GREENSBORO, N.C. — Day one of the 2014 ACC Football Kickoff is almost in the books. Make sure to pick up tomorrow's P-G (or read online) for full coverage, but here are a few notes to wrap up the day.
- Like most players have been this offseason, Pitt safety Ray Vinopal was very complimentary of the Panthers' new strength and conditioning program. He even brought it up unprompted several times as a reason for potential improvement in 2014. The biggest difference, he noted was an emphasis on players doing things when they're tired, or pushing them past their limits to simulate the experience of being in the fourth quarter of a football game. Pitt lost some close games late last year, and Vinopal was optimistic that wouldn't repeat itself in 2014.
"It's night and day with [strength and conditioning] coach [Ross] Kolodziej," Vinopal said. Now the focus is more on team and competition who's going to push themselves past the level of comfort."
- Wide receiver Tyler Boyd didn't say there's one game he's most looking forward to this season, but noted that he wanted to get revenge on Virginia Tech, who Pitt lost to 19-9 in Blacksburg last year. The Panthers made a late push, but were ultimately done in by eight sacks allowed.
"I know we were capable of going toe-to-toe [with them], we had our chances," Boyd said. "I can’t really explain the line situation, but I felt like we were the better team."
The Hokies come to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night game Oct. 16.
- Boyd also said he's getting more used to throwing with Chad Voytik over the offseason. While Tom Savage passes usually came to Boyd last year with rocket-like speed, he said it has taken some adjusting to get used to Voytik's delivery.
"It’s a little bit slower than with Tom," Boyd said. "Just getting used to that, it’s starting to feel the same now like i’m getting used to it."
- Vinopal said replacing Ejuan Price's potential contributions on defense will require a team effort. Price was lost for the season last week when he needed chest muscle surgery. Vinopal noted freshmen Rori Blair and Hez Trahan as guys who could potentially play a role at defensive end. The silver lining, though, is that defensive end is a spot where a freshman can more easily step in and play right away, especially in pass-rushing scenarios.
- Vinopal was very bullish about the Panthers' linebacking corps, which returns two starters in Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez, and Matt Galambos, who played in several key spots for Pitt last year.
"To have those guys in front of you as a safety, with experience, is huge," Vinopal said. "You're the last line of defense. It’s hard to make a tackle when you start 12 yards deep and no one touches [the offensive player] until he gets there. You could say this or that, but the odds are in the offense's favor when the ball goes untouched to the secondary."
- ACC commissioner John Swofford noted at his opening forum that the NCAA's limit of 20 hours for team-organized activities is "being abused" and was hopeful the push for autonomy could help resolve that.
Vinopal said he regularly spends more than 20 hours a week on football, but most of that comes on his own time in the film room or studying the playbook.
"I don’t feel like 20 hours a week is enough for me personally to have the level of preparedness I would like going into the game," he said.
- North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams said Florida State's national title has had residual effects on the confidence throughout the ACC.
"Anybody could shock the ACC Championship this year, and that’s what impresses me," Williams said. "Literally everybody’s going to come to compete this year. Everybody feels like they have a lot of energy and a lot of confidence since Florida State won the national championship. That builds the other conferences teams’ hype and get more swag, more live in they hood to go compete this year."
- If there's any consensus about the Coastal Division, it's that there's no consensus. The preseason media poll will be released tomorrow, and no team (except maybe Virginia) would really be a huge surprise atop the rankings.
"Everyone in our division is beatable and everyone in our division can beat us," said Duke linebacker Kelby Brown. "If we don’t look at it that way then we’re going to get beat. It’s one game at a time. I know that we can beat everyone in the division, but they all probably feel the same way about us."
- Despite the apparent unevenness between divisions, with Florida State, Clemson and Louisville all in the same division, Swofford said there isn't much talk about realignment. He pointed to the SEC, which saw a period of East Division dominance earlier in the decade with Florida, Tennessee and Georgia, that has now shifted West with Alabama and Auburn as the two favorites.
"Competitive balance is extraordinarily good, in spite of what people see on paper," Swofford said. "If you look at our divisions playing each other, it’s not exactly 50/50 but it’s really close. You can’t really change divisions every time you feel like for a three-year period or a five-year period one division happens to be stronger than the other."