ACC KO: Buck's Sunday Notebook

GREENSBORO, Ga. --- The twin themes this year during the ACC Football Kickoff player interviews were conference respectability and quarterbacking. It may be no coincidence those two concepts are tied closely together.

With the ACC's BCS record standing at 1-9, and its stock in recent years too closely tied to recently sliding Florida State and Miami programs, some are openly questioning the strength of the ACC, particularly this season. The comments of the ACC players in attendance solidly connected anticipated quarterback play to team expectations.

* At Georgia Tech, sophomore QB Josh Nesbitt drew solid praise from offensive lineman Andrew Gardner, but the transition to Paul Johnson's offense has obviously caused some consternation there. "I think most guys realize that regardless of how they personally feel, this is what we've got now and this is what we've got to do," Gardner said. "And they've got 100 percent of their effort behind trying to make this work, and if it doesn't work, it is not going to be because of us not being behind it and trying to make it happen."

* Miami's Jason Fox (offensive linemen were well-represented this year), says that QB candidates Robert Marve, Jacory Harris, and Cannon Smith all have strengths that could lead them to the starting spot, but that a newcomer, Taylor Cook, should get a look as well. "Our newest quarterback, which a lot of people don't know who he is, Taylor Cook," Fox said. "He just got in a month ago, and from what I've seen from him at 7-on-7, he's been doing really well. He's more of a pocket passer, he has a very accurate arm and I've only seen him get stopped once or twice. The only disadvantage is he has been here a month while the other guys have been here."

* Both safety Deunta Williams and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks believe that T.J. Yates is ready to take a big step forward at quarterback for North Carolina in 2008. "T.J. is definitely ready," Nicks said. "He can read defenses like no other now." Deunta Williams added: "This year, his arm is tremendously stronger than it's ever been. He zips in balls that he should zip in and he has touch on the ones that he should have touch on."

* At Virginia, the Cavaliers are trying to put the best face on losing Jameel Sewell (academics) for the season. "Jameel could do a lot of talented things with his feet," tight end John Phillips said. "He's one of the better athletes on the team, he could scramble and create things that a pocket passer couldn't. As a tight end, a pocket passer can probably hit the short check down routes more, so you can probably look forward to that more with a pocket passer than a scrambling quarterback like Jameel."

* At Virginia Tech, the big question is how Frank Beamer intends to use the QB duo of Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor. "No disrespect to Tyrod, he's a heck of an athlete," Glennon said. "I wouldn't mind throwing some balls to him, but he's a quarterback, I know that. I know he doesn't want to play another position. Tyrod is a playmaker, he's one of the best athletes on our team, so we could use him in other ways -- it could work -- but I know first and foremost he's a quarterback."

* FSU's Drew Weatherford is well aware about the lackluster play of ACC quarterbacks in recent years – but predicts a turnaround. "I think there will be better numbers from the quarterbacks around the league," Weatherford said. "We have a lot of experienced veteran quarterbacks coming back: at Virginia Tech, myself at Florida State, and obviously Cullen at Clemson. I expect all of us to have really good years, and actually the guy at Wake Forest should have a great year again -- Skinner is extremely skilled. I think there will be really good quarterback play this year in the ACC."

* Cullen Harper had some interesting things to say about the ACC – and Clemson. "We got to get the season started off in the right way," Harper said. "It is time for Clemson to step up and really solidify ourselves as one of the top teams in the conference because I feel like we got the talent. It's time for the ACC to step up. You get a chance to play an SEC team. The ACC in my book is just as good any conference in the country. We've got to step up and prove it."

* Boston College's standout tight end Ryan Purvis sees some offensive changes "post-Matt Ryan," in the style of the quarterback play for the Eagles. "Chris (Crane) is a different quarterback than Matt," Purvis said. He is more of a scrambler, where if something broke down and Matt was moving outside of the pocket, he was looking to throw, and Chris is mobile enough to take off downfield, so it is just getting more comfortable with his style of play as opposed to changing things offensively, because we were so successful last year offensively with what we were doing it is hard to argue we should change that."

The preoccupation with the league on quarterback play is also connected – at least among sportswriters – with the perception that the ACC has declined as a football conference. From the questions leveled by many of the sportswriters present, it is clear that the lack of success in BCS bowls and in out-of-conference match-ups has become a major image problem for the league.

If Weatherford is right, and quarterbacking numbers and performance improve significantly this year, perhaps the ACC can refurbish its tarnished on-the-field football reputation.

* Interesting Footnote of the Day: Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry grew up as a North Carolina fan: "I'm always a Carolina fan," he said. "Carolina Blue is in my blood. When I go out to practice, I write his (Lawrence Taylor's) number on my wrist tape to remind me to play reckless."


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