Commentary

Tudor: There’s early pressure for some coaches, players

ctudor@newsobserver.comSeptember 1, 2012 

Virginia Tech Wake Forest Football

Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer

BOB LEVERONE — AP

There’s never been an uninteresting opening weekend of college football.

But with so many schools ducking competitive non-conference opponents in early season, it’s at least somewhat amazing that attendance and television ratings remain reasonably high.

In some cases, however, big games aren’t needed to create big pressure.

Here are four examples:

•  Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech coach

Opening game pressure on the ACC’s best coach?

There is some this season. Beamer and the Hokies open Monday night at home against Georgia Tech and if history holds, the winner will represent the Coastal Division in the league championship game in Charlotte on Dec. 1.

The odds of the TechTwice winner getting to the title game are even greater this season because North Carolina is ineligible to advance even if the Tar Heels go undefeated in the regular season.

The Hokies are favored by a touchdown and should win. Stopping the Yellow Jackets’ triple option offense is a lot easier when you’ve had all of August to prepare.

But Beamer’s teams have stumbled out of the gate a time or two in the past against non-league teams. A misstep against Georgia Tech might turn out to be too much to overcome.

•  Bryn Renner, UNC quarterback

New Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora may get a free pass this season, but that’s not the case for Renner.

The son of a coach and knowledgeable in the unpredictable nature of the profession, Renner is playing for his third head coach in three years.

Since Fedora’s hiring, Renner has been upbeat about operating a radically different offense than the one used by Butch Davis and Everett Withers.

In Fedora’s Conference USA-rooted, fast-break attack, quarterbacks live on a high wire, without a safety net and without so much as a fullback for protection.

On probation and ineligible for any sort of postseason play, there’s not a great deal on the line for the Heels this season. But there is for individuals hoping to one day reach the NFL. In Davis’ pro-set offense, Renner was following the same general path as T.J. Yates, who became the first UNC quarterback to make any NFL impact.

Renner suddenly has been handed a new road map.

•  Randy Edsall, Maryland coach

Two and gone?

Probably not, but the 54-year-old former Syracuse quarterback is getting cornered fast. It helps that he has four years left on his contract and the Terps aren’t exactly wallowing in mad money these days.

But after going 2-10 in his first season, Edsall needs to win at least three or four, if for no other reason than for his own peace of mind. With William & Mary up Saturday, Temple next week and his former Connecticut outfit visiting Sept. 15, Edsall will need to bag his goods early. The fourth non-conference game is a trip to West Virginia and the Terps aren’t likely to be favored in a single ACC game.

•  Rio Johnson, ECU quarterback

One of the most intriguing off-season and preseason quarterback competitions in the nation was settled Monday when the junior from Atlanta was announced as the starter against Appalachian State Saturday.

Sophomore Shane Carden took the silver, senior Brad Wornick the bronze and redshirt freshman Cody Keith placed fourth after what Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive chief Lincoln Riley described as an epic positional battle.

The problem with such jockeying, followed by an apparent photo finish between Johnson and Carden, is that there’ll be a lot of second guessing in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium if Johnson struggles.

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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