ACC: Logan Thomas

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Frank Beamer took a seat before a crowded corner at the ACC Kickoff last week and asked the assembled reporters how they were doing, anticipating exactly what was coming his way.

Then came the first question. About Beamer's quarterback situation. Because of course it did.

"That would be a good start," the longtime Virginia Tech coach quipped, before conceding that, yes, he would rather have that position settled by now, and yes, a decision about a starter will come quickly once fall practice commences.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brewer
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsTexas Tech transfer Michael Brewer could be the front-runner to replace Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech.
Logan Thomas' three-year reign as the Hokies' top signal-caller is over, for better or for worse. Now it is up to a half-dozen other quarterbacks to duke it out for the right to turn around a program beset by a rather uneasy two-year slide following eight straight double-digit-win seasons.

Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer is the most decorated quarterback of a group that also includes freshmen Chris Durkin, Travon McMillian and Andrew Ford, along with upperclassmen Mark Leal and -- if the preseason media poll is to be believed -- ACC player of the year candidate Brenden Motley, who was a surprise entry among the league's five-player contingent receiving votes.

Brewer, Durkin and McMillian all arrived following the spring, so Beamer has not had a chance to watch any of them throw live on campus. But the 28th-year Hokies head coach insists that the supporting cast he has coming back eases the transition that normally comes with finding a starter so late in the game.

"I think we're ahead of the last couple years in the fact that I think we're further along in getting our running game back where it needs to be," Beamer said. "I think last couple of years we haven't been able to run it quite as well as we're used to at Virginia Tech, and I think having some experience on the offensive line, some backups that are really athletic, young kids that are athletic -- I think we're going to be more explosive at wide receiver. I think our tight ends, we've got about three guys that could block you but they can move out and maybe get matched up on the safety.

"I think the running backs are going to be more solid. Trey Edmunds was really coming along great and we expect him to get back, but a couple more guys there. So I think having people around that quarterback makes it a lot easier than what it's been the last few years, so that's the way I see it."

No quarterbacks emerged from the pack during the spring, and Beamer did little to talk around the fact that, despite not seeing Brewer, the former Red Raider who has a leg up on everyone else by almost any measure.

Brewer, whose addition Beamer attributed to second-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, has 13 games of experience in two seasons of play in Lubbock, Texas, completing 41 of 58 passes for 440 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The acclimation process for him, as Beamer said, is not like that of a freshman.

"We've got a couple freshmen that we're really high on," Beamer said. "But I think it's really hard for a true freshman to come in there. Lot of stuff going on."

Though the same could be said for the quarterback situation itself, receiver Willie Byrn thinks the offense has adjusted to the initial uncertainty that presented itself this summer without familiar faces running the unit.

"This year we've had to work with everyone, from the oldest guy down to the freshmen that just got on campus, and you've got to treat them all the same and you've got to learn all their tendencies and what they want to do," Byrn, a redshirt senior, said. "So it's been fun. It's going to continue to be fun, and I think this competition between them is only going to bring out the best in not only the starter but the backup and the second backup and so on and so forth."
The Roanoke Times is counting down to ACC Kickoff by digging deeper into some of Virginia Tech's impact players, and today's installment features a look at receiver Josh Stanford.

Here's the basics:
"It didn't seem like Stanford was anything too special for the first half of last year. He was inconsistent, had bouts of drops (like all the receivers), making an occasional solid grab but never really taking command of a game. Then the Boston College game went to the second half. From there to the rest of the season, Stanford shined."

I don't know that “shined” is really the right word. Stanford had an incredible second half against BC, though Virginia Tech still lost that game. He had a big day the next week -- 7 catches, 107 yards and a TD — against a reeling Miami team in a win that salvaged some of Tech's season. After that though?

Against Maryland: 2 catches, 29 yards
Against UVA: 1 catch, 15 yards
Against UCLA: 3 catches, 34 yards

Indeed, his final three games accounted for the lowest amount of production during a three-game stretch Stanford had all year.

The BC and Miami games confirmed Stanford's potential, but they didn't exactly mark a turning of the tide. This is the problem for the Hokies' offense (and really, it has been for two years): There is talent in the receiving corps, but consistency has been non-existent.

Here's a look at the top returning receivers in the conference this year, based on 2013 yards:

1. Jamison Crowder (Duke), 1,360
2. Tyler Boyd (Pitt), 1,174
3. Rashad Greene (FSU), 1,128
4. DeVante Parker (Lou), 885
5. Quinshad Davis (UNC), 730
6. Willie Byrn (VT), 660
7. Demitri Knowles (VT), 641
8. Stanford (VT), 640

Of the top eight returning receivers, three play at Virginia Tech. That should be a real sign of encouragement for a passing game dealing with transition at the QB spot, but it's also worth pointing out that Byrn, Knowles and Stanford caught just 56 percent of their total targets last year. Overall, Virginia Tech finished ninth in the ACC in passing last year and 10th in completion percentage, despite what seems like a deep receiving corps.

Some of that can probably be blamed on the erratic aim of Logan Thomas, but the history of drops and bad routes among the Hokies' receivers is already well documented.

Byrn had his moments, including 100-yard games against UNC and Miami. He was also shut out against Alabama, had just 15 yards against Marshall and 26 in a loss to Duke.

Knowles had 99 yards against ECU and 101 against UVA. He was also limited to just two catches in six different games.

And yes, Stanford showed his potential against BC and Miami. He's only a redshirt sophomore, so the inconsistency the rest of the season was to be expected. But Virginia Tech is already well aware of potential. What the Hokies need from receivers now are consistently strong results.

More links:
The dust has settled after the NFL draft, and it was another solid showing by the ACC. Overall, the league had 42 players selected, the second most in ACC history and the second most by any conference this year (trailing only the SEC’s 48).

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Elsa/Getty ImagesFormer Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins was the first ACC player selected (No. 4 overall) in the NFL draft.
Four of the first 14 players selected in this year’s draft came from the ACC, led by Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins (No. 4 overall to the Buffalo Bills) and UNC tight end Eric Ebron (No. 10 to the Detroit Lions). Five ACC players were taken in the first round and 10 more were selected in the second and third rounds.

For the second straight year, Florida State led all ACC schools in players drafted. Seven Seminoles were selected throughout the weekend, starting with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in round 1 by the Carolina Panthers and ending with linebacker Telvin Smith in round 5 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the past two years, Florida State has had 18 players drafted by NFL teams.

Of course, it wasn’t just strength at the top for the ACC. All 14 programs had at least one player selected this year, including five apiece from Clemson and North Carolina and four from Boston College.

New addition Louisville, which officially enters the ACC next month, had four players selected this year, including three (Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater) in the first round.

Three ACC quarterbacks were selected, led by Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas (No. 120). Pitt’s Tom Savage (No. 135) and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (No. 213) were also taken.

Duke corner Ross Cockrell was taken with pick No. 109 by the Bills, becoming just the third Blue Devils player drafted since 2001. He was also the highest-selected Duke defensive player since Mike Junkin was taken fifth overall in 1987.

Miami had three players selected over the weekend (Brandon Linder, Pat O'Donnell and Seantrel Henderson), extending its streak of consecutive years with at least one player drafted to 41. Florida State and Virginia extended streaks of their own to 32 years.

Of the ACC underclassmen who declared for this year’s draft, four went undrafted. FSU running back James Wilder Jr. inked a free-agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, Syracuse running back Jerome Smith signed with the Atlanta Falcons and NC State defensive lineman Carlos Gray signed with the Green Bay Packers.

Among other notable undrafted free agents in the league, former Miami quarterback Stephen Morris signed with Jacksonville, UNC quarterback Bryn Renner inked a deal with Denver, FSU receiver Kenny Shaw signed with Cleveland, Tar Heels offensive lineman James Hurst signed with the Ravens and former BC quarterback Chase Rettig signed with Green Bay.

Reviewing the ACC pro days

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
Pro days are now in the rearview mirror, with a month remaining between now and the NFL draft. With that, let's take a look back at some notable performances from ACC pro days this year.

Boston College (March 12)
Big name: RB Andre Williams. Representatives from 29 NFL teams were on hand to see the nation's top running back from last season. Williams says he improved on his combine 40-yard-dash time of 4.56. Also of note: Nate Freese, who went 20 of 20 last season on field goal tries, did not disappoint in front of his future employers, hitting a 60-yard try.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/Michael ConroyClemson WR Sammy Watkins in all likelihood will be the first ACC player drafted in May.
Clemson (March 6)
Big name: WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins stood on his 40 time of 4.43 from the combine but was there to help out quarterback Tajh Boyd, doing little to change the general consensus that he is the top receiver in this year's draft. Boyd said scouts told him his performance was much better than his showings at the combine and Senior Bowl, as he connected on short, intermediate and deep routes with familiar receivers in familiar environs.

Duke (March 26)
Big name: CB Ross Cockrell. Cockrell improved on his combine results, with Duke saying that his 40 time was sub-4.4, which is better than what he ran in Indianapolis (4.56).

Florida State (March 17)
Big name: Where to begin? DL Timmy Jernigan slightly improved his combine 40-time from 5.06 to 5.03. S Terrence Brooks, LB Telvin Smith, DB Lamarcus Joyner and LB Christian Jones all drew a crowd, but they declined to run the 40 in front of reps from all 32 NFL teams, content to sit on their combine performances.

Georgia Tech (March 28)
Big name: LB Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu ran drills at both linebacker and defensive lineman, recovering nicely from a hamstring injury in the Senior Bowl that forced him out of the combine. He said his 40 time was in the 4.5s. DB Jemea Thomas also impressed, reportedly running a 4.38 40.

Louisville (March 17)
Big name: QB Teddy Bridgewater. With scouts from 29 teams watching, Bridgewater was off target with several of his throws. He ran an unofficial 4.78 40 time, but the potential No. 1 pick misfired on at least 10 passes, leaving some questions lingering heading into the draft.

Miami (April 3)
Big name: OT Seantrel Henderson. This is the name that is going to stick out, as Henderson did not finish his workouts. His agent later told reporters that it was due to dehydration. With 30 NFL teams represented, quarterback Stephen Morris took a strong step forward, reportedly completed almost all of his 67 throws.

North Carolina (March 25)
Big name: TE Eric Ebron. Ebron stood on his 40 time from the combine of 4.60, but his pro day was marred by several dropped passes, though the always upbeat tight end was not stressed about the drops when speaking to reporters afterward.

NC State (March 25)
Big name: CB Dontae Johnson. Johnson showed his versatility, as he can play corner or safety, and he said he felt better than he did at the combine, where he ran a 40 time of 4.45 and jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical.

Pittsburgh (March 3)
Big name: DT Aaron Donald. College football's best defensive player rested on his combine numbers in the 40 (4.68) and bench press (35 times), but teammates Tom Savage and Devin Street helped themselves. Savage impressed during a scripted 100-throw workout while Street said he ran a sub-4.5 40.

Big name: LB Marquis Spruill. Spruill recovered nicely from a combine snub, weighing in at 231 pounds, nine pounds heavier than his playing weight. He did not disclose numbers. Running back Jerome Smith, meanwhile, said he ran in the 4.5-4.6 range, which would be an improvement over his combine time of 4.84.

Virginia (March 17)
Big name: OT Morgan Moses. A considerably different-looking Moses showed up at 311 pounds, roughly 20 pounds lighter from his playing days with the Cavaliers. After clocking in at 5.35 in the 40 at the combine, he unofficially ran between 4.9 and 5.06 at his pro day, though he pulled a hamstring during one of the runs, forcing him to miss the remainder of his drills.

Virginia Tech (March 19)
Big name: QB Logan Thomas. Thomas remains a fascinating prospect to keep an eye on in the NFL, and he threw well in front of NFL scouts at pro day. Corner Antone Exum impressed as well, running 40 times of 4.53 and 4.55.

Wake Forest (March 17)
Big name: WR Michael Campanaro. After seeing his final year end prematurely because of a shoulder injury, Campanaro, the only Demon Deacon to have garnered a combine invite, again impressed in receiver drills, making his case to become a potential mid-round pick. Nose guard Nikita Whitlock, meanwhile, saw himself lining up as a fullback for the first time in his career. Weather conditions were less than ideal for the NFL hopefuls.
Mel Kiper Jr. has made three full rounds of picks Insider -- 100 in total -- for his "Grade A" draft, and the ACC is well-represented from start to finish.

The finish, though, might be the most intriguing.

While most ACC fans are well aware of the draft projections for the likes of Sammy Watkins and Eric Ebron, the NFL future of former Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is far less predictable. Kiper, who assumed the role of GM for every team and picked the player he thought was the best available for that particular spot, chose Thomas last, with the San Francisco 49ers:

" ... I love the idea of letting Jim Harbaugh work with Thomas as a developmental project at either QB or tight end," Kiper wrote. "(Thomas really could pull off the conversion if he wanted to.)"

Many Virginia Tech fans have clamored that Thomas has been a tight end all along, but here is a very revealing stat to back up what coach Frank Beamer and his assistants have been saying for years: Thomas needed a better supporting cast.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Virginia Tech had an AQ-high 36 drops last season. If the Hokies had caught just half of those passes, Thomas’ completion percentage would rise from 56 percent to 61 percent.

Another interesting late-round quarterback pick is Pitt's Tom Savage, whom Kiper selected at No. 88 in the third round to the Cincinnati Bengals:

"Savage has starting upside, and he's among the strongest arms in the draft," Kiper wrote. "He was beaten up behind bad blocking at Pitt, but is the kind of upside this roster could use behind Andy Dalton."

Kiper isn't overstating the hits Savage took last season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Savage was under duress on 28 percent of his dropbacks, the highest percentage of any QB prospect. As a result, Savage was sacked an FBS-high 43 times last season.

Both quarterbacks obviously have something to prove at the next level, but they were also both limited in some ways last season by the surrounding talent. Neither of them performed as well as Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who isn't even listed in Kiper's draft. Regardless of how their careers unfold, all of them are in a position to at least have a chance. Stay tuned to see who's willing to give them one.
Here’s a number that should keep Frank Beamer, Scot Loeffler and the rest of Virginia Tech’s offense awake at night: In 2013, the Hokies’ ground game converted just 37 percent of its third-and-short attempts for first downs.

Let that sink in for a minute. On third-down plays in which Virginia Tech needed just 3 yards or fewer for a conversion, roughly one in three rushes resulted in a first down. That’s bad. That’s very bad.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Ed Wolfstein/USA TODAY SportsLogan Thomas and the Hokies had big problems on third-and-short situations in 2013.
How bad, you ask? No other team in the country converted less than 40 percent. Only 17 teams (out of 125) nationally converted less than 50 percent. The national average was 62 percent, almost twice the rate Virginia Tech found success. The two teams that played for a national championship last season converted 76 percent of their third-and-short runs.

And that explains a lot of Virginia Tech’s offensive struggles the past two seasons. Sustaining drives is tough when third-and-short plays turn into fourth-and-short plays. But the Hokies’ third-down woes don’t end with just the short-yardage runs.

Last year, a quarter of Virginia Tech’s drives ended with a three-and-out. Overall, the Hokies converted just 32 percent of their third-down tries, good for 113th nationally. Seven AQ-conference schools finished with lower conversion rates than Virginia Tech in 2013, and their combined record was 23-62. (It should be further credit to Tech’s defense that the Hokies overcame their third-down struggles to finish 8-5.)

Moreover, Tech’s third-down woes were sort of like the old Woody Allen joke about the awful food that comes in such small portions. Yes, the Hokies were bad on third-and-short, but they also struggled just to get into those supposedly manageable third-down situations.

For the season, just 23 percent of Virginia Tech’s third-down tries were short-yardage attempts (good for 110th nationally), and 55 percent of its third-down tries required 10 yards or more for a conversion (compared to a national average of 47 percent).

There are myriad reasons for this, of course, but it starts with the offensive line.

The third-and-short struggles seem perplexing, given that Virginia Tech had a big, bruising quarterback who, in theory, should have been a natural at running up the gut to pick up a first down. Instead, senior Logan Thomas was a woeful 4-of-12 on third-and-short runs last year.

And for a team that has run the ball 54 percent of the time the past two seasons, the Hokies shouldn’t be in third-and-long situations so routinely. But there, too, the offensive line offers some insight. Of Virginia Tech’s 493 running plays last year, 132 of them (the second most in the ACC) resulted in a loss or no gain, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Virginia Tech’s 3.7 yards per rush on first down last season ranked 111th nationally. Bad first-down plays tend to turn into troublesome third-down situations.

If the line can’t get a push at the point of attack, short-yardage scenarios will be a problem and first-down runs will implode into second-and-long and third-and-long scenarios. But there’s hope.

While much has been made of Tech’s inconsistent group of receivers and the loss of the equally inconsistent Thomas, the struggles on third down don’t require an overhaul. It’s simply a matter of getting better at the point of attack, picking up 1 or 2 more yards in key situations and getting better physically -- even if the overall talent level remains unchanged. (To that point: UMass, one of the worst offensive teams in the country, converted 76 percent of its third-and-short runs last year.)

Do that and suddenly those three-and-outs begin to disappear, drives are sustained and a few more points find their way onto the scoreboard. Virginia Tech had five losses by seven points or fewer in the past two seasons, and with a bit more third-down success, those all could have gone the other way.
Virginia Tech's quarterback competition got more interesting this offseason with the news that former Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer will transfer to the Hokies, but he won't join the team until this summer. For now, it's Mark Leal's turn in the spotlight. I spoke with Leal recently about his role and the offense this spring. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

I've reminded some fans that it's not fair to judge you based on the performance in the bowl game. How would you assess that performance?

[+] EnlargeMark Leal
Jason O. Watson/USA TODAY SportsQB Mark Leal said he learned a lot from Virginia Tech's loss to UCLA in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Mark Leal: I don’t think that one game reflects how I play overall. It was fun to go and play more than just a couple minutes in a game, but at the same time I wasn’t really as prepared as I could have been, which kind of reflected the way I played. That’s not who I am. I’m a lot better than the bowl game proved.

What has your offseason been like knowing you’re the frontrunner heading into spring ball?

ML: It’s just more of a leadership role now that Logan [Thomas]’s gone. He was a guy who was a leader who rallied the troops together, got things going in the offseason, getting the receivers and running backs together, and had workouts on our own. That’s just what I’ve been doing, trying to lead the team, start working out and get ready for the season.

Obviously you saw the ups and downs Logan went through. Are you mentally prepared for that aspect of it?

ML: I try to be and I think I am, but there’s really no telling until things start to get a little crazy. I’ve seen the way Logan handled some stuff, and the coaches tell us how a quarterback should handle himself when things are going bad and when it’s good. When it’s good, you get all the glory, all the praise. When it’s bad, it’s all your fault. You just have to keep your head straight and take it one week at a time.

Virginia Tech’s offense in general has really been under the microscope obviously. How much better do you think you guys can be, and how much pressure are you putting on yourself to take it to another level offensively?

ML: I think we’re going to be a lot better this season. Last year we had a really young offense, it was our first year in the system. Now that everybody has had that year to grow, a year under their system, I think everything will be a lot more fluid and people understand the concepts and what we’re trying to get done on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously I’m going to put as much on my shoulders as I can and try to lead this team all the way.

It’s not like you’re a rookie. You’re an old guy. How comfortable are you in the offense?

ML: Being that I’ve been here a while, I’ve learned how to pick things up quickly. Coach [Scot] Loeffler, he does a really good job of breaking down the offense and trying to help us understand it the best we can. Our learning is a little bit quicker, but as far as the offense, I’m very comfortable with it, actually.

I have experience, and I'm still the next guy up, but I haven't really done too much on the field to separate myself. This spring is going to be really important for me and also going into camp to make sure I separate myself to be the guy.

Mark Leal on the Hokies' QB competition.
What’s the most difficult part about being in your shoes right now?

ML: I think the most difficult part for me would be the lack of experience I have. I’ve been able to play throughout the years, but it hasn’t been too much time where I haven’t had a first start under my belt. Just the whole experience part of the game would probably be the most difficult part for me.

Did the Sun Bowl experience help you at all?

ML: Yes. It was bittersweet, the way I look at the bowl game. I finally got to play a significant amount of minutes, but at the same time, obviously we saw what happened. It didn’t really end too well, but it just really opened my eyes and showed me how detailed you need to be at the position, how prepared you need to be. I’m kind of glad that happened then before getting into the season. I got it out of the way.

How confident are you that this job is yours? Experience-wise it’s a no-brainer, but how much competition is there really going to be out there this spring?

ML: Being that our guys are young, I don’t look at it as there’s no competition. I still have to go out there and compete. I have just as much to prove as they do. I have experience, and I’m still the next guy up, but I haven’t really done too much on the field to separate myself. This spring is going to be really important for me and also going into camp to make sure I separate myself to be the guy.

Do you feel like you’ve been embraced by the team as a leader in the short time you’ve had that role?

ML: Yes I have, actually. As soon as we got back from break, I had teammates coming up to me saying, ‘It’s your time. I got your back. We know how you can play, we know what you can do. It’s your last year so just lead us to Charlotte and do your best.'"

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
I will not call today's games the "second round."

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
Heading to Brooklyn?

Offseason spotlight: Virginia Tech

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
The past two years have been an offensive disaster for Virginia Tech, and now the Hokies will start 2014 looking for a new quarterback. That means all eyes will be on the players hoping to replace Logan Thomas, with one name already at the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeLeal
Ivan Pierre Aguirre/USA TODAY SportsMark Leal doesn't have much game experience and he'll need help from his supporting cast if he wins Virginia Tech's QB job.
Spotlight: QB Mark Leal, 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, rising redshirt senior

2013 summary: Leal saw action in just two games, a blowout win against Western Carolina (3-of-4 passing for 25 yards) and a blowout loss to UCLA in the Sun Bowl (12-of-25 for 130 yards and two interceptions). His 25 passing attempts against UCLA were more than his previous career total.

The skinny: The last time Virginia Tech began a season completely unsure of its starting quarterback was 2008, when Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon vied for the job. But after five seasons of relative consistency at the position -- if not necessarily significant success -- the starting job is a bit more of a mystery this spring, but Leal has a chance to answer those questions early.

Frank Beamer already tabbed Leal as the frontrunner in the race to replace Thomas, and his competition -- rising redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley and incoming freshmen Chris Durkin and Andrew Ford -- have zero passing attempts between them at the college level. Still, Leal’s only significant work came in relief of an injured Thomas in the Sun Bowl last year, and it didn’t go well. Leal entered a tie game in the second quarter, but the Tech offense mustered just a field goal the rest of the way and UCLA won 42-12. Still, Beamer seems to have confidence in Leal, and he’ll get a far more fair evaluation this spring.

And while replacing Thomas won’t be an easy task, it’s worth considering that Tech’s offense wasn’t exactly high-powered the past two years. The Hokies have averaged just 5.1 yards per play since the start of 2012 (104th nationally), and Thomas’ 29 interceptions over that period were the second-most by any QB in the country. Perhaps the biggest question then for Leal isn’t so much whether he’ll be ready for the job, but whether the rest of his offense will be able to provide significantly more support than it gave Thomas in 2013.
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was as good as advertised when it came time to perform at the NFL scouting combine this past weekend.

Watkins seems to have solidified his spot as the No. 1 receiver available for the draft after posting a 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash and posting top performances in the broad jump (10 feet, 6 inches) and bench press (16 reps) on Sunday. ESPN NFL expert John Clayton wrote that Watkins "was clearly the best receiving prospect and is a candidate to be a top-five pick. ... He catches the ball with his hands exceptionally well. He reminds me a lot of A.J. Green of the Bengals."

Meanwhile, analyst Bucky Brooks named Watkins one of his five biggest combine winners on Day 2. ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter Nick Wagoner explains why the Rams need to take Watkins with the No. 2 overall pick.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/ Richard ShiroSammy Watkins seems to be soaring at the NFL scouting combine.
Another player garnering big-time attention at the combine is Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who ran a blistering 4.65 in the 40-yard dash Monday morning -- at 285 pounds.


Donald continues to impress NFL scouts after his incredible All-American turn this past season. He had a great showing at the Senior Bowl and is now having a great showing at the combine. Not only did he record a fast 40 time, he had 35 reps on the bench press. Despite his small size for an inside player, Donald has the work ethic, athleticism and physical tools to make him appealing to any team. He continues to rise up mock draft charts. ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay tweeted Monday:
Here is a look at some other top performers from ACC schools in the last several days:

  • Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant put up some impressive numbers, too. He clocked the fifth-fastest 40 time among all receivers at 4.42 and was in the top 10 in bench press (16 reps), vertical jump (39 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches). Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro also had some impressive numbers, ranking in the top 10 in the bench press (20 reps), vertical jump (39 inches), 20-yard shuttle (4.01 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.31). He also clocked a 4.46 in the 40.
  • In the running back drills, Andre Williams ranked No. 3 at his position in the broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches), No. 2 in the 20-yard shuttle (4.06) and No. 3 in the 60-yard shuttle (11.62) and tied for No. 4 in the vertical jump (38 inches). He clocked a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, making him a top performer in five of the seven drills.
  • As for the quarterbacks, it was a mixed bag for guys from the ACC. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd drew mixed reviews again. Clayton said Boyd, "has a strong arm, but his release point is all over the place. Some of his throws came a little sidearm, while the longer throws exposed a loop in his delivery." Logan Thomas had excellent measureables -- tops among the quarterbacks in the 40 (4.61), vertical jump (35.5), broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches), No. 2 in the 20-yard shuttle (4.18) and No. 4 in the three-cone drill (7.05). But when it came time to the throwing drills, he was not as good. Clayton wrote, "Thomas has the body to be a great pro quarterback (6-6, 248 pounds), but he doesn't get his legs into his throws and was inaccurate."
  • Clayton writes that North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron "all but locked up the top tight end position with an official 4.6 40, best at the position. Speed has become an overwhelming requisite with tight ends having less blocking demands on NFL teams. Ebron's 40 could make him a top-15 candidate."
  • Miami punter Pat O'Donnell showed once again why he was regarded as one of the top workout warriors in college football. O'Donnell recorded 23 reps on the bench press and ran a 4.64 in the 40 -- fifth-fastest among offensive linemen, tight ends and special-teamers on Saturday.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
My oldest son will be four next month. Only 10 more years until he can commit!

ACC and the NFL combine

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

Here is the official list of the ACC attendees:

DUKE (1)

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
Sports writers love complaining. Sochi has lots to complain about. That convergence yields amazing results.

ACC's lunch links

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
Can't play much better than Duke did Monday.