Sunday ACC Football Kickoff Notebook

PINEHURST, N.C. - CUTigers talked with players from every schol on Clemson's 2011 ACC schedule Sunday afternoon.

Once again, Clemson will play eight ACC teams this fall, including all five other members of the Atlantic Division and three teams from the Coastal.

After three-consecutive out-of-conference games to start the season, Florida State will travel to Death Valley on Sept. 24 for the Tigers' first game in conference play. From there, it's nothing but conference play until the last weekend in November. spoke to player representatives from each of the teams on the Clemson schedule this fall.

Sept. 24 Florida State: Patiently, E.J. Manuel waited his turn for the full-time starting quarterback job in Tallahassee.

"I know I came to Florida State for a reason. I knew I wasn't going to play right away," Manuel said. "I was behind the 12th pick in the draft. That makes me feel a lot better about myself." (Roy Philpott)
Out of high school, he was part of group of quarterbacks in the 2008, class which included Terrelle Pryor, Blaine Gabbert and Landry Jones. As they played, Manuel had to bide his time as the backup.

It was all worth it when the Minnesota Vikings made Christian Ponder their first pick earlier this spring in the NFL Draft.

"I know I came to Florida State for a reason. I knew I wasn't going to play right away," Manuel said. "I was behind the 12th pick in the draft. That makes me feel a lot better about myself."

According to Manuel, Ponder was a good player to sit behind for three years.

"Christian was a hard worker. He led by example," Manuel said. "He didn't say a whole lot, but got the job done. He was a very effective player. He's going to have a great NFL career as well."

Oct. 1 at Virginia Tech: The two postseason games for the Hokies' defense in 2010 were pretty forgettable.

Check that, very forgettable.

Virginia Tech may have beaten Florida State in the ACC Championship, but the 33 points scored by the Seminoles didn't live up to the lofty standards set by defensive coordinator Bud Foster.

And that 40-spot hung by Stanford in the Orange Bowl was downright embarrassing.

"I don't know who was more pissed, me or [Foster]," said free safety Eddie Whitley. "A lot of guys were upset. There were a lot of communication problems. We didn't want that senior class to go out like that."

Clemson lost in its only appearance in Blacksburg since Tech joined the ACC, 24-7 back in 2006.

Montel Harris currently sits 15th all-time in ACC career rushing yards. (Getty Images)
Oct. 8 Boston College: Clemson wasn't the only school that dropped the ball when it came to evaluating and recruiting running back Montel Harris.

The senior from Jacksonville Fla. currently sits 15th all-time in ACC career rushing yards. He needs 1,003 to break the record held by former N.C. State running back Ted Brown.

Harris doesn't think he will feel much pressure the record gets closer.

"The whole time I've been at Boston College, I've just been thinking about playing and helping my team win," he said. "So far, I've been pretty successful in doing that."

Harris was lightly recruited out of Trinity Christian while his teammate, Jamie Harper, was considered one of the top running backs in the country.

"I knew I was going to play somewhere. It was just, what was I going to do when I got there? That was the important part," Harris said.

The Tigers lost to Boston College last year in Chestnut Hill, Mass., 16-10 but beat the Eagles in their last matchup in Death Valley in 2009, 25-7.

Oct. 15 at Maryland: Linebacker Kenny Tate understands the purpose behind the no huddle, hurry-up offense Clemson will bring to College Park in mid-October.

"It's more about not trying to move at their pace. It's more about trying to calm yourself down, get the call and reading your keys, making sure you do what you're supposed to do," he said. "If you're worried about how fast they're moving, then you're going to make mistakes. That's all they want you to do. The more mistakes the defense makes, the better."

Tate, who was an first-team All-ACC safety in 2010, will play strong-side linebacker this fall under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Bradford.

"I'm more in the action. Last year, I moved around to different places. I just feel like, now, I'm in a different spot on the field…people have to actually look out for me now, a little bit more," Tate said.

Tate was also quoted Sunday suggesting Clemson's Death Valley was the loudest stadium for visiting teams in the ACC.

North Carolina beat Clemson last year in Chapel Hill, 21-16. (Getty Images)
Oct. 22 North Carolina: Around this time a year ago, there were plenty of distractions for the Tar Heels when a number of NCAA infraction were made brought to light.

Still, North Carolina managed to reel off an 8-5 season in Butch Davis' fourth year as head coach, including a 21-16 home win versus Clemson.

Guard Jonathan Cooper acknowledged that those distractions are still there, but downplayed just how much of a factor they are.

"The only time you really hear about it is when you're asked about it. Amongst ourselves, we don't discuss it very much," he said.

But it comes up all the time.

Whether he's talking with a friend, family member or recruit on campus, plenty of people remind Cooper that it still looms.

"Pretty frequently, we're asked about it," he said.

Oct. 29 at Georgia Tech: Although the 2009 ACC Championship was vacated Georgia Tech, Clemson does not take over as that year's champion.

A-back Roddy Jones rushed four times for 67 yards in the Yellow Jackets' 39-34 win in Tampa, Fla.

"Understanding that and moving forward will probably be the biggest lesson -- dealing with the adversity," he said. "Blocking out the distractions, those are probably the biggest lessons."

Defensive tackle Logan Walls was disappointed with the decision made by the teammates who violated the rules.

"They said it was $312 worth of stuff. I don't think that is worth an ACC Championship," Walls said.

Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe has never won in Clemson since taking over in Winston-Salem more than 10 years ago. (Getty Images)
Nov. 12 Wake Forest: Outside linebacker Kyle Wilber has plenty of time and plenty of opponents to worry about before he sees Clemson's new offense.

But he has an understanding of the Tigers have implemented under first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

"A little bit," Wilber said. "I'm not all into it, but I know that they've changed it."

He was comfortable in saying that the Demon Deacons are capable of defending against the spread.

"We have a great secondary. We have some young guys. I know they're going to step up and create plays," Wilber said. "The speed on our defense, they say speed kills. I think we can keep up with any wide receiver and any running back."

Nov. 19 at N.C. State: There was a strife amongst fans regarding the way head coach Tom O'Brien dealt with the Russell Wilson situation.

Some wanted O'Brien to allow Wilson more time to mull over his decision -- professional baseball and/or one final year of college football. Others were ready to cut ties, like O'Brien did.

All-ACC tight end George Bryan said there was no dissention among the players.

"I think we all kind of tried to stay out of it and let coach O'Brien and [Wilson] make the decision," Bryan said. "We were happy with whatever happened."

Scheduled to replace Wilson is Mike Glennon, and Bryan's happy to be catching passes from the 6-foot-6, 225-pound redshirt junior.

"He stepped in as a leader. He commands the offense really well. He makes you feel good about the offense," Bryan said.

Clemson has won each of its last 7 games games against the Wolfpack. Top Stories