Join us as we continue our float down the lazy river of ACC Media Days, won’t you? Your prize for the journey: Tidbits from all 12 conference coaches. Here are highlights from our Monday interview circuit:
• Frank Beamer gave the most Virginia Tech quote in human history. “I think we got a couple freshmen coming in that’s gonna get a great opportunity to punt for us,” he said.
• Time for some forced perspective. It should make a statement that despite all the fresh “OOOH SCANDAL” news out of Miami, the first question posed to Al Golden was about Penn State. And though Golden obviously wasn’t about to comment on an in-progress investigation with the Hurricanes, he offered this much on the latest allegations: ”I was disappointed in the article Friday, first and foremost how it attacked my integrity, both personally and professionally. I stand by my statement, I’ll continue to do so, there will be a day when I can refute that or discuss that and I look forward to that day. Now is not the time to do that.”
Later, tangentially, he came back to the topic: “Anybody can tell you, you can have all the facilities in the world, but if you don’t have a culture where kids feel loved and respected and feel like they’re being developed on and off the field on a daily basis, that’s gonna resonate with the recruits. They’re gonna know that. They’re gonna find that out. … And that’s stronger than any article that can be printed.”
• Dabo throws shade upon you all. Dabo Swinney entered his Media Days interview without knowing that the Tigers had been picked to finish second in their division. He didn’t care much. ”I’ve been the head coach for three years, and I don’t think we’ve been picked to win the division, much less the conference,” Swinney said. “And we’ve won the division twice.”
• Randy Edsall is surprisingly unclear on the concept of “haters.” We tried to get Maryland’s already embattled ballcoach to sum up what felt like a five-minute speech about not pleasing everyone by offering “haters gonna hate.” It didn’t go over very smoothly. We’ll try and get the audio of this up tomorrow, as it was truly a special moment.
• Here’s some real-time Jimbo! Our friends at SB Nation have video of Jimbo Fisher’s entire appearance in the writers’ room. If you would like a real treat, skip all the football talk, scroll to about the 39-minute mark and watch Jimbo Fisher explain how retweeting works. This is more than worth your time.
• And now for something completely serious. You might recall that Beamer was named the first recipient of the Joe Paterno Award. After the Freeh Report came out, Beamer said that he removed the award from his office and placed it in storage: “I thought it was the right thing to do. The proper thing.”
• Introducing Larry Fedora’s be-healed tour. “I’m gonna go listen to Larry,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said at the end of his interview session. “He’s having a revival over there.”
This is not an inaccurate description. Within the first minute of his Q&A, Fedora had already asked if he should stand on the table, had discarded his name tag and had used the royal “we” in the process. (“We don’t need this, right? We know who we are.”) As strident proponents of the royal “we” ourselves, we liked him immediately, although he is one of those guys, like Spurrier, who simply looks unnatural without a visor on.
But how is Fedora bolstering the spirits of seniors guaranteed not to play in the postseason? It just so happens Fedora has a speech prepared for this very purpose!
“For the first time in my life, we have 12 games, and I know that’s it. And if I’m a senior, I’m gonna take advantage of each and every one of ‘em. I’m not gonna take anything for granted. No matter how I feel, what the weather is, whether we’re playing on asphalt or gravel*, who we’re playing or what color our helmets and our jerseys are** gonna be, nothing matters. I’ve got an opportunity and I’m only gonna have 12 of them to play a game that I love.”
*Possible Maryland trash talk?
**DEFINITE Maryland trash talk.
• Paul Johnson does Paul Johnson things. Here, transcribed verbatim, is an exchange between Paul Johnson and a reporter questioning him about a player’s recovery timeline:
Reporter: “Do you have a clear understanding of when you’ll get him back yet?”
Johnson: “Yeah, I know exactly when I’ll get him back.”
Reporter: “Do you care to share that yet?”
Reporter: “Do you expect him to play against Virginia Tech?”
Johnson: “I don’t know, do you?” [UNCOMFORTABLE LAUGHTER FROM THE TABLE] “We’ll see, won’t we?”
• All are welcome in the bosom of the Blue Devil. Duke has had to expand its locker room facilities to accommodate an unprecedentedly high number of walk-on athletes. ”We’ve never had big squads,” said David Cutcliffe. “How cool is that?”
• Clemson would be well suited to life in the SEC. ”As y’all know, Clemson is one of those places that even when you have had the best season in 20 years, and won all the conference and won all the home games, and set a record for wins versus ranked opponents, even when you’ve done all that, nobody’s happy,” said Swinney. “We gotta win ‘em all.”
Swinney “blames” Clemson’s 1981 title run for high expectations that continue to resonate today. ”Any time you’re at a school that’s won one, that’s what you get measured against.”
• Opening week is bat country. Beamer recognizes the benefits of playing a high-profile early-season game, but he’s approaching Virginia Tech’s Labor Day date against Georgia Tech with appropriate caution. “There’s a lot of unusual things that can happen in an opening football game,” he said. That’s particularly accurate about special teams, an area in which his Hokies have traditionally excelled.
• Here’s a Sammy Watkins doghouse update! Clemson’s phenom receiver is working through a gauntlet of internally handled punishments following his May arrest, and any in-season suspensions — if they happen — will be decided upon by Swinney during fall camp.
• “I don’t like to counterpunch. I’ve always been a punch guy.” Cutcliffe can actually name a surprisingly high number of defensive players on his team.
• If any conference was working on the technology to develop a shrink ray … Jim Grobe may throw true freshman defensive tackle Shelldon Lewinson into the Demon Deacons’ defensive front. He compared Lewinson favorably to the highly-regarded Nikita Whitlock, offering: “He’s not as thick as Nikita but strong, quick as a cat, really hard to block.” Lewinson is half a head taller than Whitlock, however, which will make it difficult for him to duck beneath opponents’ grasp as Whitlock does.
“That might be a problem,” said Grobe. “We might have to shrink him.”
• Big Bad … Sam? Cutcliffe compared Sam Marshall, Duke’s 6-foot-7, 270-pound defensive tackle, to former Tennessee standout John Henderson. “I mean, how do you move that?” asked Cutliffe. “Go measure yourselves in the privacy of your homes.”
• This profiterole will not be overlooked. Will Virginia sleepwalk through its season-opening cupcake match? Not likely, especially when the bonbons in question are the Richmond Spiders, with which coach Mike London won a FCS national title in 2008.
• Some areas in need of improvement at Miami took Golden by surprise, particularly conditioning, strength and nutrition. Golden is pleased with the tangible progress that the ‘Canes have made under his administration: “We didn’t have a bencher over 400 pounds a year ago, on our offensive line, and now we have three.” He cited shifting players’ perception of conditioning away from punitive action as being a particular challenge. “Now they embrace conditioning. They know it’s necessary if you want to be in there the last game of the season.”
• Fresh as a new-popped polo collar. Fedora has taken the motivational step of refusing to watch game tapes on his players from last season. “We’re going off 15 days of practice. No film. … Whatever you want to be, you’re building your résumé today. And you’ll be building it from this point on.”
• “That’s not always good. I hope we end up with the pretty ones.” Cutcliffe extolled the virtues of the annual Triangle Pigskin Preview, which forges bonds of friendship among the North Carolina-based athletes — and has occasionally led to them dating some of the same girls.
• Is Wake Forest sick of sending recruiting smoke signals to would-be poachers? Yes and no, according to Grobe, who says the process is frustrating, but that it can be flattering “knowing you’re in on the right guys and that other people think you’re in on the right guys.”
• Mike London makes playoff jokes! Virginia’s skipper does a pretty mean Jim Mora squall, and used the word “predicate” in a sentence, which joins “chutney” and “chifforobe” as words that we do not typically hear at SEC Media Days.
• More vocab champs. First coach to use “synergy” in an actual sentence we have heard: Golden.
• Gracious host champ. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani, who helpfully offered to make up a stat when he didn’t have the numbers on his offensive line immediately on hand.
• He’s technically correct, right up to that first whistle, for everybody. Remember that. Duke faces recruiting challenges that other ACC member schools might not, but Cutcliffe has a reminder for his guys about their chances: “You can’t be in here trying to pick out games you think are winnable games, when in reality, each game is truly winnable.”
We’ll come back to this statement the first time we pick FIU to upset a power conference opponent again.
• Jimbo touches on the makeup of the selection committee. Can retired coaches really look at teams objectively? “Yes, but do you think it’d be 100 percent [objective]? Has anything ever been that way? I mean, you say it, but I don’t care. You’re human, and that’s part of human nature.”
• They maybe should’ve, but … You may be surprised to learn that Swinney is ready to move on from talking about West Virginia’s 70-33 whipping of Clemson in last season’s Orange Bowl! ”You use everything that happened in the prior season, good and bad,” he said. “Fact of the matter is, we lost four games. We didn’t just lose one game. And all four of those games were painful. My second year, we lost five games by six points or less and two of them on the last play of the game. … We didn’t get half a loss because they were close losses, and this year they don’t put, like, two L’s because one got away from me.”
• Paul Johnson tells a second joke. Will the new blocking rules interfere with how Johnson likes to coach his players? “No. They keep trying to but they haven’t got it yet.”
• We cannot argue with this logic. Tom O’Brien hasn’t seen much change at N.C. State since the installation of Debbie Yow as athletic director, but that’s because his office is up at the top of the stadium, which is really far away from her office. This was an actual discussion that was had. Summertime!
• Beamer dispenses dieting tips. He’s lost more than 30 pounds since spring ball and provided this as the reason: He eats all the fruit he wants. “Don’t count your fruit,” Beamer said. “Cut carbs. Get up in the morning, get on the elliptical, get your metabolism going. Watch out for bread.”
• Tweet of the day, courtesy Jonathan Jones:
LFed said Red Bull sometimes helps him calm down. FYI it’s not good when an upper operates as a downer.
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) July 23, 2012
• ACC Coach Hair Power Rankings, Final Scoreboard. 1. Dabo, 2. Golden, 3. Fedora, 4. Beamer.
Dabo’s coif is so pristine that we’d like to lobby the Chick-fil-A Bowl to swap the kickoff matchups so Swinney can play his natural grooming enemy, Derek Dooley, heretofore unchallenged in the hair game.
• “What’s wrong with Jon Lester?” “I would not be sitting here,” said Spaziani, “if I could figure that out.”