Friday, August 31, 2007

Will kickoffs be more dangerous?

Kickoffs are so dangerous that college football coaches hesitate to even practice them at full speed.

Eleven players on each team charge headlong at the opponents, with players often colliding violently at full speed.

"I don’t think there’s a coach that doesn’t feel like kickoff coverage has the most potential for injury," said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe.

Yet the NCAA football rules committee recommended and the NCAA playing rules oversight panel mandated that the kickoff be moved back 5 yards to the 30-yard line to create more returns and fewer action-stopping touchbacks.

This should create more excitement, interesting kickoff strategies and higher-scoring games. But is it worth it?

"In the sport of football the most violent play is the kickoff, and we’re going to put guys at risk more often because the ball is going to remain in play," said Purdue coach Joe Tiller. "Chances are, we are going to have more injuries in a sport that has come into close scrutiny here about injuries."

An NCAA spokeswoman said it will be two or three years before the NCAA has injury data to determine whether kickoffs are more dangerous than other plays.

But if coaches and administrators had even an inkling that kickoff returns are especially dangerous, why would they make a rule that increases their frequency for 2007? – Ken Tysiac

Five games to watch Saturday

The long month of preseason anticipation is over for college football fans as North Carolina’s Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) teams all debut Saturday.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have tickets and plan on quarterbacking with the clicker from your armchair, get your snacks and beverages ready.

Here are five games to plan your day around:

1. East Carolina at Virginia Tech, noon, ESPN: This is a chance for Virginia Tech and the nation to come together in honor of the victims of Seung Hui Cho’s April shooting rampage. The game itself is impossible to predict because of the emotion involved. But the event will put football in proper perspective as the season begins.

2. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC: Who is Notre Dame’s starting quarterback? Can Georgia Tech score without Calvin Johnson? Is Taylor Bennett really better than Reggie Ball? These questions will be answered in South Bend.

3. Oklahoma State at Georgia, 6:45 p.m., ESPN2: Former North Carolina wideout Adarius Bowman is an All-America candidate for Oklahoma State. Former Charlotte Independence High wideout Mohamed Massaquoi is working out of the slot for Georgia. That’s reason enough to watch the first half.

4. Tennessee at California, 8 p.m., ABC: Click over from Oklahoma State-Georgia to see the best game of the day. Phil Fulmer hasn’t won an SEC title since 1998 but has a hot quarterback in Erik Ainge. California is the second-best team in the Pac-10.

5. Idaho at Southern California, 10:15 p.m., Fox Sports Net: Opening Saturday wouldn’t be complete without checking out the nation’s No. 1 team. Watch Tennessee-Cal until the end, but get at least a glimpse of quarterback John David Booty and the Trojans’ offense. You won’t have to watch long. USC will make this a blowout in time to get you to bed at a decent hour. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 30, 2007

UNC's Davis suspends free safety

North Carolina coach Butch Davis has suspended free safety James "Cooter" Arnold indefinitely for violating team rules, the school announced Wednesday.

Arnold, a junior, made 48 tackles last season and was listed as a possible backup at free safety on the depth chart.

"I spoke with Cooter and told him he had some things he needed to get accomplished and get done," Davis said Wednesday after practice, "and that we would revisit it some time in the near future and give him an opportunity to demonstrate his willingness and desire to get back on the team."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Duke looking to break losing streak

Duke defensive end Patrick Bailey uses San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds to illustrate how a win in Saturday’s opener against Connecticut could lead to more wins for a team mired in a 20-game losing streak.

After Bonds reached 753 home runs on July 19 to close within two of Hank Aaron’s career record, he slumped. He hit just one homer in the next 15 days.

Bonds’ 755th homer, which tied Aaron’s record, began a 15-day stretch when he hit six homers.

"One he got (the record), it was like, ‘Bam, bam, bam,’ " Bailey said Tuesday.

Connecticut was 4-8 last season. Three years ago, the Huskies edged Duke 22-20 when a Blue Devil field goal attempt went wide left with six seconds remaining.

So there is optimism at Duke that the Blue Devils can win at home against this opponent.

"It would be a huge boost of morale," Bailey said.

The plan is for that boost to lead to more wins, and restore Duke to respectability, just as Bonds’ 755th led to more home runs. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 27, 2007

N.C State QB praises former coach

Hours after Daniel Evans was told he would keep the starting quarterback position at N.C. State, he praised former Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato.

This is what makes Evans a bit different from the average college athlete. Protocol dictates that players avoid talking about their former coaches, particularly if they were fired.

But Evans can bring up uncomfortable subjects because his love for N.C. State is unquestioned. He grew up dreaming of playing for the school where his father, Johnny Evans, was a quarterback and All-America punter.
Daniel Evans was asked Monday about the excitement that surrounds N.C. State football.

"It started with coach Amato," he said. "Nobody should sell that short at all. These facilities and the way N.C. State football is thought of around the nation started with coach Amato. He kind of put it back on the map."

Since he was fired and accepted an assistant coaching position at Florida State, Amato has been ridiculed because of his flamboyance and a 25-31 ACC record. But Evans is grateful because Amato offered him a scholarship when no other ACC school did.

He also said first-year coach Tom O’Brien can raise the excitement to a higher level if N.C. State wins eight or more games for six consecutive years as Boston College did under O’Brien.

"I loved my time with coach Amato," Evans said, "but I’m really excited for where the program is going under coach O’Brien, too." – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tar Heels' coach encouraged by improvement of passing game

There is good news from North Carolina’s preseason camp for fans frustrated with the Tar Heels’ passing game a year ago.

In 2006, the Tar Heels completed barely half their passes (50.8 percent) with 18 interceptions and just 11 touchdown passes. First-year North Carolina coach Butch Davis said those struggles continued during spring practice.

But Davis said Wednesday that the passing game is the team’s most significant area of improvement since the spring.

"We’ve got too many good playmakers at the skill positions to not have some effectiveness," Davis said.

Improved protection is a factor in the improvement. Davis said he also has been pleased with wide receivers Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster, Hakeem Nicks, Greg Little and Kenton Thornton.

Tight ends – long a Davis passing-game staple with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Hurricanes – also are getting involved, with Richard Quinn, Ryan Taylor and Zach Pianalto contributing.

That’s encouraging for the Tar Heels, because with the team’s returning tailbacks having totaled one carry all last season, the running game is far from a sure thing.

- Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Davidson vs App State almost happened

Davidson football coach Tripp Merritt leaned back in his office chair and pondered what might have been.

The Wildcats almost took a game at Appalachian State Sept. 8, which would have given the Wildcats a nice payday and a chance to see where they stacked up against the two-time NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title winners.

Davidson could have faced running back Kevin Richardson - who scored 30 touchdowns last season - and tried to break Appalachian State's 27-game home winning streak.

"That would have been something, wouldn't it?" Merritt said. "We talked about it as a staff. We really think we can play with anybody."

Davidson even had approval from Wingate - which had been scheduled to play the Wildcats that day - to move their game to Sept. 22 (Davidson's bye week) and let the Appalachian game happen.

Merritt mulled over the offer, but then decided to back off. Adding the Appalachian State game would have created an 11-game schedule for Davidson, a non-scholarship program. The Davidson coach said he preferred the Wildcats' current setup, where Davidson plays three non-conference games and then has a bye before its Pioneer League opener against Jacksonville Sept. 29.

"You always have to worry about injuries, and we only have 78 guys on our team," he said. "It just wasn't the right fit."

The Wildcats might have to wonder about the missed chance for a few years. Merritt said his team has already completed its 10-game schedule through 2010, and Appalachian State is not expected to have any openings before then. -- Kevin Cary

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

'Canes moving from Orange Bowl

It’s a sad day when college football is leaving the Orange Bowl.

University of Miami officials announced today that the school will move its home games from the Orange Bowl to Dolphin Stadium beginning in 2008. Without a major tenant, the Orange Bowl might be leveled to make way for a new baseball park for the Florida Marlins.

The Orange Bowl has had a few memorable moments for Carolinas teams. On Jan. 1, 1955, ACC champion Duke won a memorable, 34-7 rout over Nebraska there.

Clemson defeated Miami there 15-14 on Jan. 1, 1951, to complete a 9-0-1 season, and won its national championship there on Jan. 1 1982, defeating Nebraska 22-15.

"That’s a very special place for Clemson people, with the ’81 Orange Bowl game being there," said Bill Smith, a defensive end for that national championship team. "There’s a lot of history there in the stadium."

Smith understands why the Hurricanes are leaving the venerable, old stadium, which opened in 1937. Smith is a member of Clemson’s Board of Trustees, and he knows why Miami covets the suites and video age amenities of Dolphin Stadium to impress recruits and donors.

In 1996, the Orange Bowl game itself even moved to the Dolphins’ home stadium.

"I assume from the university of Miami’s perspective, it’s an old stadium, and everybody is upgrading college facilities," Smith said. ". . .From their perspective I guess it’s a good move. But having played there, I hate to see that the Orange Bowl may not be what it used to be."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Andrew Pearman back at UVa

"Jitterbug" is the term of endearment being thrown around at Virginia’s preseason camp to refer to Providence High graduate Andrew Pearman.

The day before camp started, Pearman was told he would be meeting with Anthony Poindexter, who coaches running backs. Pearman, who had been working at wide receiver, was happy.

"Just getting back here and being around these guys is so great," he said.

Pearman missed all but the first four games of last season when he left school for personal reasons. When Virginia coach Al Groh learned Pearman wanted to return this season, he decided to let Pearman’s natural talents shine through.

As a senior at Providence, Pearman rushed for 2,273 yards and 32 touchdowns. His brother, Alvin, was a first-team All-ACC running back for Virginia in 2004 and now is with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Andrew is just 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, which seems too small to take the pounding at running back.

"While he may not look like the prototypical running back in size, that’s his style of play," Groh said. "So let’s just put him where things are most natural to him and get him off to a positive start now that he’s back. And he’s taken to it very well."

Poindexter dubbed Pearman the jitterbug because of his size, style and speed. Pearman is working with the second team behind teammate Cedric Peerman, and also is returning kickoffs and punts.

"It should be really great," Pearman said. "Out here I’m definitely not the biggest running back. . .but I’m having a lot of fun." – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 16, 2007

ASU coach Moore finds motivational tool for former wrestler

Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore believes he's discovered how to motivate freshman defensive end Gordy Witte.

When Witte began to tire during a one-on-one blocking drill recently, Moore challenged Witte with his background as a star wrestler at Salisbury High, where he won two state heavyweight titles.

"He was fading a bit," said Moore. "So I yelled at him, 'There's 13 seconds left in the (wrestling) match and you're down by one point!"

Witte grinned at Moore and finished the drill by beating his man.

"He's had so much success as a wrestler, it was great he could draw on that," said Moore.

Witte (6-6, 285 pounds) might be counted on this season for the Mountaineers, who lost three starters on their defensive line to graduation - including All-American Marques Murrell.

But players like Witte and LSU transfer Tim Washington might make those losses easier to take. And another transfer - defensive end Quavian Lewis (Vanderbilt) - hasn't been cleared to play yet, although he is practicing with the Mountaineers.

- David Scott

Former Independence QB says he's comfortable in back-up role at Georgia

Former Charlotte Independence High graduate Joe Cox doesn’t have a problem with being second on the depth chart at quarterback behind Matthew Stafford at Georgia.

Away from the football field, Cox enjoys hanging out with Stafford, who shares Cox’s appreciation for old school rhythm and blues (think Marvin Gaye), rap and hip hop. On the football field, Cox accepts that Georgia coach Mark Richt’s staff believes Stafford has earned the job.

"It doesn’t bother me at all that there’s somebody in front of me," Cox said. "You can’t sit back and complain about where you are. You just have to find the good in it and make the best out of the situation."

Cox has solid credentials for the starting job. As a redshirt freshman last season, he was named national player of the week by The Sporting News for leading Georgia to a 14-13, comeback victory against Colorado.

In the G-Day spring game, he completed seven of eight passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.

"My best strength is my accuracy," Cox said. "That’s one thing I’ve always worked hard on."

But Stafford, who’s also a sophomore, is a former Parade All-American who was 6-2 as a starter last season and made the SEC all-freshman team.

Though Cox continues to work hard to push Stafford in practice, he said he isn’t disappointed with the backup role and is thankful he gets along well with Stafford.

"That makes it really easy," Cox said. …

Mohamed Massaquoi, Cox’s teammate at Georgia and Independence, has moved inside to a slot receiver spot when the Bulldogs use a three-wideout formation, Cox said.

Massaquoi made 68 catches for 871 over two seasons when he played primarily the "X" split end position for the Bulldogs. He still is playing some "X," Cox said, but also is working at the "Y" slot position.

"I think he’s really going to help us out and open a lot of things up for us," Cox said. "It’s only going to constrict the defense more to help guys outside make plays."

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Duke not caught up in numbers game

Duke defensive end Patrick Bailey said he doesn’t know how many consecutive games the Blue Devils have lost.

Wide receiver Jomar Wright said he doesn’t know the number and doesn’t really care.

“Every time we step on the field we feel like we can win,” Wright said.

Duke enters the 2007 season with the longest losing streak in the football bowl subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) at 20 games.

Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase said he tries not to think about that.

“We don’t need any negativity,” said Oghobaase, who has lost more than 20 pounds and has been a force in practice at 297 pounds. “We need to be as positive as we can be.”

It’s easy to look at coach Ted Roof’s team and list reasons Duke will continue losing in 2007. The Blue Devils have 11 returning starters on offense, but guard Zach Maurides and tackle Ted Roland have not practiced yet because of injuries.

The defense has lost its best player, linebacker Michael Tauiliili, to an indefinite suspension after his arrest on charges including driving while impaired and simple assault.

Duke’s nonconference schedule includes a trip to Notre Dame and no football championship subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) opponents.

So the Blue Devils have to find hope elsewhere heading into their Sept. 1 opener against Connecticut. They point to a 14-13 loss to ACC champion Wake Forest and a 20-15 defeat against Miami last season as evidence of progress.

If the losing streak says otherwise, the players will do their best to disregard that number.

“Coach Roof, he hasn’t even brought up the losing streak,” Wright said. “It’s not something we talk about.”

– Ken Tysiac

5 yards no big deal to Swank

Successful kickers are usually pretty unflappable. You've got to have some serious chops to line up a potential game-winning field goal with no time left and the crowd howling. Wake Forest's Sam Swank is no different.

Swank, first-team all-ACC last season as a kicker and honorable mention as a punter, showed up at preseason practice last week figuring he'd go about his usual routine in preparing for the Deacons' season opener Sept. 1 at Boston College.

But Swank hadn't heard about an offseason rule change by the NCAA that moves kickoffs back 5 yards to the 30.

"I hadn't heard of it until the coaches told me before practice," said Swank on Tuesday at the team's media day in Groves Stadium.

Swank was asked how the rule change will affect his kicking.

He shrugged.

"I'll move the ball back 5 yards," he said.

- David Scott

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sexton: Davis adjusting offense to his players

It’s not a revolutionary concept, but quarterback Cameron Sexton said a subtle change in philosophy on offense could lead to better production for North Carolina in 2008.

Sexton said first-year coach Butch Davis is molding the offense to the strengths of the players rather than vice versa. “We’ve adjusted the offense to the players,” Sexton said. “We’ve really done a good job of saying, ‘This is what we’re good at. And this is who is good at that position. Let’s find a way to get him the ball, not make him adjust to what we want to do.’ ”

Don’t be surprised if junior wide receiver Brandon Tate gets a lot of opportunities in this offense. Tate has established himself as one of the nation’s premier kick returners, but made just five catches with three rushing attempts last season. Tate is going in motion in the backfield and getting the ball on swing routes and wheel routes.

During Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage, Tate lined up in the slot against a man-to-man coverage with no deep safety help. He beat the safety who was covering him for a long touchdown pass.

“They’re trying to get me the ball in the open field, so I can make somebody miss and see what I can do,” Tate said.

– Ken Tysiac

ACC goes 'subdivision' more than ever

Just a reminder: If it seems like there are more games this season between Division I-A and I-AA (now referred to as the Division I football championship subdivision) teams, it's because there are.

Thanks to the addition of a 12th game to Division I-A schedules in 2006, those larger schools have had to scramble to find opponents to fill those dates. Eight ACC teams play I-AA opponents this season - only Duke, Florida State, Virginia and Wake Forest are not. And those four schools have gone the other direction in getting their schedules up to 12 games. Duke faces Notre Dame, Florida State plays Alabama, Virginia plays Pittsburgh and Wake Forest plays Nebraska.

Each team in the I-AA Southern Conference, for instance, plays at least one I-A team - including Appalachian State (Michigan); Chattanooga (Arkansas); The Citadel (Wisconsin); Elon (South Florida); Furman (Clemson); Georgia Southern (Colorado State); Western Carolina (Alabama and Georgia) and Wofford (N.C. State).

The I-A schools receive millions of dollars in extra revenues from these games and they can count a victory against one I-AA team toward bowl eligibility. The I-AA teams receive financial "guarantees" that make it worth their while to be pummeled on the field.

So, when you see that Appalachian State is opening its season in Michigan's "Big House" on Sept. 1, or that two weeks after Western Carolina plays in Tuscaloosa, the Catamounts travel to Athens - you'll know why.

- David Scott

Saturday, August 11, 2007

UNC freshman QB Paulus finding college more difficult than he expected

North Carolina’s Mike Paulus has been surfing the Internet, reading about his fellow freshmen across the country struggling to make an impact in their first fall camp.

Paulus no longer is in the race for the starting quarterback position. Coach Butch Davis could name redshirt freshman T.J. Yates or sophomore Cameron Sexton the starter as early as Monday. Paulus played primarily in the shotgun at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse and has had to learn how to work from under center.

"I thought it would be a breeze, but it really is a tough time, the college transition to the college offense," Paulus said.

Saturday was the first day media members were allowed to interview North Carolina’s freshmen. Paulus, defensive tackle Marvin Austin and wide receiver Greg Little were expected to make an impact immediately. Austin and Little still might.

But the players’ comments made it clear how difficult training camp is for freshman. Little said his "welcome to college" moment came with a crushing hit in the midsection from freshman linebacker Quan Sturdivant when Little tried to reach for a ball thrown high.

"I hopped right back up, though," Little said bravely.

Austin said he has a lot to learn about the playbook and beating blocks.

"I was trying to rely on my athletic ability," Austin said. "Just beating some blocks. But that’s not what you’re supposed to do. ...I’m used to just pass rushing every play, basically, just rushing to the ball. And now you’ve got bigger guys and the speed is much quicker."

For Paulus, the only consolation comes from reading that freshmen in other places are making the same difficult adjustments.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tar Heels' passing surpasses expectations

North Carolina’s passing game has been one of the most pleasant surprises of fall camp for coach Butch Davis.

"The passing game has been good," Davis said. "We’ve made some good completions, and our receivers have had an excellent start to camp thus far."

The Tar Heel wide receivers have lived up to their billing as a strength on the roster. Davis said Brooks Foster, Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks, Greg Little and Kenton Thornton have done a good job in camp.

North Carolina’s quarterbacks are doing a better job getting those players the ball than they did during spring practice.

"The first couple weeks of spring practice, we talked about, not only could we not catch them, we couldn’t throw them or get anywhere close to it," Davis said. "So that’s very encouraging."

- Davis said he used Chinese bamboo growers as a metaphor for his team Friday when talking to his players. He said bamboo growers clear land, plant seeds, fertilize and pull weeds.

"I think it’s like a three-year process," he said. "At the end of the third year, little bitty buds start to grow up. Then you continue to take care of it and you grow it and fertilize it. And the next thing you know, those little buds turn into 80-foot bamboo shoots."

He compared practice to the bamboo-growing process.

"We won’t become a good team until you do all the due diligence," Davis said. "And then one day all of a sudden, look around, and it’s amazing how far we’ve come."

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Locals in the UNC lineup

Charlotte Latin graduate Mark Paschal and safety Deunta Williams, who entered North Carolina’s camp as backups, worked with the first-team defense during drills open to the media during the first half of Thursday’s practice.

Paschal was practicing at middle linebacker with the starters, and Williams was at safety alongside Trimane Goddard. Paschal has lost about five to seven pounds since weighing 235 in the spring, and said he is faster.

"I guess whenever you lose some weight it affects your speed," Paschal said. "It’s one of those things where you just go out and try to work on a certain part of your game every day. Over the summer, that’s something I really focused on."

T.J. Yates remained with the first team at quarterback, and Anthony Elzy worked with the first team at tailback before the second half of practice was closed to the media. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

N.C. State's intrasquad scrimmage

Coach Tom O’Brien emerged from N.C. State’s first fall intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday evening disappointed with his players’ lack of consistent production and leadership.

"It could be a function of many different things - the newness of the system or the heat," O’Brien said.

Tailback Toney Baker was among the statistical leaders with seven carries for 38 yards and a touchdown along with a 13-yard touchdown catch. Andre Brown rushed seven times for 33 yards. Tight end Matt Kushner had two catches for 30 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown reception.

Incumbent starter Daniel Evans led the quarterbacks, going 7-for-10 for 61 yards and a touchdown. Harrison Beck (3-for-6, 54 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception), Justin Burke (3-for-7, 23 yards, 2 interceptions) and Russell Wilson (3-for-6, 48 yards, 1 interception) also played quarterback in the 75-play scrimmage.

Nate Irving made a team-leading five tackles. John Ware made four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Antoine Holmes had 2.5 tackles for loss.

The defense was a bit of a bright spot despite giving up three touchdowns.
"They tackled much better than they did in the spring," O’Brien said. "So that’s a positive." – Ken Tysiac

Criticism, strength and leadership

Some notes from training camp in North Carolina:

Tar Heels LB Mapp takes criticism personally

Senior Durell Mapp, North Carolina’s leading tackler last season, took personally the criticism he received from preseason magazines.

He was disappointed when one magazine said he wasn’t an ACC-caliber linebacker.

“I’ve got it at the house,” he said. “I put it up for motivation.”

That motivation has been apparent at North Carolina’s practices.

“He is relentless, running to the football, making plays,” said coach Butch Davis.

Davis said another linebacker, Mark Paschal of Charlotte, had one of the most productive offseasons on the team.

“I think he realized he needed to drop some weight, get faster, get quicker,” Davis said. “And I think that adjustment has certainly helped his playmaking ability.”

N.C. State's O-line a strength

The middle of N.C. State’s offensive line is expected to be a strong point with center Luke Lathan flanked by left guard Kalani Heppe and right guard Curtis Crouch.

In their careers, Heppe has started 15 games, Crouch 12 and Lathan eight. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible told the players that a cohesive middle of the line of scrimmage is essential in pass protection.

“Somebody on the outside can be let loose and the quarterback can step up in the pocket,” Lathan said. “But he can’t step up in the pocket if somebody is coming right at him. It’s good because Kalani and Curtis and I, we’ve all had games together and so many snaps together in practice that we know each other’s tendencies.”

Davis awarding yellow jerseys to leaders

In many training camps, a yellow jersey is a sign that a player is injured and unavailable for contact.

Not so at North Carolina’s camp. In Tour de France fashion, coach Butch Davis sometimes awards the jersey to a player who has been a leader in camp. Sometimes he gives it to challenge a player to raise his play another level.

So far, Kentwan Balmer, Hilee Taylor, Aleric Mullins and Trimane Goddard are among the players who have worn the jersey.

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Heat an issue on football field

The severity of the heat for the start of football practice in the Carolinas is a surprise even for those who grew up here.

Players and coaches are accustomed to practicing in 90-degree weather. But when the temperatures climb into the high 90s and are expected to flirt with 100, practice becomes a chore.

“That’s just something that’s going to make us stronger in the end. . . . I can feel myself getting in better shape working in it,” N.C. State quarterback Daniel Evans said bravely.

Coach Tom O’Brien said N.C. State has averaged about one player a day who has been physically unable to finish practice because of the heat. He said that’s not bad when you consider there are more than 100 players on the field.

The heat puts coaches in an unusual spot. They want to see who is tough enough to succeed in the uncomfortable conditions and prepare for games that might be held on hot afternoons.
They also don’t want to burn out their players before the season begins. East Carolina coach Skip Holtz is beginning practice in the middle of the afternoon because the Pirates open in a noon game Sept. 1 at Virginia Tech. But he is monitoring the heat’s effect on his players and will adjust accordingly.

“We want to make sure we have somebody to play with when we go up to Virginia Tech,” Holtz said.

The “acclimatization period” created by the NCAA in 2003 helps protect players from the heat by outlawing two-a-days for the first five days of the preseason. Practices start with no pads, then add shoulder pads and advance to full contact by the fifth day.

Even after the acclimatization period ends, two-a-days on consecutive days are prohibited.
Bear Bryant might have frowned upon these precautions because they can prevent a coach from building toughness. But North Carolina coach Butch Davis said he’s been sensitive to the effects of heat on players for more than 10 years, dating back past his tenure with the Miami Hurricanes to his time with the Dallas Cowboys.

After spending his entire coaching career in the South, Davis remembered trying to figure out what to do as coach of the Cleveland Browns, when he experienced temperatures in the 70s.
“That was more of an adjustment than, how are you going to deal with 92 degrees,” Davis said.
But as the mercury climbs in the Carolinas, temperatures in the 70s would sound good to a lot of sweaty football players.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 6, 2007

Appalachian State hot, relatively speaking

The heat is relative in the Carolinas, especially when you're 3,333 feet above sea level in the mountains.

After Appalachian State wrapped up its practice Monday, Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore talked about how the heat - which reached the mid-80s in Boone - affected his team. A few players had gone down from the warm temperataures, including one taken off the field on a stretcher by an EMT team for precautionary measures.

But Moore was asked how the temperatures compared to Texas, where he used to coach at North Texas and Texas Tech. Or even in the flatlands of the Carolinas.

"I know," he said with a grin, acknowledging the comparatively temperate climes of Boone. "It's nothing like that."

Still, the two-time NCAA Division I-AA champ Mountaineers coped with the heat. After practice, several linemen got in tubs of cold water outside the field house and proceeded to have a splashy water fight.

The Mountaineers open the season with two of the more unlikely games any team will play this season. On Sept. 1, Appalachian plays at Michigan. On Sept. 8, the Mountaineers play the other end of the spectrum, hosting Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. - David Scott

Beck: N.C. State unlike Nebraska in one way

Yes, it’s hot here in North Carolina – unusually hot, even for August.

But N.C. State’s Harrison Beck – who’s fighting for the starting quarterback job – said it’s even hotter in Nebraska this time of year. Beck is a sophomore who transferred from Nebraska.

“It’s like someone is holding a torch in your face (in Nebraska),” Beck said. “Here, it’s really humid.”

Beck said the media attention for football in Nebraska also far exceeds that at N.C. State.

“That’s all they have in (Nebraska),” Beck said. “There’s media out there that stretches the whole side of the football field (at practice). It’s more of a circus there.”

UNC's Austin sloppy so far?

Mega-recruit Marvin Austin appeared sluggish during the portion of North Carolina’s opening practice reporters were allowed to watch. He was the last one in line to run through many of the defensive line drills, and position coach John Blake had to tell him to put his shorts back on after he took them off. Moments later, Blake had to tell Austin to tie the drawstring in his shorts because they were falling off his rear end.

Though Austin looked sloppy, Durham’s Greg Little appeared ready to immediately become one of the team’s best receivers. He runs precise routes, adjusts to the ball when it’s in the air and catches with his hands rather than his chest.

Another wide receiver, 6-5, 210-pound Rashad Mason, has the best-looking physique in the freshman class. He isn’t as polished as Little, but should make an impact at some point simply because he has outstanding physical tools.

Can ECU D make up for Pinkney?

East Carolina will miss quarterback James Pinkney, who led the Pirates to the Bowl as a senior last season.

But the Pirates’ defensive line is so strong that great quarterback play might not be necessary to get the team back to a bowl. Tackle Khalif Mitchell spent two years at North Carolina before transferring, and end Marcus Hands was a North Carolina signee before he enrolled.

Freshman tackle Linval Joseph is listed at 6-6 and 344 pounds, and coach Skip Holtz said he has the physique to help the team immediately.

“We’ve come a long way when you look at the front seven,” Holtz said.

Duke's season off to bad start

Losing starting linebacker Michael Tauiliili to a suspension after an arrest is a devastating way for Duke to begin its season. Coach Ted Roof suspended him after he was charged with driving while impaired, simple assault and other offenses.

There isn’t much positive to say about Duke’s football program, except that it has 11 returning starters. Tauiliili was Duke’s best defensive player, and his predicament gets a team desperate for good news off to a miserable start.

- Ken Tysiac