Eric Russell

ACC Notebook: Winston Is All That And More

Created on Sept. 03, 2013 7:10 AM EST

From Johnny Football To Jaboo

There must be something about redshirting. Though he wasn't a freshman like Johnny Manziel  and Jameis Winston, RGIII came off a redshirt season (due to injury) and passed for more than 3,000 yards in each of the next two seasons. He even won the Heisman in the second of the two seasons.  Then everybody learned of Manziel last season when he won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman. Now, it appears Jameis Winston is the next redshirt freshman star.

A little more than a week ago, my colleague Joe Jenkins released his rankings for every FBS quarterback. During the staff's discussion of the rankings, I commented that Florida State's Jameis Winston — No. 24 on the list — needed to show something before being ranked so high.

On Monday night, he showed that and more in the Seminoles' 41-13 victory over ACC newcomer Pittsburgh.  

Accuracy, arm strength and everything else several people raved about during the offseasson. He even won over the media with his charisma in post-game interviews and the press conference. Since week one is clearly the time to crush Heisman hopes — as if the temperature wasn't near 90 degrees here in South Carolina at game time Thursday — I figure its also a perfect time to throw another hat into the Heisman race. So I hereby declare Jameis Winston the Heisman front runner (until next week at least).

UNC = Umm ... Not Complete 

Of course the big ACC/SEC showdown was Saturday, but the appetizer for the Top-10 matchup featured the Tar Heels, who had a chance to make a statement.  Coming off an 8-4 year, UNC is looking to turn the corner and reach that next tier of programs. Yes, they have the potential to make some noise this year, but Thursday night showed they aren't quite there yet. 

The offense showed flashes. Then the defense would show flashes. The two never seemed to sync up so to speak in the 27-10 loss. Bryn Renner and company followed defensive stops with non-scoring drives, and even when the offense would pull closer the defense would get gashed for another big play. UNC got the attention of many last year and in the offseason, and once they shore up the defense they'll start living up to the hype. 

They received high praise from South Carolina prior to the game. Throughout preparation, some Gamecocks reportedly referred to the Tar Heel offense as 'Clemson Lite.' So until UNC works out the kinks, they can take some sort of positive out of the fact they were compared to one of the best offenses in the conference. Even if it is by a team who has beaten said offense four straight years. 

The Lights Came On And The Youngsters Came To Play

Early on it appeared North Carolina wouldn't be the only team from the state to lose to a school from their Southern neighbors. But then the lights went off (the game was delayed for nine minutes) and the freshmen came out to play. Jim Grobe played nine true freshmen in Wake Forest's 31-7 victory over FCS opponent Presbyterian. 

However, it was redshirt freshman Jonathan Williams who had the biggest impact. He was responsible for 143 of the Demon Deacons' 219 passing yards. Granted it was Presbyterian, but If Tanner Price has found another weapon to accompany Michael Campanaro, Boston College may be in trouble Friday. Although Chase Rettig to Alex Amidon is a comparable offensive threat.

Nonetheless, the two teams' ACC opener this week will be interesting to watch. By interesting, I mean a better viewing option than UCF vs. Florida International on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET. Or is it?

Beamer Ball Gone Wrong

Kickoff returns, punt returns, interceptions taken back to the house. Saturday's Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game had all the things you once expected to see in Virginia Tech. However, it was Alabama making the type of plays associated with Beamer Ball. 

There's good news and bad news for Hokies fans. The good news: Virginia Tech's defense is performing as it usually does. The bad news: Logan Thomas seems to be performing as he usually does.

Alabama's offense only gained 206 total yards. Everybody seemed to make plays for the Hokies defense. The unit finished the game with 12 tackles for a loss, including four sacks. They also limited McCarron's time in the pocket and disrupted the passing game. All good signs considering it will be the recipe for winning in the ACC. 

As for Thomas, there's nowhere to go but up from his lackluster performance in the opener.  

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