PINEHURST RESORT Both Butch Davis and Tom O’Brien have got to be tired of answering the same old questions and very anxious for practice to get started next week.


The UNC and N.C. State coaches, along with Duke’s David Cutcliffe, were hand with the conference’s nine other coaches for the ACC Kickoff on Sunday and Monday.

When the pads finally start cracking, the media will start asking more questions about how the new receivers are catching the ball and which true freshmen really have a chance to play in those season openers against the FCS boys from Virginia and how someone’s knee or shoulder is healing.

But on Monday at Pinehurst, Davis fielded question after question concerning the Tar Heels’ ongoing problems with the NCAA and O’Brien had to talk for a long time about why he released former quarterback Russell Wilson to play for Wisconsin.

And for the Blue Devils, the questions continue to be versions of, “Now that you guys are not awful anymore and have reached the 4-8 plateau, when will you be able to get over the hump and play in a bowl game?”

Florida State was the pick to beat Virginia Tech for the conference championship in the preseason media poll, with the Tar Heels and Wolfpack tabbed to finish third in their respective divisions and Duke once again last in the Coastal.

Boston College running back Montel Harris was the preseason pick for ACC player of the year, with no player from a North Carolina school receiving any of the 71 votes.

They said it …

Davis: “It’s the most important issue that has faced the University of North Carolina in many years and probably many decades. We’re going to get through this, and because of it we’re going to be better than we were before. (The main problem is) just the uncertainty of it, the time line … When is there going to be some kind of resolution? There’s a process, and that’s what we’re telling recruits.”

O’Brien: “Every (personnel) decision is a tough decision. You make a decision on the facts available at the time, and you go year-to-year and do the best you can. We’re happy with it. I understand questions, but we have to focus on the guys we have now. … Certainly we wish Russell the best. I hope he wins the Big Ten championship (at Wisconsin). That would be great for him. We’re going to work hard to win the ACC Championship. It’s not about one guy, it’s a team game. We love Russell Wilson. He’s a great kid.”

Cutcliffe: “I like being last (on the program). Not to overdramatize this, but the scribes, the writers, it’s very appropriate to save the best for last, right? Because if you talk about the history of the game, our great game — and I don’t want to get sentimental with it — it’s been captured in the written word, which is pretty cool. … (This season) we can’t have big drop-offs. We’ve got to have the young players play well and we’ve got to play more people. We are better. Are we as fast as we want to be? We’re not, but we’re getting there.”