ACC: Andre Branch

One good reason: Clemson

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
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We’re taking a look at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.

The series continues today with one good reason why

Clemson will defend its ACC title: It’s oozing talent at the offensive skill positions. Heisman-caliber quarterback? Check. 1,000-yard rusher? Check. All-American receiver? Check. The trio of quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver Sammy Watkins will make the Tigers one of the toughest teams in the country to defend. They’ve got options. Lots of them. And they’re not rookies anymore. Last year, under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, those guys helped Clemson score an ACC-best 470 points – the seventh-highest total in ACC history. Ellington’s 5.78 per-carry average is the second-highest in the ACC among returnees who have more than 1,000 career rushing yards (Georgia Tech’s Orwin Smith leads with 9.87). Boyd set a single-season ACC record by running and throwing for 38 touchdowns last year. And Watkins broke both the Clemson and ACC records for most receptions by a freshman with 82 catches.

Why it won’t: Clemson loses six starters from its offensive and defensive lines. The Tigers must replace three starters on the offensive line and three starters on the defensive line from 2011. Left tackle Philip Price, right tackle Landon Walker, and right guard Antoine McClain graduated, along with defensive tackle Andre Branch, the team’s leading pass rusher last year, defensive tackle Rennie Moore (43 tackles, 4 sacks) and nose guard Brandon Thompson (46 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Including tight end Dwayne Allen and cornerback Cody Sensabaugh, the Tigers will lose a combined 232 career starts. Also factor in the new-look defensive line will be under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and that’s almost an entirely new look for the defense.

More in this series

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
12:30
PM ET
You think Dabo Swinney was bummed losing to South Carolina, imagine how Jack Leggett feels ...

Miami leads ACC draft contingent

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
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Despite a 6-6 season in 2011, Miami led all ACC schools with six players getting selected during this past weekend's NFL draft. The ACC as a whole had 31 players selected, the third most among all conferences, behind the Big Ten (41) and, yes, the SEC (42).

NC State had five players taken, the second most among ACC schools. Neither the Hurricanes nor the Wolfpack had any players taken in the first two rounds. Duke and Maryland both had zero players drafted.

Luke Kuechly, as expected, got the ball rolling for the conference Thursday night, when the Panthers took the former Boston College inside linebacker ninth overall. I was a little surprised to see Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, projected by many as a late first-rounder, fall all the way to the Jets at No. 43.

Here's a school-by-school breakdown of the draft, followed by a round-by-round breakdown:

Miami: 6
NC State: 5
Clemson: 4
FSU: 4
Wake Forest: 4
Virginia Tech: 3
UNC: 2
Georgia Tech: 1
Virginia: 1
Boston College: 1

FIRST ROUND
No. 9, Panthers: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
No. 16, Jets: DE Quinton Coples, UNC
No. 31, Giants: RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

SECOND ROUND
No. 38, Jaguars: DE Andre Branch, Clemson
No. 43, Jets: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
No. 52, Titans: OLB Zach Brown, UNC

THIRD ROUND
No. 64, Colts: TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson
No. 69, Bills: WR TJ Graham, NC State
No. 72, Dolphins: DE Olivier Vernon, Miami
No. 86, Steelers: LB Sean Spence, Miami
No. 93, Bengals: DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson
No. 94, Giants: CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

FOURTH ROUND
No. 96, Rams: WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest
No. 97, Dolphins: RB Lamar Miller, Miami
No. 100, Browns: WR Travis Benjamin, Miami
No. 105, Bills: OLB Nigel Bradham, FSU
No. 113, Cowboys: OLB Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest
No. 115, Titans: CB Coty Sensabaugh, Clemson
No. 117, 49ers: G Joe Looney, Wake Forest

FIFTH ROUND
No. 144, Bills: T Zebrie Sanders, FSU
No. 163, Packers: OLB Terrell Manning, NC State

SIXTH ROUND
No. 152, Cowboys: WR Danny Coale, Virginia Tech
No. 176, Jaguars: CB Mike Harris, FSU
No. 187, Jets: S Josh Bush, Wake Forest
No. 198, Ravens: WR Tommy Streeter, Miami
No. 200, Eagles: G Brandon Washington, Miami

SEVENTH ROUND
No. 210, Vikings: ILB Audie Cole, NC State
No. 225, Seahawks: DE JR Sweezy, NC State
No. 237, 49ers: DE Cam Johnson, Virginia
No. 239, Giants: DT Markus Kuhn, NC State
No. 241, Packers: T Andrew Datko, FSU

Mocks aplenty on NFL draft eve

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
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It's NFL draft eve, and it's the last Wednesday before the event, meaning one last chance for our team of analysts to predict how this weekend will unfold.

Mel Kiper Insider and Todd McShay Insider reveal their final draft boards, and each has a mock Insider, with McShay and the rest of the Scouts Inc. team going seven rounds full Insider.

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, naturally, tops the list, going No. 5 to the Buccaneers. North Carolina end Quinton Coples is next off the board at No. 19, to the Bears, with wideout Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech going two spots later to the Bengals.

How do the rest of the ACC's draft-eligible players stand? Let's take a look:

ROUND 2
No. 36, Buccaneers: RB David Wilson (Virginia Tech)
No. 50, Bears: OLB Zach Brown (UNC)
No. 58, Texans: DE Andre Branch (Clemson)
No. 59, Packers: RB Lamar Miller (Miami)

ROUND 3
No. 64, Colts: DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson)
No. 68, Buccaneers: CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech)
No. 72, Dolphins: OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
No. 76, Texans: TE Dwayne Allen (Clemson)
No. 80, Cardinals: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
No. 82, Titans: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)
No. 91, Ravens: G Joe Looney (Wake Forest)
No. 95, Raiders:
DE Cam Johnson (Virginia)

ROUND 4
No. 100, Browns: OLB Nigel Bradham (FSU)
No. 124, Bills: OLB Sean Spence (Miami)
No. 125, 49ers: CB Chase Minnifield (Virginia)
No. 128, Vikings: OLB Terrell Manning (NC State)
No. 129, Raiders: OLB Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest)
No. 130, Ravens: WR Danny Coale (Virginia Tech)

ROUND 5
No. 154, Jets: WR Tommy Streeter (Miami)
No. 157, Falcons: WR TJ Graham (NC State)
No. 159, Steelers: G Brandon Washington (Miami)
No. 162, Saints: CB Coty Sensabaugh (Clemson)

ROUND 6
No. 176, Jaguars: DT Marcus Forston (Miami)
No. 178, Bills: ILB Audie Cole (NC State)
No. 188, Broncos: DE Rennie Moore (Clemson)
No. 191, Bengals: WR Travis Benjamin (Miami)
No. 197, Packers: OT Andrew Datko (FSU)
No. 205, Browns: G Antoine McClain (Clemson)

ROUND 7
No. 209, Rams: WR Dwight Jones (UNC)
No. 240, Steelers: DE Matt Conrath (Virginia)
No. 242, Jets: TE George Bryan (NC State)
No. 243, Packers: RB Davin Meggett (Maryland)
No. 245, Browns: DT Markus Kuhn (NC State)
No. 250, Chargers: CB Donnie Fletcher (BC)

Here's a breakdown by school of the 37 ACC players that Scouts Inc. thinks will be drafted:

Miami: 7
Clemson: 6
NC State: 5
Virginia Tech: 3
UNC: 3
Virginia: 3
Wake Forest: 3
FSU: 3
BC: 2
Georgia Tech: 1
Maryland: 1
Duke: 0
Mel Kiper took a different approach Wednesday to potential NFL Draft outcomes, listing who he would pick if he were selecting for each team in Rounds 1-3, Insider then compiling those players into a "best possible" scenario Insider for each franchise.

The tally revealed 14 players from ACC schools in the first three rounds, and, to change things up a bit, we'll list them here in order of the selection Kiper has them going to their respective teams.

No. 9, Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly (BC)
No. 12, Seahawks: DE Quinton Coples (UNC)
No. 38, Jaguars: WR Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech)
No. 45, Cowboys: OLB Andre Branch (Clemson)
No. 46, Eagles: LB Zach Brown (UNC)
No. 51, Eagles: TE Dwayne Allen (Clemson)
No. 53, Bengals: CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech)
No. 60, Ravens: OLB Terrell Manning (N.C. State)
No. 63, Giants: RB David Wilson (Va. Tech)
No. 65, Rams: RB Lamar Miller (Miami)
No. 69, Redskins: OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
No. 84, Falcons: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
No. 86, Steelers: DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson)
No. 93, Patriots: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)

Kuechly has moved up a spot to No. 9 on Kiper's 25-man Big Board this week, Insider and Coples has dropped a spot to No. 15.

On Todd McShay's 32-man draft board, Kuechly is up three spots to No. 7, Insider Coples is down five spots to No. 14 and Hill has moved in at No. 30. Branch rounds out the ACC contingent at No. 31, having dropped two spots.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
12:00
PM ET
Slightly less fanfare for hoops signing day ...

Four ACC players in McShay mock

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
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Boston College's Luke Kuechly and North Carolina's Quinton Coples are the first ACC players off the board in Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay's mock draft this week Insider, going Nos. 11 and 12 to the Chiefs and Seahawks, respectively.

McShay presents as many as five scenarios for each NFL team in this mock, ultimately placing players where he thinks the chips will fall come draft day. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, McShay suggests, is Houston-bound at No. 26, while Clemson's Andre Branch is going to the Packers at No. 28.

Mel Kiper, meanwhile, lists Coples as one of the five players he feels are being a little overrated versus where he assumes they will go in the NFL Draft Insider, writing:
A very good player, but he doesn't fit the profile that would have him as the best 4-3 defensive end in most years. Coples belongs in the middle of the first round and becomes a little overrated for me when I see him pegged as a safe top-10 pick.

Coples is No. 14 on Kiper's 25-man Big Board this week Insider, four spots behind Kuechly at No. 10.

Hill dropped from No. 4 to No. 5 among receivers this week on Kiper's top-5 by position Insider, and North Carolina State's Terrell Manning fell from fourth to fifth among outside linebackers. The rest of the ACC contingent remained in the same spots as last week.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth mock draft Wednesday goes two rounds Insider, with Clemson and North Carolina each featuring two players, the most among ACC schools.

Kiper has the Tar Heels' Quinton Coples going 12th to the Seahawks and Zach Brown going 46th to the Eagles. The Tigers have a pair of second-rounders in Andre Branch (42nd, Dolphins) and Dwayne Allen (51st, Eagles).

Boston College's Luke Kuechly is projected to be taken the highest among ACC players, with Kiper slating him for the 11th pick, which belongs to the Chiefs. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill is the last first-rounder from the ACC (30th, 49ers).

Kiper has the Ravens selecting North Carolina State's Terrell Manning with the 60th pick and the Giants wrapping up the second round by selecting Virginia Tech's David Wilson.

Kuechly and Coples are the only ACC players on Kiper's 25-man Big Board Insider, coming in at Nos. 7 and 13, respectively. Coples and Kuechly are Nos. 9 and 10 on Todd McShay's 32-man draft board Insider, with Branch coming in at No. 29.

Coples and Branch have each dropped from one spot, to Nos. 2 and 5, among defensive ends this week in Kiper's top-5s by position Insider. South Carolina's Mel Ingram has unseated Coples as the top end. Manning dropped from third to fourth among outside linebackers, and Miami's Brandon Washington is no longer among the top guards after coming in at No. 5 a week ago. The rest of the ACC contingent remains unchanged from a week ago.
Four Clemson players appear among the first two rounds of Todd McShay's latest mock draft , highlighting the contingent of 11 ACC players.

McShay has Chandler Jones and Andre Branch going 27th and 28th to the Patriots and Packers, respectively, and he has Brandon Thompson and Dwayne Allen going 47th and 50th, to the Jets and Bears.

Five former ACC players appear in the first round of McShay's latest mock draft, led by Boston College's Luke Kuechly, slated 11th to the Chiefs. North Carolina's Quinton Coples is at No. 12, to the Seahawks.

Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill is slotted in at No. 30, to the 49ers.

North Carolina's Zach Brown (36th, Buccaneers), Miami's Lamar Miller (53rd, Bengals), Virginia Tech's David Wilson (57th, Broncos) and Florida State's Zebrie Sanders (58th, Texans) round out the ACC pool among McShay's first two rounds.

Kuechly is seventh on McShay's 32-man draft board , and Coples is ninth. Both appear in the same spots on Mel Kiper's 25-man Big Board . Branch is 22nd and Hill is 31st on McShay's board.

Kiper had no changes among ACC players from last week to this week in his top-5 by position rankings .
Quinton Coples remains Mel Kiper's top defensive end prospect Insider, Luke Kuechly is still his top linebacker and Lamar Miller and David Wilson round out the analyst's top running backs available in next month's draft.

Clemson's Andre Branch is once again the No. 4 defensive end, though the pool of top pass-rushers could see some movement in the coming month.
Coples has the best frame to hold up as a 4-3 defensive end among the group, but hasn't run away. [Melvin] Ingram is closing and had a good week in Indy. Branch has the size and athleticism to move to 3-4 outside linebacker. [Nick] Perry has been very good in the draft process, though I can see some teams asking him to stand up as a pass-rusher in a 3-4. It just depends on where he lands.

The rest of the ACC lineup remained unchanged from last week:
North Carolina's Quinton Coples jumped two spots to No. 7 on Todd McShay's 32-man draft board this week, highlighting the movement among ACC players.

Luke Kuechly is right behind Coples at No. 8 on McShay's board, and the Boston College linebacker is the top ACC player on Mel Kiper's 25-man Big Board, holding steady at No. 7 . Coples dropped one spot to No. 9 on Kiper's board.

Clemson's Andre Branch remains at No. 20 on McShay's board.

McShay and Scouts Inc. also reveal their draft board, in which each prospect is grouped with his position and assigned to the round corresponding with his draft grade.

It's a pretty neat look at where each prospect could fall in the draft, with Kuechly, Coples and Branch all receiving first-round grades.
Luke Kuechly headlines all ACC players on Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's draft boards this week, coming in at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively.

The Boston College linebacker jumped two spots on Kiper's 25-man Big Board and one spot on McShay's 32-man draft board , and he is immediately followed by North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples on each board.

Andre Branch jumped six spots on McShay's board, to No. 20.

Both Kuechly and Coples are No. 1 in Kiper's top-5 players by position .

Miami's Lamar Miller and David Wilson of Virginia Tech come in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, among Kiper's top 5 running backs. In McShay's nickel package , Miller and Wilson are the Nos. 2 and 3 backs, respectively. McShay examines potential destinations for the top running backs in this year's draft class and places a priority on ball security, with Miller checking in very favorably in that department.

As for the rest of the ACC contingent cracking Kiper's position rankings this week ...

2011 ACC postseason top 25: No. 1

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
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No. 1. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

2011 stats: He finished with 191 total tackles (102 solo), 15.9 tackles per game, 12 tackles for loss, and three interceptions, including one for a touchdown.

Previously ranked: No. 1

Making the case for Kuechly: In only three seasons, Kuechly became one of, if not the most decorated defender in league history. He won the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker; the Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player; the Dick Butkus Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker; and was named the LOTT IMPACT Defensive Player of the Year. You’d never know it by talking to him, though, as Kuechly remained one of the most humble players in the league. He was a relentless player, a hard-hitter who seemed to be everywhere at once. He was more than just a tackling machine. He made game-changing plays and could disrupt the passing game. He ended his junior season leading the nation in tackles for the second straight year. Kuechly set ACC records for tackles in a season (191) and career (532) in 2011. He led the nation in tackles and solo tackles for the second straight year, averaging an NCAA-record 15.92 hits per game. He also finished with an ACC-record 532 career tackles, just 14 shy of the NCAA’s career record. His 14.0 career tackle average is an ACC and NCAA record. There’s no question he deserves the top spot for 2011.

No. 2 David Amerson, CB, NC State

No. 3 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

2011 ACC postseason top 25: No. 2

March, 9, 2012
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No. 2. David Amerson, CB, NC State

2011 stats: He started 13 games and finished the season with 59 tackles, five pass breakups, and 13 interceptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns.

Previously ranked: Not ranked.

Making the case for Amerson: He was a first-team Walter Camp All-American, and led the FBS with 13 interceptions -- six more than any other player. It was the most in the FBS since 1968 and tied as the second-best total in FBS history. He broke the ACC’s single-season interception record in the upset of No. 7-ranked Clemson. He also broke the school’s single-season interception record of nine that had stood for 73 years and was set by Art Rooney in 1937 and 1938. He was one of just three true freshmen to start a game for the Pack in 2010. To say he had a breakout sophomore season is an understatement. In 2010, he didn’t have one pick in 640 snaps. He found his comfort zone after moving from boundary to field corner.

No. 3 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

2011 ACC postseason top 25: No. 3

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
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No. 3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

2011 stats: He had 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, 231 yards on 32 carries, and 33 kickoff returns for 826 yards and one touchdown. He finished with 2,288 all-purpose yards in 656 snaps over 13 games (10 starts). Watkins averaged 14.9 yards per catch, 7.2 yards per carry, and 25 yards per kickoff return. He also completed his only pass for nine yards.

Previously ranked: Not ranked

Making the case for Watkins: If you watched him at all last season, he made the case for himself, as a primary receiver, ball carrier and kick returner. He set several school records as a true freshman, but he has remained humble and willing to learn and get better. He quickly established himself as one of the best players in the country, finishing fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (176.0) and 16th in receiving yards per game. He was first in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game, second in receiving yards per game, second in kickoff return average, third in receptions per game, and tied for third in points (touchdowns) per game (6.0).

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

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