ACC Notebook: FSU’s mystique has returned

The Sports Xchange

July 21, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Florida State is all the rage in the Atlantic Coast Conference, too.

The Seminoles are the defending national champions and they figure to be in the mix to repeat.

Another season of change is upon the ACC, which has Louisville on board — and joining the Seminoles and Clemson in the Atlantic Division — and a scheduling model that involves Notre Dame for selected games that will count as non-league encounters.

But for now, the mystique that Florida State enjoyed throughout the 1990s and beyond seems to have returned.

“We’ve developed the culture,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “That’s why we’re Florida State.”

The Seminoles have Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at quarterback and that’s just part of the buzz that was created around Grandover Resort for the two-day ACC Kickoff that wrapped up Monday.

Florida State is the overwhelming favorite to win another conference title, selected on 104 of 108 media ballots, with the other two votes going to Clemson and Virginia Tech. Florida State was dubbed as the Atlantic Division favorite as well.

The Seminoles figure to have all the ingredients on both sides of the ball.

“We have size, we have length and we have speed,” Fisher said in giving a description of the defense.

Winston’s presence created such attention that players from other schools were almost ignored at times when he was in the same room.

Balloting for the Coastal Division was much closer, with Miami the pick as favorite but Duke notching the most first-place votes. In fact, Miami was first on 26 ballots compared to Duke’s 33 first-place votes. Virginia Tech was the top pick by 23 voters and North Carolina received 27 top picks despite ending fourth in the division in the poll.

LOOK, IT’S LOUISVILLE: Not only did the ACC Kickoff mark the beginning of another college football cycle in the league, but it signaled the debut of Louisville as a league member.

And the Cardinals have coach Bobby Petrino back as well.

Petrino said Louisville might have had an edge in talent in the old Big East Conference. He said those days are in the past when Cardinals might simply be better than league opponents.

Louisville was picked third in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson.

ACC commissioner John Swofford called Louisville’s athletic department perhaps making more strides than any other school in the country across the past 15 years.

JUST SIGN THEM UP: The ACC is on board as an advocate of an early signing period for football.

Swofford said exactly when that should take places is something in the discussion stage among league members. Either way, he said the conference hopes there’s movement on that topic.

“We feel it’s something that would be healthy for the game, healthy for the institutions and healthy for the young men being recruited,” Swofford said.

Swofford said the ACC welcomes NCAA reform in connection with the so-called Big Five power conferences. He said change is coming in one way or another.

“The Goodship Status Quo has sailed,” he said.

TIGERS DO THEIR THING: Clemson had one of the most powerful offenses in the country last season.

Because of the Tigers’ failure against Florida State (and later loss to South Carolina), they dropped from the national scene last season. Still, they ended up as Orange Bowl champions.

Now the quarterback controls are turned over to Cole Stoudt, a senior who will be a first-year starter.

“I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll still have one of the best offenses in the country,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

Stoudt covets the opportunity.

“I’m very comfortable with the situation that I’m in,” Stoudt said. “I’ve always been a relaxed kind of guy.”

DON’T SLEEP ON DUKE: Duke is the reigning Coastal Division champion in the ACC, if anyone cares to remember.

“Last season doesn’t really matter to me,” offensive guard Laken Tomlinson said. “It’s what we can do this upcoming season.”

The Blue Devils have lost bowl games the past two years, including a memorable Chick-fil-A Bowl clash with Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel on New Year’s Eve.

“Getting the taste of what almost winning a bowl game is two years in a row, that amplifies the intensity so much,” Tomlinson said. “We’re hungry as ever to go out and win as many games as we can and hopefully win the ACC championship.”

Even though Duke wasn’t picked as the preseason favorite in the division, the Blue Devils being second on that list in the division is a sign of progress.

Coach David Cutcliffe said the recent success for the Blue Devils is something to use going forward.

“There has to be a sense that … if you like the way this tastes, you’re going to have to get better,” Cutcliffe said.

REMEMBER HIM? Nothing unusual about seeing Jim Grobe at the annual ACC Kickoff. Except he’s no longer the Wake Forest football coach.

This time, Grobe was in a media role.

He will be part of the ACC Gridiron Live show, which is a new ACC-focused football show that will debut at 10 p.m. Aug. 27 on Fox Sports South. The show is scheduled to air for 16 consecutive weeks.

Grobe coached Wake Forest for 13 seasons, ending with a 4-8 record. Dave Clawson was named the new coach in December.

Grobe said he moved to Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., about five weeks ago.

“You can breathe a little bit,” he said. “I wanted to get out of Dave’s way.”

Clawson, who came from Bowling Green, said he had no prior relationship with Grobe, but praised the former coach for helping in the transition.

“He has gone out of his way in my seven months to help me and I’m grateful for that,” Clawson said. “If you don’t like Jim Grobe, you don’t like people.”

MAKE A PICK: North Carolina’s initial summer depth chart shows Marquise Williams or Mitch Trubisky as the starting quarterback.

Williams is the incumbent after leading the Tar Heels to a 4-1 mark, including a Belk Bowl victory against Cincinnati. He took over when Bryn Renner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Williams said he welcomes the competition.

“I haven’t been able to really show myself in a whole season,” he said. “Once I’m able to establish myself in a whole season and let everybody know what I can really do, that’s when you can judge me.”

Trubisky is a redshirt freshman who arrived highly touched from Mentor, Ohio.

Williams said he gained more confidence this summer by attending the Manning Passing Academy and receiving positive reviews from Peyton Manning.

Williams said battles for starting roles is healthy at all positions.

“If you don’t have a position battle on a football team, then I don’t know why you have a college football team,” he said.

ONLY CAN GO UP: Without winning a conference game in last year’s 3-9 season, North Carolina State has all sorts of work to do.

There’s some reflection on the season heading toward the 2014 schedule.

“We didn’t talk about 3-9,” running back Tony Creecy said. “We talked about the seven games that we were in that we could have won.”

The Wolfpack are counting on the addition of quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a transfer from Florida who sat out last season per NCAA regulations, as making a difference.

“He came in humble,” Creecy said. “He’s such a great leader. Jacoby brings that sense of feeling good.”