One hundred columns and counting

Published 10:08 am Monday, July 25, 2016

100 columns. That means it’s time to pause and give thanks.

Thanks to the Almighty for allowing me to grind out this many and thanks to you folks for reading, ignoring, analyzing, or whatever you’ve done with the past 99; I’m grateful.

We’ll start the hundredth edition with some early football prognosticating. The Atlantic Coast Conference met earlier this week – Thursday – in Charlotte for the annual Football Kickoff with the football coaches and some players gathered to talk about the upcoming season.

The Atlantic Division is going to be a two-team race between Clemson and Florida State and its probably going to come down to whoever wins in Tallahassee on October 29 in what will probably be the game that determines the league champ. Sorry, rest-of-you-guys, but the best you’re playing for is third place in this powerhouse division. But don’t count out Louisville. The Cards could be the swing team that, unfortunately, could keep the ACC out of another run at a national championship. More on this division next week, stay tuned.

I want to open things with a look at the Coastal Division where the most noticeable change will be that this is the division where three of the league’s four new head coaches reside: Mark Richt back at his alma mater, Miami; Bronco Mendenhall (love that name!) at Virginia, and Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech.

Defending Coastal champ North Carolina should repeat, but there are some questions the Heels will have to answer, and answer them early.

Mitch Trubisky’s moving into the leadoff spot at quarterback over the departed Marquise Williams means UNC’s pocket passing game should be just as productive and high-scoring as it was a year ago.

Carolina’s receiving corps is what Larry Fedora really can smile about: Ryan Switzer, Austin Proehl, Mack Hollins, and Bug Howard give the Heels not only quick feet, but steady and sure hands for a well-stocked bunch of pass-catchers. Switzer, hoping to return to his All-American – not just All-ACC caliber effort, also gives UNC a threat as a punt and kick-returner.

The Heels also sport a powerful ground attack in tailback Elijah Hood leading UNC’s ground game coming off 1,463 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns en route to the ACC Championship game.

On defense, what Gene Chizik did with – let’s face it: baling wire and duct tape – at the beginning of the year; but what became a solid rock wall by the time they reached Charlotte, will be at least as good, if not better. Graduation left some big holes to fill, but I think they’ll be okay.

As for the rest of the division, Pat Narduzzi did a great job at Pitt after losing his top threat in running back James Conner to Hodgkin lymphoma, and still carving out an 8-5 season. They’re my sleeper team this year.

Paul Johnson will return Georgia Tech back to the top tier of the division, just not in the top two; the Jackets are young, very young.

Miami, or Virginia Tech, will flip-flop fourth and fifth place. Quarterback Brad Kaaya gives Richt a good weapon starting out, but will they have the receivers, and what about this team on defense? The Hokies have assistant Bud Foster returning to guide their defense, but early on their offense is suspect.

Duke’s run-to-glory may be over. Coach David Cutcliffe will have them back sooner rather than later, it’s just going to take some time – so no ‘up jumps the Devil’ this year.

That leaves UVA bringing up the rear. I have faith in Mendenhall – and I’m anxious to see what former ECU head man Ruffin McNeill does with the Wahoo defensive line – but Charlottesville has a huge rebuilding project ahead of them.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.