"I'm excited, what else is new, about the season, I really am," the NC State coach said here Monday.
He says the excitement of the end of last year paid immediate dividends for a team that was ravaged by the NFL draft.
"I like the way they went through spring," he said. "We fed off, tried to build off what happened at the end of the season. And so on and we knew at that point what was going happen with our defensive line and this and that.
"There was so much unselfishness this spring – the young men moving positions … this one going from running back to wide receiver, this one going from running back to linebacker, this one going from defensive end to defensive tackle, this one going from defensive tackle to defensive end, this one going from here to there, this one going from there to there and so on and so on, right on down the line – a corner going to safety or a safety going to corner, just so that we could get the right pegs in the right spot, and we had a very, very spirited spring."
Now, they report to camp ready to try to keep the momentum from the end of last season going into the 2006 campaign.
Asked how you replace three No. 1 draft picks from the front line on defense, Amato said, "We have to look about it as, hey, they all came back and the first week of two-a-days they all had an ACL operation – the same thing could have happened and we had to replace them. I mean, how do you replace them? With a lot of hard work and a lot of effort and the good young kids that we have.
"Hey, I'm not going to sit here and cry over it. It's happened. There's the plus – sure, they had the first player in the ACC ever taken with the first pick? It's something that … I'm looking forward to the youth and ambition of that football team, because the standard has been set. Three of the last four years defensively we've done a heck of a job and the standard has been set."
The Wolfpack, of course, will be competing in an again-renovated Carter-Finley Stadium – another sign that the community is behind this football program.
"It just shows you the kind of support that our people give to the university," Amato said. "We're the last team in the league to upgrade their facilities in football and we did it with private funds and that means there's support and a want-to. And just because the brick and mortar finishes doesn't mean anything else can start, it's all still a work in progress. It's all still that."
Florida State was tabbed to win the Atlantic Division, followed by Clemson, Boston College, Maryland, State and then Wake. The other side will finish, according to the media, Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina and Duke – the closest battle in the balloting between Virginia and Carolina for fourth place in the Coastal – Virginia edging the Tar Heels by a point.
ACC commissioner John Swofford will unveil a new bowl system for the league Tuesday morning – one aimed at teams being rewarded for what they do in the field and not punished for the way their fans travel.