ACC: Brent Urban

Let's take a quick look back at how the ACC did in the first round of the NFL draft.

As expected, former Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was the first ACC player off the board, going to Buffalo with the No. 4 overall pick. Two of the best players in school history are now with the Bills, as Watkins joins C.J. Spiller in Buffalo. Watkins took over the NFL Instagram account for draft day, and posed for a selfie with commissioner Roger Goodell on the Radio City Music Hall stage.



North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was a surprise choice at No. 10 to the Detroit Lions. Ebron is mostly a receiver dressed in tight end clothing, so his addition to an offense with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson could be very promising. The draft, however, was the second bit of life-changing news he got Thursday. The first? He proposed to his girlfriend, North Carolina women's basketball player Brittany Rountree, atop the Empire State Building.



Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald went to St. Louis at No. 13, ending the Panthers' two-year draft drought. He became the Panthers' highest-drafted defensive lineman since Sean Gilbert went third overall to the Los Angeles Rams in 1992.

Right behind him, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller went to the Chicago Bears at No. 14, as the Hokies continued their #DBU tradition. They have had defensive backs selected in 15 of the last 16 drafts.

Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin became the first Seminole off the board, going to Carolina with the No. 28 pick. Benjamin became the 40th first-round selection in school history. You have to think Cam Newton is thrilled about this selection (after he overlooks what happened in the national championship game).

Though Louisville doesn't join the ACC until July, three Cardinals became first-round picks: Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater, who just made it in with the final selection of the round to the Vikings.

So who's left for the second and third rounds Friday?
  • Four Florida State players to keep an eye on: Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks and Bryan Stork. At one point, Jernigan was a projected first-round pick, and he is attending the draft in New York. Though his stock had been sliding after the combine, reports of a failed drug test earlier this week may have contributed to his drop out of the first round.
  • Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses, also in New York, was a projected first-round pick but will have to wait another day to hear his name called.
  • Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant, Clemson defensive back Bashaud Breeland, North Carolina center Russell Bodine and Virginia defensive end Brent Urban are all players to keep an eye on as well.
Just in case you’ve just woken up from a coma or finally had your power restored after living in the dark for the past week, the 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, and Round 1 promises its share of ACC highlights.

In Todd McShay’s latest mock draft Insider, six of the first 32 picks are from current ACC schools, which would be one shy of the conference’s tally from a year ago. But while last year’s draft had just one ACC player go in the first 15 picks (UNC’s Jonathan Cooper), there’s ample reason to think quite a few -- from safe bets Sammy Watkins and Aaron Donald to bigger wild cards such as Teddy Bridgewater and Morgan Moses -- could be early selections this year.

With all that in mind, we figured we’d take a look at how the current ACC members have faired in the draft in recent years.

Looking strictly at which schools have produced elite NFL prospects, the names at the top of the list aren’t overly surprising.



In the last 10 years, no ACC school has churned out more first-round selections than Florida State and Miami. Of course, there are a few noteworthy numbers in that mix, too. Since 2009, Miami hasn’t produced a single first-round pick, and again this year, the Hurricanes don’t have a single name listed in Mel Kiper’s top 100 prospects. (The ACC has 22 players in Kiper’s top 100.)

That stands in stark contrast with the first half of the 2000s, when Miami was a factory for first-rounders, including a whopping 24 from 2001 through 2007.

Meanwhile, the team that ranks third on both of those lists is Boston College, which is unique in that such a large portion of its total draftees were first-rounders. In the last 10 years, 40 percent of all BC players drafted went in the first round. No other ACC school has a ratio half that large.

In fact, when we look beyond the first round, we see that it’s still Florida State and Miami that produce the most draft prospects, while the smaller schools tend to fall toward the bottom.



Florida State had a dip in production in the immediate aftermath of the Bobby Bowden era, but with 11 players taken last year alone, it’s clear Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles churning out NFL talent at a rate similar to their heyday. In fact, FSU is poised to send as many as a dozen more into this year’s draft, which would put its two-year tally for 2013 and 2014 at 23. Only Miami (24) had more players selected in the previous five drafts combined among ACC teams.

UNC ranks third among ACC teams with 16 players drafted in the last three years, which is, in part, the Butch Davis recruiting effect lingering. Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney certainly deserves some credit at Clemson. From 2004-2008, the Tigers sent 15 players to the NFL. From 2009 through 2013, they sent 23 -- and figure to add at least another four to that total this weekend.

At the bottom of the list, we get more ammunition for critics of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have had just two players selected in the last three drafts, and one (Anthony Allen) was a transfer not recruited by Johnson. Of course, Jeremiah Attaouchu should add to Johnson’s list of NFL talent this year.

Pitt has had just five players taken in the last three drafts -- none in the last two -- but Donald and Tom Savage assure some early intrigue for the Panthers in 2014, while Virginia (just three players in the last three years) should add to its total with Moses and Brent Urban.

Then, of course, there’s the ACC’s newest addition in Louisville. The Cardinals virtually evaporated from NFL draft boards in the immediate aftermath of Bobby Petrino’s departure, with just four players who were either recruited by or spent the bulk of their careers under Charlie Strong selected. That will change this year with Bridgewater and Calvin Pryor both projected to be taken early. Still, it’s a good reassurance for Louisville fans to remember than Petrino’s heyday of producing NFL talent that he either recruited or coached was pretty bountiful. From 2005 through 2008, Louisville had 19 players drafted.

Of course, all these numbers will be reshuffled in just a few hours, which should make for a long weekend on the couch. Enjoy!

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 11, 2014
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The NFL draft combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be held from Feb. 19-25 and will feature workouts, medical examinations, psychological testing and interviews for the 335 invited prospects. The ACC has a total of 46 players who will participate, including at least one player from every school (we included Maryland and not Louisville in this post, because it is from the 2013 season). National champion Florida State led the league with eight players heading to the combine, but UNC was right behind with seven. Don't cry ... you're gonna miss some of these names next year. Good luck to these guys.

Here is the official list of the ACC attendees:

BOSTON COLLEGE (5)
CLEMSON (4)
DUKE (1)
FLORIDA STATE (8)
GEORGIA TECH (2)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (5)
NORTH CAROLINA (7)
NC STATE (1)
PITTSBURGH (3)
SYRACUSE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
WAKE FOREST (1)

ACC players in the Senior Bowl

January, 21, 2014
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Senior Bowl practices are underway this week, and wouldn't you know it -- scouts have their eyes on the quarterbacks.

That means Stephen Morris, Logan Thomas and Tajh Boyd are firmly in the spotlight this week among featured ACC players participating in the college all-star game, a critical first step in evaluations for the NFL draft in May. Scouts Inc. lists Thomas as the highest rated quarterback among the three and broke down what each has to accomplish this week.

For Thomas: The need to "thrive with an even playing field."

For Morris: More consistency with footwork and ball placement as a passer.

For Boyd: "Show improvement throughout the week with pro-style progressions and anticipation as a pocket passer."

Scouts Inc. also lists Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses as having the most to prove.

Here is a look at all the ACC players participating in the Senior Bowl, with the game set for Saturday. Boston College running back Andre Williams was invited but pulled out so he can continue to rehab his injured shoulder.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 19, 2013
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Cam Newton led a game-winning drive, not Tom Brady? Wow, #flipweek continues.

Midseason report: Virginia

October, 15, 2013
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The same old issues have vexed Virginia this season, starting with a struggling offense that ranks in the bottom half of the ACC. Headed into the year, the thought was that a new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback would breathe some life into this group. But that has not panned out to this point.

David Watford has thrown just four touchdown passes to seven interceptions, and Virginia ranks last in the ACC in pass efficiency. But he has not gotten much help from his supporting cast. The receivers remain a work in progress. There simply is no go-to guy for Watford, nor is there anybody who can stretch the field vertically. Tight end Jake McGee leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, which speaks to this issue.

The Hoos have once again had problems holding onto the football, too, ranking last in the ACC in giveaways with 14. Virginia ranked last in the league in turnover margin a season ago; it ranks last in that area once again. The Cavaliers are still struggling with too many penalties, a problem area in 2012 as well.

Defensively, we have seen some signs of life from this group. But the last two weeks have not gone nearly as well -- the Hoos have given up a combined 75 points and nearly 1,000 yards of offense. Still, Virginia has already matched its sack total from a year ago (17) and ranks No. 4 in the nation with 7.0 three-and-outs per game and No. 7 in third-down defense.

The second half of the season will not get any easier, with three ranked teams on the schedule -- Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech. Virginia will need a win in one of those games to get back to a bowl game.

Offensive MVP: Jake McGee, TE. The Hoos’ offense has been brutal to watch at times, but McGee’s play stands out. He leads the team in receptions (27), yards (233) and touchdown catches (two) and is one of the best tight ends in the ACC.

Defensive MVP: Brent Urban, DT. Both Urban and Eli Harold have been solid on the Hoos’ defensive front, but Urban has been particularly active inside. Before he got hurt last week against Maryland, he was leading the ACC and No. 15 nationally in pass breakups as a defensive tackle, a pretty impressive feat. He now ranks No. 25 and lead leads all defensive linemen in pass breakups with 1.3 per game.

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 27, 2013
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Been saying it since the summer: Virginia Tech is a contender.
When asked for his assessment of the new defensive style Virginia plans to play this season, veteran defensive end Jake Snyder had one word:

Different.

As in different good or different bad?

"More aggressive," he said. "We have all just really been working hard this spring trying to learn everything and pick up the new defense. I think it is going to be good for us."

Coach Mike London overhauled his coaching staff after a 4-8 season and brought in Jon Tenuta to run the defense. Tenuta has made a career out of employing aggressive, attacking defenses, and Hoos fans saw that firsthand last week during the team's spring game. The defense was credited with 14 "sacks" -- essentially any time a defender got two hands on the quarterback. Though they were not allowed to tackle the quarterbacks, it was evident that the group was much more active, particularly up front.

That is a huge area the Hoos have spent time working on this spring, because they were below average in sacks a last season with just 17. Snyder is the top returning player in that category, with 2.5. Chris Braithwaite led the team with 3.5, but he is no longer with the Hoos. The inside players, though, look promising. Brent Urban returns, and he had 3.5 sacks in the spring game.

The surprise has been tackle David Dean, who was selected the team's most improved player on defense this spring.

The other area that has to be improved is takeaways. Last season, UVa had 12 total -- eight fumble recoveries and four interceptions, tied for third worst in the nation. Contrast that with NC State, where Tenuta worked last season. The Wolfpack had 16 interceptions to rank in the Top 20. Of course, they had veterans in their group last season, and the Hoos were very inexperienced in the back end.

Still, Snyder said the Hoos spent plenty of time working on takeaway drills this spring.

"Getting takeaways is always such a big key in any game," he said. "And we didn't do a good enough job of that last season. So we all know we have to do better to be a better defense."

One of the other key question marks about this group this spring is at middle linebacker, where the team loses team leader and leading tackler Steve Greer. Henry Coley has moved over from the outside to take over the spot, and Snyder says he has done a good job this spring.

"It's always tough to replace a great player like that," Snyder said. "Henry has done a great job doing it. He spends more time out of anybody in the film room and the meeting room, because he has to know what everyone else is doing at all times."
There was plenty of football this past weekend in the ACC. Here's a quick recap of everything that happened, according to each school's website or report that was emailed to the media:

VIRGINIA

The following information is according to Jeff White's report:
  • The Orange roster included the first-team defense, the Blue roster the first-team offense. Each quarterback saw time on both sides during the scrimmage, which the Orange won 18-15.
  • Redshirt sophomore quarterback David Watford entered the spring game atop the depth chart, followed by redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert and then redshirt junior Phillip Sims. Watford finished 5-for-10 for 55 yards. Lambert completed 21 of 36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, and Sims was 8-for-18 for 89 yards.
  • Junior running back Clifton Richardson finished with 41 yards (on 11 carries), junior Kevin Parks with 20 yards (on 11 carries), junior Khalek Shepherd with 20 yards (on six carries) and redshirt freshman Kye Morgan with 18 yards (on 11 carries).
  • Led by Brent Urban (3.5), sophomore end Trent Corney (two) and redshirt freshman linebacker Mark Hall (two), the defenses were credited with 14 "sacks" Saturday.
MARYLAND
  • The Terps held a scrimmage at Middletown High School in Middletown, Md., Saturday.
  • Taking handoffs from quarterback Dustin Dailey, running back Joe Riddle rushed for more than 100 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown run.
MIAMI
  • The Hurricanes held a 90-minute scrimmage on Friday night that included goal-line and red zone scenarios, and two-minute drills, in front of 3,000 fans at Naples High School. The first-team offense went 60 plays and the second team had 55 plays.
  • Quarterbacks Stephen Morris, Ryan Williams and Gray Crow combined to throw five touchdown passes to three different receivers. The Canes were without receiver Phillip Dorsett, who was in Gainesville with the track team at the Florida Relays.
  • Dallas Crawford had two receiving touchdowns, while Rashawn Scott and Allen Hurns combined for three scores.
  • Anthony Chickillo, Tyriq McCord and Kelvin Cain led the defense with a sack each.
BOSTON COLLEGE
  • BC held its first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday in Alumni Stadium. The team practiced for the first half hour and then ran through a number of series with rotating quarterbacks. All four quarterbacks -- Chase Rettig, Josh Bordner, Mike Marscovetra and Christian Suntrup -- saw time.
  • Rettig started and led the team to the only touchdown on a 5-yard pass to C.J. Parsons. Bordner played in five series and rushed for 33 yards.
  • Defensively, junior Sean Sylvia returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown.
  • Running back Rolandan Finch has left the team for personal reasons.
GEORGIA TECH
  • Sophomore quarterback Vad Lee ran for a pair of touchdowns, including one 60-yard touchdown. Redshirt freshman Justin Thomas rushed for a touchdown, set up by his own electrifying 40-yard run.
  • Redshirt freshman Beau Hankins had an interception on a pass thrown by Thomas.
  • Senior Jeremiah Attaochu had a tackle for loss and Coray Carlson had a fumble recovery.
  • The catch of the day actually belonged to walk-on Marty Alcala, who had an acrobatic reception on a 30-yard pass from Thomas.
  • Matt Connors rushed for a 12-yard touchdown.
  • Junior wide receiver Darren Waller, who was injured, was cleared to play.
WAKE FOREST
  • The Deacs continued to emphasize takeaways at their scrimmage on Saturday.
  • According to the Winston-Salem Journal, linebacker Mike Olson was sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery. Nose tackle Nikita Whitlock missed the scrimmage because he was back home in Wylie, Texas, attending the funeral of a member of his family. Cornerback Merrill Noel was in uniform, but did not play because of a sore shoulder.
Virginia defensive tackle Brent Urban said the last time it was measured, his wing span was 6-foot-10. (To give some perspective, nobody on the Cavaliers’ roster is taller than 6-foot-7.)

So when it comes to handling Georgia Tech’s cut blocks on Saturday, Urban isn’t too concerned.

“I have long arms, so I can get down there and take care of that,” he said.

The Hoos will need his help if they’re going to be as effective on the interior line against the spread option offense as they were a year ago in the 24-21 win over the Jackets. Virginia entered this season having to replace senior starting defensive tackles Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins, who combined for 16 tackles last year against Georgia Tech. Urban made the switch from defensive end to tackle prior to the start of training camp and said he’s more comfortable in his role now.

Virginia will be playing its first league and road game of the season, while Georgia Tech is trying to avoid an 0-2 start in the Coastal Division.

“I think we’ll be really prepared,” Urban said. “Our scout team has been giving us good looks at practice and we went over some of this stuff during training camp, so we should be ready. Obviously we have a big part to play, just getting our hands on their helmets as far as the amount of cut blocking they do. That will be one of the major things we have to get done on Saturday.”

They excelled at it a year ago.

Virginia held Paul Johnson’s offense to 296 yards last year. Their game plan was to force quarterback Tevin Washington to keep the ball and be the difference. Instead, Virginia’s defensive line and linebacker Steve Greer were the difference.

It could be the same again. Greer, who had 10 tackles last year against Georgia Tech, is coming off a career-high 15 tackles in a win over Penn State. Greer said the defensive performance in the win over Penn State showed its resiliency.

“We did some of that last season and I think every part of our program is geared towards that,” he said after the game. “No matter what, we’re no easy out. If we stay focused and give 110 percent every play, good things will happen.”

Opening camp: Virginia

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
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Schedule: Practice starts at 3:45 p.m. and the first five are open to the public.

What’s new: Everything. New coach, new coordinators, new schemes, philosophies and attitudes.

Sidelined: Sophomore guard Aaron Van Kuiken is out with a wrist injury but is expected back by September. Redshirt defensive end Brent Urban is coming off knee surgery. Academically, today is the last day of summer school finals, so grades won’t be reported until early next week.

Key battle: Running back. The top four rushers from 2009 are gone. Perry Jones ended the spring at the lead tailback spot, but he faces competition this month from Keith Payne, Torrey Mack, freshman Kevin Parks, and Dominique Wallace, who missed the second half of last season with a foot injury.

New on the scene: The 4-3 defense. First-year defensive coordinator Jim Reid is taking the Cavaliers back to the traditional defense.

Breaking out: Junior inside linebacker Aaron Taliaferro, who got all of Steve Greer’s snaps this past spring while Greer was out with an injury. Taliaferro was previously buried on the depth chart, but he really impressed the coaching staff enough to push Greer this month.

Don’t forget about: Tight end Joe Torchia. Virginia has a great tradition of tight ends, but last year the staff deviated from it by implementing a spread offense. Torchia only had 15 catches in 12 games for what is usually a much more productive spot.

All eyes on: Quarterback Marc Verica and how he fits into the new pro-style offense. Verica said he is much more comfortable in this scheme, but he hasn’t been a dependable starter since 2008, when he threw eight touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He made far fewer mistakes this spring.

Quotable: "This is exactly what I know about him: that as a father, this is who you get down on your knees and pray that your daughter brings home some day. That is the type of character that he is. You would be so proud to call Ras-I Dowling your son, and I've told his family that." -- Defensive coordinator Jim Reid on cornerback Ras-I Dowling.

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