If Monday’s list of preseason team predictions didn’t tell you all you need to know about ACC football, then Wednesday’s announcement of the All-ACC team surely will.
There’s Clemson, then Florida State, then everybody else.
Of the 26 players selected, 14 play for either the Tigers or Seminoles–nine for Clemson, five for Florida State.
UNC was right behind the perennial powerhouses, though, with three of its players making the team–tying Louisville for third-most.
Thanks to his outstanding work as a punt returner over the last three years, senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer led the way by earning 112 out of a possible 191 votes to be the team’s specialist.
With just one more punt return touchdown, Switzer would have eight for his career. That would tie former Texas Tech and New England Patriot star Wes Welker’s NCAA record for most in a career.
As talented as the Tar Heel offense is projected to be, only junior tailback Elijah Hood–a Charlotte native–was named to the All-ACC offensive squad. His 97 votes placed him second behind Florida State speedster Dalvin Cook, who received an astonishing 184 votes.
After posting the second-most prolific rushing season in Tar Heel history in 2015, Hood is poised to break out in a big way this season.
Defensively, senior cornerback Des Lawrence received his due for helping the UNC secondary–known as the “Rude Boys”– become one of the best units in the nation at stopping the air attack.
Like Hood, Lawrence also calls the Queen City his home.
They also share another similarity in that Lawrence also finished second in voting at his position–coming up 53 votes short of Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley for the first-string nod.
Tar Heel fans can take pride, however, in knowing that no other North Carolina ACC school–Duke, NC State or Wake Forest–had a single player recognized as part of this team.
In all, only eight of the conference’s 14 schools were represented–proving that this honor isn’t exactly the easiest to obtain.
Moving forward, though, each of these 26 players will have to prove their worth on the field over the course of the next four months.
Should they do that, they’ll end up on a list that’s even harder to make–the postseason All-ACC team.
Full Preseason All-ACC Roster
WR – Artavis Scott, Jr., Clemson
WR – Isaiah Ford, Jr., Virginia Tech
WR – Travis Rudolph, Jr. Florida State
TE – Jordan Leggett, Sr., Clemson
OT – Roderick Johnson, Jr., Florida State
OT – Mitch Hyatt, So., Clemson
OG – Dorian Johnson, Sr., Pitt
OG – Tyrone Crowder, Jr., Clemson
C – Jay Guillermo, r-Sr., Clemson
QB – Deshaun Watson, Jr., Clemson
RB – Dalvin Cook, Jr., Florida State
RB – Elijah Hood, Jr., North Carolina
DE – DeMarcus Walker, Sr., Florida State
DE – Ejuan Price, r-Sr., Pitt
DT – Carlos Watkins, r-Sr., Clemson
DT – DeAngelo Brown, Sr., Louisville
LB – Ben Boulware, Sr., Clemson
LB – Keith Kelsey, Sr., Louisville
LB – Devonte Fields, Sr., Louisville
CB – Cordrea Tankersley, Sr., Clemson
CB – Des Lawrence, Sr., North Carolina
S – Derwin James, So., Florida State
S – Quin Blanding, Jr., Virginia
PK – Greg Huegel, r-So., Clemson
P – Justin Vogel, Sr., Miami
SP – Ryan Switzer, Sr., North Carolina
As if there was any need for more pressure on this year’s UNC football team, the Tar Heels were officially named the favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division on Monday.
Based on a poll of 191 media members last week at the conference’s annual kickoff event, Clemson is projected to repeat as champion after receiving 144 first-place votes–but only after going through UNC in the league title game once again.
Although Florida State (39) garnered more first place votes than the Tar Heels (seven), the Seminoles compete in the same division as Clemson. This assures that the two schools won’t be able to play against each other for the conference championship in December.
The ACC also announced its preseason Player of the Year voting–which saw the Tigers’ star quarterback Deshaun Watson take home 166 first-place votes.
Mirroring the team projections, Florida State’s speedy tailback Dalvin Cook was second with 18 votes–while UNC’s bruising tailback Elijah Hood received four votes to end up third.
ACC Championship Votes
1. Clemson – 144
2. Florida State – 39
3. North Carolina – 7
4. Louisville – 1
(First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Clemson (148) – 1,293
2. Florida State (42) – 1,176
3. Louisville (1) – 961
4. NC State – 704
5. Boston College – 441
6. Syracuse – 426
7. Wake Forest – 347
(First place votes in parenthesis)
1. North Carolina (121) – 1,238
2. Miami (50) – 1,108
3. Pitt (14) – 859
4. Virginia Tech (3) – 697
5. Duke (2) – 597
6. Georgia Tech (1) -588
7. Virginia -261
ACC Player of the Year
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson – 164
2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State – 18
3. Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina – 4
t-4. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami – 2
t-4. Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville – 2
5. DeVon Edwards, CB/KR, Duke – 1
Last season, the UNC football team set a pair of lofty goals—hoping to win the ACC Coastal Division for the first time, while also defeating their three biggest in-state rivals.
A year later, that mission has been accomplished.
As a result, the Tar Heels showed up in Charlotte at 2016’s ACC Media Day facing some of the highest expectations the program has ever seen.
With the amount of returning talent it has–both on offense and defense—UNC is among the favorites to claim the Coastal Division yet again.
The most important piece, though, is someone who’s never started a game.
New starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky—the first big-time recruit at his position under head coach Larry Fedora–spent the last two years learning behind Marquise Williams. Now he’ll finally get his chance to shine.
However, his transition will certainly be made easier by all of the veteran playmakers around him—including his roommate, senior wide receiver Ryan Switzer.
“I joke with Mitch all the time at the house about how fortunate he is to step into the position he’s in,” Switzer told reporters. “I don’t know of any other team that’s returning what we’re returning on offense.”
The agile slot-man is expected to be a huge focal point of the high-speed Tar Heel attack, but he’ll also be flanked by a pair of receivers 6-foot-4 or taller in Mack Hollins and Bug Howard.
Then there’s the bulldozer in the backfield—junior tailback Elijah Hood. After posting the second most prolific rushing season in school history as a sophomore, you can expect him to receive another heavy workload.
On top of that, the team returns four of its five starters on the offensive line.
“It’s not so much that we outdo ourselves, or outdo the numbers we put up,” Switzer said. “We just gotta continue to be more consistent on a drive-to-drive basis—and make sure that we don’t waste all the weapons we do have.”
While a majority of the media attention this offseason has been given to the UNC offense, the defense should be able to make yet another stride in its second year under defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.
Despite losing a pair of veteran linebackers in Jeff Schoettmer and Shakeel Rashad, young faces like Andre and Jonathan Smith are expected to bring a new level of explosiveness. T
he strength of the defense, though, should again be in the secondary–with senior Des Lawrence leading the way.
“We’re just trying to reach new heights,” Lawrence said Thursday. “I think that everybody is challenging themselves to be better—and that of course is gonna make our defense better.
“Me personally, I’m challenging the secondary to be better than we were last year,” he continued. “I think we were top 10, top 15 [nationally] in most categories.”
As the countdown continues toward the Tar Heels’ season opener in Atlanta against Georgia—an SEC powerhouse loaded on both sides of the ball–it’s clear why Fedora doesn’t want expectations for his team blown out of proportion.
“We’re excited about [opening the season against Georgia],” Fedora said. “It’s kind of a measuring stick that says ‘Where are we at this point?’
“At the same time, we know that a game like that doesn’t make or break our season.”
The talent is there, yes, but the Tar Heels schedule also includes road games at Florida State and at Miami.
It’ll be a difficult task for UNC to repeat its 8-0 ACC record from 2015, but here in speculation season anything—and I mean absolutely anything–is possible.http://chapelboro.com/featured/expectations-at-an-all-time-high-for-unc-football
With a draft that lasts for 40 rounds and numerous minor league franchises, it’s common for the MLB to have hundreds of high school baseball players who decide to bypass college and go straight into their professional careers.
Following this year’s draft, only 127 of Baseball America’s top 500 high school prospects chose to attend school–where they will be forced to spend at least three years before their next shot at the pros.
Of that group of 127, UNC will have six of them arriving in Chapel Hill next season. Only Mississippi, with seven, had more commitments.
It’s unclear how much the young players–five of whom are right-handed pitchers–will fit in with the current roster.
As it stands, the Tar Heels’ current strength lies in its pitching–especially its right-handers–with power hitting being the team’s biggest need.
The highest-ranked player in the UNC haul is Tyler Baum, a slender 6-foot-2-inch righty out of West Orange High School in Ocoee, Florida.
Baum is joined by fellow pitchers Austin Bergner (No. 165), Luca Dalatri (No. 174), Robbie Peto (No. 179) and Bo Weiss (No. 189).
Weiss is the son of former Tar Heel great and major league shortstop Walt Weiss, the current manager of the Colorado Rockies.
The five hurlers will be accompanied to campus by No. 208 on the list–catcher Brandon Martorano.
When they arrive at Boshamer Stadium, they’ll represent the final recruiting class under former assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Scott Jackson.
Jackson accepted the head coaching job at Liberty earlier this week.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-receives-commits-from-six-of-top-500-high-schoolers
It may not make him much different from anyone else, but here’s a true story about UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams.
He loves Hawaii.
When the bracket for November’s Maui Invitational was released on Wednesday he was plenty excited to talk about his upcoming trip–one that has brought the Tar Heels good fortune in the past.
The perfect temperatures, sandy beaches and deep blue oceans make Hawaii the ideal vacation spot.
But to use one of the greatest sports clichés of all time, the Tar Heels are supposed to be on a business trip—attempting to win three games in three days against a field full of tough major conference opponents
Making his tournament-record sixth appearance as a head coach, Williams knows more than anybody how tough it is to stay focused out there.
“First time I went [in 1996 while at Kansas], I thought it was the greatest preseason tournament I’ve ever been involved in,” he said during the tournament’s media teleconference. “I almost would not leave the islands–until they promised me I could come back four years later.”
If history tells us anything it’s that another trip to the Final Four could be in the cards for UNC depending on how the team performs in Maui.
In each of the three seasons–1999, 2004 and 2008–the Tar Heels took home the prize, they ended up reaching the Final Four later on that year.
Listening to Williams, it appears this year’s group led by veterans Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks should have the right makeup to accomplish the feat again.
“It is a long trip, and you’ve gotta remain focused on why you’re going,” the coach said. “So you need experienced players that have been through it before.
“We’ve been successful sometimes, and sometimes we haven’t been as successful.”
UNC will get a break in the first round this season, as it was matched up with the host school—Division II’s Chaminade University. Although the Silverswords have pulled major upsets before, it’s highly unlikely in this instance.
Should the Tar Heels move on, they’ll play the winner of Oklahoma State and UCONN. Awaiting them in the finals could be one of four strong teams—including Oregon, a No. 1 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
In preparation for the early season gauntlet, UNC has already used each of its four summer practices as Williams gets his young players acclimated to the college game.
“My goal has always been—number one–let the freshmen understand what practice is gonna be like,” Williams said. “Number two is to talk to them and get them to understand the secondary break.
“And then three is the pace of the game that we want to play with,” he added. “To emphasize to them that they may think they’re in shape, but they’re nowhere near in shape to play.”
By November, every player should be in full game shape as the Tar Heels look to embark on yet another successful season.
And sure, it might not be the end of the world if UNC comes up short in Maui like it did back in 2012. But previous evidence says this vacation usually ends up a lot like Groundhog Day.
Win and good things happen. Lose and they don’t.
Only time will tell if that remains true.http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-hopes-maui-invitational-brings-good-luck-yet-again
The home dugout at Boshamer Stadium is set to undergo the biggest facelift it’s had since 2008.
For nearly a decade, the Diamond Heels’ coaching staff led by Mike Fox, Scott Jackson and Scott Forbes has been a constant while the UNC baseball program reached heights it had never previously seen.
Now, after the Tar Heels have missed out on two consecutive NCAA Tournaments, a new era is set to begin–as Liberty University reached an agreement this past weekend to hire Jackson as its new head coach.
After helping the Tar Heels reach six NCAA Tournaments and three College World Series appearances, Jackson was recognized by Baseball America as one of the nation’s top assistants prior to the 2013 season in which UNC won a school-record 59 games.
Jackson also had the duty of being the recruiting coordinator on Fox’s staff–helping to bring in future major league talent like Kyle Seager (Seattle Mariners) and Colin Moran (Houston Astros).
“I am thrilled for Scott to take this next step in his coaching career,” Fox said, in a statement released by UNC. “He is a tireless worker who will do a fantastic job at Liberty. He has helped lift our program to another level since joining the staff in 2008, and we will miss him in Chapel Hill.
“I wish Scott, his wife Sara, and their boys Ryan and Tyler nothing but the best moving forward. Liberty is getting a coach and a family that will represent the university with total class.”
The news comes after Liberty’s former head coach, Jim Toman, stepped down after his ninth season at the helm.
One year prior to joining the staff at UNC, Jackson was the pitching coach under Toman at Liberty.
He has also had coaching stints at his alma mater, Campbell, as well as UNC-Wilmington, Wofford and Barton.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-assistant-scott-jackson-named-head-coach-at-liberty
Over the last three seasons at Kenan Stadium, a buzz has taken over the crowd each time 5-foot-10 wide receiver and punt return specialist Ryan Switzer gets his hands on the ball.
As he enters his senior year, it appears the rest of the nation is starting to recognize what those in Chapel Hill have known for a long, long time.
The Louisville Sports Commission named Switzer as one of 43 players on the watch list for the Hornung Award–which, for the last six years, has been given annually to the most versatile player in college football.
Switzer led the Tar Heels in 2015 with 55 catches for 697 yards and six touchdowns. The two-time All-American returner also brought two punts back for scores despite many opponents making a conscious effort to kick the ball away from him.
He enters 2016 with seven career punt return touchdowns–just one shy of tying the all-time record set by former Texas Tech star Wes Welker.
A panel of college football experts compiled the Hornung Award Watch List using a combination of 2015 statistics, career performance and expectations heading into the 2016 season.
It’s safe to say that Switzer has each of those boxes checked–and then some.
To win the trophy, however, he’ll have to outperform three of last year’s four finalists: RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), WR/CB Adoree Jackson (Southern California) and LB/S Jabrill Peppers (Michigan).
Past winners and finalists include: Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU/New York Giants), Tavon Austin (West Virginia/Los Angeles Rams) and Randall Cobb (Kentucky/Green Bay Packers).
“I’m ecstatic that the Paul Hornung Award has gained national prominence in such a short time,” said Paul Hornung, the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner who played every position in the offensive backfield during his Notre Dame career–and was a triple threat halfback for the Green Bay Packers of the early 1960s.
“During the past six years the quality of our winners, finalists and weekly honorees has been impressive,” he added. “And I’m pleased that we are able to acknowledge outstanding players who contribute any way possible to help their teams win the way I did.”
The award will be presented in late February at a banquet in downtown Louisville.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/ryan-switzer-on-watch-list-for-hornung-award
UPDATED on Friday, July 15, 2016
The sports world was brought to its knees on the fourth of July when former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant announced his intentions to sign with the Golden State Warriors in free agency–adding yet another layer to what was already the NBA’s most talented team.
Durant’s spotlight-stealing moment came just days after the Memphis Grizzlies re-signed point guard Mike Conley–a solid starter, albeit one that’s never made an All-Star Game–to the largest contract in NBA history (five years, $153 million).
A dramatic increase in the league’s salary cap caused by the league’s new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal has made this free agency period has one of the craziest of all time.
As many as nine former UNC players have found themselves on the market this summer–some hoping to cash in big and others hoping they can cash in at all.
This round-up is designed to keep you up to date on those former Tar Heels, and how they’ve been affected by the madness.
Harrison Barnes: Signed with the Dallas Mavericks (four years, $94 million)
As our own Art Chansky wrote recently, there may be no player who helped themselves more during this period than the former Golden State swingman.
The NBA Finals may not have gone his way, but he was rewarded soon after with a max contract and a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster.
Durant may have taken his job in Golden State, but Barnes will be just fine now that he’ll have a larger role with the Mavericks–not to mention the larger contract.
He’s expected to take over the starting small forward spot in Dallas after Chandler Parsons left Dallas to sign with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Marvin Williams: Re-signed with the Charlotte Hornets (four years, $54 million)
The former No. 2 overall pick in 2005 is coming off perhaps the best season of his career playing for owner–and Tar Heel legend–Michael Jordan.
He shot a career-high 40 percent from beyond the three-point line while averaging 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game–playing as a stretch forward who was able to help space the floor for dynamic point guard Kemba Walker.
Yahoo’s NBA guru Adrian Wojnarowski said Williams received offers from other teams that totaled more than $15 million per year.
However, the idea of remaining in Charlotte was much more appealing to the 11-year veteran.
Raymond Felton: Signed with Los Angeles (one year, $1.5 million)
Tyler Zeller: Restricted Free Agent (Boston Celtics)
Despite seeing a significant decrease in playing time last season in Boston–his total minutes dropped from 1731 in 2014-15 to 710 in 2015-16–the Celtics tendered a qualifying offer to Zeller before the free agency period began.
What this means for the seven-footer is that he’s allowed to agree on a contract with any of the league’s 30 teams–but with a catch.
The Celtics have the right to match any offer that Zeller accepts, as long as it’s within three days of him signing that opposing deal.
Should Zeller end up unable to find a long-term contract he likes, he’d return to Boston to play out his one-year qualifying offer before becoming an unrestricted free agent next season.
Ty Lawson: Unrestricted Free Agent
After spending his first six seasons in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets becoming one of the league’s most talented–and quickest–point guards, Lawson has spent the last year in an unceremonious fall from grace of sorts.
An offseason arrest in Los Angeles for DUI–the fourth of his life–prompted a trade to the Houston Rockets, where he never quite fit in with stars James Harden and Dwight Howard.
Houston ended up agreeing to a buyout with Lawson midway through the season with the 2009 national champion at UNC averaging just six points and three assists per game–well below his career averages of 14 points and 6.6 assists.
He then spent 13 games with the Indiana Pacers before ultimately becoming a free agent again this offseason.
Although no suitors have emerged yet, Lawson granted an interview to Slam Magazine where he stated he hopes to play in an up-tempo system where he promises a “new Ty Lawson” will flourish.
Tyler Hansbrough: Unrestricted Free Agent
In many eyes, Hansbrough is the greatest college player to ever step foot in Chapel Hill.
Unfortunately, the ACC’s all-time leading scorer has yet to make his mark at the next level.
Psycho T has set career lows in scoring over the last three seasons with the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets. His peak came during his second full season with the Indiana Pacers, as he scored a career-high 11 points per game back in 2010-11.
With Toronto his average fell to just 4.9 point per game in 2013-14, then 3.6 in 2014-15–before dropping just 2.4 per game last year with the Hornets.
Charlotte’s recent signing of 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert means it’s highly unlikely that the Hornets bring Hansbrough back for another shot.
Wayne Ellington: Signed with the Miami Heat (two years, $12 million)
The third free agent from UNC’s 2009 national title run, Ellington will be searching for his seventh team in eight seasons.
He declined a $1.5 million player option with the Brooklyn Nets in search of a more lucrative deal as a role player who can bring outside shooting off the bench.
A career 37.6 percent shooter from three-point range, Ellington will bring the most useful skill in the game to any team that he ends up with.
He was most recently in the news for winning the PBWA Citizenship Award, an honor he received for speaking out against gun violence in the wake of his father’s murder.
James Michael McAdoo: Re-signed with Golden State Warriors for One Year Deal
Although he’s played in just 56 games in his two-year career, McAdoo entered the public eye once again during the NBA Finals.
As a member of the Golden State Warriors, McAdoo was given crucial playing time as a way for the Warriors to maintain their preferred “small-ball” style.
ESPN’s Marc Spears reported that McAdoo had re-signed with the Warriors on Friday.
PJ Hairston: Unrestricted Free Agent
Hairston has struggled in his transition to the NBA, as he has yet to find the shooting stroke that made him such a threat as a Tar Heel.
In two seasons spent with the Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies, Hairston has averaged just six points per game–even though he was a starter in Charlotte for the first half of last season.
Part of that is his career three-point percentage of just 29 percent when much of his game depends on outside shooting.
With his off-court troubles and attitude issues having been documented heavily in recent years, it’s unclear what the future holds for the enigmatic shooting guard.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/nba-free-agency-the-tar-heel-round-up
Can times be any better for Larry Fedora right now?
The UNC head football coach coming off a school record 11-win season, ACC Coastal Division Championship and a brand new contract extension added another honor to his list last Friday.
He was one of just 24 coaches selected to the preseason Watch List for the 2016 Dodd Trophy, which is the most coveted coaching award in college football.
It is a distinction given to a coach who is not only successful on the field, but also one who stresses the importance of scholarship, leadership and integrity–the three pillars of the award’s namesake, former Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Dodd.
Other nominees for the award include Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer–two coaches who have made the sport their own personal playground in recent years.
Georgia’s new head coach Kirby Smart, who will coach the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game against Fedora on Sept. 3, also found his name on the list.
The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl–along with the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation–is one of the trophy’s two presenting sponsors.
Although widely recognized as a great football mind and recruiter, the former Alabama defensive coordinator has never coached a single game.
Now though, UNC’s season opener–sponsored by Chick-Fil-A–can be billed as a matchup of top 25 teams and coaches.
For those counting at home, that game between the Tar Heels and Bulldogs is just over seven weeks away.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/larry-fedora-nominated-for-dodd-trophy
With the departure of Landon Turner to the NFL, the UNC offensive line is in need of a new leader.
Enter Jon Heck.
A member of the All-ACC second team in 2015, Heck was recognized last week as one of 70 players to watch for this year’s Outland Trophy–the award given to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman.
During his first three years as a Tar Heel, Heck has started 38 games–including all 14 last season.
Although he has been known in recent years as more of a pass-blocking specialist, the numbers show Heck’s made great strides in the run department as well.
His partnership with fellow veterans Turner and center Lucas Crowley helped UNC clear the way for a much-improved ground attack in 2015.
Elijah Hood ran for over 1,400 yards out of the backfield, while quarterback Marquise Williams nearly tacked on another 1,000.
Heck’s contributions to the Tar Heels may not be pretty, but they are much-needed–especially if the team wants to continue its winning ways again in 2016.
Of the 70 players nominated for the Outland Trophy, Heck is one of just 22 offensive tackles on the list.
By November, only six or seven semifinalists will remain in contention for the honor–before the final three candidates are chosen to attend the Home Depot College Football Awards in Atlanta on Dec. 8.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/jon-heck-selected-as-candidate-for-outland-trophy