Clemson Football

The Unofficial Kickoff: Talking season is here

July 16, 2019
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The wait is over, at least for now.

The unofficial kickoff to the 2019 season started Monday at Dabo Swinney’s annual media outing. On Tuesday, we got a chance to chat with the Clemson’s assistant coaches before converging on Charlotte with other members of the media for the ACC Kickoff on Wednesday. 

Here are a couple of topics that are sure to be on the minds of everyone covering the event.

New Year, New Coaches

Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, and Louisville all have new coaches this season that will take the stage at the Westin Hotel’s Ballroom in Charlotte.

Miami, who might be one of the most talented teams in the league, hired Manny Diaz, who served as the defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes under Mark Richt. Last season, Diaz left to take the head coaching job at Temple before having a change of heart after Mark Richt resigned and retired from coaching on Dec. 30, 2018.

Oddly, Richt will also be in attendance at the ACC Kickoff, but in his new capacity as an analyst for the new ACC Network.

As for the Hurricanes, the 2018 season started well going 5-1 out of the gates and looked like the team who many expected to match up with Clemson in the ACC Championship for a second consecutive year, but struggled down the stretch, finished 7-6, getting blasted by Wisconsin in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to end the year.

Can Diaz light a fire back into the program that they had those first six weeks last season? Time will tell.

In Atlanta, Paul Johnson’s tenure came to an end, and the Yellow Jackets hired Geoff Collins from Temple. That’s right; technically two former Temple coaches are joining the ACC in the same season.

With Collins now in Atlanta, it’s going to be weird seeing Georgia Tech not running the triple option. Based on the spring game, as we noted a few weeks ago, Collins is looking to open up the offense with spread formations. This should help get the ball out into space, but it will take some time for him to put his stamp on the program. Recruiting is the real key for the Jackets to change their system, but the new look could be a challenge for teams who face Georgia Tech early this season.

Clemson Sports Talk
Mack Brown returns to North Carolina in hopes of bringing the Tarheel program back to life.

The last name is very familiar to college football fans as Mack Brown returns to Chapel Hill. That’s right, "The Mack" is back. Brown, who spent six years as an analyst for ABC and ESPN returns to the Tarheels as a national championship winner having led Texas to the title in 2006. Brown was the head coach at UNC from 1988-1997, and now he looks to reenergize a program that fell on hard times under Larry Fedora. Can the 67-year-old find the magic from his previous stint and will the Tarheels work their way back to being more like the 11-3 team that played for the ACC Title in 2015?

Brown has already made some early noise on the recruiting trail gaining the commitment of Myles Murphy (not the one committed to Clemson) recently for next year’s recruiting class. If Brown can string together wins on the field, then make strides on the recruiting trail should soon follow.

Scott Satterfield moved on from App State to take the job at Louisville following Bobby Petrino’s firing at the end of the 2018 season. Last season was a disaster for the Cards, as they finished 2-10. Satterfield will look to bring new energy into the program. Can he use what he’s learned in Boone to bring respect back to a Louisville team that’s fallen on hard times?

Clemson’s dominance

It’s a foregone conclusion that Clemson will be picked to win the conference for the 5th straight year by the media. Plenty of Tigers, including Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, will be selected on the all-conference lists at the end of the event. And while games aren’t won and lost on paper ballots, the bigger question seems to be can anyone challenge Clemson this year?

The vibe around the nation and from media members who cover the league is that Clemson will cruise to another ACC title. Who are the likely contenders to dethrone the reigning national champions?

Syracuse is the obvious first choice, seeing as they’ve been the only team in the league to make Clemson sweat the last two seasons within the division. Even still, in both of those games, the Tigers lost their starting quarterback. That’s never an ideal circumstance.

© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson’s last trip to Syracuse ended with the Tigers suffering a 27-24 loss in the Carrier Dome.

Outside of the Orange, NC State could be the other team in the Atlantic, but the Wolfpack will be breaking in a new quarterback, which is always a challenge. 

The Coastal was an absolute trainwreck in 2018, and this season it’s anyone’s guess as to who will make it to the ACC Championship Game. Right now, Virginia seems to be the trendy pick, but honest to goodness you could throw every team in a hat and pick one at random and someone would tell you that you’ve got a winner in your hand. It’s just that close.

However, it will be interesting to see the results from the media vote as to who will match up with who the Atlantic Divison champion in Charlotte on the first Saturday in December.

The fun of starting a television network

The new ACC Network launches on August 22, and that can only help improve the exposure of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The perception is that the ACC, outside of Clemson, is weak. Getting more but eyes on the league is a big deal. Winning is the key, but allowing more fans to see the conference is always a good thing.

The ACC Network should be quite an asset for the conference, and when the ACC Kickoff ends Thursday, things are just getting started. Rest assured as the face of the league, Clemson and Dabo Swinney will get plenty of air time on the new network. 

After things wrap in Charlotte, we will have coverage from the All-In Cookout at the end of July as Clemson will entertain their impressive commits for the 2020 cycle. Fall camp begins in early August and the majority of our time will be spent over at the football complex speaking with players and coaches.

Clemson’s season opener against Georgia Tech is right around the bend-- it’s about to get fun. 

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The Unofficial Kickoff: Talking season is here

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