June comes before July, unless you’re a time-traveler (even a lady time-traveler) and June can come whenever you want it to. Were we to travel back in time to July 2016 we just had OUR “June” where the expectations for our basketball team were through the roof and our football team had some promise. Now its July 2017 and its our football team that has lofty expectations while our basketball team has the promise of Kevin Keatts. It’s not just us though, the national media is beginning to turn their heads away from the hot girls on the dance to notice that that one nerdy chick has taken off her glasses. We have a ways to go. Boss Muma posted an article recently where the ACC media tempered our expectations as we received zero first place votes and were picked fourth in our own division. Still, all that is expected when we reside in the same division as that triumvirate, that troika, that ACC-is of Evil (sorry) as we currently do in the Atlantic. While only having slight prospects as a team, some of our individual units are receiving love across the country and that informs the high expectations we still have for this coming year. While SBN’s Bill Connelly breaks State down completely, let us at BTP let’s take a moment, in the middle of July mind you, to take a look at which units are receiving the most love nationally. This’ll be a general look at some nationally prominent sports news websites (ex: SBN, ESPN, SI, CBS, Fox, BR, theACC.com, newspapers, national awards lists etc)...finding how many positive articles have appeared in the last few months regarding an individual player or an entire unit.
(Note: this means “positive” in the sense that the attributes mentioned directly contribute to the field of play...if Dakwa Nichols had a think piece on The Ringer written about him because he helped an old lady cross the street and the rise of generational bias & ageism in America...that doesn’t quite cut the mustard for our RB corps anticipated production this year.)
Offensive Line/Tight End
This is more a general overview and by no means an exhaustive since the end of last season. We know there will be plenty more lists to come as the month of September creeps even closer. Starting with the offense, quarterback Finley receives some love from the ACC’s main site but insignificant mentions elsewhere with one article even discussing McClendon’s transfer prospects in addressing our situation. Our running back situation is also glossed over nationally with Hines getting a nod and the unit as a whole given faint praise but praise nonetheless for its depth. Not enough Jaylen Samuels, and now I can see why the New York Times is failing...a lack of daily front page spreads on Jay-Sam will take a toll on your readership. Possibly our most underrated unit is our Offensive Line/Tight Ends and outside a couple of individual awards they’ve been snubbed nationally . Finally, Kelvin Harmon got some notice but as Alec pointed out a few days ago, the unit has talent but State has a lot to prove historically at that position.
Looking at our defense & special teams it is no surprise our DL, led by Bradley Chubb, received the MOST love...but I think it is interesting to see how much love they’ve gotten. With apologies to Justin Jones, four of our DL have been recognized individually by various services. That is phenomenal. Yet the exultation of that unit doesn’t distract from the ACC’s main site ranking our LB corps highly in the league or Airius Moore from getting tabbed for the Butkus Watch List. AJ Cole’s Ray Guy acknowledgment is most triumphant but that leaves our unacknowledged DBs out on an island unto themselves (pun? no pun? YOU decide).
(One other interesting note, our coaching staff was not included in this little bit of research but that’s probably a good thing. Articles that highlighted the coaching pedigree in our league, fail to mention Dave Doeren much at all. On the contrary, national websites doing the click bait-y “hot seats” articles tended to include Coach DD somewhere on their list. Take all that for what you will.)
Last June State fans weren’t delusional about the prospects of our basketball team, the national media fed a bit into the hype too. Same goes with football this year and...as scary as it sounds...they parallel quite similarly. Embattled coach coming off a disappointing season with some notable staff changes, a couple of nationally lauded players, sitting just outside of most Top 25 lists while playing in the toughest conference/division in the game. Ominous. Yet, still, they diverge. National writers are fueling what should rightfully be a leap forward in year five of the Dave Doeren era as opposed to what should’ve been a return to form in year six of Mark Gottfried. They also differ in that our expectations are high, but more tempered than they were for basketball, after spending years playing in the same division as multiple national champions and Heisman Trophy winners. Also, for football the players receiving national praise aren’t transfers or incoming freshmen like they were for basketball but experienced, system-built upperclassmen across all units. There, in and of itself, is the biggest reason we should feel more comfortable in our confidence THIS post-June will bear more fruits than last year’s did. Well that...and the basketball team didn’t have Jaylen Samuels.