PIEDMONT - Piedmont senior running back Dreek Thompson knew he was going to touch the football one final time in the second quarter Friday night against rival Cherokee County.
GAYLESVILLE – It took all of 17 seconds Thursday night for the Sand Rock Wildcats to set the tone of their 2014 football season opener at Gaylesville.
There's plenty of buzz around the Atlantic Coast Conference with the addition of a new team, the latest Heisman Trophy winner and the reigning national champion.
Top-ranked Florida State's run to the national title and the arrival of fast-rising Louisville have raised the ACC's national profile.
But the strength of the league as a whole this season could depend on the arms of numerous unproven commodities at quarterback — besides Jameis Winston, the Seminoles' Heisman winner, of course.
At least 10 schools will debut new starting QBs this week, including three transfers and a pair of true freshmen.
Those concerns might be unfounded, new Clemson starter Cole Stoudt said.
"According to some of the guys, we're not going to get a first down," said Stoudt, who is replacing three-year starter Tajh Boyd.
"I think people are going to be shocked by what we're going to do," he added. "People are underestimating what we have, looking at all the negatives instead of the positives we have."
The numbers perhaps tell a different story: According to STATS, only nine current ACC quarterbacks have made at least one career start — and three of them made those starts at other schools.
Only one ACC QB — Duke's Anthony Boone — ever started a game for his current school before last season.
And no one in the league has made more career starts than Winston — all 14 of his came during his big redshirt freshman season in 2013.
A major subplot this season will be whether the ACC can produce a serious challenger for the Seminoles — and along with that, whether there's another elite quarterback in the league who can make his team a legitimate threat to Florida State.
Boone says the league "absolutely" needs another quarterback to step up and challenge Winston — and naturally, he hopes he'll be the one to do it.
The Duke quarterback said he hung around with Winston over the summer at the Manning Passing Academy and the Heisman winner told him "I'll see you in Charlotte" for a rematch in the ACC championship game.
"As a competitor, you want to be the best on your team, you want to be the best in your league," Boone said. "If somebody told me that I can challenge (Winston), that's fine with me."
The league's only other returning full-time starter is Terrel Hunt of Syracuse. North Carolina is still deciding between Marquise Williams — who started six games last season due to injuries to regular starter Bryn Renner — and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky.
David Watford started all 12 games of Virginia's 2-10 finish last year. But backup Greyson Lambert, a redshirt sophomore, beat Watford for the starting job with all of 75 college passes on his resume.
"His pass attempts have been more than nine of the likely starters to be named starters" in the ACC, coach Mike London said. "There is an experience that this year, this team, that the quarterbacks do have."
Plenty of other first-time starters also will get their chance this weekend.
Two transfers from Florida — Jacoby Brissett at North Carolina State and Tyler Murphy at Boston College — are pegged to start their new teams' openers along with ex-Texas Tech backup Michael Brewer, who's now at Virginia Tech.
Brissett, who made four total starts for the Gators in 2011 and '12, promised to "just make sure I don't mess up the first snap."
At Miami, true freshman Brad Kaaya beat out another transfer — Jake Heaps, formerly of BYU and Kansas. And John Wolford will become the first true freshman QB since 1974 to start a Wake Forest opener.
"He is our best quarterback, so I can't worry about whether he's a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior," new Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. "In a perfect world, you'd always love to have the guy be in the system for one or two years before he plays. But we're going to put the guys out there that give us the best chance to win. And he clearly won the job."
Now, it's time for all those new quarterbacks to show they can win games.
AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, South Carolina; Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Will Graves in Pittsburgh; and Hank Kurz Jr. in Charlottesville, Virginia, contributed to this report.Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Several teams throughout Alabama got an early start to the 2014 high school football season last weekend, including some ranked teams in Class 3A.
Like most folks, I have certain days I look forward to every year.
For most of us, summer is a time of relaxation – trips to the beach, the mountains, or anywhere else just to take it easy.
CEDAR BLUFF – Cedar Bluff senior running back D’Shawn Fife isn’t looking in the rearview mirror. As far as he’s concerned, last season is in the past. He’s focused on the here and now.
CENTRE – Cherokee County High School freshman quarterback Tyren Dupree said he’s been working on his footwork over the summer. He’s getting one-on-one attention from former quarterback and current Warrior quarterback coach Skylar Ray at practice.
GAYLESVILLE – At the Class 1A level, losing 10 seniors from the previous football season would signal a rebuilding year.
SAND ROCK – Sand Rock head coach Russell Jacoway was none too happy when the Alabama High School Athletic Association announced its reclassification plans in January.
SPRING GARDEN – In years past, depth has been a problem for the Spring Garden Panthers, but that doesn’t appear to be the case for the 2014 football season.
PIEDMONT – Piedmont football coach Steve Smith has never been shy when it comes to scheduling premier opponents on the Bulldogs’ schedule every year.
COLLINSVILLE – Collinsville senior running back Jalyn Martin had a banner 2013 football season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns.
HOOVER, Ala. – Fairy-tale seasons don’t happen often in college football, but the Auburn Tigers were so close to completing one in 2013.
HOOVER, Ala. – The end of the 2013 football season was a bitter pill for the Alabama Crimson Tide to swallow.
JACKSONVILLE – Two days before fall football practice began, Jacksonville State sophomore quarterback Eli Jenkins walked into the Gamecock Field House. The Ole Miss overtime victory from the 2010 season just happened to be on television, and he couldn’t help but sit down and watch.
ROME, Ga. – The Shorter Hawks have already put last year’s 2-9 effort behind them as the team looks forward to a more successful season in the Gulf South Conference in 2014.
Football isn’t the only thing making a welcome return during the fall season.
MONTGOMERY - Despite struggling to move the ball and stop Class 4A, No. 3 Dadeville’s running attack throughout most of the game, Piedmont put itself in a position to win in its Champions Challenge match-up in Montgomery Saturday night.
CROSSVILLE -The Collinsville Panthers traveled to Crossville to play Fyffe and Valley Head in football jamboree action on Friday. The Panthers failed to score in a 35-0 decision to Class 2A, No. 2 Fyffe. Collinsville tied Class 1A, No. 8 Valley Head 0-0.
SPRING GARDEN - Eight high school football teams had their last dress rehearsal before beginning the 2014 season next week. Spring Garden hosted Sand Rock, Gaylesville, Cedar Bluff, North Sand Mountain, Glencoe, White Plains and Weaver on Thursday night at Panther Stadium.