Gone are multi-year starters, first team All-ACC quarterbacks, and one guy that was taken with the 12th pick in the NFL draft. You would think that would cause some consternation among the league’s players going into the season about getting through the transition, but if there is any they hid it well on Sunday at the ACC Kickoff.
Transition? What Transition?
In terms of confidence in the incoming new starter, no ACC player was more confident than N.C. State tight end George Bryan about the new kid on the block. Despite all the acclaim, records, and awards claimed by the departed Russell Wilson, Bryan almost sounded as if it were a good thing he departed for Wisconsin.
“I don’t even feel like there was a transition,” Bryan said. (Glennon) just stepped in, we’re kind of used to Mike (Glennon) being there this time of the year, now he’s just going to stay there the whole year now.
“He’s great, he’s going to be awesome. I think everybody is going to be really surprised and really pleased with how good he is.
"I can just tell, when he’s throwing the ball, the way he runs the offense, he knows defenses – I just know he’s going to be successful. I think he’s going to be an awesome quarterback, he’s going to do nothing but get better.”
Bryan makes a good point. Because of Russell Wilson splitting time with baseball, the N.C. State football team is probably more used to having Glennon under center in practice than would otherwise be the case.
He’ll Be Great, Whoever “He” Is
Even players on teams that haven’t yet named a starter seem unconcerned. Consider the case of Virginia, who has three quarterbacks with a shot at the starting job going into camp, and is nonplussed – so says wide receiver Kris Burd.
“I really wouldn’t say it’s a transition, because even though Mark (Verica) isn’t my quarterback, the other quarterbacks are still working just the same. It’s just going to be the ball being thrown by somebody else,” Burd said.
“I feel confident about what each quarterback is bringing to the table. I feel like they all have the tools to be a Division 1 quarterback. Once training camp comes around I feel like that competition and that competitive drive – competing for that one spot I feel will bring out the best in them.”
Similarly, although there is a quarterback battle raging in Miami for the starting job, either way – teammates are confident that quarterback is going to be great.
“Right now it’s an even competition (between Stephen Morris and Jacory Harris), they’re out there competing every day and it’s been great to watch. They are very good players,” center Tyler Horn said.
“The way I see is, as long as I’m blocking my man our QBs are going to make plays. It could be either one of them and they’re great. As long as I’m getting my job done, if they’ve got eight seconds to throw the football, they’re going to make a completion.
"They are actually very similar. They both have a fun attitude, they’re always joking in the huddle and enjoy playing football. Their similarities are kind of – outstanding – because they both had their trials and tribulations this past season, but they’ve really grown from it – they are very good.”
New + New = Good Fit
Clemson has a brand new offense and a brand new quarterback to run it. Dalton Freeman expressed full confidence in Tajh Boyd, who is taking over for multi-year starter Kyle Parker.
“He’s done well this off-season,” Freeman said. “He’s always in the meeting rooms, trying to get that little edge, trying to get ahead of somebody, whether that’s our defense when we’re going out there and practicing, or Troy, who’s our first game, or South Carolina which is our last game – he’s always trying to get that competitive edge. You can’t question his want to.”
"This offense in particular is going to really fit him. We’re going to spread it out and it’s going to give him the chance to run the ball every now and then, it’s going to give him a chance to make a read and throw the deep ball, which he’s got a strong arm and is very capable of doing, and also make those quick throws when you’ve got to put it in a tight spot.”
What’s Not to Like?
Virginia Tech’s Danny Coale was more realistic, but still very upbeat about Logan Thomas, who takes over for yet another multi-year starter, Tyrod Taylor.
“I think he’s going to be a really great quarterback for Virginia Tech when all’s said and done,” Coale said. “Is he going to have some bumps along the way? Sure. Everybody has. Everybody’s had those games, but his approach is right and the athletic ability, the ability to play quarterback, they’re all there.
"He’s tall, he’s got a strong arm, since we have some veterans (wide receivers), we might spread them out a little bit more and help the team out there – utilize his arm. I think he’s going step really well into that role.”
Meanwhile down in Atlanta, the Josh Nesbitt era at Georgia Tech is over, and Tevin Washington is now the guy. Roddy Jones sees the pros and cons of both players, but remains confident in his guy.
“I think he’s done a good job in the off-season of embracing that role and becoming the vocal leader that he needs to be,” Jones said. “He’s done a great job of setting up seven-on-sevens, against other schools as well, having us work out some with Georgia State.
"He brings a different skill set than (Josh) Nesbitt did. Nesbitt was a freak of an athlete. We know that Tevin is not going to be the same physical runner that Nesbitt was, but he’s a guy who’s smart and has got a lot of experience – he’s going to do a great job for us.
"Tevin, in the passing game, is not going to be a guy who throws as many bombs as Nesbitt, because Nesbitt had a canon. Tevin is going to be a guy who is going to get the ball out a lot faster, because that’s one of his strengths – he’s got a quicker release with the ball”
Jones went so far as expressing some huge expectations for Washington.
“We’re going to miss Nesbitt, just because he’s the guy who’s been back there for so long, but Tevin is going to lead us to the Promised Land this year,” Jones concluded.
In His Own Words
E.J. Manuel was the only guy new to the job that was present to address the ACC media on Sunday. He passes the “look” test, and was articulate and direct in his answers.
“I think we (Christian Ponder) are more similar than different.” Manuel said. “People want to say I am more of a runner and he’s more of a thrower – Christian could run the ball and throw the ball and I can do the same. Personality wise? Everybody’s different. I wouldn’t say I am just like Ponder or anything like that, we’re both intelligent young men and we want to win.”
How much of a transition will it be for him now as the full time starter? Not much.
“It’s a little different, but I used to always practice like I was going to start. Because I knew Ponder was going to go out there and give it his all every single play. He could go down at any time – I was one play away, that’s what (head coach) Jimbo (Fisher) was always telling me. So having those same habits, even when I was young and wasn’t the starter, it makes the transition a lot easier.”
The Only Constant Is Change
The turnover in the league’s quarterbacks, including North Carolina’s T.J. Yates, is nothing short of dramatic from a season ago. Returning starters Sean Renfree of Duke and Danny O’Brien of Maryland extolled the virtues of having a season under their belts, touting the value of experience, while players who’ll have a new guy under center seem – and in some cases genuinely so – unconcerned about the inexperience of their quarterback.
The good news for all these teams is that if you’re going to have to transition from seasoned veteran to untested former reserve, 2011 is the year to do it – just about everyone else is too.