Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heels' special teams, 'Tweetgate' and more

North Carolina's special teams have taken a big hit, Duke has been feeling ill and N.C. State's tweeting has become more benign.

Here are some points to ponder as college football training camps arrive near their midpoints:

- The loss of Matt Merletti was a difficult blow for North Carolina. And not just at nickel back.

Merletti was one of the Tar Heels' best all-around special teams players on a team that comes into the season with few concerns other than special teams.

Couple Merletti's season-ending injury with the less serious knee sprain of Ryan Taylor and you've got two of North Carolina's best special teams players hurting. This isn't disastrous, but it sure doesn't help.

- Going through a bout with H1N1 flu during training camp certainly hasn't been pleasant for Duke.

But it may be better to have it happen during the preseason than the regular season. There's a real concern on the part of school officials and athletics training staffs that this virus is set to hit a lot more places this fall. A significant outbreak during the regular season could be a huge setback for any team.

- "Tweetgate" appears to have come to an end at N.C. State.

Texted highlights of the Wolfpack's second scrimmage were posted on the team's official Twitter page earlier this preseason while the scrimmage was closed to the media. There were no such posts after the third scrimmage Tuesday.

If coach Tom O'Brien doesn't want certain information becoming public, here's guessing it's kept under wraps for the remainder of the preseason.

- Ben Hartman's hip injury, which has prevented him from practicing, is a concern at East Carolina because he's one of the best clutch kickers in football with four last-play game winners in his career.

But with East Carolina's stout defense returning nine starters and the offense getting set to open back up again with senior Patrick Pinkney at quarterback, the Pirates may not need many last-minute winning kicks this season.

Ken Tysiac