July 26, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As part of Seminoles.com’s ongoing coverage of the 2011 ACC Football Kickoff, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide some of the information that was shared by the student-athletes from the 11 other league schools.
We of course will have more content featuring Florida State’s player-representatives, EJ Manuel and Brandon Jenkins, but for now let’s take a look at what their ACC counterparts had to say this past Sunday at Pinehurst.
Virginia (Chase Minnifield and Kris Burd):
- Nineteen starters return, which is the most in the league.
- Their goal this year is to get to a bowl game because the seniors deserve it.
- It’s year No. 2 under head coach Mike London.
- Both Minnifield and Burd were very complimentary of their compliance staff and the brotherhood of the team as a whole in keeping everyone out of trouble.
Duke (Sean Renfree and Matt Daniels):
- The team is focused on taking it one game at a time.
- Renfree talked at length about the increased comfort level the team has under head coach David Cutcliffe.
- Daniels talked about increased recruiting success the past few years and the successful transition the freshmen are able to make thanks to the upperclassmen being willing to help the young guys out.
- Renfree talked about how he was committed to Georgia Tech but decommitted when Paul Johnson was hired and then ultimately chose Duke because Cutcliffe had been recruiting him when he was an assistant at Tennessee.
Clemson (Brandon Thompson and Dalton Freeman):
- Freeman is excited about the new offensive system in place at Clemson and thinks that the entire nation will take notice.
- Tahj Boyd is now the starter at quarterback and Freeman said that all the players respect him and feed off his energy.
- Clemson has lost to rival South Carolina two years in a row and the team is focused on getting bragging rights back.
- I asked Thompson about EJ Manuel and what he saw from him last year when Clemson lost to Florida State in Tallahassee. Thompson said that he didn’t see any step-down from Christian Ponder, whom Manuel had replaced as the starter because of injury. He mentioned Manuel’s athleticism and ability with his legs.
- Freeman referred to the new Clemson offense as “smash-mouth spread.”
Boston College (Montel Harris and Luke Kuechly):
- Harris is feeling the best he has felt since having knee surgery last November.
- Harris said the offense is coming together and has more confidence after finishing 107th in the nation last year in total offense and says that all starts with their starting quarterback.
- Kuechly said that the Thursday night game against FSU will be tough for both squads because of having just five days rest but it will also be fun.
- Harris said their offense last year was more smash mouth and this year with a new offensive coordinator it will be more open.
- I asked Harris, who is from Jacksonville but was not recruited by FSU, why the Eagles have matched up so well against the Seminoles the last several years. He said that the Eagles view FSU as one of their top rivals and they are especially confident heading into each game with the ‘Noles.
- Harris said that FSU was his dad’s favorite school and that he loves playing in Tallahassee because of that extra motivation. He had to get 40 tickets for family and friends for last year’s game between the two schools at Doak Campbell Stadium.
- Kuechly said that EJ Manuel is a “monster” and “unlike any new QB we will play this year.”
Miami (Sean Spence and Tyler Horn):
- Horn said that all players sit in the front of every class now per new head coach Al Golden’s orders.
- Horn was asked about Miami re-establishing its “swagger” and he quoted something that Golden has told his players: “Swagger is not being arrogant. Swagger is from out-working the teams you are playing against.”
- Spence said that he expects the entire defense to be on the same page and be a unit that “flies around.”
- Miami will run multiple fronts on defense this year and it will allow the linebackers to blitz more.
- On the Seminoles, Spence said that both FSU and Miami won’t have any rust because the game is played late in the season. Horn then added how much fun it is to play the Seminoles no matter what time of year the game is being played.
- One of the best quotes of the day was from Horn when he was asked about the Hurricanes having a harder time getting fans at games because of all the other sports in the Miami area. “If you win, they will come,” Horn said.
Georgia Tech (Roddy Jones and Logan Walls):
- The Yellow Jackets defense has gone from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
- The big thing the team has been working on is getting off the field on third down because they struggled in that area on defense last year.
- Walls said the defense is looking good despite the fact that the Yellow Jackets lost six starters on that side of the ball.
- Jones said Georgia Tech was disappointed on how they performed down the stretch and then added that the offense strives on taking the numbers the defense gives them.
- “We are one of three or four teams in the nation that runs this type of offense,” Jones said about Georgia Tech’s use of the triple option.
- Jones said the offense had a grinding 10-minute drive against North Carolina last year and they hope to continue to work the clock and keep opposing offenses on the bench for as long as possible.
Wake Forest (Joe Looney and Kyle Wilber):
- Looney said that Wake Forest has one of the toughest schedules in the ACC this season.
- Being from Florida, Looney said he really looks forward to playing Florida State.
- “We are tired of being 3-9,” Wilber said. “It’s not fun.”
- Wake Forest has switched to a 3-4 defense to allow more speed to get onto the field. Wilber added that in the 3-4 he will drop in to coverage more and be able to rush the quarterback more as he will be used more like an outside linebacker rather than just being a defensive end only.
- Wilber said that defensive coaches have really been preaching the importance of forcing more turnovers.
- As for the offense, Looney said that the Demon Deacons are going to try to run the ball more.
- Wake Forest’s offensive line boasts four returning starters.
North Carolina (Jonathan Cooper and Tydreke Powell):
- The team is focused on getting over the eight-win hump and getting at least nine or more wins.
- Cooper said that the offense shouldn’t miss a beat despite replacing a senior quarterback.
- Both players shared the same sentiment that a certain weight has been lifted off their shoulders after a 2010 season that saw so many Tar Heels miss action because of rules infractions.
- “This has brought us all closer together as a team,” Cooper said about the off-field news that has plagued UNC over the past year.
- Cooper was extremely gracious when talking about FSU and its defensive playmakers (I will have those quotes in a later story).
Virginia Tech (Eddie Whitley and Danny Coale):
- The Hokies will have a new-look offense with a different quarterback after Tyrod Taylor graduated.
- Logan Thomas has been doing very well since being named the starter at quarterback.
- Whitley feels that Virginia Tech always flies under the radar.
- Whiley spoke about Virginia Tech’s new assistant coaches and the new mentality and youth that is present on the staff and how their enthusiasm and excitability has rubbed off on the players.
- I asked Whitley if he thought that FSU and Virginia Tech would meet again in the ACC Championship game and he had this to say: “We know we are going to hold up our end of the bargain.”
- In addition to breaking in a new quarterback, the Hokies will also have a new center this season.
Maryland (Danny O’Brien and Kenny Tate):
- The team is very excited to open the season with a primetime game on ESPN against Miami.
- The biggest change since Randy Edsall was hired as the new head coach has been the overhaul in offensive terminology. O’Brien called it “learning a brand new language.”
- O’Brien said that the offense is a multiple one that focuses on getting the ball in the playmakers’ hands.
- The defense returns the majority of its players on defense and doesn’t have a real change in identity.
- Tate has starred at safety but is now in a more hybrid linebacker-safety type of role for the defense.
- The players shared that Edsall makes all the members of the team have a clean-shaven look.
NC State (George Bryan and Audie Cole):
- Bryan said that he and the rest of the team is confident that Mike Glennon can fill in for Russell Wilson nicely and that Glennon has done very well preparing to be NC State’s starter at quartertback.
- The offense is pretty much the same with Glennon at quarterback; the terminology and philosophy are the same.
- The defense returns all of its two-deep depth chart in the secondary.
- Cole said that a few years ago there were no leaders on the team but now everyone just does the right thing and everyone leads as a group.
- The culture has changed greatly since Tom O’Brien took over as head coach a few years ago.
- Bryan said the entire wide receiver corps is poised for a great year but he couldn’t specifically say who will step up and be the star.
- Cole said that he has heard the Wolfpack is expected to be 7-0 heading into the game against FSU but is then predicted to lose to the Seminoles. “Why play the game then if we are predicted to lose?” he said.