Ack's Insights

In this week's edition of Ack's Insights, I review the ACC Media Days, my pick for ACC Champion, what Florida freshmen could see action this season and much more.

Florida will have its fan day August 10 from 5-6:30 p.m. in the O'Connell Center before the players put the pads on for the first time.This will give the fans an opportunity to meet an entirely new Gator football team. In the past it was a day for long lines to get autographs from guys like Rex Grossman, Jabar Gaffney, Doug Johnson, Gerard Warren and Fred Taylor. Now names like Ingle Martin, Dallas Baker, Chris Leak, Marcus Thomas and Deshawyn Wynn hope to fill the void for some the past greats.

It may take time but one thing is certain--- someone will emerge and with the right breaks maybe sooner than later. I recently returned from the ACC media days and with expansion it seems this is now a football conference. The league title will be as tough to come by as ever for FSU and as many as four teams were picked to win by the media in the closest vote ever. One area the ACC is moving up on the SEC is in quality quarterbacks.

North Carolina State's Phillip Rivers and Virginia's Matt Schaub are legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates. Maryland's Scott McBrien directs the most potent offense in the ACC and Chris Rix is finally a junior and may be poised for a breakout season at Florida State. North Carolina's Darius Durant, Duke's Adam Smith and Geogia Tech's Demarcus Bilbo all return with high expectations.

By having solid veteran quarterbacks it shows the depth of what has become a very good football conference. The SEC by comparison returns David Greene of Georgia, Eli Manning of Mississippi, Jared Lorenzen of Kentucky and Casey Clausen of Tennessee. The next tier of Matt Mauck at LSU, Brodie Croyle at Alabama and Ingle Martin of Florida give the SEC more depth but the top four in the ACC may be better.

One thing is for sure, teams are playing more freshmen than ever. Virginia won nine games and played 14 true freshmen, FSU won the conference with eight true freshmen while Maryland won 11 games and beat Tennessee with eight true freshmen as well. This trend bodes well for Ron Zook as he looks to play at least 6-7 incoming true freshmen and every redshirt from his first class. The top seven candidates among the incoming freshmen are Andre Caldwell, Dee Webb, Marcus Thomas, Chris Leak, Eric Wilbur, Michael Hill and Jarvis Moss. Chad Jackson, Joe Cohen and Earl Everett could also be major factors come fall. To get to Virginia's number of 14 true freshmen playing will be a stretch, though with so many redshirts from a season ago. Al Groh said he treated the incoming players like NFL rookies to throw them to the fire and coach them into playing right away. Chuck Amato whose first year was highlighted by true freshman Phillip Rivers, said some kids just have that magic and Rivers was one of them. Juco standouts Reynaldo Hill and Eric Holcombe are other first-year players who will be in the mix.

Snippets and Tidbits... No new news on the players facing suspensions, but one thing is for sure, Taurean Charles and Channing Crowder are working out and training like they will be there August 30th. Bobby Bowden was, as advertised, at Media Days with his new atttitude. He was quite "salty" with the press saying the Florida media was comparable to New York and that they just would not let things go. Bowden did point out, however, he likes his QB situation and thinks he has great depth on defenseŠ..

One ACC coach who saw Chris Leak a lot at Independence High School, former Gator assistant coach and current Duke head coach Carl Franks, said Leak was legit. But he cautioned his enthusiasm for the incoming freshman by saying it is a lot to ask a true freshman at quarterback to lead a team. He thinks Leak has a bright future. One assistant coach told me the one knock on Leak may be his ability to digest certain coverages that change at the snap. One source also told me he struggled when you mix it up on him. I believe Ed Zaunbrecher will ask the defense to throw a lot at him early to see if he can handle it right awayŠ..

The new rule which allows teams to bring players in together can be used in different ways. The "acclimation" phase of fall practice which includes five days of non-contact instruction can be for freshmen only. North Carolina coach John Bunting, who is expected to play a very large number of freshmen, is tinkering with the idea of using it just to get them ready to go right away. I expect Ron Zook will rely on his coaches to bring along all the freshmen as the team practices together, but it is an interesting interpretation for the rule. If you have a team like FSU had in 1999 you probably would just use a lot of time for the freshmen because the 'Noles were so experiencedŠ..

Finally, I voted for Maryland to win the conference. I like its defense and overall depth for Ralph Friedgen. They have a talented, experienced quarterback and an NFL back in Bruce Perry. They may steal game two in Tallahassee then hang on for the conference title over NC St ate and FSU.

Stat of the Week: 78 percent. The ACC sent 7 of 9 teams to bowl games a year ago. That broke the record of 75 percent (9 of 12 teams) sent by the SEC in 2000.Now c'mon ACC, aren't you reaching a bit for positive stats?

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