The start of the football season must be close, because we are now in “media days countdown mode.”
In a mere 16 days from Tuesday, coaches and two players from each ACC school will travel to Charlotte for the league’s annual kickoff event. The Hurricanes chose sophomore linebacker Shaq Quarterman and junior running back Mark Walton to represent them.
Tuesday is also 35 days from Aug. 1, when Miami opens fall practice, and 67 days from its Sept. 2 season-opener against Bethune-Cookman.
At the ACC Kickoff, held July 13-14, players and coaches sit for interviews with various media, pose and preen for video and still cameras, and engage in various league-sponsored activities. All who are working at the event have the goal of producing material which previews the upcoming season.
The league’s media members also pick the preseason all-conference teams and predict the division races. Expect Miami to receive plenty of votes as an ACC Coastal favorite.
Walton, whose rushing stats (1,117 yards, 14 touchdowns) are second only to Heisman-winning Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson among returning ACC players, is the only running back at the event. He’s the first Miami running back to be invited since Duke Johnson (2014). Quarterman, who was third among ACC freshmen in tackles (84) and had more tackles for loss (10.0) than any ACC freshman since 2009, is the first UM linebacker at the event since Raphael Kirby (2015).
It’s doubtful we’ll see a repeat of 2015, when no Hurricane made the preseason All-ACC first team. That has happened twice since UM joined the league in 2004, the other time being in 2008. The Hurricanes were coming off seven-loss seasons both years.
It’s also unlikely we’ll see a repeat of another moment from 2015.
If you’re curious, a list of players Miami has brought to media days joining the ACC in 2004: quarterback Brad Kaaya and punter Justin Vogel (2016), Kaaya and Kirby (2015), Johnson and linebacker Denzel Perryman (2014), quarterback Stephen Morris and defensive end Shayon Green (2013), and running back Mike James and cornerback Brandon McGee (2012), center Tyler Horn and linebacker Sean Spence (2011), kicker Matt Bosher and defensive end Allen Bailey (2010), offensive tackle Jason Fox and safety Randy Phillips (2009), Fox and defensive end Eric Moncur (2008), defensive end Calais Campbell and offensive guard Derrick Morse (2007), quarterback Kyle Wright and linebacker Jon Beason (2006), defensive end Thomas Carroll and offensive tackle Eric Winston (2005). Quarterback Brock Berlin attended in 2004, the Hurricanes’ ACC Kickoff debut.
It is a reasonably relaxed affair, and for some, it used to be something close to a summer vacation.
Before 2016, the ACC Kickoff was a three-day affair at a resort that included a golf tournament — media, league personnel, and even a few coaches and players commingled — and players and coaches each had their own days with the media. The league now asks one division’s players and coaches to run the drill per day. Many of the league’s football coaches, Mark Richt included, were happy to accept that decision. It means they and their players can fly in, perform their duties, and fly home for a late dinner.
At the Westin Charlotte hotel, UM’s Quarterman and Walton will get to hobnob with players like Jackson, a Boynton Beach High grad and the first reigning Heisman winner to participate since 2014 (Florida State’s Jameis Winston, the 2013 winner). If they need advice on how to handle the spotlight, they can seek counsel from Syracuse linebacker Zaire Franklin. He will be the first ACC player to make a third straight appearance.
The list of attendees:
Jon Baker, Offensive Lineman, 6-3, 298, Senior, Millis, Mass.
Harold Landry, Defensive End, 6-3, 250, Senior, Spring Lake, N.C.
Tyrone Crowder, Offensive Guard, 6-2, 340, Redshirt Senior, Marston, N.C.
Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle, 6-4, 310, Junior, Springfield, Mass.
Daniel Jones, Quarterback, 6-5, 210, Redshirt Sophomore, Charlotte, N.C.
Bryon Fields, Jr., Cornerback, 5-11, 185, Redshirt Senior, Charlotte, N.
Deondre Francois, Quarterback, 6-2, 205, Redshirt Sophomore, Orlando, Fla.
Derwin James, Defensive Back, 6-3, 211, Redshirt Sophomore, Haines City, Fla.
Ricky Jeune, Wide Receiver, 6-3, 212, Redshirt Senior, Spring Valley, N.Y.
KeShun Freeman, Defensive End, 6-2, 250, Senior, LaGrange, Ga.
Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, 6-3, 200, Junior, Pompano Beach, Fla.
Jaire Alexander, Cornerback, 5-11, 192, Junior, Charlotte, N. C.
Mark Walton, Running Back, 5-9, 205, Junior, Miami, Fla.
Shaquille Quarterman, Linebacker, 6-1, 240, Sophomore, Orange Park, Fla.
Bentley Spain, Offensive Tackle, 6-6, 300, Senior, Charlotte, N.C.
M.J. Stewart, Cornerback, 6-0, 200, Senior, Arlington, Va.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Jaylen Samuels, All-Purpose, 5-11, 223, Senior, Charlotte, N. C.
Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, 6-4, 275, Senior, Marietta, Ga.
Brian O’Neill, Offensive Tackle, 6-6, 305, Redshirt Junior, Wilmington, Del.
Avonte Maddox, Cornerback, 5-9, 180, Senior, Detroit, Mich.
Eric Dungey, Quarterback, 6-3, 221, Junior, Lake Oswego, Ore.
Zaire Franklin, Linebacker, 6-0, 244, Senior, Philadelphia, Pa.
Kurt Benkert, Quarterback, 6-4, 229, Redshirt Senior, Cape Coral, Fla.
Quin Blanding, Safety, 6-2, 215, Senior, Virginia Beach, Va.
Cam Phillips, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 199, Senior, Laurel, Md.
Andrew Motuapuaka, Linebacker, 6-0, 233, Redshirt Senior, Virginia Beach, Va.
Cam Serigne, Tight End, 6-3, 250, Redshirt Senior, Ashburn, Va.
Wendell Dunn, Defensive Lineman, 6-3, 250, Redshirt Senior, Miami, Fla.