ACC: Chris Thompson


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Devonta Freeman finished last year’s Miami game with his teammate’s initials scrawled on his wrist tape.

Chris Thompson had been Florida State’s most explosive offensive player before blowing out his knee on a 32-yard reception early in the second quarter. At halftime, the remaining Seminoles running backs decided to dedicate the rest of the game to their fallen teammate.

It was a fitting tribute. Freeman carried 10 times in the game for 70 yards. No carries went for a loss and two finished in the end zone. A 10-3 Miami lead at the time of Thompson’s injury turned into a 33-20 Florida State win, with the Seminoles rushing for 218 yards.

But Freeman didn’t need the extra motivation. It was Miami. It was home. It’s the game he’d been waiting for.

[+] EnlargeDevonta Freeman
Don Juan Moore/Getty ImagesDevonta Freeman is emerging as a leader for Florida State, and as a player from Miami, this week is extra special.
“I’ve always got a chip on my shoulder, but it's an even bigger chip on my shoulder knowing that more people from Miami are going to be watching,” Freeman said. “It’s always going to be that edge about it. This is Miami.”

Thompson’s injury was a gut punch a year ago. He was a feel-good story after working his back from a broken bone in his back that cost him the bulk of the 2011 season. He was on pace to cruise past the 1,000-yard mark, something no FSU runner had done in 16 years. He was the hard-working heartbeat of the Seminoles' ground game, and his loss seemed enormous.

A year later, a familiar story is being told, but it hasn't earned the same spotlight. Freeman lacks Thompson’s injury-riddled back story, but the path he’s traveled was every bit as challenging. He’s now on pace to finally end that 1,000-yard curse, yet his offensive prowess is widely overshadowed by his nationally renowned teammate, Jameis Winston. And Freeman is every bit the emotional leader that Thompson was; he just does the bulk of his work away from the cameras and microphones, with a quiet confidence more befitting his reserved personality.

“His heart is about as genuine as the day is long,” Jimbo Fisher said. “He’ll do whatever you ask him. Whatever you want him to do and however you want him to do it, he says, ‘Yes sir,’ and goes 100 miles per hour.”

Freeman’s numbers tell part of the story. He’s rushed for 580 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that figure to lead the team for the third consecutive season. He’s used his speed to avoid defenders, but still has picked up nearly 200 yards after contact. He has scored on short runs and long runs, has been exceptional outside the tackles and between them and has caught passes in key situations. He said the plays he’s most proud of are the ones when the ball isn’t in his hands.

He’s been Florida State’s ultimate offensive Renaissance man, and yet so often, Freeman still managed to fly beneath the radar.

“He’s not as fast as me, not as big as James [Wilder Jr.],” Karlos Williams said. “But I believe he’s the best of the three because of the way he carries himself.”

The truth is, Freeman isn’t much interested in the spotlight. He’s in the weight room before most of his teammates and he’ll stay on the practice field even after everyone else has gone. During position meetings, he snags a seat in the front row, peppering position coach Jay Graham with questions to ensure his teammates learn the answers. He’s the four-star recruit in a backfield of five-star talent, the quiet leader amid a group of social butterflies.

“Devonta can be a high-energy guy, but it’s never been that crazy, let’s get everything pumped up. He leads by example, by his energy on the field,” Williams said. “It comes from where he’s from, the high school he came from. He comes with an edge.”

But if Freeman is used to toiling in the shadows, this week provides the lone exception. Miami is home, and the Hurricanes’ roster is filled with familiar names.

Freeman grew up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods, and he understands what’s at stake in a rivalry. This year, in particular, with so much on the line, Freeman isn’t interested in going unnoticed. He’s out to deliver a blow.

“It's going to be back to that old Miami – two top-10 teams,” Freeman said. “It's going to be a dog fight.”

Florida State should be well prepared for the fight. Williams has been explosive since moving from safety to tailback. He’s scored seven times on just 44 rushes, averaging nearly 8 yards per carry. Wilder’s season has been marred by injuries, and he sat out last week with concussion symptoms. He returned to practice Monday, however, and should be ready for Miami.

But it’s Freeman who promises to carry the load.

Freeman doesn’t look for the spotlight and doesn’t want a bigger share of the carries. But each year against Miami, it’s a chance to see how he measures up, to see how far he’s come.

“I can feel myself getting better,” Freeman said. “I’m running way better than I was three, four weeks ago. That's a big improvement for me, but I know I've still got a lot of work to do.”

FSU's Freeman finds his voice

August, 15, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher was the last to leave the practice field, shuffling back toward his office with a cadre of reporters in tow, when Devonta Freeman jogged past in the opposite direction.

Fisher turned and shouted after him, calling Freeman by the number on his jersey, which was soaked in sweat: "What are you doing, 8?"

The question didn't need to be asked. Fisher knew.

[+] EnlargeDevonta Freeman
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreDevonta Freeman has become a leader for Florida State.
It's been a ritual so far this fall that every day, after the rest of the team has retreated from the scorching sun, Florida State's leading rusher returns to the practice field, drags a series of bright orange step-over dummies into position, and resumes his work.

"I'm just trying to improve my game," Freeman said, "getting a little extra footwork in to be precise in my cuts."

It's not just the extra work after practice that has caught Fisher's attention. It's that attention to detail, Freeman's determination to improve his game wherever possible. And through the first 10 days of workouts, no one has looked better than the junior tailback.

"He's playing exceptionally well," Fisher said. "He's had the best camp of anybody on the team."

It's deserved praise, but Freeman still seems an unlikely choice to be singled out given his penchant for flying beneath the radar during his first two years in Tallahassee. Behind gregarious veterans like Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor in FSU's backfield, Freeman's soft-spoken demeanor rarely stood out, and alongside a physical freak of nature like James Wilder Jr., Freeman didn't turn heads.

And yet, two years running, the man who'd opened the season third on the depth chart at tailback finished it by leading the team in rushing. It's experience that has taught Freeman a lot, and now that he's the elder statesman of the unit, he's eager to take a more front-and-center role, passing those lessons on to the next generation.

"I was just waiting on my time, not rushing things and being patient," Freeman said.

The work ethic comes naturally for Freeman, who has served as a template for coaches since high school. What's been more difficult is finding his voice.

"He's one of those guys who used to show by example. He's always worked hard. You could watch film and never see him lagging or going half speed," Wilder said. "But this year, we know that we're the upperclassmen now, and he has to speak up."

The product of a tough neighborhood outside Miami, where keeping a low profile was a means of survival, Freeman's never been the type to ask for attention. When his cousin -- a man Freeman referred to as a brother -- was gunned down near his family's home last fall, Freeman's first instinct was to keep his heartbreak to himself. Instead, his teammates embraced him, and it was advice from Thompson that helped Freeman push through his grief. It also set the standard for the type of teammate Freeman wanted to be this season.

When Thompson and Pryor left for the NFL, Freeman stepped forward. He's opened up, shared more of himself, and he's been quick to speak up when he feels it's necessary.

"[Players'] personalities come out as they evolve and gain confidence and go through situations in their life," Fisher said. "He's got a clear head, and his true personality is coming out. He's a phenomenal, phenomenal human being."

During practice last week, freshman tailback Ryan Green struggled through some early drills. The pace and intensity of practice at this level proved overwhelming, and Wilder was ready to step in.

Instead, it was Freeman who grabbed the freshman, pulled him to the side and put his arm around him. Green's struggles weren't unique, and Freeman offered a simple reminder that a few bad reps can't overwhelm his resolve.

"The rest of practice," Wilder said, "Ryan was balling."

Wisdom comes with experience, and Freeman's earned his share on and off the field.

Every few days, Freeman and Wilder meet in the locker room and talk about their goals. They've developed an ever-growing list of people they care about, the people they're playing for. It's motivation to keep pushing harder, a list of reasons to jog back onto the practice field even after everyone else has retired for the day. It's a list of reminders of the lessons he's learned and the wisdom he wants to pass along to his teammates who now look to him for advice.

"I try to give them the best advice," Freeman said, "because I was in their shoes and I know what they're going through."
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
2012 record: 12-2
2012 conference record: 7-1
Returning starters: Offense 6, Defense 5, Kicker/Punter 1

Top returners

WR Rashad Greene, LT Cameron Erving, C Bryan Stork, LB Christian Jones, LB Telvin Smith, DB Lamarcus Joyner, DT Timmy Jernigan

Key losses

QB EJ Manuel, RT Menelik Watson, RB Chris Thompson, DE Bjoern Werner, DE Cornellius Carradine, CB Xavier Rhodes, K Dustin Hopkins

2012 statistical leaders (*returning)

Rushing: Chris Thompson (687 yards)
Passing: EJ Manuel (3,392 yards)
Receiving: Rashad Greene* (741 yards)
Tackles: Christian Jones* (95)
Sacks: Bjoern Werner (13)
Interceptions: Xavier Rhodes, Tyler Hunter* (3)

Spring answers:

1. Changes on D: New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brought a slew of new schemes with him from Alabama, meaning the FSU defense won't look all that much like the one that finished second in the nation in 2012. With the loss of five former starters from the defensive line, that's probably a good thing. Pruitt's scheme will be more aggressive and bring a lot more blitzes, allowing FSU to get pressure from other areas.

2. Beating Hart: When right tackle Menelik Watson made the somewhat surprising decision to leave FSU after just a year to enter the NFL draft, all eyes turned to junior Bobby Hart, whose turbulent career with the Seminoles was already well documented. Hart started as a 17-year-old freshman in 2011, but problems with his work ethic derailed his sophomore season and he found himself on the bench. He appeared to work his way back into line coach Rick Trickett's good graces by the end of the spring, however, and he'll be crucial to maintaining the continuity of the line without Watson.

3. Famous Jameis: Jimbo Fisher still isn't calling the contest over, but it certainly looks like redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is in the driver's seat to take over for Manuel as FSU's new starting quarterback. Winston shined throughout the spring and delivered a monster performance in the Seminoles' Garnet and Gold game, completing 13 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. A week later, junior QB Clint Trickett announced he was transferring.

Fall questions:

1. Winston, Part II: Yes, the spring was impressive for Winston, but as Fisher was quick to point out, he'll need to pick up right where he left off in the fall if FSU is going to make a smooth transition at a position that's been remarkably stable for the past five years. Jacob Coker remains in competition -- and he should be fully healed after breaking a bone in his foot that limited this spring -- but the loss of Trickett puts a lot of pressure on Winston to step up, particularly with a daunting road contest at new ACC member Pittsburgh looming in the season opener.

2. New-look secondary: Lamarcus Joyner appeared to make a relatively smooth transition from safety to corner, but FSU didn't get much of a look at what will constitute the secondary in 2013. Key players such as Tyler Hunter, Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby were all hurt, while promising freshman Jalen Ramsey had yet to arrive. The group will finally all work together during fall camp.

3. Just for kicks: Redshirt freshman Roberto Aguayo showed off his powerful leg during FSU's spring game, connecting on three long field goals, including a 58-yarder to close out the game. Still, replacing the NCAA's all-time leading scorer among kickers won't be an easy task. Dustin Hopkins was as reliable as it gets for FSU, and Aguayo still needs to show he can handle the pressure of making a big kick with the game on the line.
Florida State followed up its big first round with a huge NFL draft weekend, as the Seminoles led every program in the nation with 11 total picks, setting a new school record.

That's right. The Noles had more picks than national champion Alabama (nine) and SEC power LSU (nine), two schools that played for the national championship following the 2011 season. More than in-state rival Florida (eight), too.

Those numbers are clear validation the Seminoles have restocked their cupboards with an inordinate amount of talent as they re-emerge in the national conversation.

"It’s a great indication of how the program is truly developing," coach Jimbo Fisher said in a statement. “I think it shows we’re getting back to national prominence. Our players are doing a great job of representing themselves on and off the field leading to chances at the next level. I’m happy for all of these guys and want to thank them for helping return this program back to the national spotlight."

Overall, the ACC had 31 players taken for the ninth straight season, finishing second behind the SEC.

Here is a quick look back at all the selections:

First round
  • No. 7 Jonathan Cooper, OG, Arizona
  • No. 16 EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo
  • No. 24 Bjoern Werner, DE, Indianapolis
  • No. 25 Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota
  • No. 27 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston
  • No. 28 Sylvester Williams, DT, Denver
Second round
  • No. 37 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
  • No. 40 Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, San Francisco
  • No. 42 Menelik Watson, OT, Oakland
  • No. 51 David Amerson, CB, NC State
Third round
  • No. 73 Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay
  • No. 89 Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
Fourth round
  • No. 127 Malliciah Goodman, DE, Atlanta
Fifth round
  • No. 136 Earl Wolff, S, Philadelphia
  • No. 141 Oday Aboushi, OG, New York Jets
  • No. 143 Jonathan Meeks, S, Buffalo
  • No. 149 Brandon McGee, CB, St. Louis
  • No. 154 Chris Thompson, RB, Washington
  • No. 162 Brandon Jenkins, LB, Washington
Sixth round
  • No. 171 Corey Fuller, WR, Detroit
  • No. 173 Vinston Painter, OT, Denver
  • No. 177 Dustin Hopkins, PK, Buffalo
  • No. 180 Nick Moody, LB, San Francisco
  • No. 187 Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona
  • No. 189 Mike James, RB, Tampa Bay
  • No. 206 Vince Williams, LB, Pittsburgh
Seventh round
  • No. 214 Travis Bond, OG, Minnesota
  • No. 215 Tommy Bohanon, FB, New York Jets
  • No. 224 Kevin Dorsey, WR, Green Bay
  • No. 229 Everett Dawkins, DT, Minnesota
  • No. 249 Sean Renfree, QB, Atlanta

Incoming member Syracuse had three players drafted as well: tackle Justin Pugh in the first round to the New York Giants; quarterback Ryan Nassib in the fourth round to the Giants; and safety Shamarko Thomas in the fourth round to Pittsburgh.

And now a few notes:
  • North Carolina had the second-most picks from the ACC with five -- its highest total since five were picked in 2011. The Tar Heels had three offensive linemen selected, the most from UNC in the draft since 1967.
  • Miami had its NFL draft streak extended to 39 consecutive seasons with Brandon McGee and Mike James both getting selected.
  • Virginia also had its draft streak extended to 30 straight seasons with Aboushi's selection.
  • Tommy Bohanon Bohanon became just the third Wake Forest fullback to have his name called in the draft, joining Ovie Mughelli (Ravens, 2003) and Neil MacLean (Eagles, 1958).
  • With four selections in this year's draft, Clemson has now had 23 players chosen over the last five years, and at least four every year Dabo Swinney has been head coach. It is the first time in history Clemson has had at least four players drafted each of the last five years.
  • Georgia Tech did not have a player selected for the first time since 2005. Three players with draft hopes ended up with free agent deals: T.J. Barnes (Jacksonville), Izaan Cross (Buffalo) and Rod Sweeting (New Orleans).
  • Pitt did not have a player drafted for the second consecutive season. Running back Ray Graham, who was the Panthers' best hope for selection, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Texans.
  • Here are a few other notable free-agent signings: Conner Vernon (Oakland), Chibuikem “Kenny” Okoro (San Diego), Marcus Davis (New York Giants), Lonnie Pryor (Jacksonville).

NoleNation links: Pro day at FSU

March, 19, 2013
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NoleNation has more coverage of the Florida State Seminoles:

From David M. Hale: Florida State's pro day was supposed to be Chris Thompson's chance to secure his place in the NFL draft. Instead he'll be once again trying to prove he can overcome.

Pro day preview: FSU's pro day is the most star-studded in years, but several of the big names have a lot to gain at the event.

Under-the-radar players to watch

March, 14, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- With spring practice less than a week away, the fervor surrounding some of the most-hyped storylines of 2013 has already been raging for months. The three-way battle at quarterback, the return of Bobby Hart to the limelight, Lamarcus Joyner's move to cornerback -- Jimbo Fisher already has plenty to keep his eye on.

But while those stories will continue to headline Florida State's preparations for the 2013 season, there are a handful of other intriguing players to watch this spring. They might not be in the running for a starting job, but they should offer plenty of reasons to watch as they look to impress a new group of coaches and find their own niche for the upcoming season.

Mario Pender (RB/RFr.)

When it comes to sheer intrigue, the entirety of Florida State's returning redshirts could probably make the list -- with Jameis Winston probably atop it. But while there will be genuine interest in Justin Shanks' weight or Marvin Bracy's speed, it's Pender who likely leads the pack in non-QB buzz from fans. The highly touted tailback missed all of 2012 with a groin injury and is just now getting back into full swing. His workouts during fourth-quarter drills earned raves from Fisher, who compared his burst and home-run ability to Chris Thompson -- only Pender is a bit bigger and stronger. Does that mean a job awaits this fall? Not exactly, but he'll definitely have his coaches' attention.

(Read full post)

Top 25 countdown: Who missed the cut

February, 25, 2013
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We just finished our Top 25 countdown of the best players in the ACC in 2012.

But as with any list, there are always guys who just miss the cut. Heather and I went back and forth on this list many times before solidifying our Top 25, weighing performance, postseason accolades, records set and overall impact on each player's respective team. There were many tough decisions to make, none tougher than some of the guys we had to leave off.

So who are our next five?

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. There is no doubt Watkins is one of the most talented players in the entire ACC. Expect him to be in the preseason 2013 countdown. But he did not have the type of performance in 2012 to merit inclusion in our revised list, which takes into account performance over the course of the season. Some of that was out of his control; some of it was in his control. Bottom line: he had a down year with 708 yards receiving and three touchdown catches.

Nick Clancy, LB, Boston College. Clancy was the most productive linebacker in the league in terms of tackles, leading the league with a whopping 145 tackles. But the Eagles' defense was one of the worst in the ACC and had a hard time stopping teams.

Sean Renfree, QB, Duke. Renfree put together his best season, throwing for 3,113 yards with a career-high 19 touchdown passes while completing 67.3 percent of his passes. He was a big reason why Duke got to a bowl game, but the Blue Devils also struggled down the stretch.

Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia. Aboushi made the All-ACC first team and was no doubt one of the best tackles in the ACC. But the UVa ground game also took a step back in 2012, and the Hoos gave up 12 more sacks than a season ago.

Steve Greer, LB, Virginia. Greer finished second in the ACC with 122 tackles and finished as a media first-team All-ACC selection and coaches' second-team selection. But the Hoos also struggled on defense this past season.

On the outside looking in

Here are several other players worthy of mention for solid 2012 seasons

Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, Georgia Tech. Ranked third in the ACC with 10 sacks and finished with 69 tackles.

Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke. Set career highs with 76 receptions for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns, and ranked No. 5 in the ACC in receptions per game and tied for No. 3 in receiving yards per game.

Stephen Morris, QB, Miami. Set school single-season total offense record with 3,415 yards, and ranked No. 4 in the ACC in passing yards per game and pass efficiency and No. 3 in total offense.

Chris Thompson, RB, Florida State. Made the coaches' All-ACC second-team in a nod to his efforts before his knee injury, when he averaged a whopping 7.5 yards per carry. In eight games, he had 935 of total offense and five touchdowns.

Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech. Tyler made the coaches' All-ACC first team, finishing the season with 119 tackles -- 13 of them for loss.

Tevin Washington, QB, Georgia Tech. Washington was No. 4 in the ACC in scoring and No. 2 in scoring touchdowns with 20, all rushing. He ends his career with more rushing touchdowns (38) than any quarterback in ACC history.

ACC players on NFL combine list

February, 7, 2013
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The official list of players invited to the combine is out.

Out of the whopping 333 invited players, the ACC will have 42 representatives at the big event, scheduled for Feb. 23-26 in Indianapolis. Every ACC team is represented. Florida State has the most players invited with 12; Maryland, Virginia and Wake Forest have the fewest with one each.

Here is the complete list:

2012 report cards: Florida State

January, 22, 2013
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Let's hand out some grades to Florida State for the 2012 season.

OFFENSE: The defense took all the headlines this year for the Seminoles, but the offense was vastly improved over a year ago. Just look at total offense, where Florida State ranked No. 19 in the nation, averaging 471.5 yards per game. Know what it ranked last year? No. 77. The Noles averaged nearly 100 yards more of offense over a year ago. EJ Manuel set carer highs with 3,392 yards passing and 23 touchdowns, and completed a career-high 68 percent of his passes. He ranked in the Top 20 in passing efficiency. The receivers were better. And the running game was fine behind James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman after Chris Thompson was lost for the season. But there were a few key breakdowns that cropped up in crucial games, and that ended up costing the Noles. The Noles went scoreless against NC State in the second half and ended up losing inexplicably, as coach Jimbo Fisher took serious heat for his playcalling. Manuel did not play his best against Florida. And the Noles went AWOL in the second half against Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game and had to withstand a second half rally to win. I give credit to Florida State for the improvements, but it's hard to overlook the offensive breakdowns at critical moments. GRADE: B.

DEFENSE: This is all that has to be said: No. 2 in the nation in total defense, No. 3 in the nation in rushing defense and No. 6 in the nation in scoring defense. Four players made the All-ACC coaches' first team -- unanimous All-America defensive end Bjoern Werner; Tank Carradine; cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Lamarcus Joyner. Werner won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after leading the ACC with 13 sacks and finishing second with 18 tackles for loss. Carradine, replacing preseason All-American Brandon Jenkins, added 11 sacks. True freshman cornerback Ronald Darby won ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. I could go on and on, but I think I would be restating the obvious. The Noles were hands down the best defense in the ACC, and one of the best in the nation. No debate. GRADE: A+.

OVERALL: The season began with national championship hopes, and those were dashed with a loss to NC State. While there are some who will say the Noles underachieved, the bottom line is they won the ACC for the first time since 2005, tied the school record for wins in a season with 12, and finished the season as a top-10 team for the first time since 2003, when it finished No. 10 in the coaches poll. That qualifies as a successful season just about everywhere in America. GRADE: A.

More grades:
Florida State received an excellent bit of news Thursday afternoon when safety Lamarcus Joyner announced he would return to school for his senior season.

“Coach (Jimbo) Fisher and I aren’t finish with what we started here,” Joyner said in a statement. “He said from Day 1 I was going to be one of those guys that was going to help turn this program around. We’ve started down the right path so far but we’re still not finished. This wasn’t a decision I could make just for myself but for my family in order to help them down the road, which is why I’m going to stay at Florida State for my last season.”

Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes previously told ESPN he is forgoing his junior season to enter the draft. All-American defensive end Bjoern Werner declared for the draft later Thursday.

Defensive end Brandon Jenkins and running back Chris Thompson also are headed to the draft, declining to petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility because of injuries that cost them playing time this season.

Keeping Joyner around for another season is huge for the Seminoles, considering some of the losses they have already taken. An All-ACC selection, Joyner started all 14 games at strong safety in 2012 and will bring a streak of 27 consecutive starts into 2013. He has played in every game since he arrived at Florida State as a freshman in 2010.

"I’m very excited that Lamarcus is going to return for his senior season," Jimbo Fisher said in a statement. "He’s such a great leader and ambassador for our university and football program. He still has some goals that he wants to accomplish, and I can’t express how happy I am that he’s going to be here at Florida State for another year. He’s one of the guys that has been a major part of our success the last three years. For him to want to stay and continue to help build this program, really shows his character as a person."
Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes and running back Chris Thompson have decided to enter the NFL draft, the first in what could be a wave of more players to leave.

Rhodes, a junior, said he has been projected as a late-first-round or early-second-round pick.

"I'm gone," Rhodes told ESPN on Tuesday. "I did all I could in college. If I was to come back, I don't think my status would be getting any better."

Thompson, who sustained season-ending injuries the last two seasons, told The Orlando Sentinel he would also head to the draft instead of trying to get a sixth year at Florida State.

Defensive end Brandon Jenkins has already declared himself eligible for the draft. Two more players -- defensive end Bjoern Werner and safety Lamarcus Joyner, said after the Orange Bowl game Tuesday they would take a few days before announcing whether they, too, would leave school for the NFL draft.

ACC announces Tatum, Piccolo awards

November, 29, 2012
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Duke senior quarterback Sean Renfree has been named the recipient of the 2012 Jim Tatum Award, the league announced on Thursday, and Miami defensive end Shayon Green was named the ACC's Brian Piccolo Award co-winner, along with Florida State running back Chris Thompson.

A few highlights from the release on Renfree:
The Tatum Award is given annually in memory of the late Jim Tatum to the top senior student-athlete (in athletic eligibility) among the league's football players.

A three-year starter and two-year team captain, Renfree has led Duke to a 6-6 record this season and bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native also has received recognition for his off-field accomplishments this season by being named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and the recipient of the Pop Warner National College Football Award. In addition, he was named to the AFCA’s Good Works Team and is a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award.

Renfree graduated from Duke in December of 2011 with a degree in public policy with a 3.4 grade point average and is now working on a graduate degree in humanities with a 3.8 GPA. He was named to the All-ACC Academic Team in 2010 and 2011.



More on the Piccolo Award, from the ACC:
The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the “most courageous” football player in the ACC. Piccolo was the 1965 ACC Athlete of the Year and played for the Chicago Bears before his career was cut short when he was stricken with cancer. His courageous fight against that disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community.

Green had to overcome four different major injuries. He twice tore the ACL in his right knee, once tore the meniscus in his right knee and also suffered a wrist dislocation forcing him to miss all or a major part of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. Finally healthy, Green led the Hurricanes in tackles and was one of the key leaders on the young Miami defense, with 38 of his 67 tackles unassisted. Green also added 2.0 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. He is the first Miami defensive lineman to lead the Hurricanes in tackles for a season in more than 30 years.

“Shayon is an amazing individual with an unparalleled work ethic,” Miami head coach Al Golden said. “I cannot think of anyone who exemplifies the ideals of Brian Piccolo or is more deserving of this award than him. He has overcome a dislocated wrist and three separate knee surgeries to become our leading tackler and team captain. His commitment and perseverance is an inspiration to us all.”

Thompson suffered a fractured back against Wake Forest in the Seminoles' fourth game of the season in 2011, suffering compression fractures to his 5th and 6th thoracic vertebrae. The injury required Thompson to be in a spine immobilizing brace for three months. After extensive rehabilitation, he came back to be Florida State's leading rusher with 687 yards on 91 carries, a sparkling 7.5 yards-per-carry average, including touchdown runs of 74 and 80 yards. Unfortunately, Thompson suffered a season-ending knee injury in Florida State's 8th game of the year against Miami. At the time of his injury he was the 2nd-leading rusher in the ACC and still ranks 3rd. He topped the 100-yard mark in rushing three times in eight games including an 197-yard day against Wake Forest and added 21 receptions for 248 yards. Despite missing the final three games of the season, he was voted second-team All-ACC by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA).

"There's not a more deserving young man to win the Brian Piccolo Award because he exhibits all the qualities that you hear associated with Brian Piccolo," said Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. "He is an outstanding young man with a strong Christian faith. He is a great player and has endured so much the last two years. Suffering the broken back and then having the determination to comeback from that and suffer the knee injury this year, he's been through a great deal. What he represents as a person, as a student, as a college athlete and his importance to our team is unbelievable. He is one of the most special guys I have ever had the privilege of coaching."

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- This game went as many probably expected. Here's a quick look back at FSU's final and most important ACC win of the season:

It was over when: No. 10 Florida State walked into the stadium. In a matchup of the nation's No. 1 total defense against the nation's worst offense, the game played out on the field exactly as it looked on paper. FSU went 61 yards in 11 plays on the first drive of the game, which was capped by Devonta Freeman's 5-yard touchdown run. The Noles never looked back.

Game ball goes to: Freeman. He ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries for 9.3 yards per carry. Since taking over for injured starter Chris Thompson, Freeman has kept the Noles' ground game going. He finished the first half with 77 rushing yards. It's the fourth time in the past five games Freeman has had at least 70 rushing yards in a game.

Stat of the game: Florida State held Maryland to 27 yards (all through the air) in the first half, which was the fewest yards the defense has held an opposing offense to in the first half. Maryland did not gain a rushing yard on 12 carries in the first half, the second fewest in a half since FSU held Miami to minus-12 rushing yards in the second half earlier this season.

What it means: Florida State clinches at least a share of the Atlantic Division title and will play in the ACC title game in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 1. It will be Florida State's second appearance in the title game under coach Jimbo Fisher, as the Noles won the Atlantic Division in 2010.

Unsung hero of the game: Maryland linebacker Kenny Tate. He had three sacks for a total loss of 11 yards and finished with five tackles. He became the first Maryland player to have three sacks in a game since 2002, when Shawne Merriman did it against North Carolina. Merriman was at the game Saturday.

Week 12 injury reports

November, 16, 2012
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Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 12 from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

Probable
Out for the season
DUKE

Probable
Doubtful
Out
Out for the season
FLORIDA STATE

Out
Out for the season
MARYLAND

Out for the season
Questionable
Probable
MIAMI

Out
Surgery/Out for the season:
NC STATE

Out for season
Out for game

What we learned in the ACC: Week 9

October, 28, 2012
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Boston College won't go winless in the ACC. Maryland will have trouble getting to a bowl with a fourth-string quarterback. What else did we learn this week?

Here’s a look at five lessons learned from Week 9 in the ACC, in no particular order:

[+] EnlargeGiovani Bernard
Bob Donnan/US PresswireGiovani Bernard (304 all-purpose yards vs. NC State) is giving Sammy Watkins a run for his money.
1. The ACC’s Player of the Year race just got more interesting. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins had a record-setting, breakout game in a win over Wake Forest, but North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard had a more impressive all-around performance in a victory over rival NC State. After missing three games because of suspensions and an illness, Watkins finally looked back in form Thursday night against a struggling Wake Forest defense. Bernard, though, looked like a legitimate Heisman candidate against the Wolfpack. He was that good.

2. NC State stepped aside in the Atlantic Division race. The Wolfpack put themselves front and center in the ACC race with their upset of Florida State on Oct. 6, but their loss to UNC on Saturday was a step back, as NC State now has two league losses while FSU and Clemson have only one each. Despite the loss to the Wolfpack, Florida State remains the team to beat in the Atlantic Division, and NC State’s loss Saturday further reinforced that. If NC State beats Clemson, though, and Florida State loses to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on a Thursday night, the Pack will be right back in it.

3. Georgia Tech’s problems go deeper than defense. Not only couldn’t the Jackets stop BYU in a 41-17 loss, they also couldn’t move the chains. Georgia Tech was 0-for-10 on third down and did not score an offensive touchdown for the first time since Dec. 31, 2008, against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Georgia Tech allowed 40-plus points for the fourth time this season, the fourth time in its past five games. The defense allowed 411 yards, as Georgia Tech now has its first losing record after eight games since 1994.

4. The gap between the Atlantic Division and Coastal Division this year is as wide as the FSU-Duke score indicated. Florida State pummeled Duke 48-7, but the difference is that heading into the game, Duke was the best team the Coastal Division had to offer. It’s still the only bowl-eligible team in the division (UNC has six wins but is banned from the postseason this year) and is leading the standings, but plenty of important games remain. There’s a reason the ACC’s only two ranked teams are in the Atlantic Division. The conference is top-heavy this year, but Saturday’s game in Tallahassee was a reminder as to just how much of a gap actually exists between the division leaders.

5. Florida State’s running game will survive without leading rusher Chris Thompson. When Thompson suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 33-20 win at Miami, the running game became a question, but sophomores James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman rose to the occasion in Thompson’s place against Duke. Freeman finished with 105 yards rushing and scored on runs of 9 and 14 yards; Wilder had 70 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run. Since Thompson’s injury, Wilder and Freeman have averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

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