ACC: Tom Savage

Chad Voytik committed to Pitt during the short-lived Todd Graham era. He made it a point to stay after Graham's departure, and his two-plus years with Paul Chryst have proven to be productive.

Voytik stepped in for an injured Tom Savage during last year's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, playing the entire second half and rushing for a score to cap a 30-27 win over Bowling Green. He now enters his redshirt sophomore season as the expected starter under center for the Panthers, with a nice little momentum boost carrying him through this offseason.

ESPN.com caught up with Voytik this week to chat about his expectations for 2014.

What's been going on behind the scenes before camp opens next month?

Chad Voytik: We usually throw every day before our workouts and then we'll lift, of course, lift and run, so we're getting in good shape, we're getting stronger and we're working on our timing as well, our mechanics and all that stuff. And then I've tried to really attack the film room as well. I've spent a lot of time with our GAs and stuff, so it's been a really helpful time for me as far as learning and studying opponents' film and stuff, so it's been a really important time for me.

[+] EnlargeChad Voytik
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesChad Voytik said he benefited from playing in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. "It was honestly probably the best thing that could happen," he said.
What specifics are you working on?

CV: I'd say No. 1, I'm just trying to continue to work on my feet and to not always escape -- in other words, be able to step up and deliver throws if they're there. So continue to work on that. And you can never get too accurate, so I'm still continuing to drill in that and throw to receivers and stuff and try to get that as well as I can.

Take me back through the Pizza Bowl. We all know what happened. What were the emotions and nerves like for you when Tom went down?

CV: Being a backup quarterback sometimes isn't the easiest thing, and Tom took some nice hits throughout the year. So your stomach drops, you start warming up, it's not a great feeling. And then going into the bowl game I knew he was still a little bit banged up, and I saw him take that shot to the ribs and (he) got up slow. And immediately you're filled with nerves and you're getting anxious. ... It was definitely nerve-wracking at first, but honestly, it's a close game and we all needed to come together closer for the second half. As soon as you get out there it goes away and it's just football again.

Looking back, how much confidence has that given you going into this year?

CV: It was honestly probably the best thing that could happen. Of course (I) never want Tom to get hurt, but just having that little bit of experience when there was an actual game on the line, it wasn't just mop-up duty, it was really key for me I think as far as confidence and leadership and stuff, so (I) definitely carried some momentum over into the offseason and hopefully continue to carry it over.

How do you balance being the No. 1 guy without officially having the title of starter yet?

CV: It's still a competition. Coach Chyrst always says there's nothing bad about competition, in that he always wants us competing, and he would never declare a starter now. And it truly is an open competition right now, so I'm just continuing to work and just staying hungry, because nothing's guaranteed, and continue just to try to work like I am the starter and hopefully I can step into that role.

We all know about Tyler Boyd. Who else do you feel is going to step up in the passing game?

CV: Manasseh Garner's I guess a pretty familiar face, and he's been working really hard. And we have some young guys, we have freshmen coming in working hard. It's tough to pinpoint on one guy. My receiving corps, they've been out there every day with me just working really hard and always eager to work and always asking me if I'm going to throw that day or whatnot, so I really appreciate that out of them. It's helped me a lot, because if they're ready to work then that means even if I don't feel like it I have to be ready to work and then we're all getting better because of it, so it's definitely been good.

The parallels are obviously there on the surface: A Paul Chryst protege, undersized, No. 16. How often do the Russell Wilson analogies come your way? Ever talk to him or Coach about him?

CV: They don't come my way a lot. I've definitely heard it at times, but I always tell Coach Chryst: 'If I can be a successful college quarterback, then go on to win a Super Bowl trophy, then you can start comparing me.' (laughs) I'm always asking him about what Russell did, what Scottie Tolzien did. I always want to hear how they worked and how they approached it, because they all have regrets, they all have things they learned, and I want to know what they learned throughout their experience with him. So I ask him a lot about specifics, like, 'When Russell is put in this position, how would he react?' So different things like that, because it's really interesting to me, and it wasn't too long ago he was coaching him, so I like to hear that stuff.

Going back to when you first signed with Pitt: Why was it important to you to stick with Pitt after the guy who recruited you left? What stood out about Coach Chryst?

CV: The reason I stayed, I think honestly, is because I had already built relationships here. I was already committed for such a long time and I already felt locked in. Yeah, I could've de-committed, but to a certain degree, it wouldn't have been productive for me. I liked everything about Pittsburgh and I liked the people. Coach Chryst being the man that he was, I could tell his honesty, how different he was from the past regime and stuff. So it was just the right thing to do, I felt. He laid out a nice plan, and you just knew from the time he walked in here that he wanted to change things. And it wasn't the same pep talk that every coach comes in with, like ready to change the whole program. He was willing to change it from the inside out, he did it the right way and I think we all saw that.

Seeing Tom's pre-draft stock take the kind of rise it did and ending up in a good situation down in Houston, did you talk to him during that time? And just from your perspective, being close with him and knowing that he went through some of the things you're about to go through, what did you make of all that?

CV: I was so happy for him. If anyone deserves it, it's Tom. Just a great guy. He just got engaged actually. Just a great guy, and I was so happy for him. And yeah, I'm thrilled. I'll be texting him when camp starts or whatever if I need any advice or guidance, because he's always been kind of, not a mentor, but he's always been a really good friend of mine, and he's had the experience. Definitely someone I can lean on when I need words of wisdom.
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.
Let's take a quick look back at how the ACC did in the first round of the NFL draft.

As expected, former Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was the first ACC player off the board, going to Buffalo with the No. 4 overall pick. Two of the best players in school history are now with the Bills, as Watkins joins C.J. Spiller in Buffalo. Watkins took over the NFL Instagram account for draft day, and posed for a selfie with commissioner Roger Goodell on the Radio City Music Hall stage.



North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was a surprise choice at No. 10 to the Detroit Lions. Ebron is mostly a receiver dressed in tight end clothing, so his addition to an offense with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson could be very promising. The draft, however, was the second bit of life-changing news he got Thursday. The first? He proposed to his girlfriend, North Carolina women's basketball player Brittany Rountree, atop the Empire State Building.



Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald went to St. Louis at No. 13, ending the Panthers' two-year draft drought. He became the Panthers' highest-drafted defensive lineman since Sean Gilbert went third overall to the Los Angeles Rams in 1992.

Right behind him, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller went to the Chicago Bears at No. 14, as the Hokies continued their #DBU tradition. They have had defensive backs selected in 15 of the last 16 drafts.

Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin became the first Seminole off the board, going to Carolina with the No. 28 pick. Benjamin became the 40th first-round selection in school history. You have to think Cam Newton is thrilled about this selection (after he overlooks what happened in the national championship game).

Though Louisville doesn't join the ACC until July, three Cardinals became first-round picks: Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater, who just made it in with the final selection of the round to the Vikings.

So who's left for the second and third rounds Friday?
  • Four Florida State players to keep an eye on: Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks and Bryan Stork. At one point, Jernigan was a projected first-round pick, and he is attending the draft in New York. Though his stock had been sliding after the combine, reports of a failed drug test earlier this week may have contributed to his drop out of the first round.
  • Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses, also in New York, was a projected first-round pick but will have to wait another day to hear his name called.
  • Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant, Clemson defensive back Bashaud Breeland, North Carolina center Russell Bodine and Virginia defensive end Brent Urban are all players to keep an eye on as well.
Just in case you’ve just woken up from a coma or finally had your power restored after living in the dark for the past week, the 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, and Round 1 promises its share of ACC highlights.

In Todd McShay’s latest mock draft Insider, six of the first 32 picks are from current ACC schools, which would be one shy of the conference’s tally from a year ago. But while last year’s draft had just one ACC player go in the first 15 picks (UNC’s Jonathan Cooper), there’s ample reason to think quite a few -- from safe bets Sammy Watkins and Aaron Donald to bigger wild cards such as Teddy Bridgewater and Morgan Moses -- could be early selections this year.

With all that in mind, we figured we’d take a look at how the current ACC members have faired in the draft in recent years.

Looking strictly at which schools have produced elite NFL prospects, the names at the top of the list aren’t overly surprising.



In the last 10 years, no ACC school has churned out more first-round selections than Florida State and Miami. Of course, there are a few noteworthy numbers in that mix, too. Since 2009, Miami hasn’t produced a single first-round pick, and again this year, the Hurricanes don’t have a single name listed in Mel Kiper’s top 100 prospects. (The ACC has 22 players in Kiper’s top 100.)

That stands in stark contrast with the first half of the 2000s, when Miami was a factory for first-rounders, including a whopping 24 from 2001 through 2007.

Meanwhile, the team that ranks third on both of those lists is Boston College, which is unique in that such a large portion of its total draftees were first-rounders. In the last 10 years, 40 percent of all BC players drafted went in the first round. No other ACC school has a ratio half that large.

In fact, when we look beyond the first round, we see that it’s still Florida State and Miami that produce the most draft prospects, while the smaller schools tend to fall toward the bottom.



Florida State had a dip in production in the immediate aftermath of the Bobby Bowden era, but with 11 players taken last year alone, it’s clear Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles churning out NFL talent at a rate similar to their heyday. In fact, FSU is poised to send as many as a dozen more into this year’s draft, which would put its two-year tally for 2013 and 2014 at 23. Only Miami (24) had more players selected in the previous five drafts combined among ACC teams.

UNC ranks third among ACC teams with 16 players drafted in the last three years, which is, in part, the Butch Davis recruiting effect lingering. Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney certainly deserves some credit at Clemson. From 2004-2008, the Tigers sent 15 players to the NFL. From 2009 through 2013, they sent 23 -- and figure to add at least another four to that total this weekend.

At the bottom of the list, we get more ammunition for critics of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have had just two players selected in the last three drafts, and one (Anthony Allen) was a transfer not recruited by Johnson. Of course, Jeremiah Attaouchu should add to Johnson’s list of NFL talent this year.

Pitt has had just five players taken in the last three drafts -- none in the last two -- but Donald and Tom Savage assure some early intrigue for the Panthers in 2014, while Virginia (just three players in the last three years) should add to its total with Moses and Brent Urban.

Then, of course, there’s the ACC’s newest addition in Louisville. The Cardinals virtually evaporated from NFL draft boards in the immediate aftermath of Bobby Petrino’s departure, with just four players who were either recruited by or spent the bulk of their careers under Charlie Strong selected. That will change this year with Bridgewater and Calvin Pryor both projected to be taken early. Still, it’s a good reassurance for Louisville fans to remember than Petrino’s heyday of producing NFL talent that he either recruited or coached was pretty bountiful. From 2005 through 2008, Louisville had 19 players drafted.

Of course, all these numbers will be reshuffled in just a few hours, which should make for a long weekend on the couch. Enjoy!

ACC draft day preview

May, 8, 2014
May 8
9:00
AM ET
The moment everyone has long been waiting for is finally here, as the first round of the NFL draft will take place tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The ACC has no shortage of potential picks tonight, especially with seven players from the conference in attendance.

Here's a look at those players, along with several others who might hear their names called in Round 1.

ATTENDEES

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Watkins is the No. 2 overall player on Mel Kiper Jr.'s final Big Board . He is No. 4 on Todd McShay's list of top prospects , with McShay calling Watkins "one of four elite prospects in this draft."

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. Ebron is No. 15 on Kiper's board and No. 11 on McShay's, with McShay touting Ebron's big-play and run-after-catch ability.

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. At No. 17 on Kiper's board and No. 15 on McShay's, the 6-foot, 190-pound Fuller "comes in with enough polish to help a team soon," Kiper says.

Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia. Kiper has Moses at No. 34, McShay at No. 16. Go figure. Kiper says Moses was only "intermittently" dominant, while McShay says "defenders need to take a cab ride to get around his length."

Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. Pryor is No. 18 on Kiper's board and No. 21 on McShay's, with Kiper saying that Pryor could be the first safety drafted, depending on preference. Both analysts love his hitting.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. Kiper has Bridgewater at No. 29. McShay has him at No. 28. Both of their evaluations are similar, with Bridgewater dazzling on tape but lacking punch on his deep ball.

Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. Another prospect whose destination is really up in the air, with Kiper slotting him 55th on his board and McShay putting him at No. 39. The potential is there for Jernigan, but neither analyst love his first step.

NON-ATTENDEES

Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt. Donald is No. 9 on Kiper's board and No. 6 on McShay's. Kiper says the 6-1, 285-pound defender is worthy of a top-10 pick.

Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech. Kiper's and McShay's opinions differ here, with the former ranking Attaochu as the 46th-best player available and McShay slotting him 30th. Both love Attaochu's quickness in getting to the quarterback, but Kiper sees him as a second-round pick.

Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State. Both Kiper and McShay have Joyner at No. 53, with both raving about his versatility and his ability to play bigger than his size.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. Kiper has Benjamin at No. 54, McShay at No. 69. Both love the potential matchup nightmares Benjamin could create but are sour on his speed.

Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State. Almost the inverse of Benjamin here, with Kiper slotting Brooks at No. 69 and McShay having him at No. 56. Both love his discipline and instincts.

Tom Savage, QB, Pitt. Seemingly one of the fastest risers of the draft, Savage is ranked No. 70 on Kiper's board and No. 68 on McShay's. Both love his size, arm strength and mechanics.
Pitt has a long and storied history with the NFL draft: 206 total selections, tied for fifth among all ACC teams. Of those, 24 were first-round picks, third best in the ACC.

Both numbers are expected to increase when the draft begins Thursday, most likely with tackle Aaron Donald going in the first round.

But interestingly enough, the first Pitt selection will break a little bit of a draft drought.

The Panthers have fallen on hard draft times over the last two seasons, failing to get any players selected in 2012 and 2013. Believe it or not, Pitt is the only school in the ACC that has not had a player drafted over the last two years. Consider that Pitt had gone 12 consecutive years before 2012 with players drafted. Between 2000-2011, Pitt had 34 players selected, including Larry Fitzgerald, Darrelle Revis and LeSean McCoy.

So why the recent dry spell? For one, some highly touted players just never panned out. And instability at the head coaching position that preceded Paul Chryst did not help matters, either.

The Class of 2008, which should have produced players for the 2012 and 2013 drafts, was regarded as the best in the Big East and ranked No. 21 nationally. The Panthers had four ESPN 150 prospects. Only one -- Jonathan Baldwin -- was drafted (and that was in 2011). The 20-member class of 2009 has also produced one draft pick, though receiver Devin Street should bump that number to two this weekend.

The Class of 2010 produced Donald, at least so far. Both Donald and Street signed under Dave Wannstedt but were able to adjust to new staffs and schemes. But not everybody else did. Perhaps more consistency with staff and scheme would have allowed more players to develop fully. The answers are probably somewhere in between.

Pitt does not need to look for many once this year's draft ends. The Panthers should have at least three players drafted, including transfer quarterback Tom Savage. That will get the Panthers going in the right direction again.
Tom Savage could not help but laugh to himself about himself. For all of the surprises the pre-draft process annually has in store, for all of the unsung collegians who have risen up mock boards and become household names around this time every year, few have seen the kind of ascent the former Pitt quarterback has heading into next week.

One of the latest, and greatest, bits of hyperbole came last week, via an excerpt from a draft website that said some within the New England Patriots organization had begun to refer to Savage as "Tom No. 2, with Tom No. 1 of course being Tom Brady."

[+] EnlargeTom Savage
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsPitt QB Tom Savage's college career had plenty of twists and turns, but he's climbing straight up NFL draft boards now.
That would be Tom Savage of 7-6 Pitt. Discussed in the same air as, yes, that Tom Brady.

"Obviously those are pretty big shoes to fill there," Savage told ESPN.com, laughing. "He's always been my favorite quarterback, and I think that's an honor just to be even mentioned with him. But I have a lot to improve on. I have a bunch of Tom Brady posters in my room still, from being a young kid, and it's pretty funny to just be recognized, I guess.

"I don't know if it's true -- to be honest with you, I never read that article," Savage continued, still somewhat sheepish, "but nah, it's definitely an honor."

That a quarterback with modest numbers who spent time at three different colleges is even being mentioned in the same breath as the winningest postseason signal-caller in NFL history is nothing short of astounding. That the man who was sacked more than any other FBS player last season garnered an invite to New York for one of the deepest drafts ever is seemingly incredulous.

Savage politely declined the offer to visit the Big Apple, content to sit back at home in the Philly area with extended family and watch his future unfold on the small screen. Guessing just how long or short he might have found himself waiting in the green room at Radio City is an exercise in futility.

Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay has Savage as the fourth-best quarterback in this draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has him as the seventh-best. In McShay and Kiper's combo mock draft Thursday, Savage ended up going 39th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In his lone season of eligibility at Pitt, Savage was elected a captain and completed better than 61 percent of his passes. He threw for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns with nine interceptions, though just three of those picks came during his final nine games. At 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, he possesses a strong arm, a quick release and makes sound decisions.

He celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday, but his jagged journey -- along with a Pitt line that did him no favors last season, surrendering 43 sacks -- suggests plenty of room for growth, with Savage himself conceding that this past season was the first time he "really understood what was going on" under center.

"I think a lot of the buzz that comes before [the spring] he wasn't as much a part of because he hadn't played for two years," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "I think what he did in the season, the combine, individual workouts, it's been great to see. Hopefully everyone is right and his stock is rising."

Savage stayed in Pittsburgh following the Panthers' pro day to work out for visiting clubs, and he has taken more than a season's worth of trips to different NFL facilities in the last two months. Having met or worked out with upward of 25 teams, he and his agent, Neil Schwartz, had to turn away potential suitors.

Savage's rise, it would seem, does have its bounds.

"It's a good problem to have," Savage said of the whirlwind. "Meeting with these guys, it's been fun. I think it's obviously a unique process. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance and opportunity. But I really tried to enjoy it and make the most of it."

The questions from each franchise came fast and furious, and Savage was armed with the proper responses. A career that began with freshman All-America honors at Rutgers spiraled into a stint as an injured backup, a play-free pit stop at Arizona and, ultimately, a transfer back east to Pitt, where he walked on while sitting out in 2012.

He dug himself into a hole in three short years. He has done everything since to dig himself out of it.

"A lot of the teams really commended me just on being honest about this thing," Savage said. "I think a lot of times in college, kids want to place the blame on coaches, and I think that they're easy scapegoats -- 'Oh, I guess the coach didn't like me.'

"The reality was that it was on me and I was to [blame] at Rutgers and I had the job taken from me. I just learned a lot from the whole process, and coaches want to hear the honest truth. They don't want to hear the blame game, they don't want to hear any excuses. That's the way the game is, and it's a performance-based game and you've got to go out there and perform every game or you're going to lose your job."

Savage's attitude, coupled with time, has allowed him to emerge from a fringe draft prospect to the flavor of the month. That would be one more obvious revision to his story from that of the similarly built Brady, who was a sixth-round sleeper. Improbably, such differences have been arising fewer and further between as of late.

And where this all stops, no one knows.

"I think it's the whole underdog story, every quarterback really should build their game around that guy," Savage said of Brady. "He's a competitive guy and, like me, I don't think we're the most athletic guys on the field at all times, but I think he's got enough athleticism to make some people miss in the pocket and get rid of the ball. So I just look up to a guy like that."

ACC's lunch links

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:00
PM ET
I write the ACC lunch links one week out of every month, and still I was somehow left off Time’s list of its 100 most influential people. Something is seriously wrong with their criteria.

ACC's lunch links

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
12:00
PM ET
Between this low ranking for lumberjacks and this story about shaving, it was a bad week for beards.

Reviewing the ACC pro days

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
2:30
PM ET
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.
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.
Former Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer will head to Virginia Tech in the summer and join the competition to win the starting job. But his addition to the group does not necessarily mean he becomes the front-runner to be the starter when the season kicks off.

While the Hokies do not have an obvious heir apparent to Logan Thomas, they will have several quarterbacks competing against each other when spring practice opens later this month. Based on experience alone, senior Mark Leal has an advantage. Coach Frank Beamer has said as much. But freshmen Andrew Ford and Brenden Motley will be getting plenty of looks this spring, and freshman Chris Durkin and Brewer arrive in the summer to add more fuel to the competition.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brewer
Orlando Ramirez/ Icon SMITexas Tech transfer Michael Brewer will not be guaranteed the starting quarterback position at Virginia Tech.
And that is all that can be definitively said at this point. There will be a competition to win this starting job. Period. Brewer will be given a shot just like everybody else. But at this point, he remains a wild card. He will have to play catch up with the playbook when he arrives. He will have to prove he is completely over a back injury that cost him a shot to start with the Red Raiders. He will have to prove he is best capable of improving an ineffective offense.

Will he be able to answer those questions? After he returned to practice from the injury last year, he could not unseat the two freshmen who jumped ahead of him on the depth chart. Does that speak more to Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, or more to the limitations Brewer might possess? We will find out soon enough.

Brewer, of course, is not the first quarterback to transfer into a school, nor will he be the last. We have seen an increase in quarterback transfers over the last few years, as players look for the best opportunity to advance themselves. We saw Russell Wilson leave NC State for Wisconsin in 2011 to major success. Jacob Coker left Florida State for Alabama earlier this year, Vad Lee left Georgia Tech for James Madison, and Pete Thomas also decided to transfer out of NC State -- the second transfer of his career.

We also have seen transfers come in to the ACC over the last few years. Some did not quite pan out. Phillip Sims came to UVa in 2012 from Alabama and was gone a year later; Drew Allen went from Oklahoma to Syracuse last year and lost his starting job after three games. Tom Savage had to transfer twice, but ultimately started every game for Pittsburgh last season.

The trend is not slowing down. Brewer now becomes the fourth quarterback transfer in the ACC looking to start in 2014. Of the four, Jacoby Brissett at NC State is the only lock to start. Florida transfer Tyler Murphy will try to win the starting job at Boston College, while former Memphis quarterback Ryan Williams appears to be the front-runner to start for Miami.

What will happen in the case of Virginia Tech? We probably will not have an answer until August.

Offseason spotlight: Pitt

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
9:00
AM ET
This is not a "biggest shoes to fill" series, in which case many ACC teams would simply need a new quarterback to step up. In Pitt's case, that would mean defensive linemen bearing quite the burden in trying to replace all-everything tackle Aaron Donald after his historic 2013 campaign.

But the Panthers nonetheless are one of nine league teams that need to replace a starting signal-caller, so that position gets the nod here as we spotlight one of the program's most important players as it enters Year 2 in the ACC.

Spotlight: Redshirt sophomore QB Chad Voytik

[+] EnlargeChad Voytik
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe spotlight at Pitt will be on Chad Voytik to see if the redshirt sophomore can take over the starting quarterback job.
2013 summary: In the first college action of his career, Voytik appeared in four games and completed 6 of 11 passes for 116 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He added three rushes for 26 yards and a score on the ground. His biggest contribution came in the Little Caesars Bowl against Bowling Green when he relieved an injured Tom Savage after halftime, playing the entire second half and completing 5 of 9 passes for 108 yards while rushing twice for 24 yards. His 5-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter broke a 20-20 tie in what ended up being a 30-27 Panthers win.

The skinny: Pitt will have just two scholarship quarterbacks on its roster when it opens spring ball Tuesday, as Voytik is joined by former walk-on Trey Anderson, a senior who has seen limited action. And the Panthers will no longer have the services of quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger, who left the program to pursue non-football opportunities. That means coach Paul Chryst will take a bigger hand in the development of his signal-callers, and he says Voytik and Anderson will split reps this spring. Chryst, a former quarterback during his days at Wisconsin, is the only ACC head coach to double as a quarterbacks coach, and he had to have liked what he saw from Voytik when he was thrust into the spotlight in the 2013 finale in Detroit.

In the bowl game, Voytik keyed a youth movement on an offense that saw major contributions from freshmen James Conner and Tyler Boyd. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Voytik took over with his team down seven points and efficiently managed the Panthers' comeback bid without Savage, hitting five different receivers and showing some mobility outside of the pocket against a Falcons defense that had entered the game topping the Mid-American Conference in every major category.

Now it's up to the former ESPN four-star prospect to fend off Anderson, as Chryst has insisted that the competition for the starting job remains wide open. Voytik will be throwing to a group of receivers that loses its leader in Devin Street and is coached by new staff addition Greg Lewis, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Pitt's young studs left a strong impression in the bowl win, and the Panthers have become a popular dark-horse pick to contend for the Coastal Division crown. Much of that, however, comes down to Voytik, who needs to take command in the offseason and assure everyone that he is ready to help the program take the next step in Year 3 of the Chryst era after consecutive six-win regular seasons.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
12:00
PM ET
Happy President's Day ...

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
4:00
PM ET
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)

SPONSORED HEADLINES