ACC Camp Updates
By Brandon Rink
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A little more than two weeks remain until the first ACC game of the 2012 regular season.
We’re getting closer to football, but, to me, August is the longest month of the year.
Football is now being played on practice fields from Chestnut Hill to Coral Gables – the grind of fall camp is shaping depth charts already.
It’s also a grind for those covering your favorite ACC team, with the summer heat, two-a-days and weather delays a part of 24/7/365 cycle of sports coverage these days.
Just in Clemson for your favorite ACC correspondent over the last a couple weeks, a two-game suspension for the ACC’s most electric player (Sammy Watkins), and the end of a decade-long run for Clemson A.D. Terry Don Phillips were thrown in the mix.
On that note, if ever a team was equipped to cover the loss of Watkins, it’s Clemson. But you can’t truly replace him; you just try to cover his spot as much as you can.
The more pressing issue for Clemson's Sept. 1 Georgia Dome showdown with Auburn is a critical injury on an already thin offensive line, with projected starting right tackle Gifford Timothy going down last week with a meniscus tear in his left knee.
Timothy could be back as early as the Friday before game-week after successful surgery last week, but with just a couple practices before hitting Atlanta, the chances of him lining up the next Saturday with significant playing time aren’t high.
The solution? How about preseason first team All-ACC selection Dalton Freeman moving from center to tackle? That idea is currently on the table due to a combination of a lack of depth at tackle and redshirt freshman center Ryan Norton impressing coaches early on in camp.
Swinney said Monday he was “very, very encouraged” by the 6’3, 250-pound Norton, and “very encouraged” overall by the development of the offensive line thus far.
Still, just the idea of such drastic shifts and a redshirt freshman snapping the ball in Chad Morris’ hurry-up scheme against a SEC defensive line in the opener is a bit unsettling.
In Winston-Salem, Jim Grobe just needs five guys to field an offensive line, with projected starting left tackle Steven Chase tearing an ACL and another expected starter at right guard, Daniel Blitch, giving up football.
The Deacs return just one starter (center Garrick Williams,15 starts) as it is.
The injury bug bit fellow division rival NC State as well in camp, with sophomore LB Michael Peek blowing out his knee and sophomore WR Bryan Underwood (226 rec. yards and two touchdowns last season) having surgery on a undisclosed injury that will keep him out for an undisclosed amount of time.
At Boston College, one of the ACC’s top tight ends, Chris Pantale, is out for a “significant” amount of time with a broken bone in his foot. Tuesday, we learned former five-star cornerback Al Louis-Jean will miss 6-8 weeks with an injured foot as well.
In the Coastal, one QB battle wrapped up and another one might just be getting started.
Stephen Morris, to little surprise, is the No. 1 signal caller in Miami, Hurricane coach Al Golden declared Monday. The junior has four starts under his belt, but is coming off pre-spring surgery on his back.
In Charlottesville, a three-way competition between junior incumbent starter Michael Rocco, sophomore transfer Phillip Sims and sophomore David Watford is in full swing, with Watford impressing early, Rocco drawing praise and Sims still the much-hyped new guy.
Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are closing on their crucial matchup, with no real major news coming out of either camp yet.
The Hokies are getting mixed results on their key injuries, with linebacker Tariq Edwards likely out and wide receiver D.J. Coles on track to take the field on Labor Day in Lane Stadium. The Yellow Jackets could be changing kickers with redshirt junior David Scully edging incumbent Justin Moore early on.
We’re closing in on two weeks to college football, with Tennessee and NC State’s Friday matchup kicking it off for the ACC in the Georgia Dome.
It can’t come any quicker.