RALEIGH, N.C. – All three Triangle-area Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) football teams kick off their respective 2017-2018 seasons on Saturday.
The North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils host Cal-Berkeley and N.C. Central respectively, while the N.C. State Wolfpack faces the Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) South Carolina Gamecocks in Charlotte.
Head coaches Larry Fedora (UNC), David Cutcliffe (Duke), and Dave Doeren (N.C. State) shared their thoughts on getting their teams’ campaigns underway during the weekly ACC Coaches Teleconference earlier in the week.
What they said
Fedora on the Tar Heels’ young quarterbacks:
“Yeah, what we have learned is we’ve got some talented young men that don’t have a whole lot of experience that are learning and growing every day. The great thing that I will tell you is when they make a mistake and you come back out in the next couple days, that situation comes up again, that you don’t have that same problem. So, they’re learning from their mistakes.
“So I know they’re studying the game hard, they’re working hard. I think all of them want to be the guy, and they know there’s going to only be one guy. So, we’re really looking forward to seeing who emerges and who really does a great job on Saturday.”
Fedora on preparing for a team they haven’t faced and dealing with the unknown:
“That’s one thing we talk about with our team: ‘Hey, guys, there may be some things that we prepare for that we don’t see; there may be some things that we will see that we haven’t prepared for’. So, we’re just going to have to make those adjustments on the sideline.
“So, the focus has got to be on us and our techniques, our fundamentals, our base rules that we will then adjust as we get into the game. So, our guys have to understand that there may be some things that happen early on that we don’t like, but we’ll overcome them. We just keep playing and we’ll make the adjustments that we need to make.”
Cutcliffe on his team’s personnel to start the season:
“As I look at our 2017 team, we’re young, but we got some experience in some of the right places. We have three senior offensive linemen, we’ve got a returning quarterback, we got some people up front on defense that have played a good bit at linebacker and in the interior. Some new secondary people. But this will be the fastest, probably most athletic Duke team we’ve put on the field. We’ve just got to go to play well. If we don’t, it’s going to be a tough road because we have a tough schedule.”
Doeren on being ready to face South Carolina:
“Looking forward to the opportunity to play in Charlotte against South Carolina. It’s been a good week of practice with the guys. A little break in the weather for them, as well. It’s nice to be into this mode of the season. Looking forward to seeing a lot of hard work from our coaches and our players against a great opponent at an incredible venue for them to play in.”
Doeren on the test the Gamecocks will present the Wolfpack defense with:
“They’re both experienced. The match up, they have 10 returning starters, 97% of their receiving guys are back. A great tight end. They’re powerful on offense. They’re athletic. It’s going to be a great match-up.
“Obviously they’re throwing the ball. Experienced quarterback, experienced wideouts. We expect them to test our secondary. I know the kids are excited about the opportunity of playing against the talent that they have there.”
On the secondary’s preparation to face South Carolina:
“Well, the nice thing for us, we’ve got a great group of receivers here that challenge them every day. I feel like it’s been a good back and forth. You see improvement. You see guys getting better at certain skill sets.
“Jonathan Alston has had a great week of practice. Nick McCloud is always consistent. Shawn Boone has really adapted well to our nickel position. Dexter Wright and Jarius Morehead have played well for us, steady players, great tacklers. Now it’s time to do it. The test is on game day. They’re going to be tested. I look forward to watching them go out there and compete.”
Did you know? Heading into the ACC season, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils were picked to finish fourth and fifth in the Coastal Division, while the Wolfpack was selected to finish fourth in the Atlantic Division…N.C. State led selections on the ACC Preseason Team as Jaylen Samuels (AB), Bradley Chubb (DE) and A.J. Cole III (P) were selected…In head coach Larry Fedora’s 65 games as head coach of North Carolina, the Tar Heels have scored 30 or more points in 42 of them, topping the 40-point mark 64.6 percent of the time… Under Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils are 7-2 in season-openers, including last year’s 49-6 triumph over N.C. Central… N.C. State and South Carolina have met 57 times in a series that dates back to 1900. The series is almost a dead heat (South Carolina leads 27-26-4) and the teams have gone 6-6 the last 12 times out. The Wolfpack and the Gamecocks met every year from 1956-70 as ACC rivals, then continued to play annually until 1991.