RALEIGH, N.C. – As a collective, all three of the Triangle area’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) football teams – North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State – placed only three players on the conference’s preseason teams as announced last week.
All three selections, as made by the voting media in attendance at the 2016 ACC Kickoff, sat on the defending Coastal Division-champion Tar Heels roster and included Elijah Hood, Des Lawrence, and Ryan Switzer.
Though awarded substantial votes, not enough of them in their respective second-place spots placed either the Blue Devils’ DeVon Edwards or the Wolfpack’s Jaylen Samuels atop their respective position category.
Edwards was named on the preseason watch lists for three awards – the Benarik, Wuerffel, and Hornung – but he didn’t make the conference preseason team.
That’s how much of a challenge it is to compete year-in and year-out and be considered among the best in the ACC, as a player and as a team.
In how the three teams would fare throughout the season, UNC was slated as a preseason favorite to repeat as Coastal champion, Duke was predicted to finish fifth, and the Wolfpack was slated for fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
While Duke had claimed the Coastal crown in 2013, its first, N.C. State has still to earn a divisional title.
Before the votes were tallied and posted, all three coaches described their initial outlooks when they took to the podium in Charlotte.
Duke’s David Cutcliffe liked what his team presented heading into the preseason:
“The 2016 team, we’ve got a lot of great elements. More speed than we’ve had since we’ve been at Duke. We’ve got a lot of experience in the right areas. We do break in two new specialists after four years of really great duty by Will Monday and Ross Martin. We’ll have a new punter, a new place kicker. That’s a significant question mark. I want to see both lines of scrimmage mature quickly. I think that’s going to dictate a lot about our football team…We have high expectations, which is a good thing when it comes to Duke football.”
UNC’s Larry Fedora pointed out how challenging it would be to finish atop the Coastal Division again:
“Our team is excited about it. We’re fired up. We’ve had a great summer and we’re really looking forward to it…I think it’s been wide open every year in the Coastal every year, hasn’t it? That’s one of the things you write about all the time, anybody can win the Coastal. I can tell you this, with the new coaches that have come into the Coastal, you look at the head football coaches in this league, you look at what’s happening in our league in the last three, four years, I mean, this is a hell of a division, it really is. From top to bottom, there’s a lot of strength. The new coaches that are coming in are only going to make it stronger. We’re excited about it. It’s exciting to play in a league like this.”
N.C. State’s Dave Doeren talked of continuing to improve and make progress:
“We’re a team that has a great schedule in front of us. There’s six preseason teams in the top 25 in the ACC. We’re the only team that plays all six. We have a stretch where we play Notre Dame, Clemson and Louisville in a row, which is going to be a great challenge and a great opportunity. Our football team has a lot of guys that have played. We have meaningful playing time. With that being said, we are still a young football team. There’s only 10 seniors on the roster. After this season, we’ll go from 10 seniors, the following classes will have 19, 19, 20 and 22 seniors. After this year you’ll see an older football team.”
The bottom line – high expectations, excitement, as well as challenge and opportunity to overachieve await Triangle-area ACC football teams and their fans as the opening kickoff to the season approaches.