Give props to the ACC for Media Days efficiency. While the SEC stretches its media sessions over four days, the ACC got done in two. Thursday, the Atlantic Division teams talked. Friday, it was the Coastal Division’s turn.
Mark Richt doesn’t sound like a man who’s ready to commit to a starting quarterback anytime soon.
The Hurricanes need to replace Brad Kaaya, who somewhat surprisingly declared for the NFL draft after his junior season. Friday, Richt named four players with chances to win the starting job, though the favorites seem to be Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs.
[Rosier and Shirreffs] had about a year and a half of opportunities to show what they can do, and, quite frankly, I’m very comfortable with both of them and their knowledge of the game and of our system and being able to get in the right play and the right protection or changing a play from a run to a pass or vice versa. They can do that. They’ve got plenty of arm strength. They’ve got some athleticism. They’ve got some toughness about them. We’re just going to see who can become the most consistent in the group at large.”
He also mentioned freshmen Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry, though it seems like a longshot that either one will beat out the two veterans for the job.
“When we scrimmage, I want to see who can handle the pressure of that job. I need a guy I can trust. Can you hit your target, can you make good decisions, can you handle the pressure of being the starting quarterback at Miami. Those are the things I’ve got to find out, and the last one I won’t know until they actually become the starting quarterback.”
While he didn’t pick a quarterback on Friday, Richt did diagram how to eat a sandwich. If it’s anything like he’s going to break down his quarterback competition, then the four QBs mentioned above need to be pretty damn meticulous.
Mark Richt's sandwich philosophy is just amazing: pic.twitter.com/Gk3Ou8thhA
— David Hale (@DavidHaleESPN) July 14, 2017
Virginia Tech looking for a QB and an improved rushing attack
Virginia Tech is another Coastal team without a starting quarterback yet. And coach Justin Fuente said that the starter’s success may hinge more on the personnel around him than anything else.
“The biggest thing for us is the supporting cast, in terms of the other wide receivers and getting some more production out of our running back position as we move forward so that whoever does play quarterback has a chance to be productive,” Fuente said.
The team needs to replace Jerod Evans, who was also its leading rusher in 2016. A.J. Bush, Hendon Hooker and Josh Jackson are the leading candidates to succeed Evans as the starter, and the rushing production will have to come from somewhere too. Evans rushed for 846 yards as the team averaged just 4 yards a carry.
“Well, the first thing I would say is that I don’t really care who runs the ball. I don’t care if it’s the running backs or the wide receivers or the quarterback, but we do have to be able to run the ball,” Fuente said. There’s no substitute for that. So we were able to rush the football, just came in a different manner. We had a 240-pound quarterback that was really effective and had some toughness and did a good job with it.”
Mendenhall: 2016 season was a personal ‘reframing’
After 11 successful seasons at BYU, it was a bit of a surprise that Bronco Mendenhall took the head coaching job at Virginia before the 2016 season.
It wasn’t a surprise, however, that Virginia struggled. The Cavaliers were coming off four-straight losing seasons and no one expected Mendenhall to engineer an immediate turnaround.
But at 2-10, Virginia was two games worse in 2016 than it was in 2015. Mendenhall said Friday that he personally learned a lot from his first season in Charlottesville.
“Utah and Virginia, there’s a long ways in between those states, and 14 families came across the country, 53 little kids, so I feel a huge responsibility to the family members of our staff that have come,” Mendenhall said. “My wife and I have done everything we can to just make this an amazing adventure, as what we promised our own children, that this would be an amazing adventure. But I do have to be brutal and honest from the standpoint of I’m not used to losing more than winning, and that was a reframing, so to speak. And quite frankly, I think if you’re not careful in the sport, you can be defined only by winning and losing.
“So that was a unique challenge to have that reframed after 11 years of winning football, to then kind of now experience the other side of that and ask some questions. What impact does that really have on me and wrestle with that and then come out the other side to make sure I can do the very best to continue to lead and guide the kids and young men and show an example of what grit and determination and resolve and consistency looks like.
“Wow. For no other reason, I’ve benefitted in that regard in terms of self-discovery.”
North Carolina’s offense filling a lot of holes in 2017
North Carolina must replace a No. 2 overall NFL draft pick in QB Mitch Trubisky, its top two running backs and its top two wide receivers from 2016. That’s a lot of production.
“I’ve never — in all my years, I think it’s around 18 years of running this offense — I’ve never experienced this,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “It’s a little bit unknown for me. We’re going to find out. I think our staff has done a good job of recruiting. I think there’s a lot of guys that — you may recognize their name from recruiting but you’ve never seen them on the field. It’s time for them to step up. It’s time for them. It’s their opportunity to become a household name.
“We’re going to find out. I think the biggest question for me is at the quarterback spot, and we have a graduate transfer that we’ve added to that competition group, and so how quickly all of those guys can integrate, how quickly they can become a part of our team, that’s the unknown for me.”
That graduate transfer is Brandon Harris, formerly of LSU. He’ll presumably be the team’s starting quarterback. But there are questions elsewhere too. Running back Jordon Brown had just 20 carries in 2016 and he’s set to be the team’s top rushing option in 2017.
The leading returning receiver is Austin Proehl, the son of former NFL WR Ricky Proehl. Austin had 43 catches for nearly 600 yards in 2016.
Carolina has a tough schedule too. One of the Tar Heels’ ACC crossover opponents is Louisville and UNC has road games at Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pitt and NC State.
Johnson’s complaints about scheduling worked
Paul Johnson got the ACC to change a rule about scheduling.
The Georgia Tech coach was very unhappy with the amount of teams that faced his coming off a bye week. With Tech’s triple-option a rare offense in college football, the extra week can be very key for opponents to prepare.
Tech faced three opponents off bye weeks in 2016. Starting in 2018, ACC teams will have a maximum of one conference game where its opponent is coming off a bye week.
“I think that the best thing I can say about that is that I think there’s a new rule going into place next year that makes everything a little more fair and a little more equitable, and that’s all as coaches anybody could ask for,” Johnson said. “To the credit of the league, they looked at some of the stats and some of the stuff that was brought forward, and the athletic directors and everybody in the league decided to make a move to try to make it more equitable.”
Cutcliffe confident about 2017 after unprepared 2016
Duke’s 4-8 season in 2016 broke a four-year streak of bowl games. Coach David Cutcliffe sounded quite optimistic Friday that the Blue Devils would get back to a bowl in 2017.
“But the biggest [reason for 2016’s lack of success], and I mean this sincerely, is that I didn’t have our team as ready as it needed to be,” Cutcliffe said. “I believe in my heart of hearts, this team is the deepest, most talented team we’ve had at Duke yet. We are young in certain spots. We have concerns in certain little areas. But I think this team will display what we’re capable of being at Duke, and we believe we can compete for championships every year. That’s where we had gotten to, and that’s where we intend to be.
“But as [quarterback Daniel Jones] said, the only way to prove that is win games. So no reason to talk about it, just go play.”
Narduzzi won’t name Max Browne the team’s starting QB just yet
You heard it here first: Max Browne will be the starting quarterback for Pitt.
Browne transferred to Pitt from USC as a grad transfer and is immediately eligible to play. We’re making the assumption he’ll be the starter because grad transfer quarterbacks don’t find new schools just to sit on the bench. But Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi wanted to make sure that Browne wasn’t anointed the starter just yet.
“There’s going to be a quarterback battle going on. I think coming out of spring ball, Max obviously transferred from the University of Southern Cal, he`s a guy that was at the top, but he knows he’s coming into this fall camp with guys on his heels. They just didn’t stand around and get worse during the summer. So they’re all competing, and I think competition is great for everybody.”
Browne will be the likely successor to Nathan Peterman, who excelled in a high-powered Pitt offense in 2016. While the Panthers return all-around star Qadree Henderson, Pitt must replace running back James Conner too. And Shawn Watson takes over for Matt Canada — who went to LSU — as offensive coordinator.
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