eight more voters picked the Hokies to lose the championship game after winning the Coastal Division title. The rest of the projected Coastal standings had, in order, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, North Carolina and Duke.
Florida State was the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Division despite going 7-6 and finishing fifth out of six teams last year. Florida State was followed in order by Boston College, Clemson, defending conference champion Wake Forest, Maryland and North Carolina State.
"I was surprised," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "I really was. I was figuring after the year we had last year that they would count us out."
BEAMER ON VICK: Beamer isn't joining the chorus of critics surrounding former Hokies quarterback Michael Vick, who was indicted last week on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation.
Vick led Virginia Tech to an undefeated regular season in 1999 that ended with the program's only appearance in a national championship game. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has ordered the Atlanta Falcons quarterback to stay out of training camp while the league reviews the case against him.
"I know Michael Vick as a very caring, very concerned, very good person," Beamer said. "I'm going to wait until this is all said and done to change any of my thoughts or to make any other observations really."
NO-NAME HURRICANES: Miami coach Randy Shannon's desire to build team unity has extended to the Hurricanes' uniform designs. Miami won't be wearing names on the back of its jerseys for the first time in recent memory.
"A lot of coaches have done this, have taken names off," Shannon said. "I'm not the first coach who's done it. We're trying to build a team. Sometimes guys get so individualized because they're getting so much publicity that they forget about the team aspect. The next thing you know you've got to worry about that one little knucklehead. You've got 84 other guys trying, and this one guy's going to be a distraction. That kills a team. It kills the morale."
Shannon hasn't ruled out putting the names on the back of the jerseys in 2008, but he first wants to make sure the team is performing the way he wants on the field and in the classroom.
"It depends on how they respond to each other and get through tough times with each other, and if they have the team mentality," Shannon said.
HEALING HURRICANES: Shannon said he isn't ready to count true freshman quarterback Robert Marve and wide receiver Jermaine McKenzie out for the season.
Marve and McKenzie are both recuperating from a serious car wreck last week on Interstate 75 near Naples, Fla. Marve suffered a broken wrist, dislocated ring finger and cut on his left (non-throwing) hand. McKenzie suffered a broken neck vertebrae. Sophomore linebacker Colin McCarthy received only minor injuries.
While it's assumed both freshmen will end up redshirting this season, Shannon wants to wait before making any official announcements.
"We don't know the status of how long they're going to be out because everybody heals differently," Shannon said. "If Marve and McKenzie aren't able to make it back, I'll let you know, but right know I don't want to say these guys aren't going to make it back. Then (if) somebody comes to practice in the fourth or fifth game of the season and they're out there practicing, you'd say, 'Coach, I thought they weren't going to be ready.' ''
Shannon said both players remained in good spirits and were joking around a couple of days after the crash.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: As someone who came back last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament a year earlier, Wake Forest defensive end Jeremy Thompson understands the difficulty involved in recovering from such an injury.
Thompson likes the progress Wake Forest tailback Micah Andrews has made thus far in his own comeback attempt. Andrews was ranked second in the ACC in rushing when he tore the ACL in his left knee in his third game of the season.
"For someone who's less than a year out of ACL surgery, he looks really good," Thompson said. "I had a (torn) ACL two years ago and at this point last year, I was kind of a step slow, but Micah looks really good. His strength is back almost 100 percent. His speed is back almost 100 percent."
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe expects Andrews to be ready for the season opener Sept. 1 at Boston College. Grobe said Andrews has dropped about 10-15 pounds, which should make the senior even more effective.
"The whole deal with Micah is just we've got to tackle him," Grobe said. "That will scare me to death when we have our first scrimmage, but he's got to get knocked down a few times and realize he can (get knocked down) and get back up. Some guys are going to have to hit him in the legs, knock his feet out from under him and some of that kind of stuff. Once he gets a few of those shots in, I think he'll be OK."
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY: E.J. Henderson won the 2002 Butkus Award with Maryland before moving on to the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Maryland junior linebacker Erin Henderson continued the family tradition last year by ranking second in the ACC with 8.8 tackles per game.
The two brothers may look like similar performers on the field, but Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said they're very different off the field.
"Their personalities are total opposites," Friedgen said. "Erin is an extrovert. E.J. is an introvert. Erin wants to be in communications, wants to be in front of the camera. … E.J. would go the other way. Where they're similar is they can find the football and they can make plays. They have a great passion to play the game. And they're two wonderful kids. They really are. They're both very smart. I feel very, very fortunate to be a part of both of their lives."
FUTURE FOES?: North Carolina coach Butch Davis said the Tar Heels have sent letters and feelers out to Penn State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M about potential series in the future.
"That is something we want to look into," Davis said.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Leave it to Bowden to offer the most amusing quote of the entire Media Days function.
Bowden's first amusing response came when he was asked about Florida State running back Antone Smith's prediction that the 77-year-old coach would last another decade.