ACC: DeAndre Hopkins

Diagnosing the ACC

September, 18, 2013
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The ACC has to be thrilled with the first three weeks of the season: three top-25 teams, including two in the top 10, a 2-2 record against the SEC in early nonconference games and six unbeatens so far.

What could be ailing this conference? Take a closer look at the numbers, and you will find that offense is generally down across the league.

What’s ailing the ACC

Remember, the ACC set all sorts of single-season offensive records in 2012 -- scoring 40 or more points in a game (42 times), topping 500 yards of total offense in a game (38) and 100-yard receiving days (69), as well. And the league had its highest-scoring game in history between Georgia Tech and North Carolina (a 68-50 Yellow Jackets victory).

But so far, nine teams are below their total offense average from a year ago. That includes high-flying Clemson, which ranks "only" No. 35 in total offense so far. Miami (No. 91 overall) and North Carolina (No. 71 overall), expected to be two of the better offenses in the league, also have had problems with consistency. Virginia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest -- three of the worst teams in total offense a year ago -- are all statistically worse.

Having said that, part of the reason the numbers are lower from some of these schools is the opponents they have played. Miami, North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech all played SEC competition within the first two weeks of the season. Virginia played BYU and Oregon. Eight teams also have had byes within the first three weeks, so the body of work is not nearly as large. But it is still an interesting trend to note.

What’s the cure

Another reason for some of these struggles has been mediocre quarterback play. But there are a few factors to consider.

Of the nine teams whose offensive production has dipped, five have either new head coaches or new offensive coordinators (Syracuse, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College). In Miami, for example, Stephen Morris' completion percentage has dropped to 52 percent. Others, such as Virginia, Duke and Syracuse, have new starting quarterbacks.

Other programs have had to deal with personnel changes around them. North Carolina went into the season with a revamped offensive line and questions at running back following Giovani Bernard's departure to the NFL. Clemson has had to replace DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington.

As these players and coaches get more comfortable with one another, then some of these offenses should look better as the season goes on. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, for example, says he felt more in sync with offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler in a victory over East Carolina last week. That was his best game of the young season.

It's very early in the season to start drawing definitive conclusions, but there's no question there's room for improvement everywhere.

Five things: Georgia-Clemson

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Clemson will end a 10-year hiatus in their historic rivalry Saturday when the Bulldogs visit Death Valley n in one of the most intriguing matchups of opening weekend.

Let’s examine five key elements involved in a game that could impact this season’s BCS championship chase:

Big-play offenses: Las Vegas is predicting two of the nation’s most-prolific offenses to combine for around 70 points on Saturday night. And research provided by ESPN Stats and Information gives us plenty of reasons to see why many analysts expect a high-scoring game between the Bulldogs and Tigers.

Beyond simple scoring and total offense stats, they both ranked among the nation’s top big-play offenses a season ago. Georgia ranked first nationally or tied for first in touchdowns of at least 20 yards (31), 30 yards (22) and 50 yards (12) and led the nation with an average of 7.09 yards per play.

Clemson, meanwhile, led the nation in completions of 25 yards or more (51) and touchdown passes that covered at least 25 yards (20). Clemson’s Tajh Boyd had 11.2 percent of his passes go for completions of at least 25 yards, which was the highest of any quarterback in the country who attempted at least 150 passes.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray led the nation in yards per pass attempt (10.1) and percentage of attempts to gain 20 yards or more (16.1).

Both quarterbacks improved their accuracy on passes of 20-plus yards last season, with Murray completing 46 percent of such throws (an increase of 17.3 percent) and Boyd hitting on 51 percent (an increase of 14 percent).

Will Watkins step up?: With Georgia breaking in a largely rebuilt secondary, this game would seem like a prime opportunity for Clemson’s 2011 All-American receiver Sammy Watkins to exploit the Bulldogs’ youth.

Watkins talked a big game about beating Georgia during the offseason, but will he reclaim his spot as the Tigers’ top receiving target after losing that title last fall to DeAndre Hopkins. Watkins was third nationally in all-purpose yards (2,288) in 2011, but totaled fewer than half as many a year later (1,073). His touchdowns-per-touch ratio dropped from 1-in-9.6 to 1-in-17.8, as well.

Clemson quarterbacks targeted Watkins 44 fewer times (from 123 in 2011 to 79 last year) and his catch (82 to 57), receiving yardage (1,219 to 708) and touchdown (12 to three) totals all dropped severely.

Hopkins led the nation with 11 touchdown catches of 25-plus yards last season, so the Tigers desperately need Watkins to live up to the standard he set in 2011 and replace some of the departed star’s production. Watkins is more than capable, posting 11 TD catches of 25-plus yards in his first two seasons as a Tiger.

Pound the run?: An interesting subplot to Saturday’s game is how Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will attack Clemson’s defense. The Tigers also have some concerns in the secondary -- this on the heels of surrendering 7.32 yards per pass attempt a season ago. But conventional wisdom seems to dictate that Georgia uses its powerful running game -- paced by All-SEC pick Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall -- to extend drives and provide time for its defense to rest between series against Clemson’s up-tempo offense.

Both players averaged better than 6 yards per carry last season, due in large part to their capabilities as home-run threats. They combined for 12 runs of 25-plus yards, eight of which went for touchdowns. Gurley alone had 27 carries that went at least 15 yards, which tied for fifth in the FBS.

Clemson ranked 57th nationally against the run last season, surrendering 155.92 yards per game on the ground in Brent Venables’ first season as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. The Tigers were 71st against the pass at 240.3 ypg.

Murray on the big stage: Fair or unfair, Saturday’s game -- and the upcoming matchups with South Carolina and LSU in September -- will serve as another referendum on Murray’s status as a big-game performer.

[+] EnlargeTray Matthews
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsDespite big-name offensive talent, Georgia-Clemson could come down to young defenders like Tray Matthews.
Georgia’s quarterback caught plenty of guff over shortcomings against ranked opponents well into last season. He’s 3-11 in his UGA career against teams that ended the season ranked in the AP Top 25 with 23 touchdowns versus 16 touchdowns against those teams. He’s 25-2 with 72 touchdowns and 16 interceptions against teams that finished unranked.

The positive sign for Murray is that he has won two of his last three games against opponents that finished the season as a ranked team: Florida and Nebraska last season. Following an atrocious first half against Florida last season, Murray has tossed seven touchdowns against three interceptions in 10 quarters against ranked opponents, including the SEC championship game loss to Alabama.

Fresh-faced defenses: Let’s have some fun with numbers concerning Georgia and Clemson’s defensive depth charts.

After losing 12 key players from last season’s defense, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham appears set to trot out a large group of newbies. Of the 22 players listed on the Bulldogs’ defensive two-deep in this week’s game notes, 16 of them have never started a college game. Heck, nine of them, including seven true freshmen, have never PLAYED in a college game.

But a number of them -- including outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, defensive lineman John Taylor, safety Tray Matthews and cornerbacks Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins -- could play big roles on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Clemson has some experience issues of its own. Ten of the 22 players on the defensive two-deep have never started and three of them are freshmen. They’re expected to be without injured freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who at No. 4 in the 2013 ESPN 150 was Clemson’s highest-rated signee in its most recent recruiting class.

It’s easily conceivable that Saturday’s outcome could be determined by which team’s young defensive personnel acquits itself more effectively in its first game in leading roles.

Vote: Clemson's O or FSU's D?

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
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The knock on Clemson is that it lacks the championship-caliber defense that Florida State has quietly been able to rebuild under coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff. It's been a fair assessment.

Despite an impressive performance in their Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU last season, the Tigers' Discover Orange Bowl debacle against West Virginia seems to forever haunt them in the court of public opinion.

You would think that Clemson's defense would be better this fall in the second season under coordinator Brent Venables, but until the Tigers consistently play at an elite level on defense and dominates its opponents up front, Florida State will have the edge in that category -- and possibly the race to a national title.

Florida State, though, is a slight step behind offensively (it's hardly as if the Noles couldn't move the ball), but that gap could increase even more this year if rookie Jameis Winston doesn't turn out to be The Answer many predict him to be:

Defense, as the saying goes, wins championships. Both programs, though, have been to the Orange Bowl in the past two years. If you're the coach, which would you choose in your hunt for a national title -- Clemson's offense or Florida State's defense? Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and Heisman hopeful quarterback Tajh Boyd? Or Christian Jones and Lamarcus Joyner?

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Which would you rather have on your quest for a national title?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,953)

Florida State's defense returns four starters and will be under the direction of first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Clemson has Sammy Watkins. Florida State has Mario Edwards Jr. All four starters have to be replaced on FSU's defensive line. Clemson lost leading rusher Andre Ellington and standout receiver DeAndre Hopkins. They've both got big shoes to fill in 2013, but have also recruited well enough to reload.

If you take Clemson's offense and Florida State's defense, you'd have the ACC's dream team. But you can't. So pick the one you want on your way to a national title.

Clemson Tigers spring wrap

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
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2012 record: 11-2
2012 conference record: 7-1 (Atlantic Division co-champs)
Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners:

QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, T Brandon Thomas, WR Charone Peake, WR Martavis Bryant, DE Vic Beasley, DE Corey Crawford, LB Stephone Anthony, S Travis Blanks, LB Spencer Shuey; K Chandler Catanzaro

Key losses:

WR DeAndre Hopkins, RB Andre Ellington, TE Brandon Ford, C Dalton Freeman, WR Jaron Brown, DE Malliciah Goodman, CB Xavier Brewer, CB Rashard Hall, SS Jonathan Meeks, LB Tig Willard, P Spencer Benton

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ellington (1,081 yards)
Passing: Boyd* (3,896 yards)
Receiving: Hopkins (1,405 yards)
Tackles: Willard (95)
Sacks: Beasley* (8)
Interceptions: Hall (4)

Spring answers

1. Freshman phenom at tight end: Jordan Leggett enrolled in January, and not a moment too soon. Sam Cooper tore his ACL, an injury that opened the door for Leggett, who had a fantastic spring. He had seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the spring game, and he was impressive in the last two scrimmages. He’s not listed as the starter yet, but he is good enough to get there by the opener against Georgia.

2. Beasley’s a beast. He led the team with eight sacks last year, but really showed consistency in the spring. Twice had interceptions of Boyd where he made athletic plays, and he had 10 sacks in the three scrimmages. Clemson is in need of a big-play guy on defense, and Beasley could be it.

3. Solid behind Boyd. Clemson has found a No. 2 quarterback in Cole Stoudt, who threw for 304 yards in the first half of the Tigers’ spring game. He hardly played in the second half. The depth of the position took a hit when Chad Kelly was injured, but now the backup quarterback question has an answer.

Fall questions

1. Unsettled secondary. The cornerback position is a particular area of concern, but with eight true freshmen joining the team this August, the entire group could look different this summer. It wouldn’t be surprising to see at least four of those rookies earn playing time this fall, especially prized recruit Mackensie Alexander, who was the program’s highest-rated signee since former defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

2. Center of attention: The Tigers will miss Dalton Freeman, who started 49 straight games at center. Ryan Norton is the new starter, but there’s no replacing the experience Freeman had with making all of the blocking calls and the chemistry he developed with Boyd.

3. Spotlight on Sammy: Watkins is moving to Hopkins’ old position, and all eyes will be watching to see if he looks like the same player who caught the nation’s attention as a true freshman in 2011. So far, so good. Watkins had 156 receiving yards in the spring game and looked like old Sammy.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 30, 2013
4/30/13
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Who's ready for the 2014 NFL draft?

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
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Catching up on the draft ...
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).

Most draft analysts expected a big first round for the ACC, so watching six picks come off the board Thursday night was no big surprise.

Watching EJ Manuel go before his more highly-rated Seminoles teammates, as the only quarterback taken among the first 32 selections? Well, that was the big draft day shocker.

The Buffalo Bills selected Manuel with the No. 16 overall pick, as new coach Doug Marrone passed over his former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib in favor of the dual-threat Florida State product. Manuel was invited to New York for the draft, so certainly expectations were there for him to be a high pick.

But West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was expected to come off the board first. Speculation had linked Nassib to Buffalo for months, thanks to his connections with Marrone and his former offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett. But in the end, Bills general manager Buddy Nix said of Manuel, "This guy to us has got the upside to be whatever you want him to be."

For those scoring at home, the Seminoles have had quarterbacks drafted in the first round twice in the past three drafts. Christian Ponder went to the Minnesota Vikings in 2011. You have to believe coach Jimbo Fisher will be dropping that little nugget every time he sets foot on the recruiting trail.

Manuel was the first of three Seminoles drafted in the first round. Defensive end Bjoern Werner went No. 24 to Indianapolis and cornerback Xavier Rhodes went next, at No. 25 to Minnesota. Both Werner and Rhodes were projected to go higher than Manuel in just about every mock draft. Florida State had three first-round picks for the first time since 2006.

As for the league as a whole, six players who spent their careers in the ACC went in the first round -- the highest total since seven were drafted in 2008. If you count Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh, then seven players at current/future ACC schools went on Day 1. Pugh became the highest drafted Orange player since Dwight Freeney was the 11th pick by the Colts in 2002.

Only the SEC had more picks on Day 1, with 12.

As expected, North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper was the first ACC player taken, at No. 7 overall to Arizona. Teammate Sylvester Williams went No. 28 overall to Denver, giving the Tar Heels two first-round picks for the first time since 2002. Cooper became the first offensive guard taken in the top 10 since 1997.

Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins went No. 27 overall to the Houston Texans, making his decision to leave school early pay off. That seems to be the perfect fit for Hopkins, who gets to play with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Hopkins became the first Clemson wide receiver to be selected in the first round since Rod Gardner went No. 15 to the Washington Redskins in 2001.

So to review:
  • No. 7 Jonathan Cooper, OG, Arizona
  • No. 16 EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo
  • No. 19 Justin Pugh, OT, NY Giants
  • No. 24 Bjoern Werner, DE, Indianapolis
  • No. 25 Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota
  • No. 27 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston
  • No. 28 Sylvester Williams, DT, Denver

The second and third rounds resume Friday night in New York. Among the ACC players who stand a chance to get selected later today:

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
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So many questions, so little time ...

Did you know: ACC in NFL draft

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
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Time to take a look at how the ACC has fared in the NFL draft, by the numbers. Special thanks to Mike Finn in the league office for the information.
  • The ACC holds NFL draft records for most first-round selections (12) and most overall picks (51), both set in the 2006 draft.
  • The ACC has had at least 31 players chosen in the draft in each of the past eight years, the second-longest streak of its kind nationally. Only the SEC has had a longer streak (15 drafts).
  • Since 2005, the ACC has seen 281 of its players drafted. Only the SEC (315) has had more. During that time, the ACC has had more players drafted than the Big Ten (262), the Pac-12 (248), the Big 12 (230) and the Big East (133).
  • Since 2006, the ACC has had nine wide receivers taken in the first or second round of the draft, a streak which could continue this year as Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins is projected as a first or second-round selection.
  • Since 2006, or the year the ACC became a 12-team league, the ACC has had 19 defensive ends or outside linebackers chosen in the first or second round of the NFL draft, the most of any conference in the nation. The Big Ten is next with 13 followed by the SEC (10), the Pac-12 (6) and the Big 12 and Big East with six apiece. That number is sure to grow as Florida State defensive ends Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner headline the group this year.
  • Since 2006, 11 of the 12 current ACC schools have had a player taken in the first round. Florida State leads with the most first-round picks during that time with seven, followed by Boston College (5), Miami (5), Virginia (4) and North Carolina (4).
  • Since 2005, the ACC has had 45 players taken in the first round of the draft, ranking second among all conferences. Only the SEC (65) has had more. The ACC has had more first round picks than the Big Ten (39), the Big 12 (40) and the Pac-12 (28) during that time.
The first round of the NFL draft is just a week away, so it is time to provide you an update with the latest predictions, mock drafts and rankings from ESPN experts.

First, let us start with Mel Kiper Jr., who plays general manager for every single team and predicts the first three rounds of the draft Insider. It is Insider content, but here is a look at where he has placed players from ACC schools. Oh, and be sure to read his ground rules to have a better understanding of his thought process.

First round
Second round
Third round

As Kiper Jr. states, that piece is not a mock draft. It's his preference for each team at that spot. His mock draft features Cooper, Williams and Rhodes. Disagree with his first-round picks? Well you can make your own mock draft Insider. Two thumbs up on that tool.

Kiper also has updated his Big Board Insider, ranking the Top 25 prospects. Only Cooper and Williams make that list.

Meanwhile, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has revealed the Scouts Inc. tier rankings Insider, which list prospects by their ratings. There are seven tiers and 109 players rated, with 17 from ACC schools (counting incoming members Pittsburgh and Syracuse).

McShay also has named his All-Satellite team Insider, comprised of the best prospects when playing in space. North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard checks in at No. 5. McShay writes, "He has super-quick feet, good initial burst and outstanding lateral agility. Bernard can stop and start on a dime, strings together multiple moves and is a slippery runner between the tackles."

Want more? Kiper also has updated his top 5 prospects by position Insider.
CLEMSON, S.C. -- The topic came up just after DeAndre Hopkins declared for the draft. What should Clemson do to replace him?

Easy solution. Move outside receiver Sammy Watkins to the boundary spot, where Hopkins thrived.

The thinking? Watkins may be able to get more one-on-one opportunities, that will, in turn, give him more chances to turn 10-yard receptions into 60-yard touchdowns. Not only that, the receiver at this position needs to have great chemistry with quarterback Tajh Boyd. Watkins best fits that description among all receivers on the roster.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Jeremy Brevard/US PresswireClemson is hoping for even more big plays from Sammy Watkins at his new position.
"It's been challenging," Watkins said. "You’ve got to be a great blocker, a physical player. You have to know when to run fast and when to speed up and read coverages. But as I got further in practice, I’m coming along and looking like Nuk [Hopkins] out there."

In a nutshell, Watkins says, he has to be a dominant receiver on every play -- somebody who can be relied upon to come up with a tough catch in any situation. That is where Hopkins excelled, particularly on third down.

To that end, Watkins has added 10 pounds in the offseason and is up to 210.

"With this position you have to be prepared every play," Watkins said. "At my other position, you could take a play off because you know the ball's not coming to you. This position, the ball could come to you at any time. You have to be prepared and ready to make a play every time you go out there on the field. You can’t be relaxed at that position because you have to block and be physical. So it’s going to challenge me to be a great player overall instead of just going out there and making big plays, to make those hard catches with people on you and while people are hitting you. It’s a great opportunity."

Watkins' sophomore season has been well documented. But now that he is going into his third year in this offense, his third year playing with Boyd, he realizes what is at stake. So do his coaches.

"We know what we have in Sammy," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "Now, we have a possession receiver there at the position with incredible speed and acceleration. What I think we’re going to see is we’re going to see a lot more two high safeties. We were getting one safety because they were pushing everything over to where Sammy was and leaving Nuk one on one. They’re not going to leave Sammy one on one backside with a corner. They’re going to leave a safety over to help, which should help our run game."

Added Watkins: "I would definitely say you will see bigger plays at this position. This position is made for the big plays, giving you the opportunity to have that one-on-one matchup."

How does that differ from his old spot? Watkins joked, "I think the defensive end was watching me."

Taking stock of the draft

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
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North Carolina offensive guard Jonathan Cooper could be the ACC's top draft pick this year, according to Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider.

The first round of the draft is at 8 p.m. ET on April 25, and McShay has Cooper at the No. 11 overall pick, heading to the San Diego Chargers. McShay's piece is Insider content, but I'll give you a sneak peek as to how McShay thinks the rest of the ACC might fare in the first round:
This version of McShay's mock draft doesn't include Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins or FSU defensive end Tank Carradine in the first round. He has also given Rhodes a significant bump from No. 24, where he was listed earlier this month. In his 5.0 version, McShay lists several scenarios for each team, though, and both Hopkins and Carradine are mentioned as possibilities for other teams, so they still have first-round potential.

Odds are Hopkins continues the ACC's streak of having a wide receiver drafted in the first or second round in each of the past eight years. If Carradine is taken in the first round, and Florida State winds up having four first-round draft picks, the Seminoles would tie their own conference record for the most first-round picks by an ACC team. The Noles did it in 1997 and 2006.
ESPN Insider Todd McShay recently released his latest mock draftInsider, and once again, it is looking like a strong first round for the ACC. If McShay is right, and seven former ACC players are chosen in the first round, it would be the most the conference has had drafted in the first round since 2008:

2008: 7
2009: 5
2010: 4
2011: 3
2012: 3 (No. 9 Luke Kuechly, BC; No. 16 Quinton Coples, UNC; No. 32 David Wilson, VT)

McShay's piece is Insider content, and he has analysis on each player, but here is a sneak peek at who he has going and when:
As far as ACC quarterbacks go, McShay says wait until Round 2. The only ACC players listed in his second-round mock draft are former FSU quarterback EJ Manuel and former NC State quarterback Mike Glennon.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
12:00
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Before the madness begins, more spring football updates!

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