ACC: Jonathan Cooper

North Carolina has started the season 1-3, a huge surprise considering many expected this team to compete for the Coastal crown. So that has gotten us to wonder, what has been the bigger disappointment at UNC this season -- the offense or the defense?

Heather Dinich says: Deee-fense

We knew North Carolina’s offense would go through a bit of a transition. It was na´ve to think otherwise. With the losses of standout running back Giovani Bernard and his lead blocker Jonathan Cooper to the NFL, it was all but inevitable there would be some growing pains.

[+] EnlargeLarry Fedora
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeAdd UNC coach Larry Fedora to the list of coaches not pleased with the proposed rule change aimed at slowing down offenses.
What’s the defense’s excuse?

Andrea will argue that UNC’s offense has been the bigger disappointment, but Bryn Renner & Co. didn’t allow East Carolina 603 total yards -- the second-highest total ever allowed by UNC at home. Saturday’s 55-31 loss to the Pirates was embarrassing, but hey, at least Renner found a way to throw three touchdown passes. You’d think that on a day when your quarterback throws for a career-high 366 yards and three touchdowns it would be enough to win the game.

Unless, of course, the quarterback is playing with the UNC D.

The Tar Heels allowed ECU 36 first downs. The Pirates ran 101 plays -- the most plays by an opponent against UNC. Ever. Vintavious Cooper ran for a career-high 186 yards. He may as well have been running on a treadmill for how much was in his way. How far the defense has fallen in a year, since last season when UNC held ECU quarterback Shane Carden without a touchdown in a 27-6 win.

On Saturday, North Carolina couldn’t stop the run. It lost the battle up front. There were missed tackles all over the field. And it was hardly the first porous performance.

For four straight games, North Carolina has allowed a 100-yard rusher and at least 400 total yards. Had David Sims eeked out one more yard for Georgia Tech, UNC would have allowed the Yellow Jackets two 100-yard rushers. It was a critical Coastal Division game UNC could have won, had it not squandered first-half leads of 13-0 and 20-7.

This is a secondary that returned all four starters from a group that ranked No. 20 in the country last year with 16 interceptions. Senior defensive end Kareem Martin was among the ACC’s leaders in tackles for loss last year.

Hasn’t mattered one bit.

UNC enters Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech ranked No. 105 in the country in total defense, No. 112 in rushing defense, No. 108 in third-down conversion defense, No. 103 in first-down defense, and tied for No. 93 in scoring defense. These guys could make the Hokies’ pedestrian offense look like one of the best in the ACC.

There’s certainly plenty of blame to go around in Chapel Hill, on both sides of the ball, but the math is simple: If your offense can only score 25.3 points per game, the defense can’t allow 32.5.

Andrea Adelson says: _ffense

The easy answer for the biggest disappointment at North Carolina is the defense. But that cannot be true, not when this was a mediocre group a season ago that nobody anticipated would become elite in just a year.

No, the biggest disappointment has to be the offense, which ranks among the worst in the ACC. Yes, we knew it would be a struggle without Bernard and three new starters on the offensive line. But North Carolina returned a veteran quarterback in Renner, the best tight end in the league in Eric Ebron and talented young receivers. Surely, that would be enough to get North Carolina through as it worked on its run game.

But alas, we have come to see just how valuable Bernard was to this team a year ago. North Carolina has gone from having the No. 1 rusher in the league to the worst rushing offense in the ACC, averaging just about 100 yards on the ground per game. That, in turn, has caused one of the biggest offensive downfalls in the entire nation. North Carolina has tumbled from No. 14 in total offense to No. 75, averaging just 397 yards per game. Only West Virginia and Louisiana Tech have had steeper drops.

North Carolina only has one game with 500 yards total offense this year. Last year, it had four. The two games North Carolina has failed to reach 400 yards under coach Larry Fedora came this season, too, against South Carolina and Georgia Tech.

The failures we have seen from this offense have put Fedora into uncharted territory. Fedora has found success everywhere he has been with his version of the spread, hurry-up offense. He has simply plugged new players into starting roles and chugged along from there.

In his first season at Southern Miss, the offense broke 36 school records. His offense gained over 5,000 yards of offense all four years he was there, including a record 6,459 yards in his final year, 2011. Then last year, he came into North Carolina and the Tar Heels set more than 35 team and individual marks, including total points, points per game and total offense.

Throughout his career, Fedora has achieved these numbers with balance. In every previous season as a head coach, his teams averaged at least 181 yards rushing per game. Without that balance this year, though, North Carolina is on pace to total less than 5,000 total yards of offense for the first time in Fedora’s career as a head coach.

Fedora has built his reputation on offense. But his offense is simply doing him no favors this year.

Opening camp: Coastal Division

August, 1, 2013
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Several more teams in the ACC begin practicing today, and by Aug. 6, the entire conference will have officially begun fall camp. Here’s a quick look at when each team in the Coastal Division is starting, and what to keep an eye on:

Duke

Opening camp: Aug. 5

What to watch: Quarterback Anthony Boone is entering his first season as a full-time starter, and Duke’s offense will look different as a result. Boone has a stronger arm than his predecessor, Sean Renfree, and he’s more mobile. The question is whether the Blue Devils can get their running game going around him, and if the defense can finally find a way to stop the run. The entire secondary has to be rebuilt, as Ross Cockrell is the only returning starter, and even he missed half the spring with an injury.

Georgia Tech

Opening camp: Today

What to watch: Vad Lee takes over at quarterback, and expectations are already soaring. The defense will be under the direction of first-year coordinator Ted Roof, a familiar face to the program and the ACC. Coach Paul Johnson said it’s likely the Jackets will throw the ball more this fall, but how much depends on whether they can find some dependable receivers in a group that’s been depleted this offseason.

Miami

Opening camp: Aug. 3

What to watch: Defensive improvement will be the key to the Canes’ success this year, particularly up front where the group struggled to get pressure on quarterbacks last fall. Every starter returns on both the offensive and defensive lines, and so does 2012 ACC Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson and veteran quarterback Stephen Morris. Miami was chosen by the media as the preseason favorite to win the division this year, but the defense was one of the worst in the country last year, allowing 30.5 points per game. And of course, the NCAA is still snoozing.

North Carolina

Opening camp: Today

What to watch: The offensive line's cohesiveness and development will be critical, especially after lead blocker Jonathan Cooper left, who helped make former running back Giovani Bernard look so spectacular. Plenty of talent and experience returns, starting with James Hurst, who could be a first-round draft pick, and center Russell Bodine. Landon Turner and Kiaro Holts have playing experience, and Caleb Peterson is a redshirt freshman taking over for Cooper. Keep an eye on the competition at running back, where A.J. Blue is penciled in as the starter to take over for Bernard, and in the return game, where Bernard will also be missed.

Pittsburgh

Opening camp: Aug. 6

What to watch: Quarterback Tom Savage hasn’t officially been named the starter, so the competition with Chad Voytik continues. The running game took a hit when Rushel Shell decided to transfer, so also keep an eye on how Malcolm Crockett and Isaac Bennett fare. None of that will matter much, though, if the offensive line can’t get it together. The group was a major question mark after the spring, as new center Gabe Roberts struggled a bit with the shotgun snap, and depth and experience remain concerns. With nine starters returning on defense, including standout lineman Aaron Donald, the Panthers will have to rely on their defense until the offense catches up.

Virginia

Opening camp: Aug. 5

What to watch: This team will have an entirely new look this fall. The Cavaliers overhauled the staff, including adding two new coordinators and hiring former NC State coach Tom O’Brien. Mike London said he expects to name a starting quarterback by mid-August, but the field has narrowed to frontrunners David Watford and Greyson Lambert. Virginia needs to find some linebackers to help fill the voids after Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds left, and the running game has to show progress after ranking No. 96 in the country last year.

Virginia Tech

Opening camp: Aug. 5

What to watch: Offense, offense, offense. It’s the storyline in Blacksburg, as first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler was hired to cure the Hokies’ woes and make quarterback Logan Thomas look like the first-round draft pick many projected him to be. Problem is, it’s not just Thomas who needs to get better. The offensive line remains a work in progress, the running game is a question after Michael Holmes' dismissal, and the receivers are still young. Thomas can’t do it all by himself, and it’s in his nature to try. That’s when the mistakes happen. This summer has to be about the entire supporting cast improving, because Alabama’s defense will be ready to exploit any and every weakness in the season opener.
North Carolina is a team folks are not sleeping on in the Coastal this year, thanks to immediate results in Year 1 under Larry Fedora.

But there certainly are some questions that have to be addressed on offense, with players like Giovani Bernard, Jonathan Cooper and Brennan Williams gone. I had a chance to check in with North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson to see how his offense has progressed in filling those spots and addressing other key areas. Here is a little of what he had to say.

Where do you feel you guys stand after the spring?

Blake Anderson: We’re a long ways away from where we’ve got to be. We lost some really good players, and it’s not going to be easy but in terms of this spring, one of the things we focused on was we wanted to increase our transition speed -- play faster. The first year of a tempo offense from a pro-style team to a tempo-style team was good but we felt like we can improve and I thought we did that. We focused on being faster between plays, the ability to get the next play off quicker, to communicate. I thought we took a step forward in that.

We simplified things offensively to try to be better technically and better positionally and allow guys to maybe fine-tune their craft. We did a better job as a staff of being more streamlined and narrowing a few things down and that allowed guys to get better at a few things. We have so many new faces on offense, we wanted some young guys to step in and play early so it’s a combination of a couple different things.

And really, the rest of it is a work in progress. How many of our tailbacks take over the load that Gio’s leaving and then with three offensive linemen getting drafted we have to find who our starting five is and even more importantly who Nos. 6 and 7 are. We’ve started on that process, but we’re not near finished with it.

In terms of playing faster, how many plays did you end up running per game?

BA: It was somewhere around 74, 74.5 last year, a good bit lower than what we would like it to be.

Where do you want it to be?

BA: Well, we’d love to average 80 a game. That’s always been a ballpark number. Some of that is outside of our control. Some of that is how the opponent plays offensively in terms of the clock they run, what are they doing -- are they trying to milk the clock? Some of it had to do with games we had the lead in and we consciously slowed the game down in the second half. I look at it in a game-by-game basis but I felt like overall our transition tempo can improve and it should and it is. Now I don’t know if our average play per game will be a whole lot different or not. But 80 is a good marker for us. It gives us a good average number. If we’re around that number we’re moving in the right direction.

How does the transition up front impact Bryn Renner?

[+] EnlargeJames Hurst
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsThe Tar Heels have to replace three starters on the offensive line, but they are set at left tackle with James Hurst.
BA: I’d be lying if I said he doesn’t think about it but I don’t want him worried about what’s happening up front. I think he has some comfort in knowing he’s going to have one of the best left tackles in the country with James Hurst on one side, and for a right-handed quarterback that obviously is a good amount of comfort. There’s not a guy that’s going to outwork Hurst. Russell Bodine at center has come a long way. He’s become one of the best at that position in the country as well so he has a tremendous amount of confidence in those guys. We’re fortunate that Landon Turner played as many snaps as he did last year with Brennan Williams being injured. Even though three guys went in the draft, there’s three guys coming back that played basically the entire season for us. I don’t think Bryn’s that concerned or I hope he’s not that concerned about those other two spots. We took big steps with Kiaro Holts and Caleb Peterson this spring at getting them to be functional up there. Are we going to be as talented as we were last year? Probably not. Maybe in the long run we’ll be just as good. Initially, there’s going to be some growing pains but that’s not something Bryn’s got a lot of time to be worried about. I think he’s aware he has to get the ball out quickly at times, he’s aware of where some pressures might come from. His biggest role is communicating well and feeling poised so those guys aren’t rattled, so Bodine and Hurst and Landon Turner can bring those other two guys along. It’s going to be a team effort. I don’t want him to worry. His job is already tough enough as it is.

Coach Larry Fedora mentioned if the season started today, A.J. Blue would get the starting nod at running back over Romar Morris because of his experience. How do you envision the rotation working out?

BA: It’s going to be running back by committee to some degree. Even as good as Gio was and as good a year as he had, it took all those guys to get through the season. So it’s going to take them all. They’re all a little bit different, and injury at some point is going to keep somebody out for a game or a quarter or a half and we’re going to need everybody, all hands on deck. I would say the walk-on Charles Brunson that went through the spring or T.J. Logan, the freshman coming in, I would say those guys would end up touching the ball as well. It’s just the nature of college football.

How do you think Khris Francis fits into the mix?

BA: Really surprised at how quickly Khris Francis picked up things. He put the ball on the ground early but got better as the spring went on. For a freshman coming in, it’s always an eye-opening experience. Defenses at this level attack the football and try to take the football away. He’s got the skill level to be good. I think it’s going to be a one-two punch, you may see A.J.-Romar one week and maybe Romar-Khris or maybe Khris and A.J. depending on who’s healthy, who’s got the hot hand, who’s having a great day and how the season is going. I can see a one-two punch with three or four guys.

Quinshad Davis emerged for you at receiver last year but maybe you didn’t have the depth you wanted. Where does that group stand now?

BA: Just the transition from the old style to what we do, that’s the position where it takes the longest to get your numbers built the way you want to get them built. You’re getting a lot more plays than you’ve gotten. We’re asking more guys to be on the field than they have in the past. So we’re still seeing some growing pains. We are thin, we were beat up. We’ve been unfortunate with a few guys who have ability but haven’t been physically able to get out there. T.J. Thorpe is one of those guys we have to get on the field. I thought Quinshad had a great freshman year, better than expected. He had a really good spring. I saw him step up, his personality, he became even more competitive on a daily basis whereas in the fall he was playing well, but you didn’t see him step up and try to lead in any way. He was just following the group. I thought this spring he stepped up his competitive nature and led some drills, led the group, and that will make him a better player.

And then Kendrick Singleton and Sean Tapley both played several different positions during the spring. We bounced them around and utilized them different ways, which is going to benefit us in the fall. It’s going to make us more versatile. We’re trying to find out what role they can play. The way we operate you have to talk about the tight end at the same time. Without Eric Ebron this spring, I thought Jack Tabb had a very, very good spring. He trimmed down a little bit, got a step faster and became more versatile. Once you throw Ebron back in the mix with Tabb and those guys I mentioned and hopefully we can infuse a couple young guys coming in, I think we’re going to be still inexperienced but I think we have a chance to be a step better.
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).

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 26, 2013
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Congrats to the ACC's first-rounders!
 

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
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So many questions, so little time ...

Previewing ACC in NFL draft

April, 25, 2013
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NFL draft coverage will begin at 8 p.m. ET tonight on ESPN and WatchESPN.com, but here is a one-stop shopping post for all of your last-minute mocks and talk:
  • First, let's take a look at who will be there: Florida State and North Carolina will represent the ACC with Bjoern Werner, Menelik Watson, Xavier Rhodes, EJ Manuel, and UNC's Jonathan Cooper.
  • KC Joyner says Rhodes could be one of the biggest steals of the draft.
  • The experts at Scouts Inc. projected all seven roundsInsider -- and the ACC will have two top-10 picks, depending on your take of the ACC at this particular point in time. If you want to count former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, then "the ACC" will have the No. 8 overall pick, going to former Cuse coach Doug Marrone, now with Buffalo. If you're like me, and not really willing to count Nassib in this group, then former UNC OG Jonathan Cooper is the ACC's top dawg at No. 11 overall. This is Insider content, so it's just a sneak peek, but you're going to have to wait until the second round to see EJ Manuel and the third round for Mike Glennon.
  • Todd McShay posted his Mock 5.1,Insider but he will also have an update this morning with his latest on the first round.
  • On Monday, Mel Kiper Jr. also released his latest, Mock Draft 4.1,Insider but his will also be updated as the draft nears, so check back. Meanwhile, put your own spin on Kiper's draft.
  • Our NFL bloggers also held their mock draft this week.
  • And there will be a live blog from Radio City Music Hall beginning at noon today.
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.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
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You Hokies fans cool with this lady rockin' your gear?
There are only 23 former players attending the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York this month, and five of them are from the ACC -- including four from Florida State:
The only other school able to match Florida State's presence at the draft this year will be BCS national champion Alabama, which also has four former players attending.

Here is the draft schedule:
  • Thursday, April 25 (Round 1) 8 p.m. ET
  • Friday, April 26 (Rounds 2-3) 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, April 27 (Rounds 4-7) 12 p.m. ET

There are time limits for each selection:
  • Round 1: 10 minutes per selection.
  • Round 2: Seven minutes per selection.
  • Rounds 3 through 7: Five minutes per selection.

NFL Network and ESPN/ESPN 2 will televise the draft on all three days.
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.

Taking stock of the draft

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
5:00
PM ET
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 pro days wrap

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
5:00
PM ET
Every school in the ACC has now completed its pro day. You can look back on what happened at Clemson, Miami Pitt and Syracuse. Andrea Adelson had the wrap on the other eight schools. Duke and North Carolina were the last to finish, as they both held their pro days this week. Here are their highlights:

DUKE
NORTH CAROLINA

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