PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The 2006 ACC football landscape is dotted with local players poised to make serious contributions to their respective teams. Whether those players are making their debuts, growing in their roles or settling in as starters, many of the coaches and players at this year's ACC Media Days say those athletes are ready for big years.
The University of Miami has four locals on its roster — fifth-year senior kicker Francesco Zampogna, redshirt junior offensive lineman Derrick Morse, sophomore linebacker Spencer Adkins and freshman running back Javarris James.
Morse, a standout lineman at Estero, played in five games as a sophomore and is penciled in as the starter at left guard. Quarterback Kyle Wright, who entered Miami early with Morse, said Morse has the potential to dominate on the offensive line.
"It's just a matter of just him being him on the football field," Wright said. "If he doesn't think, if he just goes and tries to
annihilate people on the football field, he could be our best offensive lineman. He could have a really good year."
Adkins, a Naples graduate and the 2004 Naples Daily News Broxson Trophy winner as the area's top football player, has emerged as the top backup to weakside linebacker Jon Beason. Adkins vaulted over Willie Williams, the nation's top linebacker prospect out of high school, for the job. Williams recently asked for a release from his scholarship.
Beason said Adkins has a shot at doing great things.
"He's a freakish athlete," Beason said. "He's a 4.4 (40-yard-dash) guy and the strongest of the linebackers. No one's even in his class. He plays tight because he's young, but Spencer's going to back me up 100 percent. He's going to play a lot."
James, a two-time Naples Daily News Offensive Player of the Year and a 2004 Class 2A state champion at Immokalee, has the pressure of a great legacy to live up to. His cousin is former Miami star and NFL All-Pro Edgerrin James. Zampogna, a senior on Naples High's 2001 state championship team, is listed as kicker Jon Peattie's backup.
Another former Naples High star, 2001 Broxson Trophy winner Duane Coleman, has performed so well in his conversion from running back to cornerback, that he snagged the Tigers' starting boundary corner job for 2006. He started the final three games of 2005, including the Champs Sports Bowl against Colorado, and finished with 35 tackles and two pass breakups.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said Coleman's toughness helped him the most in the transition. Coleman, on track to graduate in December, also was granted an extra year of eligibility, which Bowden said he'll need to grow as a defensive back.
"If he wants to grow toward the NFL, he needs it," Bowden said. "He needs it to grow both as a football player and emotionally. He's made some good decisions and some bad decisions. Up to a year and a half ago, they were mostly bad. But in the last year and a half, he's made a lot of good decisions for himself."
Jamelle Eugene, a redshirt freshman running back at N.C. State and the 2003 Broxson Trophy winner for Naples High, hasn't made an on-field impact yet. But if you listen to coach Chuck Amato, it won't take long.
Amato has gushed over Eugene's potential, and for good reason. Eugene was named the Wolfpack's most improved runner award following spring drills and was named the offense's top newcomer. He's already listed as the third running back behind sophomores Andre Brown and Toney Baker, who combined for 1,317 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
"I guess we'll have to go to the wishbone," Amato said about balancing the carries between the three backs. "Running back is a position you can't have enough of. A running back can go down just like that.
"Jamelle always has a smile on his face," Amato added. "He's a winner and one of the hardest workers on the team. He gets tackled and he's upset. He doesn't think he should get tackled. That's the kind of kid you like to be around."