CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Latest on ACC Media Days (all times local):
Miami coach Mark Richt said 2017 was the first time in his 30-plus years of coaching he had entered a season without a true fullback on his roster.
He didn't like it.
The Hurricanes tried to use guard Corey Gaynor there and worked out a few linebackers, too. But ultimately, they couldn't find anyone to adequately do the job.
Richt said that hurt that team in short-yardage and goal- line situations.
He won't allow that to happen again.
Richt said that is why freshman Realus George is on the team and why they have moved Trayone Gray to fullback, allowing him a chance to start training at that position. Richt vows that the Hurricanes will have more power in the running game than in years past as they prepare to defend their ACC Coastal Division championship.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said he thinks the Panthers "upgraded" with the hire of defensive coordinator Randy Bates earlier this offseason.
Bates replaces Josh Conklin, who took the head coaching job at Wofford.
Narduzzi said that is not meant as any disrespect to Conklin. He said the Panthers "probably got as far as we could do with our coordinator there at that time."
Narduzzi said Bates, who has nearly four decades of college coaching experience, brings energy to a defense that is returning nine starters from last year and should be much improved.
Pittsburgh linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu said the Panthers are more confident this year following an upset win over 13th-ranked Miami in the team's regular-season finale. He expects that momentum will carry over to this season, saying Pitt is capable of "great things."
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said he's not frustrated over a distraction-filled offseason.
Fuente refused to directly discuss the departure of defensive coordinator Galen Scott, who resigned abruptly. Fuente said during the ACC Kickoff media days that he's "not willing to go down that road," but he wished Scott's family the best.
He did talk about the two starters who won't be back this season.
The Hokies dismissed starting linebacker Mook Reynolds from the team, and starting cornerback Adonis Alexander was declared academically ineligible.
Fuente said the "door has closed" on Reynolds ever returning.
Alexander applied for the NFL's supplement draft and was selected by the Washington Redskins.
Fuente said Alexander asked him in his final meeting to use him as an example for incoming freshmen on what pitfalls to avoid as a college football player. The third-year coach said when players put him in a tough situation, he'll always side with the team over an individual.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora says he doesn't believe it's been proven that football causes CTE and offered a passionate defense of a sport he believes is "under attack."
Fedora made the comments during a set of interviews with reporters attending the ACC preseason media days. He described the sport as an integral part of American culture and says it is "safer right now than it's ever been."
Fedora also stated the game is under attack from people who "twist" data for their purposes, such as arguing it's unsafe.
Numerous researchers have reported a connection between head injuries and concussions with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease known as CTE.
Fedora later returned to the event to speak with a handful of reporters, clarifying to say the game wasn't under attack from rule tweaks to improve safety.
Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris gained respect for coach David Cutcliffe for his ability to pull the Blue Devils out of a six-game losing streak last season and keep them bowl eligible.
After starting the season 4-0, Duke fell into a midseason slump that included losses to Virginia and Army. After a loss to the Cadets, Duke held a team meeting that Cutcliffe called "the best he's ever been around," noting that it changed the course of the season. Duke won its final two regular season games against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and then thumped Northern Illinois 36-14 in the Quick Lane Bowl to finish 7-6.
Giles-Harris says the steady Cutcliffe never changed his mentality during the losing streak and never got down on his players. He says Cutcliffe remained encouraging and confident and the players took notice.
Virginia H-back Olamide Zaccheaus says the addition of new quarterback Bryce Perkins to the offense will make him even more dangerous this season.
The versatile 5-foot-8 senior earned second team All-ACC honors and set a new school record with 85 receptions in 2017. His 895 yards receiving ranked fifth all-time on Virginia's single-season list. He says opposing defenses will need to honor Perkins' ability as a runner, thus taking some of the defense's attention away from him as a receiver.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall says Zaccheaus had the "best spring of any player on his team," but added he's looking for more production this season for the Cavaliers.
Zaccheaus has set his goals high this year, saying he wants to earn All-American honors and help Virginia win a bowl game. The Cavaliers went to the Military Bowl last season, but lost 49-7 to Navy, a game in which they managed only 163 yards on offense.
North Carolina receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams has a knack for the unexpected.
The junior receiver and kick returner pulled off a few trick plays last year for the Tar Heels. That included throwing three passes against then-No. 8 Miami, completing one to quarterback Nathan Elliott for 33 yards on a fake reverse and another when he snagged a lateral with his right hand and hit Beau Corrales for an 18-yard touchdown.
The former high school quarterback also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass against Pittsburgh after opening that game with a 98-yard kickoff return for a score.
Ratliff-Williams says the team worked on those "gadget plays" to catch opponents off guard and disguise when they're coming.
Ratliff-Williams says he's not pressing coaches to let him throw more, saying only: "Whatever the team needs me to do, I'll do."
Georgia Tech linebacker Brant Mitchell says he's looking forward to the new "attack style" defensive scheme installed by Yellow Jackets new defensive coordinator Nate Woody.
Mitchell says players will be moving a lot on defense, making them more unpredictable to the opposing offenses. He's hoping it will allow defensive players to show off their athleticism and speed.
Coach Paul Johnson says the Yellow Jackets need a simpler scheme, allowing them to play faster.
He likes what he's seen so far from Woody, who directed Appalachian State's 3-4 defense the past five seasons. Appalachian State was 15th in the nation in scoring defense the last three seasons.
Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford says he's excited about the future of his conference, saying at the opening of the ACC Media Days that "we are in the best shape we have ever been as a conference with football and basketball."
He also says the ACC's proposed early signing period change "has been a positive addition to the recruiting calendar. The early signing period was initiated by the ACC, as was the new redshirt rule."
The Atlantic Coast Conference opens its preseason media days Wednesday with a focus on the Coastal Division.
The division hasn't had a repeat champion since 2011. This time, Miami is trying to hang onto that top spot after Mark Richt's Hurricanes had their first 10-win season since 2003.
The Coastal also features two of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, with Duke's David Cutcliffe and Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson entering their 11th seasons.
Four of the seven division teams — Miami, Virginia Tech, Duke and Virginia — played in bowl games last year. North Carolina finished last in an injury-riddled three win season, which came just two seasons after the Tar Heels won 11 games and claimed the Coastal crown.
The two-day session concludes Thursday with the Atlantic Division teams.