ACC Official Sponsors
Tickets & Travel
Legal & Advertising
July 23, 2012
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – There’s nothing like being a senior to make you feel like this is your year.
When Mike Glennon came to NC State as a freshman in 2008, he was part of a recruiting class that thought it would win an ACC Championship or two. Five years later, after a redshirt season and two more as a backup quarterback, Glennon is still looking for a title. But he believes the Wolfpack is finally in position to realize that goal.
“This is our best opportunity,” he said Sunday during the ACC Football Kickoff. “We have a lot of seniors who have played a lot of football, so if there’s been a year since we got here, this is the year.”
The biggest obstacle, Glennon believes, is inconsistency. The Pack got off to a 2-3 start last year and stumbled late in the season against Boston College. State needed to win its last two games, against Clemson and Maryland, to become bowl eligible. They did just that and then went on to beat Louisville in the Belk Bowl to finish 8-5 on the year.
“(In) the games we lost, we were pretty inconsistent…whether we would start good and finish bad or start slow and were playing catch-up the whole game,” Glennon said. “Just play four quarters from start to finish on all three sides of the ball. We have the talent to do it and I feel like there’s not a team on the schedule that we can’t beat.”
Although he threw for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2011, Glennon doesn’t exempt himself from the inconsistent label.
“There were times last year when I felt like I was hot and cold,” he said. “I feel like I have learned a lot from that point, learned to take control of the offense, take control of the team. Being a senior now with a year (of starting) under my belt I feel like guys will look at me a different way now, so I just have to be in control of everything and I feel like I’m ready to do that.”
Glennon played in a shadow last season after coach Tom O’Brien installed him as the starting quarterback. Incumbent Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin and had a spectacular year, at least partially obscuring Glennon’s accomplishments.
“I tried not to worry about that too much,” he said. “My personality is kind of laid back, go with the flow. I knew that would be a distraction to some but I tried to push it aside and not really worry about it. I think it worked out for both of us; he had a great year, and now this year we don’t really have to worry about that.”
AROUND THE ACC
BRING ON EXPECTATIONS: Many observers have not only picked Florida State to be the best team in the ACC, but also to be in the mix for a national championship. And that’s OK with Seminole quarterback E.J. Manuel.
“When you sign the letter of intent with FSU that’s what you expect,” he said, “to always be at the top of the conversation as far as having a great team and having great players on your team. So, yeah, I’m fine with it.”
Manuel said it’s doing the small things that will make a difference.
“It’s not the big things anymore because we have the talent, we have everything we need,” he explained. “Everything we need to be successful he’s given that to us, so it’s our job now to put it into effect.”
For his part, that means constantly testing himself on the playbook and improving his mechanics.
“Finishing on my throws, rotating the shoulders, not using all arm,” he said. “I have a strong arm but if I can use my hips and my legs and a strong follow-through, all that kind of stuff, not work against myself, that will help me be a lot more consistent.”
NEW BEGINNING: There were too many games last season where Clemson’s high-powered offense had to make up for deficiencies in the defense. That culminated in a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. But new defensive coordinator Brent Venables has set out to change that.
“We’re flying around to the ball more,” said defensive end Malliciah Goodman. “It’s coach Venables’ intensity that he brings along with the defense that kind of rubs off on us and it gets us to his level. He knows what we’re capable of. He studied us before spring practice started and he’s getting it out of us, so it’s been great.”
Goodman said the players have moved on from the bowl game embarrassment.
“Once the spring started and we got the new defense in, that was a new beginning. Just build it from there and don’t focus on what happened last year.”
MOTIVATION: Virginia Tech is another team trying to salve some wounds from the end of last season. The Hokies lost to Clemson in the Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game and then lost in overtime to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.
“I guess the one that hurt the most was the Sugar Bowl,” said quarterback Logan Thomas. “We had the chance to win it and we just didn’t capitalize. Those last two games gave me a motivation factor for the off-season, I just want to get better and never have that feeling again, never have that letdown again, and push into the summer and push us into this year better than before.”
HUSTLE PLAYS: Although Maryland was just 2-10 last season, defensive tackle Joe Vellano never stopped hustling, making 20 tackles in one game and recording double figures in several others. He finished the season with 94, which are linebacker’s numbers.
“I just kind of got in a rhythm midway through the year,” he said. “I just kept making plays and kept grinding, hustling. I’ve kind of always been the underdog, I wasn’t that highly recruited out of high school, being a smaller guy out of upstate New York. I like that (role) better. But now people are looking for it so you’ve got to step your game up even more, really.”
The Terps have a new defensive coordinator in Brian Stewart and have switched to a 3-4 defense. Vellano is listed as a defensive end but said he’ll move around, depending on the situation.
DROPPING A HINT: Few tailbacks were more versatile last year than Virginia’s Perry Jones. He ran for 915 yards, five scores and caught 48 passes for 506 yards and three TDs. Oh, and there was also a touchdown pass. Does he have another one of those in him?
“I think I do if the coaches give me the opportunity,” he said, smiling. “I have a lot of confidence in my arm. One-for-one, one touchdown for 37 yards, 740 quarterback rating.”
ETERNAL HOPE: It seems Duke has been on the verge of a breakout season for several years but hasn’t been able to produce it. But wide receiver Conner Vernon remains optimistic.
“The talent is here,” he said. “It’s all going to come from the guys being able to finish games. When you come to a moment in a game like that it’s something you can’t coach, it’s got to come from within the guys and being able to come together and pull through. We feel like we’re definitely going to make a bowl this year so we’re counting on that attitude coming into this season as we know we’re good enough so we’ve just got to come out and do it.”
12-GAME SLATE: Yes, North Carolina’s players are well aware that, because of NCAA sanctions, they are ineligible for the ACC Championship Game and a bowl game no matter their final record. But they don’t dwell on it, thanks to new coach Larry Fedora.
“We haven’t said one thing about it and, to be honest, we really don’t care,” said quarterback Bryn Renner. “We have 12 games on our slate and we’re really just looking forward to playing those 12 games and focus on them one at a time.
“And that’s what he (Fedora) has preached. He’s really done a great job getting out attention and saying, ‘Hey, we’re moving forward, this is how it’s going to be.’ He’s really been the guy we can look to for all the answers as far as the team and football.”
LEADER EMERGES: Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington said he believes it’s his job to keep the Yellow Jackets from falling back into the complacency that hit the team last season. The Yellow Jackets started 6-0 but finished 8-5.
“I feel like I’m being more of a leader,” he said “I’m more vocal with everybody, not just on the field but all the time. Everybody is keying on me and looking at me so I have to do my part.
“It takes somebody who’s been there before, who knows what’s going on and can translate that to on the field and off the field, being sure the guys’ mindsets are in the right place, make sure everybody knows that we’re doing good but we could be doing better.”
FEELING HUNGRY: Defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey was looking forward to his senior season at Boston College in 2011, but plantar fasciitis (a painful inflammation of the tissue in the sole of the foot) in his left foot kept him off the field.
“It wasn’t easy to see my team out there every weekend, knowing I should be out there helping them win,” Ramsey said. “It definitely humbled me. It made me more appreciative of the game. I realized that any second the game can be taken away from you. It just made me more hungry for this season.”
Ramsey says he feels healthy and is in great shape. He has been working with a specialist to increase his flexibility and help minimize injuries.
SO CLOSE: Wake Forest improved from three wins to six last season, but the Deacons finished with a losing record when they lost their bowl game. What’s the next step?
“My goal is Charlotte (the ACC Championship Game),” said nose tackle Nikita Whitlock. “Always has been, always will be. We were this close to it last year, a field goal away in the fourth quarter. You look at the 6-7 and it could have been better. We didn’t close out those close games – Clemson, Syracuse, Notre Dame. You finish out those close games and your record is totally different. I think you’ve got to look at not how many games are you going to win this year, but how many games are you going to finish.”
THE SLASHER: Miami’s Mike James has played both at fullback and at backup tailback, but will get his chance as the feature runner this season. He said he knows people are looking at him and he plans to run hard and put the Hurricanes in position to win.
So what kind of runner is he?
“I call myself a slasher,” he said.” Everybody likes the home run guy or the real powerful guy. I’m powerful but I’m not slow, either. If you think I’m slow, I’ll run past you.”
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
This article can not be copied or reproduced without the express written consent of the Atlantic Coast Conference.