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Panthers' Cam Newton mentoring Clemson's Deshaun Watson

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has found himself quite a mentor in Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Long before Watson became arguably the biggest star in college football, he and the 2015 NFL MVP struck up a friendship that has been a lasting one, Watson said Friday at ACC Football Kickoff Day 2.

"Me and Cam are very close. I had the opportunity and privilege to meet him my junior year in high school playing for his 7-on-7 team. Ever since then, we just became close friends," Watson said. "We communicate all the time, texts, calls. He gives me good advice off the field, telling me to stay true to who I am, listen to the coaching staff and buy into the process. Don't get distracted with outside things."

Newton was a relative unknown prior to his only season as a starter at Auburn, so he hasn't exactly stood in Watson's shoes where preseason hype and expectations are concerned in college football. Still, the two certainly have some things in common. Both are dynamic, dual-threat quarterbacks, both fell just short on a championship stage last year, and -- as we learned earlier this week -- both have the unwavering respect of Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Here are six other things we learned from the ACC Football Kickoff event on Friday:

2. Star power.FSU's Jimbo Fisher didn't hold back when asked about the strength of the ACC, particularly when it comes top-shelf talent.

"This is a great league. I've coached in other leagues. I know what they are. This is great football, great players. Name me a league that has three bigger stars coming back than Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya," Fisher said.

OK, coach. We'll give it a shot -- here are some other possibilities:

SEC: Leonard Fournette, Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen.

Pac-12: Christian McCaffrey, Adoree' Jackson, Josh Rosen.

Big 12: Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes, Samaje Perine.

Big Ten: Jabrill Peppers, J.T. Barrett, Desmond King.

3. Finishing strong. When NFL scouts delve into game film on Louisville pass rusher Devonte Fields' 2015 season, they'll notice a big difference in his play from the beginning of the year to the end. The reason? Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino said Fields struggled early because the transfer didn't join the program until a day before fall camp began and wasn't initially in good shape.

"He got very sore, his body ached, he broke down a little bit. It took him awhile to get back," Petrino said. "He hadn't played in awhile, so his instincts and abilities were rusty. He just got better and better each week. The last six weeks of the season, he was as dominant a player as we've had the luxury to coach."

Indeed, of Fields' 11 sacks, 8.5 of those came over the last four games of the year. Petrino said the former TCU star will be primed for peak performance to begin his senior year.

4. Cook makes the claim. While Fournette might be regarded as the best running back in the college game, don't ask FSU RB Dalvin Cook to concede the point.

"I am. I'm confident I am," Cook told ESPNU when asked if he was the nation's top back. Given that the Seminoles' entire starting offensive line returns this fall, an area where LSU has some re-tooling to do, Cook just might have a better case by season's end.

5. Bulked up. Last month, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's "First Look" scouting report on Watson suggested the Tigers star, based on game film from 2015, needed to put on some size. Consider that box already checked. Watson added 16 pounds in the offseason and will enter his junior year at 218 pounds, according to ESPN's Andrea Adelson.

6. Growing support. Count FSU's Jimbo Fisher among the supporters for Alabama coach Nick Saban's push to establish an underclassman scouting combine. Like Saban, Fisher believes it would help provide a more accurate draft evaluation, according to ESPN's Jared Shanker.

7. Williams ready. Anticipation is high for Clemson WR Mike Williams, who is returning from a neck injury as the Tigers' top receiver. "He's a freak athlete. Loves to work. Loves to compete. He's going to make the people around him better," Watson said, per Adelson. Swinney said Williams, who pulled in 1,030 receiving yards in 2014, looked "outstanding" in spring practice.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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