ACC: Dwayne Allen

With half of the conference playing spring games this weekend, here’s a look at what to watch if you’re keeping an eye on the ACC as spring ball comes to a close:

CLEMSON

When: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN3)

What to watch:
  • Quarterbacks of the future. You know Tajh Boyd is good. Expect Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly to take most of the snaps. Boyd played just four snaps in the last scrimmage. Let's see his backups.
  • The tight ends. Clemson tight ends Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford have been the first team All-ACC tight ends the past two years. Clemson tight ends have 118 receptions and 21 touchdowns the past two years, perhaps the most underrated area in Chad Morris’ offense. So who moves in there this year? Sam Cooper is the most experienced, but freshman Jordan Leggett has been impressive this spring.
  • How much better is the defense? All eyes will be on Brent Venables' group to see how much progress it has made this spring. If the D gets better, it could be a special season in Death Valley.
FLORIDA STATE

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, (ESPN3)

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. It's been one of the hottest topics this spring in the ACC and arguably the biggest position battle in the conference. Check out Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston as they all battle to replace starter EJ Manuel.
  • The defensive line. The competition is on to replace Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine. Mario Edwards Jr. is ready to jump in, along with Giorgio Newberry.
  • Don't forget the kicker. It's big at FSU. The Noles have to replace Dustin Hopkins, the ACC's all-time leading scorer and the NCAA's all-time kick scorer. It's your chance to see Roberto Aguayo, who was one of the nation's top kickers coming out of high school.
MARYLAND

When: 7 p.m. on Friday in Byrd Stadium

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • The running backs. Both Brandon Ross and Albert Reid have had strong springs and will be competing for playing time come the fall.
  • The receivers. This group should be a strong point for the team this year, as Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Nigel King are a talented trio.
  • New faces on defense. The Terps have to replace six starters on defense, including some of their best leaders in Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis.
DUKE

When: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN3) in Wallace Wade Stadium

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • Booooooone. Anthony Boone takes over at quarterback, and there have been rave reviews about him from within the program all spring. He's got a strong arm and is mobile.
  • New faces at safety. Some big names are gone, as Duke has to replace graduates Jordon Byas and Walt Canty, and Brandon Braxton, who moved back to receiver. Jeremy Cash, eligible now after transferring from Ohio State and sitting out last fall, headlines the group that includes sophomore Dwayne Norman (60 tackles in 2012 as true freshman) and redshirt freshman Corbin McCarthy.
  • Front and center: There is one hole to fill on the offensive line and Matt Skura takes over at center for Brian Moore.
MIAMI

When: 3 p.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium (ESPN3)

Gates open: 12:30 p.m.

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • Defensive improvement. Is there any? The Canes were one of the worst in the country last year, but they return every starter up front.
  • The No. 2 QB. Who is it? Gray Crow started the last scrimmage as the backup to Stephen Morris and completed 8 of 13 passes for 73 yards, with a touchdown and interception. Ryan Williams, who entered the spring as the expected No. 2, completed only six of his 12 passes with a touchdown and an interception. The coaches will be watching these guys closely on Saturday, so should you.
  • Running back Dallas Crawford. You know Duke Johnson. It's time to get to know this guy. Those within the program have said Crawford has had a great spring and could be a rising star this fall. He scored two touchdowns in a scrimmage in Naples earlier this month.
NORTH CAROLINA

When: 3 p.m. ET on Saturday at Kenan Stadium (ESPN3)

Admission: Free

Parking: $5/vehicle

What to watch:
  • Gio's replacement(s). A.J. Blue and Romar Morris have been working to ease the loss of leading rusher Giovani Bernard. Can they be as effective as he was, how much progress have they made and who will replace Bernard in the return game?
  • The O-line. Former guard Jonathan Cooper should be a first-round draft pick later this month, and it won't matter how good Blue and Morris are if they can't find anyone to help block for them. A total of three starters have to be replaced on the offensive line.
  • Replacing big names on D. Cooper and Bernard aren't the only big names that will be missing. The defense is going to miss tackle Sylvester Williams, who could be another first-round draft pick, and linebacker Kevin Reddick (85 tackles, 8.5 for loss). How does the D look without them?
PITTSBURGH

When: 7 p.m. ET on Friday at Bethel Park High School (ESPN3)

Gates open: 5:30 p.m.

Admission: Free

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Fifth-year senior Tom Savage has taken most of the reps with the first team, and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik appears to be the backup, but coach Paul Chryst has yet to name a starter.
  • The running backs. Earlier this month, it was announced that Rushel Shell has decided to transfer. Since then, the bulk of the carries have gone to junior Isaac Bennett, sophomore Malcolm Crockett and senior Desmond Brown. How they fare will go a long way in determining how Pitt fares in its first season in the ACC.
  • The offensive line. It's been problematic for the Panthers in each of the past two seasons, and Pitt now has to break in two new starters in Gabe Roberts and Adam Bisnowaty.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will not be attending ACC media days, which begin Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., so I spoke with him on the phone Thursday to get his take on the upcoming season. Boyd played his way into the Heisman conversation last year after the Tigers’ 8-0 start, and he has a chance to do that again. Last year, Boyd set an ACC record for touchdown responsibility in a season with 38. He completed 298 of 499 passes for 3,828 yards, all school records. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes, and led the ACC in total offense (289.0) and passing yardage (273.4) per game and was fifth in pass efficiency (a rating of 141.2).

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

What’s your outlook on the offense knowing there are questions up front you guys have to answer?

Tajh Boyd: I’m just excited for those guys to get out there and show what they can do. I’m really confident in this group of linemen and excited about this first game. We start off with a bang against Auburn, so it’s going to be competitive. We’ve got some youth out there, but those guys are ready for the challenge. They’ve been working hard all summer to prove themselves. It’s going to be fine.

How is this season going to be different for you?

TB: Just more experienced in the long run. We started off really good last year, but I think we have a better perspective on what to expect this season, and how to control certain obstacles. The big thing last year was not being consistent, the way we finish games, the way we start games. It’s been a really good summer so far. With the way guys have been pushing themselves, I think it could be a special season. We have to keep working and taking it one game at a time, but it comes down to how consistent we are.

What would you say is the biggest thing you learned from last season? You personally?

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Bob Donnan/US PresswireClemson quarterback Tajh Boyd accounted for an ACC-record 38 touchdowns last season.
TB: Just going to compete every play. For me, it’s more about managing the game. I felt like sometimes it was to the point where I felt like everything was on my shoulders, everything was on my back. One of the things I have to understand, I always have to be able to manage the game consistently, be cool regardless of the situation, work and push the guys beside me. For me, it’s just game management.

In terms of executing the offense and being in the second season under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, how much smoother has the offseason been and do you expect it to continue to be this fall?

TB: That’s the exciting part about it, is that we’re able to improvise a little bit more. Me, the receivers, running backs. The line has a better understanding and grasp of the offense and things have been clicking. Last year we thought, we have to learn this as fast as possible. Now we’re taking our time with it, figuring out what we can improve on, and critiquing ourselves. It’s just been an awesome summer so far. I’m excited for camp to start putting some of these things to use and get ready for some of the new things we’ll put in as well.

What do you think you guys are capable of this year?

TB: It’s kind of hard to say until you get out there and do it, but I think we have all the capabilities in the world, to compete for whatever kind of championship we want to. But again, it’s all about being consistent and finishing. That’s one of the lessons we learned from last year. This team has no limits on what we can do. It’s just about how we prepare ourselves and how focused we are.

How much does it mean to you to play your way into the Heisman conversation?

TB: It’s definitely an honor just to be mentioned in a category like that. Growing up as a kid, that’s one of the things you hope for and dream about. But the team has to succeed in order for any individual accomplishments like that to come along. With the way we’ve been working this summer, who knows what we can do. Just being considered as an elite player like that is going to be awesome. I have to take things like that in stride.

Do you guys still talk about the Orange Bowl? Is that something you use as motivation, or have you done everything you can to try to forget it?

TB: You really can’t forget about it too much. Every conversation we have with a person outside the football program, that’s the first thing they ask about: How is the season going to be, are you still thinking about the Orange Bowl? My answer is, we’re going to use it as a factor, but it’s not always a present memory right now. You have to use all of the experiences you have and try to learn from them and grow from them, but at the same time, it’s not something we’re dwelling on right now.

What’s the biggest thing you need to do during summer camp to have a better season than you did last year?

TB: Just being the best leader I can be. Losing a guy like Dwayne (Allen, the tight end drafted in the third round by Indianapolis) and some of the guys like that, they had a big role in leadership and everything of that nature. The guys are going to have to be able to depend on me at all times. I’m prepared to do that at all costs. That and managing the game, taking what the defense gives me and having total control out there. You have to tune everything out.

One good reason: Clemson

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

The series continues today with one good reason why

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

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

More in this series

Miami leads ACC draft contingent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mocks aplenty on NFL draft eve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami: 7
Clemson: 6
NC State: 5
Virginia Tech: 3
UNC: 3
Virginia: 3
Wake Forest: 3
FSU: 3
BC: 2
Georgia Tech: 1
Maryland: 1
Duke: 0
It's never too early to begin thinking about fantasy football, right?

Our team of NFL bloggers played another version of the game this week, mocking the first round of the NFL draft. Trades were involved. Emails were endlessly sent back and forth. But in the end, a picture was painted of how Thursday night might unfold in New York.

The first ACC player off the board was no surprise, as NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas took Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly with the Panthers' No. 9 pick.
Analysis: Defensive tackle is a consideration, but Fletcher Cox is the only sure-fire player at that spot. With him gone, the Panthers go with another low-risk player. Kuechly was exceptionally productive in college and is NFL-ready. He can contribute right away and that's something the Panthers want from this pick.

AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley took North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples with the No. 17 pick, which belonged to the Bengals. To wrap up the first round, AFC East blogger James Walker put his general manager's cap on, swapping three of the Bills' later picks for the Giants' No. 32 selection, which he used to take Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill.

Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen was not taken in the first round. In a separate piece, KC Joyner calls Allen one of five overrated prospects of this draft class. Joyner measures Allen's route depth yards per attempt (YPA) total against those of the class' other top tight ends, Stanford's Coby Fleener and Georgia's Orson Charles.
Allen's vertical and total YPA marks rank last among these three, but his numbers are even worse than they appear because they rely heavily on success in variations of the wheel route.

Allen gained 116 yards on 10 wheel variation targets. Take that single play type out of his totals and Allen's already poor 6.6 YPA drops to an even worse 5.7 mark. Factor in his 5.5 YPA when flexed out as a wide receiver and his subpar performance at the combine (Mel Kiper said he looked almost sluggish) and it means Allen has little claim to being an elite receiving tight end.
Mel Kiper took a different approach Wednesday to potential NFL Draft outcomes, listing who he would pick if he were selecting for each team in Rounds 1-3, Insider then compiling those players into a "best possible" scenario Insider for each franchise.

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

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

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

On Todd McShay's 32-man draft board, Kuechly is up three spots to No. 7, Insider Coples is down five spots to No. 14 and Hill has moved in at No. 30. Branch rounds out the ACC contingent at No. 31, having dropped two spots.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth mock draft Wednesday goes two rounds Insider, with Clemson and North Carolina each featuring two players, the most among ACC schools.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the ACC lineup remained unchanged from last week:
Luke Kuechly headlines all ACC players on Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's draft boards this week, coming in at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively.

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

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

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

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

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

2011 ACC postseason top 25: No. 1

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

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

Previously ranked: No. 1

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

No. 2 David Amerson, CB, NC State

No. 3 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

2011 ACC postseason top 25: No. 2

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

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

Previously ranked: Not ranked.

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

No. 3 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

2011 ACC postseason top 25: No. 3

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
10:30
AM ET
No. 3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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

Previously ranked: Not ranked

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

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

2011 ACC postseason top 25: No. 4

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
10:30
AM ET
No. 4. David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

2011 stats: He started all 14 games and played over 700 snaps on offense and 51 on special teams. He rushed for a school-record 1,709 yards on 290 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns, for an average of 122.1 rushing yards per game. He also caught 21 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. He led team with 22 kickoff returns for 415 yards and totaled 2,253 all-purpose yards.

Previously ranked: No. 10

Making the case for Wilson: He was a durable back who proved last year that he could carry the full workload, and his athleticism and explosiveness made him an exciting player to watch. He was the ACC’s overall and offensive player of the year. His streak of seven straight 100-plus rushing yard games were the most under coach Frank Beamer and he finished with 10 total, which tied the ACC single-season record set by Ryan Williams in 2009.

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

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