GREENSBORO, N.C. — A peace summit broke out at ACC Media Days Sunday, before the onslaught of player interviews had even begun properly. Remember the last time Georgia Tech linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu and Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas met? We do, because we were there:
The game turned on the Hokies’ final possession of the third quarter. Following three consecutive scores that turned a 21-13 Jackets deficit into a 26-21 lead, Virginia Tech was faced with third-and-19, but as Georgia Tech defenders swarmed past neutral territory for the second play in a row, linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu saw fit to direct a punch straight at Thomas’ helmet. A fresh set of downs was awarded, and two plays later Wilson had gone 49 yards down the field on his own two feet. [...] Thomas, displaying great ability to trip lightly over burly obstacles placed in his path, capped the drive himself with a 12-yard touchdown run, and the Hokies regained a lead they would not surrender again.
So you might be surprised to see this:
— Dean Buchan (@DeanBuchan) July 22, 2012
According to the Roanoke Times, the two settled their differences amicably following last year’s game.
Other assorted highlights from our visits with the ACC’s student-athlete representatives:
• Bring a sleeping bag to the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31. “We want to establish the run in every game,” said NC State quarterback Mike Glennon. But between the airborne proclivities of Glennon and Tennessee counterpart Tyler Bray, does Glennon really expect the Volunteers-Wolfpack game to last nine hours? “About that long,” Glennon said.
• Saturday, Sept. 1, may not be much shorter. Clemson center Dalton Freeman recalled Sammy Watkins’ immediate impact in Death Valley: “He’s one of those no-assembly-required kinda guys. Just pull him out of the box and throw him on the field.” Not that Freeman ever got to enjoy Watkins’ exploits up close: “It was tough for me because I’d be sitting there blocking and I’d look up and Sammy would be in the end zone and I’m like, how’d that happen? I’d have to wait for Sunday and Monday to watch film. Or that night when he made the top 10 plays [on SportsCenter].”
• Florida State is fixable… “The physical aspect, we have,” said quarterback EJ Manuel, anticipating another year of battling uphill against mighty expectations for the Seminoles. “That’s how we got to FSU. If we can get the mental aspect, the smarts the guys need to have, then we’re good.” He’s doing his part by spending the summer nerding out in his living room: ”I got a dry erase board, because I’m not at the stadium all day. So when I’m at home, instead of watching TV, I’ll draw some plays up. I don’t have anything to do in the summer time. I’m kinda bored. So in order to be constructive, that’s what I do.”
• …it’s just not tweetable. While Manuel understands that ”Some guys just didn’t understand what Twitter is,” he expressed regret at the lost opportunities for FSU players to legally market themselves and their skills through social media: “It’s an easy way to brand yourself without an NCAA violation. You can give off that you’re a good person through your Twitter whether you are or not.”
• Hobbitball has its moments.You might not expect Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock, who stands just shy of 5-foot-10, to stick in the minds of opponents. But 6-7 Boston College offensive tackle Emmett Cleary had nothing but praise for the diminutive defender. ”He made some plays last year,” said Cleary. “He ruined part of our offense. I think he went through somebody’s legs one time. It’s ridiculous, some of the moves he pulls.” (Whitlock does still occasionally lament not being a Sergio.)
• Here’s a can’t-miss moneymaking idea: Pizza transplant team! Cleary, a native of suburban Chicago, and his Joliet, Ill.-born roommate live for the days when somebody’s family takes pity and mails off a care package of food from their home metropolis. ”You can’t get good pizza out east,” Cleary avowed. “Nobody believes it.” And while some proper deep dish fuels his soul, what’s powering the Eagles past last year’s 4-8 campaign? ”The offseason’s long. There’s times when you don’t want to practice, there’s times when you don’t want to train. But we all hold each other accountable to that number last year. And every time you might not want to work or go to practice, you think about how that felt, and it gives you that little extra boost.”
• Stephen Morris lets it all out. Miami tailback Mike James said he’s trying to keep the team in “tunnel vision” as the ‘Canes weather another round of stern NCAA scrutiny. “No distractions. That doesn’t help us win games.” Is it working, though? “That’s easier done than said. I get tired of saying it more than doing it.” About as tired as Morris, whom James said was moved to tears in a June workout, addressing his teammates and “talking about how he was tired of losing. It was different. We’d never seen Stephen in that light.” James said he witnessed a behavioral shift in some of the team’s more belligerent members following Morris’ outburst: “He can get to guys the other guys can’t.”
• But does he wear the visor? Larry Fedora’s quarterback set the stage for some highly entertaining questions to be lobbed his way today:
Renner: “We walk around the facility, and (Fedora)’s the guy high-fiving and chest-bumping everybody.” #ACCKickoff
— Chris Moore (@cmoore61) July 22, 2012
Renner also said that Fedora lifts weights with the team, shirtless. (But in a cool way). #ACCKickoff
— Chris Moore (@cmoore61) July 22, 2012
• They have two buttons: On and Asleep. Miami players swear that yes, Al Golden keeps that shirt and tie on no matter how hot it gets in pregame. And Virginia’s would like to take this moment to assure you that yes, Mike London is Like That all the time.
• As far as who’s not Like That all the time: Maryland players Joe Vellano and Kevin Dorsey insist Randy Edsall’s bad rap is overblown. “Coach Edsall’s the complete opposite [of what we think],” said Vellano. ”The guy wants nothing but the best for the players and his program, more than anybody.” Vellano particularly praised Edsall’s commitment to counseling players on life after football.
• The college experience? Remember that? Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins projected as a first-round selection on more than one mock board before last year’s NFL draft, but was compelled to return for his senior season with the ‘Noles to live out his bright college days: ”I felt like I was leaving too much behind. I wasn’t ready.” He could’ve done with leaving some of FSU’s high-expectations press behind, however.
• Quality born. Miami defensive back Brandon McGee draws the first inevitable question regarding the U’s Swagger, and Where It Has Gone. McGee believes that aura isn’t necessarily instilled in college, but in the South Florida-bred athletes raised in high-stakes peewee football. ”Being born in Florida, it’s just something you grow up with, the competition level. From youth football to high school football to college, it just carries you. So I believe the swagger’s still there.”
• It does not say “Hogwarts Rock,” as we first thought. Freeman’s ACC Championship Ring is a size 15 and probably some sort of registered natural wonder, and is so ornate he “hardly ever” wears it. “It’s so big. It’s almost too gaudy.” The rings might also remind the Tigers of last season’s plummet from conference champs to the butts of bowl jokes, following that unfortunate scoreboard lashing in Miami. ”You know, we did go out and we did win the ACC, we can play with anybody in the country, but at the same time, you gotta be humbled,” said Freeman. “You gotta realize the last time you went out and played you got embarrassed.”
An appropriate reminder, perhaps, of just how quickly the landscape of this sport can shift. More from Freeman: ”I didn’t commit until Coach Bowden got his seven-year contract. And six games later, he’s fired. So you never know in college football. But if you look around, some of my favorite other schools when I was getting recruited, Florida State, they’ve gone through it, Penn State’s been through a lot, Tennessee’s been through two or three. There’s no guarantees in college football.”