July 21, 2008

ACC Notes: Clemson in unfamiliar territory

MORE ACC MEDIA DAYS: Who will challenge the Hokies? | Day Two Photo Gallery

GREENSBORO, Ga. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden didn't bother feigning surprise.

Bowden expected the ACC media to pick his Tigers as the favorites to win the league title and, sure enough, 51 of the 65 voters predicted Monday that Clemson would capture its first league crown since 1991.

"It didn't surprise me simply because of who we have coming back, and we have high-profile guys (returning at) quarterback, wideout, running back," Bowden said Monday at the ACC Media Days function at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation. "That's what the media like and what everybody likes."

The preseason poll offered a stark reminder of the changing times in the ACC. This marked the first time since Florida State entered the league in 1992 that the Seminoles weren't picked to at least win their division. FSU instead was picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division, behind Clemson and Wake Forest. Clemson received 59 first-place votes, while Wake Forest had five and Florida State one.

"It is more relaxing," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "There is no pressure. ... The pressure's on Tommy, not on me."

FSU was picked to win the ACC every season from 1992 through 2005. The Seminoles were picked to win the division and lose the conference championship game each of the past two seasons.

Defending ACC champion Virginia Tech was nearly as overwhelming a favorite in the Coastal Division as Clemson was in the Atlantic. The Hokies received 58 first-place votes, while North Carolina was second with four first-place ballots. Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia each received one first-place vote.

That the media made Clemson a prohibitive favorite to win the conference didn't bother Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, even though his Hokies beat Clemson on their way to winning the ACC title last year. Beamer said he was surprised his team was even picked to win its division.

"We had eight guys drafted and had five more sign as free agents," Beamer said. "We lost a lot of good people. And I really think anyone in that (division) has a chance to win it. I think everyone's in play. I think it's also a compliment to our program that we could lose that many and still be picked that high."

Grobe has faith in option
Count Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe as a believer in Paul Johnson's ability to succeed with the option attack at Georgia Tech. Wake Forest gave up 328 rushing yards last season in a 44-24 victory over Johnson-coached Navy.

"We won on the scoreboard, but they went up and down the field against us," Grobe said. "We haven't stopped them yet. They'd still be running it if the horn hadn't blown.

"You never see it, you never practice it, you can't simulate it in practice. No matter how hard you try to show your kids in practice what it's going to be like, you get in the game and it's 10 times faster than your scout team could ever show in practice. There's just absolutely no way to prepare for it."

Grobe is familiar with the option after working as an assistant at Air Force and experimenting with that type of attack as the coach at Ohio University. Grobe acknowledged Georgia Tech would need time to adjust, but he said the Yellow Jackets could make the transition sooner than many people expect.

"If he comes up with the quarterback who can make pretty good decisions, all those other positions can take care of themselves," Grobe said.

Going back to school

North Carolina coach Butch Davis is part of a growing fraternity of coaches who returned to college after unsuccessful ventures into the NFL, but he said the trend doesn't necessarily mean it's tougher to coach in the pro ranks.

Davis pointed out the difficulty of adjusting to the different types of offenses you see in college. For example, North Carolina will face Georgia Tech's option attack one week after battling Boston College's pro-style scheme.

Of course, that begs the question of why USC's Pete Carroll and former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz won national titles in college after struggling in the NFL.

"I think you're gaining a tremendous amount of experience (in the NFL), and with the opportunities when you come back to college, they all landed in pretty good jobs," Davis said. "Lou got a chance to leave the Jets and go to Notre Dame. That's a pretty good gig."

Worrying about Ryan

Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski hopes the Atlanta Falcons remain patient with former Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, the third pick in the NFL Draft.

Jagodzinski cited the example of former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr, who never found success in the NFL after winning the starting job his rookie season.

"I'd like to see him be able to get his feet wet a little bit at the time," Jagodzinski said of Ryan. "But I don't know how they're going to do that. I want to see him be successful. It's just what those guys think. When you're paying a guy that kind of money, you want to see him on the field, I would think."

Injury reports

ACC coaches have agreed to provide an NFL-style injury report, designed to prevent them from having to answer injury-related questions during game weeks.

ACC Preseason Media Poll
1. Clemson (59) 383
2. Wake Forest (5) 304
3. Florida State (1) 265
4. Boston College 154
5. Maryland 147
6. N.C. State 112
1. Virginia Tech (58) 383
2. North Carolina (4) 288
3. Miami (1) 253
4. Georgia Tech (1) 195
5. Virginia (1) 161
6. Duke 85
ACC Championship game winner:
Clemson (51)
Under the new agreement, teams will announce each Monday any players who are having surgery or sitting out the rest of the season. They won't make any other announcements about injuries until within 90 minutes after the end of a Thursday practice, when they will relay whether players are certain to play, probable, questionable, doubtful or definitely out. If an ACC team is playing a Thursday night game, the final injury announcement will come after Tuesday's practice.

Although teams that fail to hand out this information aren't subject to any type of penalty, ACC officials are expecting everyone to comply with this arrangement.

Some coaches had mixed feelings about the new policy.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen typically keeps portions of his practice open to the media, but he indicated he might have to change this policy now because reporters might publicize the severity of an injury that otherwise might not be apparent until the Thursday night announcement.

Friedgen said Texas already has a similar policy in place. When Friedgen asked Texas coach Mack Brown how it worked, Brown pointed out that the Longhorns' practices were closed to the media.

"If I open up practice and (the media's) reporting on injured players and what they're doing in practice and what they're not doing in practice, it kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing," Friedgen said. "I'm in a bind because some of the other teams in the league are going to do this and I'm not going to know their status, but they're going to know my status."

The benefits of delegating

Since he handed play-calling responsibilities to new coordinator James Franklin, Friedgen has said he did so because he had been spreading himself too thin while calling the plays the past two seasons.

He provided a specific example Monday of how trying to do too many things on his own ended up hurting the Terrapins.

Friedgen said he should have called a timeout in last season's North Carolina game with his team facing fourth-and-2 from the Tar Heels' 41 with less than three minutes remaining. He instead called for a pass play that resulted in an incompletion, allowing the Tar Heels to seal a 16-13 victory.

"I wasn't ready for a situation that came up in the North Carolina game that probably cost us the game," Friedgen said. "That's when I knew. I said, 'I can't do this anymore' because I never would have missed that situation ever."

Names on their backs

Here's one indication Miami's players are starting to adapt to second-year coach Randy Shannon's demands: Names will reappear on the backs of their jerseys this season.

Miami's uniforms didn't include names in Shannon's first season. Shannon decided to include names on the jerseys again after seeing the Hurricanes' work ethic improve in the wake of a 5-7 season.

"They're coming along," Shannon said. "They're coming (along) well. They're doing everything they had to get done after the season. They started back in the weight room right after the loss to Boston College. The following week, they were back in the room lifting and doing the things we need to take the next step.

"They're taking more of an attitude that we've got to get focused and we've got to get back to what we're all about at Miami. And they've been doing it."

Macho man on offense?

Beamer knows he has a special talent in senior cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris. What Beamer has to figure out is the best way to utilize one of his top playmakers without physically wearing him out.

Harris is capable of contributing on both sides of the ball, as well as in the return game. Beamer said Monday he is definitely open to getting Harris on the field for more snaps, so long as he doesn't take away from his immense skills as a defensive back.

"To me there is no question about his ability to help us by being a good wide receiver and to make plays. When the ball is in his hands, he can make plays," Beamer said. "The question I have is we have him on the other side at corner and that's where he is going to make a lot of money in the NFL, so he wants to play well there. You have to ask how many plays are you going to play him (on offense) because you don't want to take away from (his impact) at defensive back and on returns."

Beamer wants offensive packages involving Harris to be diverse enough that defenses won't begin to be able to anticipate plays when Harris is on the field.

"The exact number (of offensive snaps he'll play) and figuring it out we've got to answer that," he said. "A lot of that is going to come down to 'Macho' and how much he feels like he can do. As we go along, we'll ask if we are doing too much or if we can do a little more."

The problem is a good one to have for Beamer, who at one time thought he wouldn't have Harris this season. Harris declared for the NFL draft in January before deciding to return.

Grandpa Beamer

Beamer has more to celebrate than the beginning of football season. He also is expecting to become a grandfather for the first time in September.

"I'm as excited as can be," Beamer said. "And I've got a wife who's even more excited."

The grandchild is the son of South Carolina cornerbacks coach Shane Beamer and his wife. So what colors will be baby be wearing?

"I think (the baby) had better wear that Gamecock gear first," Beamer said. "That's the first paycheck, and my wife's going to buy her clothes regardless."

Keeping goals quiet

New Duke coach David Cutcliffe carefully avoided saying how many victories would constitute a successful season.

"I'm not avoiding the question, but I don't think we can think that way," Cutcliffe said. "When your seniors have won two games in their career, when your last home victory was Sept. 17, 2005, for us to get beyond focusing totally on trying to beat James Madison in the opener is a big mistake.''

(Randall Thomason of Rivals.com contributed to this report).

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.


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