N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien remembers a few years back when the media at the ACC Kickoff, which took place again earlier this week, asked him why the quarterback play in the conference was so bad.
He laughed a little during this year’s media days, when he was asked a similar question: Is the ACC quarterback play the best in the country?
Two very similar questions, but years – and many words – apart.
His own quarterback, Mike Glennon, is one of a handful of fifth-year seniors under center for the ACC.
“I think it has to be up there with the best in the nation,” Glennon said of the quarterback play. “I can’t think of a conference that’s stronger than us.”
Along with Glennon, E.J. Manuel is a senior at Florida State, and Sean Renfree is in his fifth year at Duke. Tevin Washington is set for his redshirt senior season at Georgia Tech as well.
Wake Forest’s Tanner Price, North Carolina’s Bryn Renner, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas all return for their second season as their respective teams starting quarterback.
“We’re a strong quarterback crew,” said Thomas, who agreed with Glennon’s assessment of the quarterback talent. “It’s nice. Week in and week out, you get to see some great quarterback play. ... You just want to outplay them every single day, every single game. You look in to their game, and you just want to beat them out. We’re strong, and hopefully, that makes us a better conference as well.”
Each quarterback also has shined in different systems. Boyd runs a hurry-up offense at Clemson, while Glennon quarterbacks a pro-style system in Raleigh. Washington leads the triple option at Georgia Tech.
“We just have a lot of talent,’” Renner said. “… They are great quarterbacks. It tells a lot about our league and where we are going.”
The debate has raged for years as to whether collegiate football players should be reimbursed, financially, for their contributions to the university.
Thomas thinks so, but he’s not demanding it for himself.
“I’m sure if you ask any of the guys here, they want more money,” he said. “Wouldn’t you want more money? Obviously, we’d love to have it, but I understand where they’re coming from – not having it. It makes sense. Nobody is going to argue that. I’m not worried about it either way, but obviously, I’d love to have the money.”
Thomas, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns last year for Virginia Tech, said there are some players who could use the extra money to support themselves but didn’t have a clear-cut way of determining who needs it the most.
As for himself, he’d probably just treat himself to a few more things.
“I’m cool with what I have,” Thomas said. “I know some other guys that may be less fortunate that would love to have some money.”
All first-year North Carolina coach Larry Fedora knows of his players is from the 15 days of practice during spring football.
That’s because he’s following through on a promise and a philosophy.
Fedora told his players at the beginning of camp that he didn’t care who they were in the past. He said they all had a chance to show who they really could be.
That has been his mentality at every stop he has made. So far, it has produced results.
“It doesn’t matter what you’ve been in the past, whether you’ve been lazy or overweight, you hadn’t been very strong, whatever it is, whatever you chose to be, you can be,” Fedora remembers telling his players. “Most of them have taken that to heart.”
Linebacker Kevin Reddick said the most impressive players during spring camp were quarterback Bryn Renner and wide receiver Erik Highsmith on offense and cornerback Jabari Price on defense.
“I think he went from a little boy to a man,” Reddick, a defensive captain for the Tar Heels, said of Price.
Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon, if he stays healthy, is on pace to break the ACC records for receptions and receiving yards in a career.
Vernon needs 35 catches to break the record of 232, held by Clemson’s Aaron Kelly, who played from 2005-08. He also would set the receiving yards mark with 843 yards, snapping two-time All-American Peter Warrick’s record. (Vernon had 973 and 956 yards receiving in the past two seasons, respectively.)
Vernon said he is far more concerned about helping Duke to its first bowl game since 1994, when he was four years old.
“I think the goal is, like anyone else’s goal in this conference, is to ultimately play in Charlotte (in the ACC Championship Game) at the end of the year. That’s definitely the No. 1 goal for me, as well as this team,” Vernon said. “I know if that’s the case, the other records will come with it. I’m really just focused at the record at the end of Duke’s name. If the other records come, great. If they don’t, I think I’ve had a pretty good career as it is.”
2009 Rocky Mount High alumnus Whit Barnes is progressing nicely for Wake Forest.
Currently in his redshirt junior season, Barnes will back-up senior Garrick Williams at center for the Demon Deacons.
Barnes earned his first varsity letter in 2011, and his teammates have noticed a difference in his ability after the offseason.
“He’s improving consistently. This is the first year I’ve seen him really make a big improvement as a football player,” Wake Forest defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock said. “His feet are a lot better, his weight’s up – he’s just all around getting better. He’ll be a good backup for us. He’s a player that we could put in and not have a big drop off at center.”