By Zac Ellis
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The 2013 ACC Kickoff completed an entertaining first day at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C. We offer a quick roundup of news, notes and quotes from the opening of the ACC’s unofficial kickoff weekend:
Talking Tajh: Sunday marked interview availability for ACC players in attendance, and few media scrums were as deep as the one surrounding Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Boyd returns for his senior season as the reigning ACC Player of the Year after recording 3,896 passing yards and 339.2 passing yards per game in 2012. But despite his stellar junior campaign, Boyd found himself answering questions about a player from an entirely different conference for much of Sunday’s interview session: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney made waves at last week’s SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. when he told reporters that Boyd is "scared" of him. "I can tell Tajh Boyd is scared back there," Clowney said. "He ain't no sitting duck, but you can see in his eyes that he's scared of our D-linemen ... He's scared every time we play them. I know he's probably listening to this right now, but I'm just telling the truth, man."
Boyd was sacked six times in last season's 27-17 Gamecock win at Clemson, but despite Clowney's claims, Boyd said there's nothing but courage on his end. "I'm not afraid of anybody. It's not in my nature," Boyd said. The senior passer said the war of words will "take care of itself" during the season.
Clemson and South Carolina meet Nov. 30 for both teams' regular-season finale.
New kids on the block:
Pitt and Syracuse players faced the microphones on Sunday for the first time as members of the ACC. "We're very thrilled to be part of such a prestigious conference," Syracuse center Macky MacPherson said. "It's a huge opportunity. We know all these teams. This is one of the best conferences in college football, if not the best."
Many expect the Orange and the Panthers to struggle early in their new league, as both programs have several holes that need to be addressed on their rosters. But some players said the teams' experience in the Big East should translate over to an ACC schedule. "I see the ACC with a lot more fast-paced teams," said Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald. "But as far as competition, the Big East has plenty of great competition, too. I feel like we're already coming from a great conference already." Said MacPherson: "We're going to try our best to impose our will on the ACC's teams."
As expected, some ACC players sang a considerably different tune with regards to the league's new members. Florida State travels to Pitt on Sept. 2 in a nationally televised opener on ESPN, and Seminoles wide receiver Rashad Greene said it's his team's job to show the Panthers the ropes of the conference. "I don't know much about [Pitt] except that they're a new addition to the ACC," he said. "But I know we're the team that needs to give them the right welcome."
State of the conference:
An inflated number of football helmets lined the stage where ACC commissioner John Swofford addressed reporters on Sunday afternoon. All 14 of the conference’s programs were represented with a piece of gleaming headgear, all of which were arranged neatly at the foot of Swofford’s podium. The expanded number of teams – up from last season’s 12 – comes courtesy of the additions of Pitt and Syracuse from the Big East (now the American Athletic Conference), transactions that became official on July 1.
One helmet was noticeably absent from the stage, however: Notre Dame, which announced last September that it would join the league as a member in every sport but football and hockey. The Irish continue without a conference affiliation for their football program, and Swofford said that despite the caveat, adding Notre Dame to the league was a no-brainer. “Bringing on Notre Dame was the right thing to do,” Swofford said. But the Irish won’t have to play a full ACC schedule when the partial membership begins in 2014; they’re slated to play only five games per year against ACC opponents.
When asked whether he’d offer the same opportunity to a member school – allowing that university to join the conference in some sports while remaining unaffiliated in others – Swofford simply said that such a situation has never been discussed. But the commissioner did maintain that the ACC has the inside track on the Irish if they ever decide to join a conference with full membership. “If Notre Dame decides to join a league in football before 2027,” Swofford said, “contractually it must be the ACC. They would be welcomed with open arms.”
Among other notable bits from Swofford:
• The commissioner said he hopes the NCAA’s ruling regarding its investigation into Miami comes down before the season begins. “I’ll be very disappointed if that’s not the case,” he said.
• Swofford said that despite its controversy, the BCS has “been good for college football” during its history. However, he reiterated that he is a fan of the upcoming College Football Playoff, which kicks off after the 2014 season. Swofford said he thinks fans will find a selection-committee process to be a viable alternative to the current system. “[Fans] trust people in a room more than computers,” he said. • As the Ed O’Bannon v. NCAA lawsuit moves through court, the NCAA’s amateurism model has become a hot topic among followers of college football. While Swofford said it’s too early to comment on the suit -- “Nobody knows where that will end up,” he said. “Obviously it could have significant implications.” -- he admitted there should be a discussion regarding increased financial aid for players. The commissioner favors the option of stipends and adding full cost of attendance to scholarships, but he said he does not agree with compensating players. “That’s not what college athletics is about,” he said.