PINEHURST, N.C. — The world-class golf outside is applauded by the media. The lack of sizzle at interview tables indoors is not.
Now that the boring part of this three-day excursion has concluded — signing scorecards from Pinehurst Golf Resort, thrice home of the United States Open — it’s time to get down to business, which means grilling unknown linemen about why their team either a) will win the Atlantic Coast Conference, b) is being overlooked or disrespected, c) hasn’t been able to take that next step, or d) all of the above.
Sadly, for all of Pinehurst’s beauty, the walls all look the same from the inside. There is no Jameis Winston or Tajh Boyd to spice up the proceedings. The nuance of grilling Bobby Petrino is so 2014.
Those seeking the brazen national champion, who were successful last year in Greensboro, will need to calibrate north to Chicago.
And, of course, this has never been the zoo the SEC so prefers each summer.
Don’t turn away completely, though. ACC Media Days will feature Jimbo Fisher defending his program’s disciplinary infrastructure, Dabo Swinney saying Dabo Swinney things, and six quarterbacks speaking bravely about leading their team to new heights.
Unfortunately for Clemson fans, their guy isn’t one of the six. Deshaun Watson, the precarious sophomore, was not selected to face the media this week, eschewed by Eric Mac Lain, a gregarious yet anonymous left guard. Mac Lain’s partner-in-crime will be defensive tackle D.J. Reader, meaning the Tigers went with two beefy seniors who can spin complete sentences with ease rather than younger, quieter all-conference performers such as Artavis Scott, Wayne Gallman and Mackensie Alexander.
How’s about five reasons to tune in to The Post and Courier, and other affiliates covering the ACC, during the next couple days, in question form:
Dabo Swinney was put to task for his own disciplinary policies during Clemson’s media days, mainly because one player was caught with cocaine and another was caught with fraudulent credit cards.
But none of the Tigers were charged with violence toward women.
Jimbo Fisher might have thought the roughest days were behind him, since Jameis Winston has taken his legal inquiries with him to the NFL.
However, star running back Dalvin Cook faces multiple charges – one for assault on a woman, another for mistreatment of pit bulls – while quarterback DeAndre Johnson was caught on tape striking a female in a bar; though the case continues, Johnson was immediately dismissed.
It all adds up to a steady diet of headlines irritating the Florida State brass, and Fisher better be ready for more questions related to that than football. Such is life for the three-time defending ACC champion.
Well, we’ve already told D.J. Reader’s backstory, though surely he’ll be asked about replacing the great Grady Jarrett. He’ll also be the chosen spokesman for the defense that finished No. 1 in yardage last year and doesn’t appear poised to repeat.
Nothing against Reader, but Mac Lain poses the more intriguing subject. For one, he is extremely personable, and likes talking – which is good for media day. He’s also brand-new to the gang; Reader’s played before, whereas Mac Lain’s been a long-time project finally slotted into the starting lineup.
Mac Lain will get a chance to tell his own story. He’ll also answer dozens of straightforward queries about the freshman offensive lineman, and oh yeah, protecting Watson – who to this point, is considered fragile.
Obviously, Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech will receive lots of love on the preseason pecking order poll and all-ACC teams. Virginia Tech and Louisville also should garner respect.
But who else thinks they’re deserving of being considered the top tier? Are Miami and North Carolina consistent enough to challenge for double-digit wins? Is Duke for real, and not just a couple-years wonder? Are plucky programs like Boston College, N.C. State or Pittsburgh due for an unexpected breakout? And can Wake Forest or Virginia actually meander their way into bowl contention?
All questions that three men from each school – a coach and two players – will have the opportunity to answer.
When last we left John Swofford, he was confident his conference will ultimately follow in the footsteps of the Big Ten Network and SEC Network by creating its own semi-independent television channel dedicated to the league’s members.
That hasn’t changed for a few years now. However, the SEC Network’s explosive success in less than two years – and the relative triumphs of the Big Ten a half-decade ago – makes it patently obvious the ACC would be better off late than never entering the TV game.
Keep an eye on rising cable costs; most sports-related networks face heavy opposition from the providers during lengthy periods of negotiation. In a vacuum, the ACC would seem to be in a good position to thrive with top-25 markets like Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and, when Notre Dame is involved, Chicago.
Targeting should once again be a topic of conversation when the ACC offers its annual officiating clinic – and because Dennis Hennigan has taken over as the ACC’s coordinator of officials, he might have a different perspective than predecessor Doug Rhoads.
However, most the major rule changes have already been tweaked in previous years. Instant replay is now automatic on all targeting calls in order to confirm a player is deserved of a 15-yard personal foul penalty and immediate ejection and/or suspension.
Last year, Clemson safety Robert Smith and linebacker Stephone Anthony were kicked out of the second half of games, meaning both players missed the first half of their following game, on plays that Clemson coaches felt upon review should not have been ruled targeting.