ACC Kickoff: New QB for State, new talent at UNC - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

ACC Kickoff: New QB for State, new talent at UNC

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -

There was plenty new to talk about Monday at the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro at the Grandover Resort.

N.C. State has a new quarterback.

North Carolina has a true freshman running back who will play in the first game – and could play a great deal all season.

Wake Forest has a new coach.

The ACC has a new member in Louisville and the Cardinals have brought back an old coach in Bobby Petrino.

And, oh yes, one thing hasn’t changed – Florida State is still the team to beat after sweeping the league in 2013 en route to the national title.

The Noles are likely to hammer their rivals in the Atlantic Division. But the race in the Coastal Division could be interesting.

Duke won the division last year and lost to Florida State in the ACC title game. The Blue Devils are picked second in the Coastal Division this year and UNC is picked fourth. Miami is the media choice to win the Coastal.

PACK LIKES NEW QB: N.C. State is hoping to move up in the Atlantic Division after a disastrous 2013 season that saw the Wolfpack fail to a win an ACC game. State is now picked fifth in the Atlantic.

Dave Doeren with NCSU team

N.C. State didn’t win a single game in ACC play last season, and erratic quarterback play was a big part of that.

The Wolfpack expects significant improvement at quarterback this year when Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior, takes over as the starting quarterback.

“He has the ability to make every throw, which we didn’t have last year,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said.

Doeren raved about Brissett’s work ethic and fundamental understanding of the game.

“Probably more than anything is his leadership. He gets it when it comes to how hard you have to work to be a good quarterback,” Doeren said.

“Some of them say it. But Jacoby really gets that. When he goes to [the receivers] and says, ‘I want you to watch film with me,’ what are you going to say if you’re a receiver?

“He does that.”

It doesn’t hurt, Doeren said, that he played at Florida and lost his starting job.

“It helped that he got scarred at Florida,” Doeren said. “It made him tougher.”

NEW RUNNER AT UNC: Speaking of new players, one name to know at North Carolina is Elijah Hood. Hood is a true freshman from Charlotte and he could have a big impact for the Tar Heels this fall. Hood, 6 feet and 220 pounds, was the AP Player of the Year in North Carolina and ranked the No. 4 running back in the country by Rivals.com.

Of course, plenty of high school players come into college football highly rated and promptly flop. And Carolina is deep at running back, with sophomore T.J. Logan and junior Romar Morris contending for carries.

But Carolina coach Larry Fedora loves what he has seen so far from Hood.

“Elijah, from what I’ve seen, he’s special. He’s special. There aren’t a lot of kids like that,” Fedora said.

“What’s his role going to be? That’s hard to say. He will play in the first game if he’s healthy. His production is going to determine how much he plays in the next game and the next game and the next game.

“The guy that’s producing will be out there.”

DEVELOPING PLAYERS: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was surrounded by reporters in his media session here at the Grandover Resort, and of course was asked plenty of specific questions about his powerful Seminoles team.

But he also closed with an interesting point about how he thought it was his responsibility to help his players learn accountability.

“Most kids make decisions based on what they want in the next 10 seconds,” Fisher said.

But, he said, the key role for a coach is to help them learn to do things they don’t want to do, but that are important. That personal growth, he said, can have an impact on the field.

“It’s amazing how the student grows and the player grows,” Fisher said.

LOUISVILLE: New to the conference is Louisville, which joins the Wolfpack in the Atlantic Division. Louisville has brought back coach Bobby Petrino, who led the Cardinals to success before leaving for a checkered career with the Atlanta Falcons and Arkansas Razorbacks. Petrino left the Falcons on poor terms, resigning after 13 games to take over at Arkansas.

But he was fired at Arkansas in 2012 after school officials discovered Petrino, who was married with children, was having an affair with a young woman in the football office. The affair came to light after Petrino crashed his motorcycle while she was riding on the back.

Petrino then went to Western Kentucky for the 2013 season before signing a seven-year deal with Louisville.

N.C. State plays at Louisville Oct. 18.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame will continue to play four games against ACC schools as part of its arrangement with the league. This year, UNC is at Notre Dame Oct. 11.

UNC'S TURNAROUND: North Carolina had a miserable first half of the season in 2013 but closed with an explosive run that concluded with a bowl victory.

UNC coach Larry Fedora, asked about the turnaround Monday, said improved play on defense helped drive Carolina's success.

"We were 1-5 and just got beat by Miami in the last seconds. It was was devastating for our kids. It really was," Fedora said. He said the coaches and seniors held the team together and "continued to believe in each other."

In defense, establishing trust was vital. Carolina's defense was torched for big plays early on but improved as the season progressed.

“Especially on defense, guys quit trying to make too much happen," Fedora said. They worried about their responsibility and they trusted in the guy next to them. When that happened we stopped giving up explosive plays. And when that happened we started winning football games.”

NCAA UPDATE: Carolina has said the NCAA will return to campus for more investigations.

Asked by a reporter if Carolina fans should be concerned, Fedora said, “I really don’t think they should be concerned. I’m not concerned about it and I don’t think our team is concerned about it.

“For us it’s just kind of getting old. It’s just been hanging out there. We’ll ride it out and see what happens.”

WOLFPACK GRADES: State coach Dave Doeren said the team’s cumulative GPA at the end of the spring semester was 2.71, the highest out of the spring in 15 years. (By the way, 15 years ago was the end of the Mike O’Cain era and the beginning of Chuck Amato’s run at State).

“Academically we’ve made a lot of strides,” Doeren said.

He said eight Wolfpack players have graduated and will play as graduate students.

He said academics are a key priority at N.C. State, and that the player’s GPA is listed along with the bench presses squads and other measures of strength.

“It’s more the hands on approach that our staff has with our team,” Doeren said.

CLAWSON NOW AT WAKE: After a long run at Wake Forest, Jim Grobe stepped down after last season and the Deacons hired Dave Clawson.

Clawson comes across as a clean-cut, serious coach, and one who knows what he wants.

He said he wants his coaches “to be very demanding but also approachable.” He also said he wants clear expectations for his players, and he wants a problem that is “very organized and detail-oriented.”

“We hope that carries over into how we play,” Clawson said.

Clawson, by the way, said he reached out to Grobe after taking the job and the two had lunch to have a chance to get to know each other.

“If you don’t like Jim Grobe, then you don’t like people,” Clawson said. “He did a fabulous job at Wake Forest.”

CLEMSON UPDATE: The ACC isn’t generally considered one of college football’s top conferences, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had high praise for the league Monday.

“We needed to produce a couple of dominant teams,” Swinney said of last season.

Florida State did its part, beating Auburn for the national title, but Swinney’s Tigers also beat Ohio State 40-35 in the Orange Bowl.

Swinney called the ACC “a league on the rise that doesn’t take a back seat to anyone.”

Clemson, though, may have a tough time rising to last year’s standards. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins are gone and Swinney said his offensive line is a work in progress. But he’s especially high on 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Isaiah Battle.

“I like the guys we have,” Swinney said. “We just have to get everyone dialed in.”

Swinney said the Clemson offense will remain the same despite the loss of Boyd.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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