- File photo by Chris Baird
- The Blue Devils and Tar Heels will face off once again on Nov. 30 in Chapel Hill.
GRANDOVER RESORT/GREENSBORO The preseason talk about ACC Football has started in earnest, and for the first time new members Pittsburgh and Syracuse have joined the fray.
The conference is holding its 42nd annual Football Kickoff today and tomorrow, with the media’s predicted order of finish coming on Monday and the preseason all-conference team on Tuesday.
The three Triangle-area teams will all have some big changes this season.
UNC, in its second season under Larry Fedora, will be bowl-eligible after playing its way through NCAA sanctions in 2012.
N.C. State, in its first season under coach Dave Doeren, will have a new starting quarterback.
- Photo courtesy NCSU athletics
- State coach Dave Doeren
And so will Duke, which is coming off a bowl experience for the first time since Bill Clinton’s first term.
Bryn Renner is the Tar Heels’ incumbent signal caller after throwing for 6,442 yards and 54 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Anthony Boone will replace Sean Renfree — now with the Atlanta Falcons — at Duke. N.C. State has a battle between transfer Pete Thomas and sophomore Manny Stocker to replace Mike Glennon who is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Tar Heels finished 8-4 and tied for the Coastal Division title last season.
State was 7-6 and lost to Louisville 38-24 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
Duke, in its fifth season under David Cutcliffe, finished 6-7 and lost to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl in its first post-season game since 1994.
The ACC season will open on Aug. 29 with two games, including the Tar Heels’ visit to South Carolina. Duke and State both open two days later, with the Blue Devils hosting cross-town rival N.C. Central and the Wolfpack entertaining Louisiana Tech.
- Photo courtesy UNC athletics
- Tar Heel QB Bryn Renner
They said it:
Renner: “I wish we could start the season today. I’m ready to go. That’s the best thing about football — you get a little time off and a chance to work with your teammates. We’re just ready to go and play a good opponent like South Carolina. It’s a big motivation factor. … (Being bowl-eligible) is going to help the whole season. I think — not to say last year we weren’t motivated to win the (Coastal Division) — but I think that’s going to push us over and hopefully we can have a good season.”
Boone: “I’m learning how to watch films and ask questions and even texting Coach (Cutcliffe) at night and saying ‘I don’t really understand this’ and not feel like he’s going to snap at me or act like it’s a dumb question. I’m going to have the ball in my hands passing and running, and I think with my escape-ability in the pocket I’ll be able to avoid sacks. … Being the starter, my life doesn’t change at all. Coach Cut is a big believer in that the person you are on the field is the same person you are off the field, so as a backup quarterback the limelight is still on you. I trained everyday like I was the starting quarterback, so it won’t be much different.”
- Photo courtesy Duke athletics
- Blue Devil QB Anthony Boone
State WR Rashard Smith: “The biggest difference from last year at this time is the new coaches, of course. We’re having to adjust to them and the new system they brought in. We’ve got to get everybody to adjust and embrace the opportunity. … We’re running a spread, no-huddle offense with questions about who our quarterback is going to be, but we’ve got four great candidates who are all great guys. … The list of great quarterbacks who have played here goes on from Jamie (Barnette) to Philip Rivers to Russell Wilson to Mike Glennon. Coming into this season, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker and Brandon Mitchell and Bryant Shirreffs are all great guys who look out for each other.”
UNC DE Kareem Martin: “Spring ball was our first look at our defense (under Fedora) and there were a lot of different things going on compared to what we were doing in the past. We really started to click about Game 6 in the second half of the season. The defense was like ‘OK guys, we know what we’re doing and we know it’s going to work’ and guys started buying in. We definitely have a better grasp after one year. The older guys know it now. We’re going to be ahead of schedule going into training camp. … We’re going to be really comfortable. (defensive coordinator Dan Disch’s) in his second year at other places, his defenses have been Top 20 or Top 15. We definitely have the talent and the scheme to be a Top 20, Top 15 defense. ”
Duke CB Ross Cockrell: “I think what the bowl experience last year taught us is what it takes to get to that level and go past that level. We saw what it would take to win games and reach an ACC championship. When you think about it, if we had won our last two games we would have been in there playing Florida State. That’s something we might have lost as the season went on, what it takes to reach that level.”
State CB Dontae Johnson: “We have a more open-door policy with the coaches now. They invite us up to the offices more to talk about football-related things and school-related things and anything that’s going on in our lives. There’s a sense of family. … Our defensive back tradition has been great. Three of our guys from last year (David Amerson with the Washington Redskins, Earl Wolff with the Philadelphia Eagles and Brandan Bishop with the Minnesota Vikings) are in the NFL. We’re just trying to keep that going and keep producing crazy corners and safeties.”