The Washington Times - July 20, 2008, 07:11PM

GREENSBORO, Ga. —- While there are some ACC teams that seem like decent possibilities to disappoint vis-a-vis expectations (Clemson, Boston College and to a lesser extent Miami are prime candidates), the one hidden gem that could turn out to be pretty darn good is North Carolina.

I’ll admit I like the Tar Heels for the long term, but am a little hesitant to crown them the team most likely to usurp the Coastal Division from Virginia Tech this year. But one big reason it could happen is wideout Hakeem Nicks, who was asked if he was the best receiver in the ACC.


“I think you can argue that,” Nicks said. “Ask [safety] Deunta [Williams] that question. I don’t want to seem like the type [that talks himself up]. I definitely feel there’s some things that I can do, and I definitely compete. But you can’t take anything away from Aaron Kelly. He’s nice, too. … By the end of the season, I plan on coming out on top.”

A couple other guys merit mention, too: Florida State’s Greg Carr, Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey and Duke’s Eron Riley. But Nicks has a scheme to suit his talents, four starters on the offensive line returning, and a sophomore quarterback (T.J. Yates) who played quite well for stretches last season.

He’s got something else, too: Probably the best posse of fellow receivers in the league.

“I can definitely agree with that, with the numbers we put up and what we got coming back,” Nicks said. “We have [Brandon] Tate coming back, one of the most elusive guys in the ACC in my opinion. Brooks Foster, one of the guys you don’t hear about as much, but if you sleep on him he’ll rack up on you. And of course, everybody knows about me and what I can do.”

At least you should. You can argue the 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior is the best wideout in the league.

Just ask him.

 —- Patrick Stevens