ACC: Sammy Watkins

Reviewing the ACC pro days

April, 4, 2014
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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.

Syracuse
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.
Clemson wide receiver Germone Hopper will miss the rest of spring practices to focus on his academics, according to a school spokesman.

Hopper is one of several receivers expected to help compensate for the early departures of Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant (a combined 2,292 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in 2013) to the NFL. Hopper had 23 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns from the slot receiver position last season.

In spite of the losses of Watkins and Bryant, Clemson still returns receivers who accounted for 48 percent of the passes and gained 41 percent of the yards. In addition to Hopper, the staff has high expectations for Adam Humphries, Charone Peake and Mike Williams.

Humphries had 41 receptions last season, third on the team, for 483 yards and two scores. Williams started three games last season and had 20 receptions for 316 yards (15.8 ypc) and three touchdowns. He had at least one catch in 10 of the 13 games. Peake played just the first two games of last season before suffering a torn ACL in a practice the week after the South Carolina State game. He played a big role in Clemson’s win over Georgia with five catches for 58 yards.

Clemson will have its first scrimmage on March 31.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
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Heading to Brooklyn?
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, NFL.com 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.

Wowzers.

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
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My oldest son will be four next month. Only 10 more years until he can commit!

ACC's lunch links

February, 18, 2014
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A chef in Detroit created a 10-course meal built around Radiohead’s “Kid A.” “Treefingers” sounds quite refreshing.

At least one draft observer thinks Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is the best QB of the class and should go No. 1 to the Texans, writes the Courier-Journal.

Clemson’s Sammy Watkins has big plans to impress the scouts at the NFL combine, too, writes The State.

With the proposed new rule on defensive substitutions in mind, the Athens Banner-Herald takes a closer look at last season's Georgia-Clemson game.

It was a busy day for Jameis Winston, who collected ACC all-academic team honors while in Dallas to celebrate his Davey O’Brien trophy.

Florida State was caught by surprise when school president Eric Barron left for Penn State. The school has already begun its search for a successor, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution breaks down a potential depth chart for the Georgia Tech offense in 2014.

SI.com has a one-on-one interview with Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer that is pretty enlightening.

One member of the Orange’s massive recruiting class at wide receiver was given the boot from his high school basketball team, writes The Post-Standard.

Miami has set its spring scrimmage dates, writes the Miami Herald.

Virginia Tech has its spring schedule set, too, writes The Roanoke Times.

 

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 11, 2014
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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:

BOSTON COLLEGE (5)
CLEMSON (4)
DUKE (1)
FLORIDA STATE (8)
GEORGIA TECH (2)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (5)
NORTH CAROLINA (7)
NC STATE (1)
PITTSBURGH (3)
SYRACUSE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
WAKE FOREST (1)
Some are can't-miss prospects, such as Jameis Winston. The Florida State quarterback was ESPN's No. 1 QB in the Class of 2012, won the Heisman Trophy in his first season as the Seminoles' starter and added a national championship to cap his redshirt freshman year.

Others are not so easy to find.

Andre Williams, who finished three spots behind Winston in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting, was a two-star prospect in the Class of 2010. All the Boston College running back did this past fall was tally the fifth-highest rushing total in FBS history (2,177 yards).

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Andre Williams
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesAndre Williams and Jameis Winston came from opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum.
With national signing day coming Wednesday, we figured this is a good time to revisit where our All-ACC players stood when they signed with their schools. The results, as usual, offer some surprises.

Just one ESPN.com All-ACC player from this past season entered college as a five-star prospect. Williams was one of two two-star prospects. There were 11 four-star prospects and eight three-star prospects. Two players, both of whom are from the high school Class of 2009, don't have star ratings, as ESPN didn't start using star ratings until 2010. Kickers and punters have no ratings, rankings or grades.

(All rankings and information are from ESPN's Recruiting Nation.)

Offense

  • QB Jameis Winston, Florida State via Hueytown (Ala.) High: Four stars, No. 14 overall prospect, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 84
  • RB: Andre Williams, Boston College via Allentown (Pa.) Parkland High: Two stars, No. 152 RB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 73
  • RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State via Miami Central High: Four stars, No. 15 RB, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson via South Fort Myers (Fla.) High: Four stars, No. 39 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 82
  • WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Four stars, No. 125 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke via Monroe (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 65 WR, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina via Greensboro (N.C.) Smith High: Four stars, No. 8 TE, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • T: Cameron Erving, Florida State via Colquitt County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 83 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 76
  • T: Brandon Thomas, Clemson via Dorman (S.C.) High: No. 60 OG, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
  • G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke via Chicago Lane Tech High: Three stars, No. 65 OG, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • G: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State via Wayne County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 50 DT, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • C: Bryan Stork, Florida State via Vero Beach (Fla.) High: No. 45 TE, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
Defense

  • DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson via Adairsville (Ga.) High: Four stars, No. 19 ATH, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DE: Kareem Martin, North Carolina via Roanoke Rapids (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 59 DE, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt via Pittsburgh Penn Hills High: Four stars, No. 22 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • DT: Timmy Jernigan, Florida State via Lake City (Fla.) Columbia High: Four stars, No. 17 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 84
  • LB: Telvin Smith, Florida State via Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes High: Four stars, No. 107 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 81
  • LB: Kelby Brown, Duke via Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High: Three stars, No. 88 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • LB: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College via Stamford (Conn.) The King & Low Heywood Thomas School: Four stars, No. 20 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • CB: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Five stars, No. 6 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 87
  • CB: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech via Baltimore Mount St. Joseph High: Three stars, No. 43 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 77
  • S: Terrence Brooks, Florida State via Dunnellon (Fla.) High: Three stars, No. 21 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 70
  • S: Anthony Harris, Virginia via Cheesterfield (Va.) Lloyd C. Bird High: Two stars, No. 203 ATH, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 72
Special Teams

  • K: Nate Freese, Boston College via Strongsville (Ohio) High: Class of 2009
  • P: Pat O’Donnell, Miami via Palm Beach (Fla.) Central High: Class of 2009
  • SP: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina via Charleston (W.Va.) George Washington High: Four stars, No. 59 WR, Class of 2013. Scout grade: 80

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
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Enjoy Super Sunday, gang.

2013 Top 25 player countdown: No. 4

January, 30, 2014
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No. 4: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Previous ranking: No. 2

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsSammy Watkins ended his Clemson career in style, setting Orange Bowl records for catches (16) and receiving yards (227).
Making the case for Watkins: Watkins was arguably the best wide receiver in the nation this fall, finishing fifth nationally in receiving yards (1,464), 11th in receptions (101) and tied for 10th in touchdowns (12). Those numbers helped him to finish second in the ACC in receptions and touchdowns and first in receiving yards. He also ascended to first on the school single-season list of receptions and receiving yards. Watkins added 14 kickoff returns for 293 total yards, allowing him to finish third in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game with 136.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Watkins declared early for the NFL draft, where he is expected to be the first receiver taken. He certainly left a lasting impression during his collegiate finale, a 40-35 Discover Orange Bowl win over Ohio State in which he set school records for receptions (16) and receiving yards (227) while reaching the end zone twice. He earned the game's most outstanding player honor.

The Fort Myers, Fla., native was a unanimous first-team All-ACC selection by the league's coaches, and his 63 votes from members of the media were the most among first-team members on the media team. The AFCA also named Watkins a first-team All-American, and he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. His 240 career receptions and 3,3931 receiving yards are good for second and third best in conference history. His 27 touchdown catches are tied for eighth best in an ACC career, and his 15 career 100-yard receiving games are tied for second best. Watkins also tallied 5,129 career all-purpose yards, second most in school history and ninth most in league history. Yes, he will be missed in Death Valley, where he made as big of an impact as anyone despite sticking around for just three seasons. Still, it would surprise no one if he does the same in what certainly is a promising NFL future.

The countdown

The ACC has lost 10 players who have decided to forgo their final seasons of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. It’s not a mass exodus, but their departures definitely leave some holes. Florida State is losing some talent, but Clemson arguably has the biggest shoes to fill, as the Tigers are losing their top two receivers from 2013, including All-American Sammy Watkins. With spring football around the corner, there will be plenty of competition throughout the league, but based on what we know now, here is the best guess at who the replacements will be for each of the ACC’s early entrees:

Leaving: Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Jones
AP Photo/Phil SearsIsaiah Jones (right) caught only two passes as a freshman, but Kelvin Benjamin's departure means he'll have to play a bigger role.
The replacement: Isaiah Jones. He is 6-foot-4, but he lacks Benjamin's physical strength (he weighs about 35 pounds less). Christian Green also could be an answer after playing sparingly the past two seasons. He's 6-foot-2 and known for his speed. He had 26 catches for 450 yards as a freshman in 2011 but has just 16 catches for 190 yards in the two seasons since. As far as a true red zone target and receiver who can win the jump balls, tight end Nick O'Leary will likely get the bulk of the throws that went to Benjamin in 2013.

Leaving: North Carolina C Russell Bodine

The replacement: Lucas Crowley. As a freshman, Crowley made his collegiate debut against rival NC State. He played 11 snaps and graded out at 90 percent. An encouraging sign for UNC fans should be Crowley’s performance against Pitt, where he played a respectable game opposite All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He played 66 snaps at center in that game and had five knockdowns.

Leaving: Clemson DB Bashaud Breeland

The replacement: Garry Peters. He was one of Clemson’s rising stars at cornerback in 2012, but an injury last season set him back. He still played in 10 games and enters this fall with 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, 12 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 33 games (five starts) in his career.

Leaving: Clemson WR Martavis Bryant

The replacement: Mike Williams. The true freshman played in all 13 games and started three, finishing 2013 with 20 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. His first career start came against Wake Forest, and Williams had a 14-yard touchdown. As a prep, he was rated the No. 3 player in South Carolina by ESPN.com. Williams has a lot of potential, and the Tigers will need him to reach it quickly.

Leaving: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

The replacement: Jack Tabb. He played in 10 games at tight end and on special teams, and he also saw some time at linebacker. He finished with six catches for 116 yards and 10 tackles. UNC also signed two tight ends in the 2014 class, including one, Brandon Fritts, who enrolled in January. The other, Avery Edwards, is regarded as the top TE in North Carolina.

Leaving: Florida State RB Devonta Freeman

The replacement: Ryan Green. He played in all 12 games (no starts), and finished with 163 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries. He showed some explosiveness in his limited playing time, as six of his carries went for 10 yards or more. His blocking and ability to take advantage of open holes still need to improve.

Leaving: Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan

The replacement: Nile Lawrence-Stample. He played in 13 games and started six alongside Jernigan at defensive tackle. He finished the season with 15 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He also had two quarterback hurries. He made his first career start against Pitt and had a season-high three tackles against both Boston College and Maryland. He had one tackle in the national championship game.

Leaving: Syracuse RB Jerome Smith

The replacement: Prince-Tyson Gulley. He was granted a fifth season of eligibility and as of now is expected to play this fall. Gulley qualified for a medical hardship waiver because he broke his collarbone in 2011 and played just four games. He was third on the team in rushing in 2013 and finished with 456 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries. He also had 15 catches and one receiving touchdown.

Leaving: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

The replacement: Charone Peake. Watkins was one of a kind, and his record-setting production nearly impossible to duplicate, but Peake is the next man up. He was the Tigers’ second-leading receiver before he tore his ACL during a simple non-contact drill in practice on Sept. 10. Prior to the injury, Peake had eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, second only to Watkins in both receptions and yards. In 2012, Peake had 25 receptions for 172 yards and two scores.

Leaving: Florida State RB James Wilder Jr.

The replacement: Karlos Williams. He moved from safety to tailback in Week 2 and finished his first season at the position with 91 carries for 730 yards. His 8.02 yards-per-carry average was sixth in the nation. His 11 rushing touchdowns tied for seventh in the ACC. No running back from an automatic-qualifier conference school scored more routinely than Williams, who scored once every 8.3 carries.
The deadline to declare for the NFL draft has passed so let us take a look at the ACC players who have decided to turn pro:
Mel Kiper Jr. has several of these underclassmen going in the first round in his first edition of the 2014 NFL mock draft:
  • No. 5 Sammy Watkins to Oakland
  • No. 14 Timmy Jernigan to Chicago
  • No. 16 Eric Ebron to Baltimore
  • No. 22 Kelvin Benjamin to Philadelphia

Kiper took into account draft needs for each team when making his selections. To that end, he has Ebron rated higher on his Big Board, which ranks the Top 25 best players available in the draft. Kiper lists Ebron No. 7 there, and has called him "A QB's best friend." Bryn Renner would know.

Jernigan also is rated higher on the Big Board at No. 12 overall.

The NFL draft evaluation process has only just begun so all these mock drafts and big boards will change between now and the draft, which is in May. One constant, at this point, is Watkins as the top-rated ACC player headed into the draft. Barring unforeseen circumstances, his place at the top is not expected to change.

Season wrap: Clemson

January, 15, 2014
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This was predicted by many to be the year of the Tigers, as Clemson had the standout offensive trio of quarterback Tajh Boyd, receiver Sammy Watkins and coordinator Chad Morris. Together, along with a much-improved defense, the Tigers looked like a national title contender, especially after a season-opening win over No. 5 Georgia and a 6-0 start. That all changed after a humbling 51-14 home loss to Florida State. Clemson’s only two losses were to top-10 teams, but considering how the Tigers lost -- convincingly to FSU and downright ugly to rival South Carolina -- they were fortunate to still qualify for a BCS bowl. Clemson earned some redemption, though, with a 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Offensive MVP: WR Sammy Watkins. He finished the year with 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. He broke Aaron Kelly’s school record for receptions in a season (88 in 2007) and the record for receiving yards (DeAndre Hopkins: 1,405 in 2012). He finished his career ranked second in ACC history in receptions and third in reception yardage. He is tied for second in 100-yard receiving games with 15. He finished his career with 5,129 all-purpose yards, second in Clemson history.

Defensive MVP: Vic Beasley. He was named the team’s defensive MVP and ranked in the top three in the nation in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (23). Beasley was named a consensus first-team All-American. He finished the season with 44 tackles and had six pass breakups.

Best moment: Winning the Orange Bowl. Considering Clemson’s lopsided loss to West Virginia the last time it was in the Orange Bowl, the win over Ohio State gave the program some much-needed redemption. Clemson became the only team in the nation to beat a top-10 team in its bowl game in each of the past two years.

Worst moment: Losing at home to FSU. Some will argue that the loss to South Carolina was worse, but it was the loss to the Noles that derailed Clemson’s hopes of winning the ACC and the national title. With the loss, Clemson immediately took a backseat to the Noles in the Atlantic Division race (again). Not only that, but Jameis Winston completely outplayed Tajh Boyd on his home turf, and Clemson looked utterly disjointed in the loss. The Tigers came unraveled when they had it all in their hands.

Season wrap: Duke

January, 15, 2014
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Duke coach David Cutcliffe has made a recent habit of saying that the Blue Devils are here to stay. If it means more seasons like 2013 are on the horizon, those record books in Durham, N.C., could be re-written an awful lot in the coming years. Duke put together a historic season in 2013, winning eight straight games to go 10-4 (6-2 in the ACC) and win the Coastal Division title before dropping its final two games, against the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners. Still, the Blue Devils proved a lot this fall, with Cutcliffe taking home a number of coach of the year honors and his program achieving a first in reaching bowl games in consecutive seasons.

Offensive MVP: WR Jamison Crowder. The junior was one of the league's best offensive players, finishing second in the ACC in receptions (108) and receiving yards (1,360) behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins, to go with eight touchdowns (fifth in the ACC). He earned first-team All-ACC honors as a receiver (media and coaches teams), while making the first-team coaches list as a special-teamer and second-team media list as one. Crowder was second in punt return average and punt return touchdowns, averaging 16 yards per return and tallying two scores. (UNC's Ryan Switzer was first in both.) In total, Crowder finished fourth in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game, with 130.9.

Defensive MVP: DE Kenny Anunike. The Blue Devils had a number of different faces step up here throughout the season, but Anunike was the consistent voice and leader of the unit. A sixth-year senior who has been around since day one of the Cutcliffe era, Anunike put his injury-riddled past behind him en route to a second-team all-conference campaign (coaches and media). He finished with 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and a blocked kick. Nicknamed "The Nighttrain" by defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, Anunike's 66 tackles were fourth on the team, and he added two break-ups and two passes defended, as well.

Best moment: The Oct. 26 win at Virginia Tech was when everything started to turn for Duke in 2013, as it was a monumental upset that clinched bowl eligibility for the program. Still, it does not get much better than a tight win at rival North Carolina, one that was clinched by a last-minute interception and was concluded by Cutcliffe being carried off the field, as the Blue Devils notched win No. 10 and a berth in the ACC title game.

Worst moment: The loss to Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the freshest wound, and one that Duke could have easily avoided. Still, the Blue Devils were phenomenal for a half, and there is no shame in losing to Johnny Manziel when he plays the way he played on New Year's Eve. So we'll go with a 58-55 home shootout loss to Pitt back on Sept. 21, a game that seems ridiculous in retrospect considering how much better Duke's defense ended up playing and how mediocre Pitt's offense ended up being, as the Panthers averaged just 26.3 points per game on the season, good for 81st nationally.

ACC's best of 2013

January, 14, 2014
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The ACC spoiled us with great stories in 2013, from Boston College running back Andre Williams’ run at the Heisman, to Duke’s magical season and ending with Florida State’s national title. There were plenty of great games and individual performances, but a few stood out above the rest. Here’s a quick look back at the best of the 2013 season in the ACC:

Best coach: David Cutcliffe, Duke. Cutcliffe, the AFCA’s National Coach of the Year, led the Blue Devils to a 10-4 record, including the ACC Coastal Division title and an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, where Duke and Texas A&M played in the most-watched non-BCS game of the bowl season. He guided Duke to final national rankings in the BCS standings (24th), USA Today/Coaches poll (22nd) and Associated Press poll (23rd). Duke’s 10 wins are the most in school history.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsHeisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston led Florida State to a 14-0 record and a national title.
Best player, offense: Jameis Winston, Florida State. In his first season as a starter, Winston won the Heisman Trophy and led Florida State to its first national title since 1999. He finished his season with 4,077 passing yards and 40 touchdowns, becoming the first freshman in FBS history to reach both marks. It is the second-highest single-season passing yardage total in school history, trailing only Chris Weinke (4,167 yards, 2000).

Best player, defense: Aaron Donald, Pitt. He became the Panthers’ first unanimous All-American since wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in 2003, and the program’s first defensive player to earn unanimous status since legendary defensive end Hugh Green in 1980. Donald led the nation in tackles for loss (2.2 per game), while ranking 10th in forced fumbles (0.33 per game) and 13th in sacks (0.83 per game). Of his 54 total tackles, nearly half have been behind the line of scrimmage (26.5).

Best moment: Winston threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left, leading Florida State to a 34-31 win over No. 2 Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

Best quote: "We’re the first team from South Carolina to ever win a BCS bowl." -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney after the 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl, stirring the pot with rival South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

Best play: Florida State’s fake punt: It changed the national championship entirely. Trailing by 18 points, Florida State faced a third-and-4 when receiver Rashad Greene dropped a pass from Winston and the punt unit came onto the field. The Noles caught Auburn snoozing. Karlos Williams took a pitch and ran it for the first down, sustaining a touchdown drive and giving FSU new life.

"We lost momentum in the game, it was 21-3," coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game. "I knew with five minutes to go if they got it back and scored, the game could be over right there before half. I knew we had the ball coming out the second half and we're here to win this thing. We weren't here just to show up and play well. And I thought that's what we had to do to gain the momentum of the game back, and it worked and we got it, went down, got the drive and then got back in the ballgame, and hopefully that's what changed the momentum of the game and got our confidence back.”

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesOhio State couldn't stop Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins in the Discover Orange Bowl.
Best individual performance: Sammy Watkins in the Orange Bowl. He set a school and Orange Bowl record with 227 yards receiving -- tops among all players during bowl season. Ohio State's defensive backs had no answer for him. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Watkins gained 202 yards after the catch, eclipsing his previous career high of 137 yards after catch against Auburn in 2011.

Best game: The VIZIO BCS National Championship. Florida State’s rally from 18 points was the largest in BCS National Championship history, as the Noles battled back from a 21-3 deficit with 5:01 left in the second quarter). The game wasn’t over until FSU scored the game winner with 13 seconds left.

Best regular-season game: Clemson 38, Georgia 35. At the time, this game packed a punch, not only because of the on-field thriller, but also because of what it meant for the league. The ACC finally had the upper hand against the SEC on the big stage in a season opener, and it set the stage for Clemson’s run at the national title. Not only was it a win for the ACC, but the seesaw game lived up to all of the preseason hype and was an instant classic.

Best ACC game: Duke vs. UNC. Cutcliffe was hoisted onto his players’ shoulders and carried off the field in celebration of the Blue Devils’ first Coastal Division title. It was a 27-25 win against their in-state rivals -- on the road -- and was highlighted by DeVon Edwards’ game-sealing interception with 13 seconds left.

Best awards: The ACC won more national individual awards than the other BCS conferences combined. The ACC is the first conference in history to sweep the Heisman, Doak Walker, Davey O’Brien, Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski awards in the same season.

Best stat: The ACC had three victories over nonconference opponents ranked in the AP top 10, as many as the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC combined.

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