ACC Kickoff: Respect Must Be Earned

PINEHURST, N.C. --- The 2007 version of the Tar Heels may have Butch Davis, but the program still lacks respect from the conference media. UNC was picked fifth in the Coastal Division for the third consecutive year at the ACC Kickoff Monday afternoon.

Virginia Tech was the overwhelming favorite to win the Coastal Division, racking up 491 total and 77 first-place votes. Florida State was again picked to win the Atlantic, earning 423 total and 37 first-place votes. The Hokies were also selected as the ACC Championship game winner, garnering 69 of a potential 83 votes.

Having Davis is not guaranteed to pay dividends for the UNC program in the win-loss column, and it will take victories on the field to change the media's mind.

The Tar Heels have posted a 19-40 record during the past five seasons, and owe their neighbors in Durham a warm thank-you for not dwelling alone in the conference cellar.

The new head coach was open and honest when asked about his expectations for the coming season: "[To be] the best team that we can be," Davis said. "That sounds like a cop out, but it's not. As young as we are, and as new as we are, I think that we'll hopefully be a football team that gets better every week -- that there will be no steps backwards.

"Week one, however well we play, that 12 weeks later we'll be a much, much better football team and a much better football program."

Davis said that the Miami (Fla.) transformation that he is credited with during the late-1990s was hurried along due to his familiarity with the program and the surrounding university, dating back to his assistant coaching days under Jimmy Johnson.

That luxury does not exist in Chapel Hill, and the coaching staff is working through a series of steps to return the UNC program back to respectability.

"In the first year, you want to lay foundations, because you can't go back two years from now and say, ‘We should have done this, we should have done that,'" Davis said, sporting his Super Bowl XXVIII ring. "Being a great football team is a process, and there's no shortcuts.

"There's no immediate quick switch that you can flip and say, ‘In the next twelve months, we're going to absolutely go from where we were to where we'd like to be. It's going to take time."

Despite the media predictions, league opponents are not about to disregard the Tar Heels this fall, especially with Davis running the ship.

"North Carolina has always been a talented football program," Georgia Tech tailback Tashard Choice said. "They played us really tough last year, when we barely beat them 7-0.

"I think [Davis] is going to bring a lot of good players in there because he's a big-name coach. He's going to get the guys in there to give him a chance to win the ACC."

Boston College was voted second in the Atlantic Division with 363 votes, followed by Clemson (332), Wake Forest (325), Maryland (156) and NCSU (144).

Georgia Tech got the runner-up nod in the Coastal Division with 367 votes, followed by Miami (356), Virginia (255), North Carolina (188) and Duke (86).

"This is a new era of Carolina history," UNC senior Joe Dailey said. "There is potential everywhere for success, but it takes the right combination of things for that to take place. Carolina now has the pieces in place to achieve that goal."

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