Four ACC teams (Miami, North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson) have already ended spring practice and five more (Duke, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Virginia, Wake Forest) have their spring games this Saturday. So the league’s 12 coaches got together on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. As always, some interesting nuggets emerged. Here are five fun ones:
1. Another reason the fans and media like Paul Johnson. The Georgia Tech coach got the predictable question: Won’t opposing defenses be better prepared for his offense in year two than they were in year one? In other words, is this the year that opponents figure it out?
Most guys would utter some kind of coach-speak non-answer. But you could hear Johnson smiling through the phone. In 12 seasons as a head coach, he had heard the question more than once.
“When we were at Georgia Southern we played the same teams every year,” said Johnson, implying that things turned out okay in Statesboro, where he won five straight Southern Conference championships and a pair of national championships.
Johnson pointed out that those kinds of questions don’t come up when teams run a traditional pro style offense from year to year.
“Whenever you have something different people always have some questions,” he said. In fact, Johnson told me in a previous meeting, he knows what is coming next if Tech is successful again in 2009.
“Then they will say that you can’t recruit to it,” he said.
Then came the kicker.
“People may get better at defending it but we’ll get better at running it, too” Johnson said. “That much I do know.”
2. Hokies not talking Alabama—yet. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said that Alabama, the Hokies’ opening opponent on Sept. 5 at the Georgia Dome, will not be discussed this spring.
“We’re trying to get ourselves better right now. We’re concentrating on trying to get Virginia Tech better,” said Beamer, whose spring game will be on April 25. “But we certainly know the challenge in front of us. Any time you play a national program—a program as ranked as high as they were—that is something special. I know our players are excited. I know our fans are, too.”
Last year I said the Alabama-Clemson game at the Dome would be one of the toughest tickets ever in Atlanta. Tickets for the game on Sept. 5, I’m hearing, will be even tougher.
3. The Clemson quarterback race is still wide open. Those who watched the spring game believe that redshirt freshman Kyle Parker, whose arm has been compared to Georgia’s Matthew Stafford, has the edge over Willie Korn going into fall camp. New coach Dabo Swinney said that no decision has been made but he likes the competition coming out of the spring.
“The important thing is that we’ve improved up front (offensive line) and that was our No. 1 goal on offense,” Swinney said. “That is going to give our quarterbacks a chance to develop.”
Someone asked Swinney if he would lean toward playing Parker because Parker might decide to concentrate on baseball if he doesn’t win the job.
“My thought process is on Sept. 5 (when Clemson opens with Middle Tennessee). Things happen all the time. We’re going to play the best guy,” he said. “If its dead even, then maybe both play.”
4. Cutcliffe talked to Paulus, but not as a QB: Former Duke point guard Greg Paulus was a very good high school quarterback and he’s looking for a place to play now that his basketball eligibility has expired for Coach K. By NCAA rules he can play one year of football.
Duke coach David Cutlcliffe said he had a serious discussion with Paulus about playing football for the Blue Devils, but not at quarterback. Cutcliffe didn’t say this, but it takes the best of quarterbacks at least two years to learn his system. Paulus only has one year and Duke is set at quarterback with senior Thaddeus Lewis, who has 34 career starts.
“We talked extensively and Greg is a quarterback at heart,” Cutcliffe said. “No way was he going to be able to compete at quarterback for us. It’s difficult when you haven’t played quarterback in a long time.”
Paulus has talked to Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez about joining the Wolverines.
5. Miami draft streak nears end: For 14 consecutive years Miami has had a first-round choice in the NFL draft. That streak is expected to end with the 2009 draft. Coach Randy Shannon said he is not concerned because, based on recent recruiting, he believes that the Hurricanes will soon start a new streak of first-round picks.
“The streak has been around a long time and it was a good one,” said Shannon, set to begin his third season as head coach. “Now we have to focus on how we’re rebuilding. Down the road we have a chance to start a new streak.”