GREENSBORO — Dabo Swinney sat where he sat on Monday at the ACC Kickoff in part because of what happened the last time Clemson entered a football season with expectations as high as they are now.
Back then, in 2008, the Tigers were picked to win the ACC but instead stumbled to a 7-6 finish amid a disappointing season in which former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden resigned. Swinney, the former receivers coach, became the head coach. And now his program is perceived as the best in the ACC.
Media members covering the ACC’s annual preseason kickoff made Clemson the overwhelming choice to win the league. The Tigers received 102 of a possible 120 first-place votes in the Atlantic Division, and Clemson was picked to defeat Miami, the Coastal Division favorite, in the ACC championship game.
Tajh Boyd, the Clemson quarterback, also was selected as the ACC preseason player of the year. He received player of the year honors last season.
“It’s so not even worth having a conversation about,” Swinney said of entering the season as the ACC favorite. “I know it’s fun for people to make predications, but all that preseason stuff I tell our team, is based on past performance. Come November, that’s when it’s based on reality and present performance.”
Among North Carolina schools, both N.C. State and North Carolina were picked to finish third in their divisions. Wake Forest was picked to finish fourth, behind the Wolfpack, in the Atlantic Division, and media members picked Duke to finish seventh, in last place, in the Coastal.
Fedora predicts passing milestones: One-hundred catches for North Carolina receiver Quinshad Davis? Twelve touchdown receptions for Eric Ebron, the Tar Heels tight end? Larry Fedora, the UNC coach, believes those milestones are within reach entering his second season.
On the possibility of Davis catching 100 passes, Fedora simply said, “I don’t see why not.”
“If he stays healthy, he’s very capable of doing that,” Fedora said. “And I don’t see why we wouldn’t try to get the ball in his hands as many times as possible.”
Davis caught 61 passes during his freshman season last year – and 25 of those receptions came in UNC’s final two games. Ebron, meanwhile, also figures to play a large role in the Tar Heels’ passing game.
“He’s going to give me 12 touchdowns, I can tell you that,” Fedora said. “I don’t know how many catches he’s going to get, or how many yards, but he will have an opportunity to do those things. More importantly for me, he’s going to give me 12 touchdowns.”
Doeren surprised by vote: The media picked N.C. State to finish third in the Atlantic Division behind Clemson and Florida State. The Wolfpack is the only Atlantic team to beat both Clemson and FSU since 2011 but it has to replace 13 starters from last year’s 7-6 team.
First-year coach Dave Doeren didn’t expect N.C. State to be picked so high in the division with so much personnel turnover and the quarterback situation unsettled.
“I was surprised (by the vote),” Doeren said. “We’re going to be a young team.”
N.C. State went 4-4 in the ACC last season and finished third behind FSU and Clemson, which both went 7-1.
Wolfpack’s red light special: Doeren won’t divulge any details about the use of the phrase the “red light is on” on Twitter when a recruit commits to the Wolfpack. He’s more than willing to talk about why he and his staff have been so active on Twitter.
“It’s how kids talk to each other,” Doeren said. “It’s great way for us to be a part of mainstream and to get our image and our vision out there.”
Doeren called the Twitter usage “free advertising.” As for how the “#RedLight” hashtag started, Doeren’s less informative.
“That’s an inside deal,” Doeren said.
Senior cornerback Dontae Johnson said the hyper social media activity has been a hit, even with the current players, as well as recruits.
“That’s like my mom texting,” Johnson said. “That’s how our generation connects and by doing that he’s able to connect to recruits and that’s really smart.”
Holliday joins Duke staff: There’s a new staff member for Duke: undergraduate assistant Blair Holliday. Now 13 months removed from the personal watercraft accident that left him fighting for his life, Holliday is continuing to recover from the brain injuries that left him in a coma. He has been enrolled in both summer sessions and will once again work with the team in the fall (he assisted the Blue Devils’ video department last spring).
“He continues to be involved and around football, and that’s great,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s miraculous.”
Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter