Football Kickoff, Day 1: Updated 11:44 p.m.

NoleDigest.com is in Pinehurst, North Carolina, for the 2011 ACC Football Kickoff, meaning we're that much closer to Florida State QB E.J. Manuel and a loaded Seminoles team returning to action.

Manuel: 'I have no control over that'

11:44 p.m. EDT

Florida State put together one of the most dominant runs in college football history, finishing in the top five every season from 1987 to 2000 and winning a pair of national championships along the way, but the last decade or so hasn't produced the same kind of success for the Seminoles.

However, second-year oach Jimbo Fisher won 10 games as a rookie, and since he's stocked the cupboards with arguably as much talent as any team in the country, many fans believe FSU is back and ready to reclaim its position as one of the truly elite programs. Not many offenses would improve after losing a senior quarterback to the first round of the NFL Draft, but that could be the case in Tallahassee with E.J. Manuel taking over under center for Christian Ponder because he has an experienced offensive line and an embarrassment of skill-position riches at his disposal. Defensively, the 'Noles sacked the enemy passer early and often in 2010, plus the secondary has more playmakers than can even be fielded at one time.

But Manuel and his teammates didn't spend the offseason patting themselves on the back, in part because Manuel understands the legacy left behind by the players that wore garnet and gold long before he did.

"I have no control over that," Manuel said Sunday when asked about being surrounded by so much hype. "People are going to say how they feel, give their own opinions. But I think that's going to be settled when we actually go out there and play. I'm not going to say 'We're back' or anything like that because that would be taking respect away from those teams that were what Florida State is now. That's what we're working toward. Hopefully, we do get to that point and just continue to win games."

As far as the incoming freshman are concerned, Manuel said tailback James Wilder is the biggest young man he's ever seen that can run like he does, plus fellow ball carrier Devonta Freeman apparently catches the ball beautifully out of the backfield.


Jenkins: 'I feel blessed'

9:12 p.m. EDT

There are 12 teams in the ACC in attendance at the annual Football Kickoff, and 11 of them brought at least one senior to Pinehurst, North Carolina, to help represent their respective programs during Media Days.

Florida State was the lone exception, as the two players the Seminoles put in front of print, radio and television reporters were quarterback E.J. Manuel and defensive end Brandon Jenkins, both juniors. Manuel is on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which goes to the nation's most oustanding all-around player, while Jenkins is a consensus All-American candidate. Despite the fact that FSU appears to be the best team in the conferene and figures to have a preseason ranking somewhere in the top 10, an argument can be made that the program is somewhat ahead of schedule since so many of its stars -- and future superstars -- still have eligibility remaining after the 2011 campaign.

Jenkins got the nod over, say, senior linebacker Nigel Bradham, even though Bradham made the initial list of contenders for both the Bednarik and Nagurski awards.

"I feel blessed," Jenkins said Sunday. "I feel like I'm in a position that a lot of people don't get to be in, but I'm going to take advantage of it, spread the word to my teammates and try to provide leadership on and off the field."

While Jenkins will inevitably attract a lot of attention from enemy offensive linemen this season, one of the reasons he feels he's destined for even more success is the talent behind him in the secondary, specifically mentioning gifted cornerbacks Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes, Mike Harris and hard-hitting safety Nick Moody.


Swofford: 'Swift, fair, tough and consistent'

2:57 p.m. EDT

ACC commissioner John Swofford made his opening remarks Sunday at the Football Kickoff in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and then he opened the floor for questions from members of the print, radio and television media in attendance.

After mentioning a lengthy list of accomplishments for the conference over the course of the previous academic year, both on the field of play and in the classroom, Swofford said that it has been "an interesting year" from a compliance perspective, highlighted by the recent transgressions at Ohio State that ultimately cost national championship-winning coach Jim Tressel his job. Closer to home, Georgia Tech received four years of probation from the NCAA last month for failing to cooperate with an investigation into a player that allegedly accepted $312 worth of items from a street agent. Additionally, North Carolina is in all kinds of trouble for a laundry list of allegations involving improper benefits for both current and former players.

One of Swofford's complaints is that sentencing can sometimes be random from case to case, so he would like to see a more streamlined approach to the process.

"We need to try to develop a straight-forward model that the public and the membership can understand, a model that is swift, fair, tough and consistent in its application," said Swofford. "I know that's easier said than done and there are many complications to getting there, but that needs to be our goal as an end point."

Additionally, Swofford believes the NCAA is wasting too much of its enforcement time worrying about the most minor of infractions, not concentrating enough of its efforts on what's really wrong with the sport.

"Let's consider a graduated system with categories of offenses, with sentencing parameters and guidelines that everybody knows about ahead of time," he said. "Let's reconsider things like text messaging and phone calls, the so-called 'jaywalking offenses,' the minutia, and spend our resources -- our natural resources, our resources of time, our human resources -- on the more serious offenses. The felonies, if you will, that often involve third parties. Let's set a similar set of prohibitions that are more enforceable, and let's focus on the individuals involved and what's inappropriate, first and foremost. And if the institutions are compliant in those individuals' inappropriate behaviors and efforts, then let's hit the institutions."

In terms of actual football talk, Swofford made a point to say that the ACC needs to win more of its high-profile games against tough non-conference opponents, specifically mentioning Florida State's matchup with likely No. 1 Oklahoma on Sept. 17.


Greetings from Pinehurst

9:36 a.m. EDT

After making the nine-hour drive from Tallahassee to Pinehurst, NoleDigest.com is on site for the 2011 ACC Football Kickoff.

While the coaches won't speak until Monday, Day 1 is the players' turn to talk at Media Days, with each of the 12 teams in the conference supplying two student-athletes to answer a litany of questions from print, radio and television reporters from across the country. For Florida State, junior quarterback E.J. Manuel and junior defensive end Brandon Jenkins -- FSU is the only school not to bring a senior -- are scheduled to meet with the writers Sunday between 4:20 and 5:20 p.m. EDT, and then they sit down with television, radio and internet outlets from 5:35 to 5:49.

Be sure to visit NoleDigest.com throughout the day for all the latest from Pinehurst, as we'll have all the stories, photos and video covering your Seminoles.


John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.


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