CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — When Butch Davis coached at Miami, his defenses weren't shy about telling opponents how good they were.
Linebacker Quan Sturdivant sees signs that his North Carolina team is developing a similar self-confidence.
"We're going out there, trying to get a little bit of a swagger," Sturdivant said with a wry smile.
Now the Tar Heels hope to give themselves something to brag about. They bring back an Atlantic Coast Conference-best nine starters from last year — but that unit ranked 11th in the league in total defense, was next-to-last against the pass and gave up huge chunks of yards at inopportune times.
North Carolina gave up at least 300 yards in each of its last five games last season, a major reason why they were 2-3 down the stretch. Three of those foes — Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and West Virginia in the Meineke Bowl — cracked 400 yards.
"Consistency — there were pieces of the defense that played brilliantly," Davis said. "There were games that we created turnovers. There were games that we played extremely well against the run. There were games we played extremely well against teams that threw the ball. We've got to put those kinds of games together for 60 minutes."
RODDY OR NOT
Georgia Tech running back Roddy Jones has missed most of the preseason practice schedule while recovering from a dislocated wrist. He finally joined contact drills this week but with so little time to prepare he might seem unlikely to play in Saturday's opener against Jacksonville State.
Even so, coach Paul Johnson isn't ruling Jones out.
"Roddy Jones is available if we want to play him," Johnson said before adding he may make "a game-time decision" on the sophomore.
"Physically, he can go if we need to have him," Johnson said.
Jones rushed for 214 yards in last year's 45-42 win over Georgia and finished the season as the Yellow Jackets' third-leading rusher. Junior Jonathan Dwyer, the 2008 ACC player of the year, is expected to again be the featured back.
Georgia Tech lists sophomore Embry Peeples and junior Anthony Allen as the starters at A-back, where Jones started last season.
UP SPILLER'S ALLEY
Clemson star C.J. Spiller has bowling on his mind. But this time, it involves an alley and pins, not a game on New Year's Day.
Spiller says he enjoys bowling, goes about once every two weeks and carries a 150 average.
"I need to get it up if I want to on the big stage," Spiller said with a smile.
Spiller's already reached the big stage in college football. He's had 12 touchdowns of 50-yards or longer. Half of those scores have been for at least 80 yards. He was a preseason all-ACC pick at running back and as a return specialist.
Too bad Clemson doesn't have a bowling team or Spiller, who also ran track at Clemson, might have been a three-sport athlete for the Tigers.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is one of the winningest active coaches in the country, and that status surely give him some standing among fellow coaches.
The Hokies open against No. 5 Alabama in Atlanta in a game that will help the winner — probably more than it should, he said, because the preseason polls can't help but be artificial with no results yet.
"All of us would be better served if we probably started that poll later on," he said. "It makes for good summertime reading, but I think the accuracy of it would probably be better if we waited a while. See what kind of team you've got this year."
Beamer also said he plans to "lobby hard" to try and get the NCAA to allow for an exhibition game for colleges.
"In college, you play an opponent, and that's the first time you've hit somebody else other than your own team," he said. "I don't know why we wouldn't do something like that."
For the first time in his nine-year stint as Maryland's head coach, Ralph Friedgen had his players elect team captains.
The Terrapins lost 30 seniors from last season's team, making leadership a concern. So Friedgen had his juniors and seniors vote for two captains on offense and two on defense, and to enhance the process he had the foursome "swear in" on a Bible.
The 2009 captains are quarterback Chris Turner, offensive lineman Phil Costa, cornerback Nolan Carroll and linebacker Adrian Moten. All are seniors except Moten, who is a junior
"Picking those four captains kind of told the whole team: These are the guys we want you to look up to, these are the guys to set an example," Carroll said.
Florida State freshman Dustin Hopkins has a lot in common with another Seminoles kicker who was asked to make a difference immediately upon arrival.
Hopkins will be the Seminoles' field goal kicker in his first collegiate game, against archrival Miami in a nationally televised game Monday night when the two schools renew a series where national titles were decided on kicks — mostly missed ones.
Coach Bobby Bowden's 1993 team had highly touted freshman Scott Bentley, who had graced national magazine covers upon his arrival.
Times have changed: Hopkins has been muzzled by coaches as part of a new Florida State edict that puts freshmen off limits to the media until they've done something — at least in the coaches' opinion.
Hopkins replaces Graham Gano, who's with the Baltimore Ravens.