Friday, April 25, 2008

Bowl aims to expand board, up ticket sales

When Charlotte's postseason bowl game started in 2002, it sold just 200 tickets locally before the participating teams were announced.

Last year, the Meineke Car Care Bowl had 10,000 pre-sold tickets.

"That's largely due to the efforts of our board," said bowl executive director Will Webb.

Webb hopes to expand the board of advisers for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, which matches teams from the ACC and Big East each December at Bank of America Stadium. The board has 47 members, a number Webb would like to see approximately doubled.

Members will be required to sell $4,000 worth of ticket packages and be proactive agents in the community for the bowl. (For each of the first two years, new members must sell $2,000 worth of ticket packages).

Board members receive two club-level tickets, and invitations to media events, the sponsor's reception and other functions, including a ride in a race car at Lowe's Motor Speedway on the day the participating teams attend.

Webb's goal is to recruit members of the community to continue building the bowl's local base.

"It's really a way for a lot of folks who love college sports to extend that into a positive channel," said Charlotte's Susan Dion, a board member and former N.C. State cheerleader who serves on the bowl's selection committee. "It's just a way for all of us to continue to be involved."

Those interested in serving can contact Webb in his office at Raycom Sports.

Webb also would like to move up in the ACC's selection order after the current bowl contractual agreements expire following the 2009 season. Currently, the ACC tries to find mutually beneficial selections for the Meineke, Emerald and Music City bowls -- after the BCS, Chick-fil-A, Gator and Champs Sports bowls choose.

Ideally, Webb said, the Meineke would like to choose after the Gator Bowl.

"It's just a matter of whether we have the resources to do it," he said.Moving up would require a significant increase in the bowl's payout -- which is $1 million to each conference. The Champs Sports Bowl pays the ACC $2.25 million.

Webb said a larger payment would require a ticket price increase and funds from public sources and sponsors.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ACC notes

Charlotte’s Vince Jacobs faced a logjam at tight end at North Carolina with young, promising players such as Richard Quinn and Zack Pianalto ahead of him.

Coach Butch Davis moved Jacobs, a Vance High graduate, to defensive end late in spring practice.

“We were very encouraged by what he did,” Davis said. “He showed some athleticism, he showed some burst and some quickness, and it will be very interesting to monitor his growth and development during training camp.”

- Virginia Tech’s quarterback position remains unsettled.

Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor rotated in a two-quarterback system at the end of last season as the Hokies captured the ACC title. Neither moved ahead during spring practice.

“What we’re going to do with them has yet to be determined,” said coach Frank Beamer. “We’re going to carry that battle over into the fall. But we feel good about that (position).”

- The loss of guard Chris DeGeare to academic ineligibility means offensive line will be Wake Forest’s chief concern heading into the fall.

Wake Forest already was trying to overcome the loss of Steve Justice, Matthew Brim and Louis Frazier, who exhausted their eligibility in 2007.

“We’ve got some kids that don’t have experience,” said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe. “They’ve got enough ability, but they don’t have experience.”

- Clemson’s DaQuan Bowers, one of the top-rated defensive end prospects in the nation, enrolled in January and played well enough during spring practice to get into the rotation for the fall.

“He’s going to play,” said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. “How much and how productive he is, is going to depend on how he continues to improve and his mental approach.

- Defensive end Chris Long and offensive guard Branden Albert could give Virginia two first-round NFL draft picks for the second time ever Saturday.

In 1997, James Farrior (eighth) and Jon Harris (25th) were first-round picks.

“It’s fun to watch and exciting to be part of,” said Virginia coach Al Groh. “Obviously program-wise, I guess it gives us confirmation, it makes us feel good that we’ve done our part in helping a player realize his aspirations.”
- Ken Tysiac

Monday, April 21, 2008

ACC could get boost from draft

This weekend’s NFL draft could provide a needed credibility boost to the ACC.

No current ACC team has appeared in a BCS title game over the last five years. Early predictions at and have only three ACC teams – Clemson, Virginia Tech and Virginia – in the top 25 in 2008.

But the draft could demonstrate that the ACC continues to turn out strong talent. In 2006, an astounding 12 ACC players were drafted in the first round. Last year, the ACC had a respectable six first-round choices.’s list of the top 32 draft prospects for 2008 shows includes seven players from the ACC – more than any other conference. The SEC and Big Ten have six each.

Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and Virginia defensive end Chris Long are certain first-round picks and have represented their schools and the conference well in the weeks leading up to the draft.

It will be good for the ACC to have them selected in prominent positions Saturday.

– Ken Tysiac

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wolfpack looking for a QB to step up

After Justin Burke’s 30-yard touchdown pass to George Bryan on the final play gave the Red a 23-21 win against the White in N.C. State’s spring game, it’s clear the Wolfpack might have more decent options at quarterback than any other ACC team.

Problem is, each has a downside:

- Incumbent starter Daniel Evans is smart and has sparked the team to wins at times, but lacks athletic ability and missed the spring with a shoulder injury.

- Mike Glennon is an incoming freshman who’s among the most heralded quarterbacks in the nation, but it’s rare for a first-year player to take the field in August and win the starting job in just a few weeks.

- Harrison Beck started four games last fall and has a powerful arm but threw nine interceptions and two touchdown passes. He was 13-for-20 for 158 yards in a spring game in which no one threw an interception.

“Things did go good for me this spring,” he said. “One of my goals was to not turn the football over. ...I probably threw less than a handful of picks, probably, in the 15 practices, and that was my emphasis, to make good decisions and accurate throws.”

- The coaches like redshirt freshman Russell Wilson’s leadership ability, but he looked uncomfortable in the pocket in the spring game. He was 8-for-21 for 61 yards, but did run 25 yards to complete a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

“I think I made a couple moves for myself (this spring),” he said. “I’m not talking about the starting position. I’m talking about physically, mentally, learning how to play the game right.”

- Burke is bright and had a great spring game (17-for-24, 191 yards, two touchdowns) but was behind Evans and Beck on the depth chart last season.

Coach Tom O’Brien won’t decide the starter until shortly before the Aug. 28 opener at South Carolina. Any of the five probably is capable of leading N.C. State to a winning season in 2008.

But none appears ready to get the Wolfpack into the race for first place in an ACC Atlantic Division widely regarded as superior to the Coastal because of talented, veteran teams at Clemson and Wake Forest.

O’Brien might get N.C. State into a bowl game this season. He fell only one game short last season with a similar quarterback roster.

But the quarterback position is so important that loftier goals might be beyond the Wolfpack’s reach until Glennon spends a couple years in O’Brien’s system.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Notes from around the ACC

- First-year coach David Cutcliffe is confident Duke can put a competitive front seven on the field on defense.

Linemen Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk and linebacker Michael Tauiliili give the Blue Devils high quality ACC players up front. The secondary is another matter.

“We’re probably much more thin in the secondary than I’ve ever seen a team,” Cutcliffe said.

That lack of depth will cause problems on special teams because defensive backs traditionally handle a lot of kick coverage. It also could limit Duke’s defensive scheme options.

Okpokowuruk said Duke remains a heavy zone blitz team, as it was under Cutcliffe’s predecessor, Ted Roof. But the Blue Devils are playing more base defense than in the past.

“We like to play five and six defensive backs,” Cutcliffe said. “That’s a little hard right now. But we still put the package in.”

- Though North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates missed spring practice because of shoulder surgery, teammate Deunta Williams said that’s not all bad.

Williams, a sophomore free safety, said watching from the sideline allowed Yates to work on the mental part of the game.

“That’s the biggest thing at quarterback, because he has the tools,” Williams said.

Yates’ absence allowed Mike Paulus and Cameron Sexton to compete for the backup spot. Look for highly recruited redshirt freshman Paulus to fill that second-team role in the fall.

- Miami running back Javarris James said the Hurricanes are looking forward to the arrival of a recruiting class ranked third in the nation by

The Hurricanes were 5-7 in coach Randy Shannon’s first season but add the nation’s top linebacker class – including highly regarded Arthur Brown of Wichita, Kan. James said he told recruits when they were visiting that they shouldn’t plan to redshirt.

“If you don’t come here to play, you’re at the wrong school,” he said.

- First-year coach Paul Johnson has created a different atmosphere at Georgia Tech after coming from Navy. Johnson’s predecessor, Chan Gailey, had an NFL background and was laid back with his players.

“Coach Johnson’s more of a throwback college/high school type coach in the regard that he stays on top of the guys,” said Georgia Tech offensive tackle Andrew Gardner. The offense is changing, too, from a pro-style scheme to the option schemes Johnson used at Navy.

- Virginia is looking for a leader to replace defensive end Chris Long, who was one of the best players in the nation last season as a senior. Senior linebacker Clint Sintim hopes to use what he learned from Long to become a leader on a team that’s also reeling from losing quarterback Jameel Sewell and defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald for academic reasons.

“He was a great leader,” Sintim said. “He put himself second and put the team first, and that’s something I’m going to have to learn to do and trust in my teammates and hope they trust in me so I can help my teammates.”
-- Ken Tysiac

Monday, April 14, 2008

O'Brien: State has made progress

It’s been 16 months since N.C. State hired Tom O’Brien as its football coach, and he has seen huge advances in the implementation of his program.

O’Brien said there’s no comparing the current situation to last spring.

“It’s night and day,” O’Brien said Monday during a news conference to preview Saturday’s 1 p.m. spring game. “I think everybody in our program is way ahead of where we were a year ago.”

O’Brien still has a lot of concerns about the offensive line and quarterback positions. Having standouts such as Daniel Evans, Toney Baker, Andre Brown, Anthony Hill and Javon Walker miss spring practice because of injuries also has been a setback.

But his system is in place, and most of those players should be talented enough to jump into it when they are healthy in August.

Here are some other notes of interest from N.C. State:

- Wide receiver Geron James missed the 2007 season but has re-enrolled and is showing glimpses of the big play ability he demonstrated early in his career. He is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds and used his height to snare four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown in a 2006 win over Florida State.

“He has height and he’s got size,” O’Brien said. “He can block. He goes in and cracks people and goes up and catches the football. Hopefully at the end of the semester he’ll have his academics in tune and he’ll be eligible and be with us in the fall.”

- N.C. State returns offensive line starters Julian Williams, Curtis Crouch and Meares Green from last season plus Jeraill McCuller, who started the last four games at right tackle. But Green has moved from guard to center, and John Bedics and Ted Larsen have moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard as O’Brien seeks depth and stability.

“We don’t have a starting five,” O’Brien said, “and we’re trying to get the best five guys up front.”

- O’Brien said DaJuan Morgan’s draft stock appears to be rising after he decided not to return his senior season at N.C. State.

He said NFL scouts are telling him that Miami’s Kenny Phillips is the only free safety rated ahead of Morgan.

“He’s athletic,” O’Brien said of Morgan. “He tackles. He has speed. He can run to the ball. All those things will make him an NFL-type safety.” – Ken Tysiac