Some brief notes from the ACC Kickoff. There will be many more tomorrow that I wasn't able to fit in for our paper edition. Also, I'm sure GT fans will be somewhat interested in the second note.....
Herzlich completing compelling comeback
There was a moment, not long after his diagnosis with Ewing’s Sarcoma last May, when Mark Herzlich felt down, depressed, discouraged.
“It wasn’t so much a ‘Why me?’ but it was, everything that I had been playing for just all got washed away,” Herzlich said, recounting his thoughts nearly 15 months ago. “You feel a little down, depressed.
“I did everything right. I wasn’t smoking, I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t doing anything that would normally cause cancer, but it happened.”
The former ACC defender of the year, a Herculean-bodied, face-paint wearing Boston College warrior was dealt the most disastrous blow he had ever faced. Unsure of his future, of the rest of his life, Herzlich had difficulty seeing this day come. But he had to; he had to move on.
“Moving forward, after you get it out of your mind, you can’t look back, you can’t be thinking halfway through the treatments, ‘Oh, poor me, why me?’” Herzlich said. “You have to keep pushing.”
Push he did, to the point that last Thanksgiving doctors told him he was fully recovered from his cancer and could play football again if he wanted to.
So, after participating in spring practices—regrettably without hitting a single player—the linebacker began his journey back.
Speaking to reporters at the ACC Kickoff on Sunday, he said his flexibility and strength have improved since the spring. He is able to squat weights and sprint with his teammates. Now, the only question is how he will play? He is hoping for nothing short of the 2008 form that led to his status as the conference’s best defender.
“I don’t see any reason why I can’t be as good as I was in 2008,” Herzlich said.
The film question
Last summer, it was one of the hottest news items to come out of the ACC Kickoff: Just how much video of Georgia Tech’s option offense was Virginia Tech watching?
According to now departed Hokies defensive back Kam Chancellor, he and his defensive teammates paid close attention last offseason to the low-cutting blocking schemes the Yellow Jackets employ, and believed they could figure out what plays they were running based on the blocking execution.
His eyes must have deceived him.
In Atlanta on a chilly midseason night, the Yellow Jackets soared to a 28-23 win over the then-No. 5 Hokies that helped propel them toward later winning the ACC championship.
This summer, when asked if the Hokies had been studying Georgia Tech tape, Virginia Tech defensive lineman John Graves gave a one-word answer: “No.”
“The focus is strictly on Boise State,” he added.
One would imagine Graves might have the Hokies’ Nov. 4 home meeting with Georgia Tech circled on his calendar in red ink, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
The senior defensive tackle who was run from last year’s game with an injury said he has no animosity against the Yellow Jackets, even if a budding rivalry has begun to ensue.
“I don’t hold any hatred toward Georgia Tech, that’s part of the game,” Graves said of the injury.
He admitted, however, that preparing for the Yellow Jackets’ unique spread option offense — even with essentially two weeks as Virginia Tech’s bye falls before the Georgia Tech game — will be a challenge.
“It’s a crazy offense that gets more difficult (to play) each year,” Graves said. “(Georgia Tech head coach) Paul Johnson does a great job over there with his scheme. It’s worked. They won an ACC championship last year.”
Graves was one of two players representing Virginia Tech at the Kickoff — quarterback Tyrod Taylor was the other.
The following are highlights from Swofford’s annual Kickoff-opening speech: In 2009, the ACC led all BCS conferences in student-athlete graduation rates, with Miami finishing tied for first overall among schools with a 100 percent rating. … As a result of the conference’s new TV deal with ESPN properties, iPhone owners can expect an ACC app to follow conference content. … ACC officials will view replays in high-definition when plays are challenged. … With two new bowl partners, the ACC will have teams playing in three bowl games on New Year’s Eve—Noon, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.