Winners and Losers of 2014 ACC Media Days

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2014

Winners and Losers of 2014 ACC Media Days

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The ACC Football Kickoff took place Sunday and Monday in Greensboro, North Carolina, and even though it didn't boast the excess of SEC Media Days, it did feature the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles.

    Represented by head coach Jimbo Fisher, cornerback P.J. Williams and, of course, quarterback Jameis Winston, FSU was easily the main attraction of the event. But with fully afroed Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley (pictured above) among other non-Seminoles superstars in attendance, it was not the only contingent worth seeing.

    Here are some winners and losers from Greensboro.

Winner: Jameis Winston

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Let's start with the main attraction.

    Jameis Winston was polished and forthright with his answers. He was prepared for the tough questions. Sunday marked a return to the Jameis of old—the funny, charming, gregarious person we saw prior to all the off-field issues. 

    It was nice to see an old friend again.

    Winston also (smartly) spoke in vague terms when asked about Crab Leg-gate. Per Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post, he twisted a question about it into a general meditation on leadership:

    I don't go into detail, but I did fix it and I've learned from my mistakes. Like I always say, the leadership I've gained from my past mistakes has gotten better. I learned what it really takes to be a leader and everybody's going to be watching you. You have to do the right thing.

    That seems like the smartest way to play this.

    Winston was also voted the runaway favorite for ACC Player of the Year. Overall, it was an encouraging afternoon.

Loser: Whoever Voted Brenden Motley for ACC Player of the Year

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    This one is…just kind of weird.

    It's OK to not vote for Winston for ACC Player of the Year. One might argue it's a little misguided, but the votes cast for Clemson's Vic Beasley (a returning All-American), Miami's Duke Johnson and Duke's Jamison Crowder at least made a little bit of sense.

    The vote for Brenden Motley? Not so much.

    Motley is locked in a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job with Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer (the tentative favorite) and last year's No. 2 option, Mark Leal.

    Even if he was sure to win the job, voting a Scot Loeffler quarterback for Player of the Year over last year's Heisman winner seems absurd.

    Why? Just why?

Winner: Bobby Petrino

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    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    The second main attraction after Jameis Winston, new (and old) Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino handled himself pretty well.

    So did the ACC media. It took nearly 10 minutes before Petrino was asked about his past and his personal life—his previous departure from Louisville, the adultery at Arkansas, etc.

    When he was, he did not shy away from saying, "I need to prove to myself and other people on a daily basis that this is the right decision," per The Courier-Journal's Jeff Greer.

    Is he a paragon of humility? Of course not. Actions speak much louder than words. But Petrino did the only thing he could during his presser: not shy away from questions and speak like a man who's changed.

    We'll see in the coming years whether it's an act.

Loser: North Carolina

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    What do we make of the Coastal?

    North Carolina received more first-place votes (27) than projected champion Miami (26), but it still finished fourth behind the Hurricanes, Duke and Virginia Tech. One could reasonably say all four of those teams are co-favorites, but UNC is technically at the "bottom."

    Does any of this matter? Not really. Preseason predictions are something to talk about and little else. If anything, this might actually be a blessing, a clipping for head coach Larry Fedora to post on the bulletin board before the season. It's the "nobody believes in us" theory.

    But this still feels like a bit of a slight for a team that Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer (and yours truly) thinks could be a national sleeper.

Winner: Cole Stoudt

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    One can only tell so much from media days.

    That is, it's hard to tell from one session at a podium what kind of quarterback Cole Stoudt will be. There are more important factors at play. He still needs to prove it on the field in a real, live, actual game.

    But Stoudt stuck out nonetheless for the way he handled himself in Greensboro. He was confident and charming, and he sounded like a leader.

    "Last year…I set a couple records for accuracy and passing efficiency, and I'm very proud of that," he told reporters. "But I also have to continue to keep getting better."

    That is the right kind of attitude.

    Even though his head coach thinks he runs like Gumby, Stoudt seems up for the challenge of replacing Tajh Boyd.

Loser: Dabo Swinney

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson's offense should be fine next season. It still has Chad Morris behind the wheel, and there is enough potential at the skill positions to replace Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Roderick McDowell to a serviceable degree.

    Still, there should also be a noticeable drop-off. You don't lose pieces like that and remain one of the best offenses in college football, but don't tell that to Dabo Swinney.

    Per Jon Solomon of CBS Sports, Swinney said he still thinks this will be one of the best offenses in America. He's a winner for his optimism but a loser for realism.

    Clemson can be quite good next season, but its offense will have a pretty steep learning curve. The best offenses in the country have to click from the opening weekend.

    It's just a bit overly romantic.

Winner: Denzel Perryman

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Denzel Perryman made some noise Sunday afternoon.

    The senior linebacker was easily the most quotable player in Greensboro, and everyone in attendance was better off for it.

    First, he said that Winston can expect to see a Miami fan dressed as a crab this season—an allusion to his spring citation for stealing from a supermarket. That should be a treat!

    Perryman also said Miami could have a top-10 defense (nationally!), which would be a massive departure from the past two seasons.

    Would you have the stones to tell him how unrealistic that is?

    I didn't think so.

Loser: Virginia

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    It's not that Virginia finished last in the Coastal predictions. That was to be expected. It was how Virginia finished last in the poll.

    The Wahoos got just 142 points, almost 200 behind sixth-place Georgia Tech (322). Every other team got at least one first-place vote. The division, it would seem, is up for grabs for anyone next season.

    For anyone who isn't Virginia.

    Is that fair, though? Even after a 2-10 season, this team has a chance to be plucky. The defense was subtly fantastic last season, and if it gives up fewer big plays, it could be recognized as one of the best in the country.

    As Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports tweeted Monday, even a slightly reliable offense would make this team decent. In a division so wide-open, why not a little more love?