NCF Nation: Clemson Tigers
That doesn't mean it's without guys worth rooting for, though. Here, we give you five ACC guys whom even rival fans have to appreciate for what they do on Saturdays and beyond.
Laken Tomlinson, Duke. Tomlinson arrived in Chicago from Jamaica at the age of 10, with little knowledge of the game of football. His recruitment and background is very similar to that of "The Blind Side," with Tomlinson ultimately committing to David Cutcliffe and a then-rebuilding Blue Devils program. He took part in a service trip two years ago in Ethiopia to help construct freshwater wells for local communities. He's blossomed into a pretty good offensive guard, too, earning All-ACC honors during Duke's run to the Coastal Division crown last season.
Kevin Haplea, Florida State. You're out for the season with a torn ACL. So what do you do? If you're Haplea, you help start a charity chapter at your new school. The Penn State transfer founded the Seminoles' chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which, coincidentally, holds its first event, "Lift for Life," today. The fundraising effort raises awareness and research money for rare diseases, with FSU's chapter championing Fanconi anemia, which is the disease that coach Jimbo Fisher's son, Ethan, was diagnosed with. A redshirt senior, Haplea could see his role expand this year, complementing Nick O'Leary in FSU's two-tight-end sets.
Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville. With both of his parents in jail, Mauldin bounced between different foster families before one of his foster mothers introduced him to football in high school. He's excelled since, registering 9.5 sacks last season and earning second-team all-league honors from the American Athletic Conference. Mauldin does no shortage of community work as well.
David Durham, Pitt. The starting defensive end has done no shortage of work around his new community since transferring from Ohio State prior to the 2012 season. Durham has hosted youth football clinics, wrapped and delivered Christmas gifts to families in need, volunteered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and, most recently, was part of a group of Pitt players who visited an orphanage in Haiti in May for a weeklong mission trip. Durham was the Panthers defense's winner of the Ed Conway Award this spring, which goes to the most improved player.
The league released its list of players who will be attending the July 20-21 event at The Grandover Resort in Greensboro, North Carolina. Here they are:
C Andy Gallik, R-Sr.
DB Dominique Williams, R-Sr.
QB Cole Stoudt, Sr.
DE Vic Beasley, R-Sr.
OG Laken Tomlinson, R-Sr.
LB Kelby Brown, R-Sr.
QB Jameis Winston, R-So.
CB P.J. Williams, Jr.
OG Shaquille Mason, Sr.
LB Quayshawn Nealy, R-Sr.
WR DeVante Parker, Sr.
DE Lorenzo Mauldin, Sr.
RB Duke Johnson, Jr.
LB Denzel Perryman, Sr.
QB Marquise Williams, Jr.
LB Norkeithus Otis, Sr.
RB Tony Creecy, R-Sr.
DE Art Norman, R-Sr.
WR Tyler Boyd, So.
DB Ray Vinopal, R-Sr.
OT Sean Hickey, Sr.
LB Cameron Lynch, Sr.
RB Kevin Parks, Sr.
SS Anthony Harris, Sr.
WR Willie Byrn, R-Sr.
DT Luther Maddy, DT
FB Jordan Garside, R-Sr.
CB Kevin Johnson, R-Sr.
It doesn’t matter if you have started only three games in your career and haven’t played a down since November 2012 -- there is a spot for you on the list.
That said, it’s college football and as ridiculous as these often are, I admit I enjoy looking at them. The watch lists for the Maxwell Award, given to the college player of the year, and Bednarik Award, given to the top defensive player, were released Monday. As the season progresses, the list will be pared down before a winner is announced in December.
Here is a look at the ACC players to make the cut and some justification for each player being on the list.
WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh: As a freshman last fall, Boyd was as good of a receiver as there was in the ACC. As the Panthers’ No. 1 receiver heading into the 2014 season, Boyd could put up monster numbers and follow in the footsteps of Pitt great Larry Fitzgerald.
WR Stacy Coley, Miami: Much like Boyd, Coley had a strong freshman season and is poised for a breakout sophomore campaign. One of the country’s elite recruits in 2013, Coley could make a national name for himself if he can build a connection with Miami’s quarterbacks, which have struggled with inconsistency and injury.
RB James Conner, Pitt: It’s almost unfair Conner was limited to just the Maxwell watch list Monday considering he is a two-way standout for the Panthers. Conner is already a huge fan favorite in the Steel City for his bruising and relentless running style, and he broke Tony Dorsett’s school bowl-game rushing record in December.
WR Jamison Crowder, Duke: Any time you catch more than 100 passes for more than 1,300 yards, you deserve to be on this list.
RB Duke Johnson, Miami: Johnson’s inclusion here is a credit to how dominant he was before the injury against Florida State and how woeful Miami looked after. If he can stay healthy, Johnson has the potential to be an elite back nationally.
WR DeVante Parker, Louisville: As the Cardinals’ leading returning receiver and now in Bobby Petrino’s offense, Parker should light up stat sheets this coming season.
WR Rashad Greene, Florida State: There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Seminoles’ receivers, but none of it includes Greene, who led the Noles in receiving in 2013. With Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw in the NFL, Greene will be looked upon to bail out Jameis Winston this fall.
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: Speaking of Winston, the Maxwell is about the only thing he did not win last season. Another spectacular season and it will be hard to ignore him again.
RB Karlos Williams, Florida State: Similar to Brissett, this is a bit of a projection pick, although Williams has done significantly more than Brissett. Williams was the third-string running back in 2013, but with his five-star talent base coupled with a senior-laden offensive line and Williams could set records in his final season in Tallahassee.
Reaction: While Brissett is obviously a surprise, overall it is hard to argue with much of the list. Williams' inclusion might be pushing it a little bit, although he certainly could be one of the best running backs in the country with his blend of size and speed. It's a positive sign for the ACC that several underclassmen are on the list, including special playmakers Boyd, Coley and Conner, who will all be true sophomores this fall. The biggest question is whether Winston will win the award if he performs the way most expect him to as a redshirt sophomore. AJ McCarron won the award last season over Winston, who was a semifinalist along with Johnny Manziel. Winston's off-the-field issues might have played a role, so it would be interesting to see if the Maxwell Award will continue to take those incidents into account.
LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson: A third-team All-ACC selection last season, Anthony was brilliant in the Orange Bowl win against Ohio State with 11 tackles and an interception.
DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: A semifinalist for the award last season, Beasley is a disruptive force in opponents’ backfields. If he can show a little more consistency, he might win the award in 2014.
DB Jeremy Cash, Duke: Cash was an instant impact player for the Blue Devils a season ago following a transfer from Ohio State. With another year in the system, Cash is poised for a huge season.
DL Mario Edwards, Florida State: The former No. 1 recruit nationally was dominant in the national championship. Edwards is now the leader of the defensive line and has just as good a chance as any to win the Bednarik.
DB Anthony Harris, Virginia: An All-ACC selection as a junior, Harris will be looked upon to lead the turnaround for the Cavs on defense. It is a talented unit, and Harris, a team captain this fall, might be the best.
DE Eli Harold, Virginia: Last season he finished sixth in the ACC with 15 tackles for loss, an impressive number. He could see his numbers improve drastically with five-star Andrew Brown now at defensive tackle.
DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: An impact performer as a freshman and a second-team All-ACC selection, Fuller is set to be the next great defensive back at Virginia Tech.
DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson: With Beasley constantly seeing double teams, this opens up the door for Jarrett to be an interior force for the Tigers’ defensive line, which is arguably the country’s best.
DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech: He helped make a name for himself against Alabama at the beginning of the season, and his strong play continued throughout the year.
LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville: It will be interesting to see how he fares without defensive guru Charlie Strong, but is as talented as they come.
DE/LB Norkeithus Otis, North Carolina: Otis is another player poised to possibly gain national recognition and it begins with his inclusion on this list. He had a very strong junior season with 6.5 sacks.
LB Denzel Perryman, Miami: One of the few bright spots on Miami’s defense last season, Perryman is the unquestioned leader of the Hurricanes’ defenses. He could put up a huge number of tackles this fall.
CB P.J. Williams, Florida State: Williams was one of FSU’s best players this spring, and he might be the country’s best cornerback. His stiffest competition could come from the opposite side of the field in teammate Ronald Darby, who surprisingly did not make the list.
Reaction: It was surprising Darby's name was not included on the list despite missing the spring. He could be the first cornerback taken in the NFL draft next year. The ACC is home to some of the country's best defensive backs with Williams, Fuller and Harris. Beasley is certainly one of the favorites coming into the season, but he was shut down by Florida State last season and will need to rebound against the Seminoles to make a push for the Bednarik as a senior. His sack numbers should be impressive once again, and if he can perform on the big stages, it might be the little extra that wins him the award this season. FSU's Edwards could be the best defensive lineman in the ACC and the country if he plays like he did against Auburn all season. What could hurt Edwards is he will not always be in a position to pile up sacks and tackles even when he is dominating opposing offensive linemen.
Between 2006, when ESPN began assembling recruit rankings, and 2013, individual programs managed to sign at least two of the top three players at a position 16 times. In many cases, one -- and sometimes both -- of those players became instant stars as true freshmen. Think Taylor Mays and Joe McKnight at USC, De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon, Laremy Tunsil at Ole Miss and Sean Spence at Miami.
This was a relatively unique occurrence up until 2014, when it happened five times -- with four of the five instances occurring in the SEC: twice at Alabama, which signed the top two players at both center (No. 1 Josh Casher and No. 2 J.C. Hassenauer) and outside linebacker (No. 1 Christian Miller and No. 2 Rashaan Evans), plus at LSU (with No. 1 and 3 wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn) and Florida (with No. 2 and 3 defensive tackles Gerald Willis and Thomas Holley).
Clemson was the other school to accomplish the feat in 2014, signing No. 2 and 3 receiving tight ends Milan Richard and Cannon Smith.
In some of these cases -- particularly at LSU, which lost the vast majority of its receiving production from 2013 -- expectations are high that the star signees can immediately become valuable contributors as true freshmen. The Tigers have multiple alternatives at receiver, including Travin Dural and John Diarse, but Dupre and Quinn might rank among the leading contenders for playing time.
Judging by the long list of Freshman All-America and freshman all-conference honors won by those who previously signed as part of such a dynamic duo, perhaps it's not such a long shot that at least one of the newcomers will make a similar instant impact.
Safety | USC
No. 2 Taylor Mays, No. 3 Antwine Perez
Mays appeared in all 13 games -- starting the last 12 at free safety after Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury in the opener -- in 2006 and led the Trojans with three interceptions. Mays was fifth on the team with 62 tackles and tied for second with six passes defended, ending the season as Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year and as a member of multiple Freshman All-America teams. Perez played in seven games and recorded three tackles.
Center | Auburn
No. 1 Ryan Pugh, No. 3 Chaz Ramsey
Pugh started six of Auburn's final nine games at left tackle and appeared in eight games overall. He also backed up Jason Bosley at center and earned Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team honors after the season. Like Pugh, Ramsey appeared for the first time in Week 4 and went on to start nine of the Tigers' last 10 games at right guard. He also made the Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team.
Running back | USC
No. 1 Joe McKnight, No. 2 Marc Tyler
McKnight played in all 13 games in 2007, ranked third on the team with 540 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown and served as the Trojans' primary punt returner, with his 8.4 yards per return helping him earn a All-Pac-10 honorable mention nod. Tyler redshirted in 2007 while recuperating from a high school leg injury.
Inside linebacker | Ohio State
No. 1 Etienne Sabino, No. 2 Andrew Sweat
Sabino played in all 13 games and notched six tackles. He notched the only touchdown in the Buckeyes' 16-3 win against Purdue by returning a blocked punt 20 yards for a score. Sweat appeared in the last nine games and recorded five tackles, also contributing mostly on special teams.
Outside linebacker | Miami
No. 1 Arthur Brown, No. 2 Sean Spence, No. 3 Ramon Buchanan
Not only did Miami sign ESPN's top three outside linebacker prospects in 2008, it also signed No. 5 Jordan Futch. That's an outstanding haul for one year. At any rate, Spence emerged as the key member of this group from the get-go, ranking third on the team with 65 tackles and leading the Hurricanes with 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2008. He was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and made multiple Freshman All-America teams. Brown (who later transferred to Kansas State) played in 11 games as a freshman, notching four tackles and shifting from outside to inside linebacker. Buchanan had six tackles in nine games, playing mostly on special teams and also contributing at safety and linebacker.
Offensive tackle | Ohio State
No. 2 Michael Brewster, No. 3 J.B. Shugarts
Brewster played in 12 of the Buckeyes' 13 games in 2008 and started the last 10 at center, earning Freshman All-America honors in the process. Shugarts appeared in seven games at offensive tackle and missed six other games with a shoulder surgery that required offseason surgery.
Safety | Florida
No. 1 Will Hill, No. 2 Dee Finley
Hill played in 13 games and ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles. He also picked off two passes and notched 1.5 sacks. He made the SEC All-Freshman team and led the Gators with 22 tackles on special teams. Finley did not qualify academically and spent the 2008 season at Milford Academy prep school. He eventually enrolled at Florida and shifted from safety to linebacker, but transferred away from Gainesville in 2011.
Safety | South Carolina
No. 2 Stephon Gilmore, No. 3 DeVonte Holloman
Early enrollee Gilmore started all 13 games at cornerback, ranking fifth on the team with 56 tackles. He tied for the team lead with nine passes defended and ranked second with eight pass breakups, adding six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception. The Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-America honoree also averaged 10.1 yards per return as a punt return man. Another early enrollee, Hollomon also played in every game, notching 30 tackles, an interception (which he returned 54 yards against rival Clemson) and a tackle for a loss.
Athlete | Florida
No. 1 Ronald Powell, No. 2 Matt Elam
Powell played in 13 games at strongside linebacker and recorded 25 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack en route to winning Freshman All-SEC honors. Elam also played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams and at defensive back, and notched 22 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.
Defensive tackle | Florida
No. 1 Dominique Easley, No. 3 Sharrif Floyd
Easley recorded four tackles in six games. Floyd played in all 13 games, earning Coaches' Freshman All-SEC honors by making 23 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Wide receiver | Texas
No. 2 Mike Davis, No. 3 Darius White
Davis ranked second on the team with 478 receiving yards and 47 receptions (a record for a Texas freshman). He became one of only three receivers in Longhorns history to post multiple 100-yard games as a freshman. White appeared in 10 games in 2010, but caught just one pass for 5 yards and eventually transferred to Missouri after two seasons, citing a need for a fresh start.
Athlete | Oregon
No. 1 De'Anthony Thomas, No. 2 Devon Blackmon
The speedy Thomas earned Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and was named an All-Pac-12 kick returner and a Freshman All-American. He was the only player in the nation to post at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning in 2011, ranking as the Ducks' second-leading receiver (595 yards on 46 catches) and third-leading rusher (608 yards and seven touchdowns). His 983 kickoff return yards ranked second in school history. Blackmon redshirted in 2011 and appeared in two games in 2012 before announcing his plan to transfer. He played at Riverside City College before signing with BYU as a juco transfer in 2014.
Defensive end | Florida State
No. 1 Mario Edwards, No. 3 Chris Casher
Edwards became the only freshman to start all season for a loaded FSU defense when he replaced the injured Tank Carradine in the ACC Championship Game. He also started in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois. In all, Edwards finished the season with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Casher played in two early games before suffering a season-ending injury and taking a redshirt in 2012.
Offensive guard | Michigan
No. 2 David Dawson, No. 3 Patrick Kugler
Dawson and Kugler both redshirted in 2013. Dawson practiced during the spring at left guard and left tackle, while Kugler is among the candidates to start at center this fall.
Offensive tackle | Ole Miss
No. 1 Laremy Tunsil, No. 3 Austin Golson
Tunsil immediately became one of the better offensive tackles in the SEC, earning second-team All-SEC and Freshman All-America honors in 2013. He played in 12 games and started nine at left tackle, making him one of only two true full-time freshman starters at the position in the FBS. Tunsil allowed just one sack all season. Golson played in 12 games, mostly at guard, before missing the Rebels' bowl game because of shoulder surgery. He transferred to Auburn this summer, citing a family illness as the reason he wanted to move closer to his Alabama home.
Safety | USC
No. 1 Su'a Cravens, No. 3 Leon McQuay III
A 2013 early enrollee, Cravens started 13 games at strong safety, ranked eighth on the team with 52 tackles and tied for second with four interceptions. He made multiple Freshman All-America teams and earned an All-Pac-12 honorable mention nod after the season. McQuay played in all 14 games, picked off one pass and recorded 19 tackles.
Which team deserves to claim the title of "Defensive Line U" for the 2000s?
1. LSU (200 points)
Four-time award winner, All-American and first-round NFL draft pick Glenn Dorsey produced 68 points by himself, but LSU is “D-Line U” because of the sheer number of outstanding players it has produced. There are 21 draft picks in all, including first-round picks Dorsey, Marcus Spears, Tyson Jackson, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo. That’s an amazing legacy, which helped Les Miles’ Tigers barely edge Texas for the top spot.
Award winners: Dorsey - Outland (2007), Lombardi (2007), Nagurski (2007), Lott (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: Chad Lavalais (2003), Spears (2004), Dorsey (2007).
First-team all-conference: Lavalais (2003), Spears (2004), Claude Wroten (2005), Dorsey (2006, '07), Drake Nevis (2010), Sam Montgomery (2011, '12).
NFL first-round draft picks: Spears (2005), Dorsey (2008), Jackson (2009), Brockers (2012), Mingo (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jarvis Green (Round 4, 2002), Marquise Hill (Round 2, 2004), Wroten (Round 3, 2006), Al Woods (Round 4, 2010), Nevis (Round 3, 2011), Montgomery (Round 3, 2013), Bennie Logan (Round 3, 2013), Ego Ferguson (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Howard Green (Round 6, 2002), Lavalais (Round 5, 2004), Kyle Williams (Round 5, 2006), Melvin Oliver (Round 6, 2006), Chase Pittman (Round 7, 2007), Ricky Jean-Francois (Round 7, 2009), Lazarius Levingston (Round 7, 2011), Lavar Edwards (Round 5, 2013).
2. Texas (196)
With 13 draft picks -- including first-round picks Casey Hampton, Marcus Tubbs and Brian Orakpo -- and 11 first-team all-conference picks, Texas finished a close second to LSU in the defensive line race. Orakpo was the big point producer with four national awards, an All-American honor and an all-conference selection before going in the first round of the 2009 draft.
Award winners: Orakpo - Lombardi (2008), Hendricks (2008), Nagurski (2008); Jackson Jeffcoat - Hendricks (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Hampton (2000), Rodrique Wright (2005), Orakpo (2008), Jeffcoat (2013).
First-team all-conference: Hampton (2000), Cory Redding (2001), Tubbs (2003), Wright (2005), Tim Crowder (2005), Roy Miller (2008), Orakpo (2008), Sam Acho (2010), Alex Okafor (2011, '12), Jeffcoat (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Hampton (2001), Tubbs (2004), Orakpo (2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Shaun Rogers (Round 2, 2001), Redding (Round 3, 2003), Crowder (Round 2, 2007), Brian Robison (Round 4, 2007), Miller (Round 3, 2009), Henry Melton (Round 4, 2009), Lamarr Houston (Round 2, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wright (Round 7, 2006), Frank Okam (Round 5, 2008), Kheeston Randall (Round 7, 2012).
3. Georgia (182)
Four-time award winner and two-time All-American David Pollack is the main reason that Georgia ranks so high on this list, but the Bulldogs have produced a ridiculous number of NFL defensive linemen in the 2000s. First-round picks Pollack, Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Charles Grant and Johnathan Sullivan are among 20 NFL draft picks from Georgia, including players like Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers and Charles Johnson who have made big impacts in the league.
Award winners: Pollack - Lombardi (2004), Bednarik (2004), Lott (2004), Hendricks (2003, '04).
Consensus All-Americans: Pollack (2002, '04).
First-team all-conference: Seymour (2000), Pollack (2002, '03, '04), Quentin Moses (2005), Justin Houston (2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Seymour (2001), Stroud (2001), Grant (2002), Sullivan (2003), Pollack (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Geathers (Round 4, 2004), Moses (Round 3, 2007), Johnson (Round 3, 2007), Corvey Irvin (Round 3, 2009), Atkins (Round 4, 2010), John Jenkins (Round 3, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tyrone Robertson (Round 7, 2001), Josh Mallard (Round 7, 2002), Kedric Golston (Round 6, 2006), Marcus Howard (Round 5, 2008), Jarius Wynn (Round 7, 2009), Jeff Owens (Round 7, 2010), Kade Weston (Round 7, 2010), DeAngelo Tyson (Round 7, 2012), Cornelius Washington (Round 6, 2013).
4. Oklahoma (174)
A pair of All-Americans (Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy, both first-round NFL draft picks) and an award winner (Harris) highlight Oklahoma’s batch of defensive linemen who tied for fourth in our standings. The Sooners had a total of 11 defensive linemen drafted in the 2000s.
Award winners: Harris - Lombardi (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Harris (2002, '03), McCoy (2009).
First-team all-conference: Ryan Fisher (2000), Harris (2001, '02, '03), Jimmy Wilkerson (2002), Dusty Dvoracek (2003, '05), Dan Cody (2004), C.J. Ah You (2006), Larry Birdine (2006), Auston English (2007), McCoy (2009), Jeremy Beal (2010), Frank Alexander (2011), Ronnell Lewis (2011), Charles Tapper (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Harris (2004), McCoy (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Dvoracek (Round 3, 2006), Alexander (Round 4, 2012), Lewis (Round 4, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wilkerson (Round 6, 2003), Ah You (Round 7, 2007), Beal (Round 7, 2011), Stacy McGee (Round 6, 2013), David King (Round 7, 2013).
4. USC (174)
With four first-round draft picks -- Kenechi Udeze, Mike Patterson, Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson -- it’s no surprise that USC would rank high on this list. The Trojans tied Oklahoma for the No. 4 spot largely thanks to that foursome, who also accounted for two of the program’s three All-American honors for defensive linemen in the 2000s (Shaun Cody had the other).
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Udeze (2003), Cody (2004), Ellis (2007).
First-team all-conference: Udeze (2003), Cody (2003, '04), Patterson (2003, '04), Frostee Rucker (2005), Jackson (2005, '07), Ellis (2006, '07), Fili Moala (2008), Brian Price (2009), Jurrell Casey (2010), Nick Perry (2011), Leonard Williams (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Udeze (2004), Patterson (2005), Ellis (2008), Jackson (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cody (Round 2, 2005), Rucker (Round 3, 2006), Kyle Moore (Round 4, 2009), Moala (Round 2, 2009), Everson Griffen (Round 4, 2010), Casey (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ennis Davis (Round 7, 2001), LaJuan Ramsey (Round 6, 2006).
6. TCU (158)
Aside from Jerry Hughes’ impressive résumé in 2008 and 2009, TCU doesn’t have a defensive line résumé that competes with some of the other top-tier programs at the position. It certainly helps the Horned Frogs’ cause that they were competing in the WAC, Conference USA or Mountain West up until 2012, as 96 of their 158 points came from linemen earning all-conference honors -- and only two of them earned that recognition since TCU joined the Big 12.
Award winners: Hughes - Lott (2009), Hendricks (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Hughes (2008, '09).
First-team all-conference: Aaron Schobel (2000), Shawn Worthen (2000), Chad Pugh (2003), Bo Schobel (2002, '03), Tommy Blake (2005, '06), Chase Ortiz (2005, '06, '07), Hughes (2008, '09), Wayne Daniels (2010), Stansly Maponga (2011, 2012), Devonte Fields (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Hughes (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Worthen (Round 4, 2001), Aaron Schobel (Round 2, 2001), Matt Schobel (Round 2, 2002), Bo Schobel (Round 4, 2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Maponga (Round 5, 2013).
7. Penn State (152)
Considering that only 11 Penn State defensive linemen have been drafted since 2001, it’s impressive that five of them -- Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and Jared Odrick -- went in the first round. Hali, Maybin and Devon Still (a second-round pick in 2012) accounted for the Nittany Lions’ three consensus All-American selections during that time period.
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Hali (2005), Maybin (2008), Still (2011).
First-team all-conference: Kennedy (2001, '02), Haynes (2002), Hali (2005), Scott Paxson (2005), Maybin (2008), Odrick (2008, '09), Still (2011), Jordan Hill (2012), DaQuan Jones (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Kennedy (2003), Haynes (2003), Hali (2006), Maybin (2009), Odrick (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Anthony Adams (Round 2, 2003), Jay Alford (Round 3, 2007), Still (Round 2, 2012), Hill (Round 3, 2013), Jones (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jack Crawford (Round 5, 2012).
8. Florida State (148)
Jamal Reynolds and Bjoern Werner are the headliners, as both players earned consensus All-American honors before becoming first-round NFL draft picks -- plus Reynolds claimed the Lombardi Award in 2000. But Florida State has plenty to brag about, including 13 total draft picks and 10 all-conference selections among its defensive linemen in the 2000s.
Award winners: Reynolds - Lombardi (2000).
Consensus All-Americans: Reynolds (2000), Werner (2012).
First-team all-conference: Reynolds (2000), Darnell Dockett (2001, '03), Alonzo Jackson (2002), Travis Johnson (2004), Everette Brown (2008), Brandon Jenkins (2010), Werner (2012), Tank Carradine (2012), Timmy Jernigan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Reynolds (2001), Johnson (2005), Brodrick Bunkley (2006), Werner (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Dockett (Round 3, 2004), Chauncey Davis (Round 4, 2005), Andre Fluellen (Round 3, 2008), Brown (Round 2, 2009), Carradine (Round 2, 2013), Jernigan (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Eric Moore (Round 6, 2005), Letroy Guion (Round 5, 2008), Everett Dawkins (Round 7, 2013).
9. Clemson (138)
Two-time award winner Da’Quan Bowers (38 points) and first-round draft pick Gaines Adams (22 points) -- both consensus All-Americans -- account for 60 of Clemson’s 138 points, but the Tigers have had 13 defensive linemen drafted, which is a big reason why they cracked the top 10. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Vic Beasley add significantly to the point total this season.
Award winners: Bowers - Nagurski (2010), Hendricks (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Adams (2006), Bowers (2010), Beasley (2013).
First-team all-conference: Terry Jolly (2000), Nick Eason (2002), Adams (2006), Bowers (2010), Jarvis Jenkins (2010), Andre Branch (2011), Beasley (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Adams (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Eason (Round 4, 2003), Bryant McNeal (Round 4, 2003), Donnell Washington (Round 3, 2004), Phillip Merling (Round 2, 2008), Darell Scott (Round 4, 2009), Bowers (Round 2, 2011), Jenkins (Round 2, 2011), Brandon Thompson (Round 3, 2012), Branch (Round 2, 2012), Malliciah Goodman (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Charles Bennett (Round 7, 2006), Ricky Sapp (Round 5, 2010).
9. North Carolina (138)
There aren’t a ton of accomplished North Carolina defensive linemen on this list. The Tar Heels have just one award winner and All-American, Julius Peppers, and just seven all-conference selections. But UNC boasts a whopping six first-round draft picks in the 2000s -- Peppers, Ryan Sims, Kentwan Balmer, Robert Quinn, Quinton Coples and Sylvester Williams -- which is more than any other school in the top 10.
Award winners: Peppers - Lombardi (2001), Bednarik (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Peppers (2001).
First-team all-conference: Peppers (2000, '01), Sims (2001), Quinn (2009), Coples (2010, '11), Williams (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Peppers (2002), Sims (2002), Balmer (2008), Quinn (2011), Coples (2012), Williams (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: E.J. Wilson (Round 4, 2010), Marvin Austin (Round 2, 2011), Kareem Martin (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Joey Evans (Round 7, 2002), Chase Page (Round 7, 2006), Hilee Taylor (Round 7, 2008), Cam Thomas (Round 5, 2010).
REST OF “D-LINE U” RANKINGS
128 - Utah; 126 - Nebraska, Ohio State; 116 - Florida; 114 - Pittsburgh; 108 - Iowa, Miami; 104 - Tennessee; 102 - Auburn; 100 - Wisconsin; 98 - Louisville; 96 - Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina; 94 - Arizona State; 92 - Michigan; 86 - Oregon State, Purdue; 80 - California, Syracuse; 74 - Georgia Tech; 70 - Oregon, Virginia Tech; 64 - BYU, UCLA; 62 - Texas A&M; 58 - NC State; 56 - Virginia; 54 - Illinois; 52 - Kansas State; 50 - Michigan State, West Virginia; 44 - Boston College; 42 - Arkansas; 40 - Maryland; 38 - Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Rutgers; 34 - Washington State; 30 - Minnesota, Northwestern; 28 - Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Stanford, Texas Tech, Washington; 24 - Wake Forest; 18 - Baylor, Indiana, Iowa State; 16 - Arizona; 12 - Duke; 4 - Vanderbilt
Who really deserves to claim the title of "Wide Receiver U" for the 2000s?
1. USC (134 points)
USC has been amazingly successful at producing pro wide receivers, as a whopping 11 former Trojans have been selected in the NFL draft since 2001. Mike Williams, a 2003 All-American, is the only first-round pick in the bunch, but look over the list: Dwayne Jarrett, Robert Woods, 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner and All-American Marqise Lee. Some supreme pass-catching talent has come through L.A. since the turn of the century.
Award winners: Marqise Lee, Biletnikoff (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Mike Williams (2003), Dwayne Jarrett (2005, 2006), Robert Woods (2011), Marqise Lee (2012).
First-team all-conference: Mike Williams (2003), Dwayne Jarrett (2005, 2006), Steve Smith (2006), Damian Williams (2009), Robert Woods (2011), Marqise Lee (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Mike Williams (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Keary Colbert (Round 2, 2004), Steve Smith (Round 2, 2007), Dwayne Jarrett (Round 2, 2007), Patrick Turner (Round 3, 2009), Damian Williams (Round 3, 2010), Robert Woods (Round 2, 2013), Marqise Lee (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Kareem Kelly (Round 6, 2003), Ronald Johnson (Round 6, 2011), David Ausberry (Round 7, 2011),
2. LSU (124 points)
LSU hasn't accumulated as many All-America receivers as USC, but you won’t find a school that has done a better job of turning out pro wideouts. The Tigers have sent 14 receivers to the NFL through the draft since 2000, including four first-round picks (Michael Clayton, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and new New York Giants WR Odell Beckham). LSU’s national reputation is largely that of a defense-first program -- for good reason -- but the Tigers quietly have turned out a lot of NFL-caliber wideouts.
Award winners: Josh Reed, Biletnikoff (2001); Odell Beckham, Hornung (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Josh Reed (2001).
First-team all-conference: Josh Reed (2000, 2001), Michael Clayton (2003), Dwayne Bowe (2006), Rueben Randle (2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Michael Clayton (2004), Dwayne Bowe (2007), Craig Davis (2007), Odell Beckham (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Josh Reed (Round 2, 2002), Devery Henderson (Round 2, 2004), Skyler Green (Round 4, 2006), Early Doucet (Round 3, 2008), Brandon LaFell (Round 3, 2010), Rueben Randle (Round 2, 2012), Jarvis Landry (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Bennie Brazell (Round 7, 2006), Demetrius Byrd (Round 7, 2009), James Wright (Round 7, 2014).
3. Pittsburgh (120 points)
The level of competition for Pittsburgh increased when it joined the ACC, so it will be interesting to see whether the Panthers keep churning out all-conference receivers the way they did in the Big East. That will be a tall order. But guys such as early-2000s stars Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant would have been All-Americans no matter where they played.
Award winners: Antonio Bryant, Biletnikoff (2000); Larry Fitzgerald, Walter Camp (2003), Biletnikoff (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Antonio Bryant (2000), Larry Fitzgerald (2003).
First-team all-conference: Antonio Bryant (2000, 2001), Larry Fitzgerald (2002, 2003), Greg Lee (2005), Derek Kinder (2006), Jonathan Baldwin (2009, 2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Larry Fitzgerald (2004), Jonathan Baldwin (2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Antonio Bryant (Round 2, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Derek Kinder (Round 7, 2009), Dorin Dickerson (Round 7, 2010), Devin Street, Round 5, 2014).
4. Oklahoma State (112 points)
Off-the-field issues have marred the NFL careers -- and in some cases, the college careers –- of some of Oklahoma State’s most renowned wideouts. But one thing that absolutely isn’t in question is their ability. The Cowboys have featured some of the most ridiculously talented receivers in college football in the last 14 seasons, most notably Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon.
Award winners: Justin Blackmon, Biletnikoff (2010, 2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Rashaun Woods (2002), Dez Bryant (2008), Justin Blackmon (2010, 2011).
First-team all-conference: Rashaun Woods (2002, 2003), Adarius Bowman (2006), Dez Bryant (2008), Justin Blackmon (2011, 2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Rashaun Woods (2004), Dez Bryant (2010), Justin Blackmon (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.
5. Michigan (96 points)
There was a time when Michigan would have ranked higher on this list -– maybe even at No. 1 -– but the Wolverines haven’t produced great wideouts in recent seasons the way they did in the early 2000s. David Terrell and Braylon Edwards dominated Big Ten games back in the day, but Michigan hasn’t had a first-team all-conference wideout since Mario Manningham went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.
Award winners: Braylon Edwards, Biletnikoff (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Braylon Edwards (2004).
First-team all-conference: David Terrell (2000), Marquise Walker (2001), Braylon Edwards (2003, 2004), Jason Avant (2005), Mario Manningham (2006, 2007).
NFL first-round draft picks: David Terrell (2001), Braylon Edwards (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Marquise Walker (Round 3, 2002), Jason Avant (Round 4, 2006), Mario Manningham (Round 3, 2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Steve Breaston (Round 5, 2007), Adrian Arrington (Round 7, 2008), Junior Hemingway (Round 7, 2012), Jeremy Gallon (Round 7, 2014).
6. Oregon State (92 points)
This one might surprise folks outside of Pac-12 country, but look down the list. A couple of Biletnikoff Award winners -– including 2014 NFL first-round pick Brandin Cooks, who posted video game numbers (128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 TDs) last season. And don’t forget their team at the turn of the century that featured future NFL teammates Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh at wideout. That duo had to create a matchup problem or two for college defensive coordinators.
Award winners: Mike Hass, Biletnikoff (2005); Brandin Cooks, Biletnikoff (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Brandin Cooks (2013).
First-team all-conference: James Newson (2003), Mike Hass (2004, 2005), Sammie Stroughter (2008), James Rodgers (2009), Markus Wheaton (2012), Brandin Cooks (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Brandin Cooks (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Chad Johnson (Round 2, 2001), Markus Wheaton (Round 3, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Round 7, 2001), Mike Hass (Round 6, 2006), Sammie Stroughter (Round 7, 2009).
T-7. Clemson (82 points)
It’s not unusual for Clemson to have dynamic offensive talent, but a recent surge at wideout helped the Tigers jump to this spot. Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins ensured that Clemson had a receiver represented on the All-ACC first team in each of the past three seasons, and both players went on to become first-round draft picks.
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Airese Currie (2004), Chansi Stuckey (2005, 2006), Aaron Kelly (2007), Sammy Watkins (2011, 2013), DeAndre Hopkins (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Rod Gardner (2001), DeAndre Hopkins (2013), Sammy Watkins (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Derrick Hamilton (Round 3, 2004), Jacoby Ford (Round 4, 2010), Martavis Bryant (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Airese Curry (Round 5, 2005), Chansi Stuckey (Round 7, 2007).
T-7. Oklahoma (82 points)
Rarely spectacular but always highly productive, Oklahoma has built a solid tradition at receiver under Bob Stoops. Check out the list of 11 wideouts who have been drafted since 2001 -– just one first-round pick (Mark Clayton in 2005), but a big group went in the early rounds because the Sooners keep signing players like Ryan Broyles and Mark Bradley, who develop into dangerous pass-catchers in the Oklahoma offense.
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Ryan Broyles (2010, 2011).
First-team all-conference: Mark Clayton (2003, 2004), Ryan Broyles (2010, 2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Mark Clayton (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Brandon Jones (Round 3, 2005), Mark Bradley (Round 2, 2005), Travis Wilson (Round 3, 2006), Malcolm Kelly (Round 2, 2008), Juaquin Iglesias (Round 3, 2009), Ryan Broyles (Round 2, 2012), Jalen Saunders (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Manuel Johnson (Round 7, 2009), Kenny Stills (Round 5, 2013), Justin Brown (Round 6, 2013).
9. Texas Tech (80 points)
There was a time when the Mike Leach-led Texas Tech passing game ranked among the most exciting in the game. Michael Crabtree was the centerpiece of that attack, winning a pair of Biletnikoff Awards before becoming a first-round pick. Perhaps Kliff Kingsbury will revive some of the excitement from the old days under his mentor, but the Red Raiders haven’t had an all-conference receiver since Crabtree in 2008.
Award winners: Michael Crabtree, Biletnikoff (2007, 2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Michael Crabtree (2007, 2008).
First-team all-conference: Jarrett Hicks (2005), Joel Filani (2005, 2006), Michael Crabtree (2007, 2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Michael Crabtree (2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Carlos Francis (Round 4, 2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Joel Filani (Round 6, 2007).
10. Ohio State (76 points)
Four first-round draft picks -– Michael Jenkins, Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez –- and a total of 11 drafted receivers helped Ohio State crack the top 10 despite not having any national award winners or All-Americans. As one of the most successful college programs of the 2000s, the Buckeyes are a fixture in these positional rankings, so it’s no surprise they made the top 10 here.
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Santonio Holmes (2005), Ted Ginn Jr. (2006), Anthony Gonzalez (2006), Dane Sanzenbacher (2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Michael Jenkins (2004), Santonio Holmes (2006), Ted Ginn Jr. (2007), Anthony Gonzalez (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Brian Robiskie (Round 2, 2009), Brian Hartline (Round 4, 2009), DeVier Posey (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ken-Yon Rambo (Round 7, 2001), Reggie Germany (Round 7, 2001), Drew Carter (Round 5, 2004), Roy Hall (Round 5, 2007)
Rest of "Wide Receiver U" rankings
72 – Louisville; 70 – Georgia Tech; 66 – Florida, Florida State; 64 – Miami; 60 – Texas A&M; 56 – Georgia; 54 – Texas; 52 – West Virginia; 50 – Michigan State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin; 48 – Baylor; 46 – Kansas State; 44 – Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee; 40 – Purdue; 38 – Missouri, Rutgers; 36 – California; 34 – Arizona, Indiana, N.C. State, UCLA; 32 – Vanderbilt, Washington; 30 – Illinois, Oregon; 28 – Arizona State, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia Tech; 26 – Minnesota, Utah, Wake Forest; 24 – BYU, TCU; 22 – Alabama, Washington State; 20 – Maryland, Ole Miss; 18 – Colorado, Duke, Iowa, Virginia; 14 – Kentucky, Syracuse; 12 – Auburn, Kansas; 10 – Northwestern; 8 – Stanford; 6 – Iowa State, Nebraska; 0 – Boston College, Mississippi State
The World Cup has a way of captivating this country despite its apathetic reputation toward soccer, and count ACC coaches, players and administrators among those tuning in for the United States' win. Several took to Twitter to rejoice following Clint Dempsey's first-minute goal, Brooks’ heart-stopping header and the Americans finally breaking through against Ghana.
Ryan Switzer, an All-ACC selection as a freshman last season at North Carolina, was in awe of Dempsey’s okey doke of a defender for the opening goal. It was reminiscent of Switzer juking defenders on punt returns, four of which he took for scores this past season.
OHHHHH HE BROKE HIM OFF!!!!!! WITH A SOCCER BALL!!! =H=H=H— Ryan Switzer (@Switz03) June 16, 2014
A Ghana goal in the 82nd minute sent Twitter into a momentary downward spiral until Brooks scored minutes later. Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya tweeted what the rest of the country was thinking.
CLUTCH— Brad Kaaya (@TrinidadBrad) June 16, 2014
The tweets came pouring in once the referee blew the final whistle and the 2-1 win put the United States in second place in its group. Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora and Duke receiver Max McCaffrey all chimed in with celebratory #Murica tweets.
USA! USA! USA! USA! =L— Cole Stoudt (@CStoudt_18) June 16, 2014
USA— Larry Fedora (@CoachFedora) June 17, 2014
We won!!!! #merica— Max McCaffrey (@notoriousmax25) June 16, 2014
Tar Heels bandit Shakeel Rashad followed his coach’s lead and tweeted about the game. He had a message for the United States’ upcoming opponent, Portugal, and, more specifically its star goal scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo.
You're next @Cristiano <ú<ø<ú<ø<ú<ø<ú<ø— Shakeel Rashad (@shak_inabox) June 17, 2014
Not everybody has enjoyed the World Cup thus far, though. Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Brutus has little interest in joining the country’s temporary conversion into a soccer-hungry fanbase.
Ain't no way I could sit down and watch soccer— Lamarcus Brutus (@Beebo42) June 15, 2014
And former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson, born in England, had his weekend wrecked when Italy beat England Saturday.
I guess we just put ourselves in a lil predicament. Just ruined my Saturday!— Menelik Watson (@MenelikWatson71) June 14, 2014
What did catch a few people by surprise is just how dominant Vegas expects the Seminoles, who have a few holes to fill on defense and at the offensive skill positions, to be in 2014. Florida State is initially favored by double digits in each game. Contests against The Citadel, Wake Forest, Boston College and Virginia were not released.
Florida State was also a 17-point favorite against Oklahoma State in a neutral-site game, at Louisville and against rival Florida. They opened as a 24-point favorite against Notre Dame. The Seminoles are a 14.5-point favorite at Miami, which is looking for revenge after being trounced 41-14 last season.
Elsewhere in the ACC, Clemson is a nine-point road underdog to Georgia in a rematch of last season’s opener. Following the September game against Florida State, the Tigers are favored in each listed game until hosting South Carolina, which is a three-point road favorite. Vegas expects a close game between the Tigers and visiting North Carolina, listing Clemson as a four-point favorite in that Sept. 27 game.
Louisville is welcomed to the ACC with a Labor Day primetime game against Miami, and Vegas is calling that one a pick ’em.
The Golden Nugget is not confident that Virginia Tech will have a bounce-back season. Ohio State is an 18-point favorite for the Hokies’ Week 2 trip to Columbus, Ohio, and surprisingly, the Tar Heels are a double-digit home favorite against the Hokies. Virginia Tech is only a one-point favorite at home against Miami.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, Vegas expects a close one when they travel to Nebraska. Miami is a three-point underdog in their Sept. 20 game. Miami is a one-point favorite against North Carolina, which could be a division-defining game to begin November.
Other notable spreads:
- North Carolina is a three-point road favorite over Duke and 20-point favorite over NC State.
- Georgia Tech isn’t projected to break its losing streak to in-state rival Georgia. The Yellow Jackets are initially set as a 14-point underdog.
- NC State is at least a 20-point underdog in the three games with a spread.
- Syracuse is a 5.5-point underdog to Notre Dame at the Meadowlands.
- Virginia has two interesting nonconference games and is a heavy underdog in both. UCLA is a 21.5-point road favorite and BYU, a team Virginia beat last season, is a 17-point home favorite.
The Cardinals could potentially add a fourth SEC transfer to the mix. Safety Tray Matthews was dismissed from Georgia on Tuesday, then tweeted he would transfer to either Auburn or Louisville. If he chooses the Cards, he would join three former SEC players -- his old Georgia teammates Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons, and former Texas A&M receiver JaQuay Williams.
Should Matthews enter the fold, Louisville would be in line to start nearly the same defensive backfield in 2015 that Georgia featured when all three players were healthy this past season.
That would be absolutely huge for a Louisville team making the transition into the ACC. Petrino has made foolish mistakes in his past, but he is not a fool when it comes to understanding what it takes to win -- especially on his side of the division.
Atlantic Division front-runners Florida State and Clemson are the only two ACC schools consistently recruiting at an SEC level on a consistent basis. To compete with them, Louisville must do the same. Accepting these transfers is one way to start closing the talent gap that currently exists between the programs. Williams, Wiggins, Harvey-Clemons and Matthews were all four-star recruits out of high school. The three Georgia players were ranked in the ESPN 300 and were dubbed the Bulldogs' defensive backfield of the future.
To understand how much catching up Louisville has to do, consider this: During the last five years, Louisville signed a combined 24 four-star players. Seven were ranked in the ESPN 300. Those are great numbers for the old Big East/American. But in the same span, Florida State signed 70 four-star and five-star players, and 55 were ranked in the ESPN 300. Clemson signed 55 four-star or five-star players, and 34 were ranked on the ESPN 300. It's easy to see why these two schools have separated from the rest.
As successful as Louisville was in its final years in the Big East/American, playing in a tougher conference means you need better players. Looking for transfers -- even transfers with baggage -- is one way to do that.
There are some risks involved. Harvey-Clemons and Matthews were both dismissed from Georgia. Though no specific details were given about Matthews' departure, Harvey-Clemons served multiple suspensions for team rules violations, including the 2013 Capital One Bowl.
Petrino was criticized during his first go-around with Louisville for bringing in players with discipline problems. Athletic director Tom Jurich told one reporter in 2008 that the Cardinals dismissed 21 players after Petrino left for the Atlanta Falcons because of disciplinary issues.
So the track record is not sterling. But Petrino and Jurich have both vowed things would be different in the program this time. Given where Louisville stands as it heads into the ACC, Petrino has to be willing to take a few risks. At the same time, he also has to show he means business with the players who have been in trouble in the past. Second chances are one thing, but there needs to be a level of discipline in the program that was not there the first time Petrino was in charge.
None of the incoming players are eligible until 2015, when Petrino will have a much better idea of where his team stands in the ACC. If he can maximize their potential and keep them out of trouble, Louisville will be well on its way.
There has been one near certainty on the Clemson offense under coach Dabo Swinney.
A running back will hit 1,000 yards.
It has happened in three straight seasons, and four of the five years Swinney has been in charge. So will it happen again in 2014, with what could be a running-back-by-committee approach?
"We certainly expect to," Swinney said during the ACC spring meetings. "Last year, Hot Rod (McDowell) became the guy, the year before it was (Andre) Ellington. We might be a little more diversified this year, but we’ll see how it all plays out. I know our overall production at the position is going to increase. Whether it’s one guy or a combination of guys that’s yet to be determined."
When Swinney released his summer depth chart last week, D.J. Howard was listed as the starter. But three more backs also are listed behind him -- Zac Brooks, C.J. Davidson and Wayne Gallman. A fifth, Tyshon Dye, is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, but Swinney expects Dye to return at some point in the season, giving the Tigers five quality running backs that could all play. Not to mention three four-star running backs coming to Clemson for the fall.
"This is probably the best situation we’ve been in at running back in a long time," Swinney said. "That’s probably the area offensively we’re most excited about as coaches. We’ve got very good depth there. We’ve got a competitive, talented group that is going to pay good dividends for us this year."
Clemson and Baylor are only schools with 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher each of the last three season. But both Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris believe they will get more production out of their running backs in 2014. They expected the same headed into last season, when Morris wanted his team to average 200 yards on the ground.
The Tigers did not quite get there for a few reasons. Swinney said a lot of times, run calls turned into pass calls, where they could reliably lean on Tajh Boyd. The Tigers also had to deal with a few injuries that limited their depth.
With Boyd gone and Cole Stoudt in as the starter at quarterback, more of the run calls will fall to the running backs. Backup quarterback Deshaun Watson can run as well and could be used in certain designed packages, but there is little doubt the Clemson coaches want to rely on their talented group of backs, starting in the opener against Georgia. Last season against the Bulldogs, Clemson racked up 197 yards on the ground -- its third-highest total against FBS competition on the season.
The Tigers hope for more of the same this season, on a weekly basis. But it might not translate into a 1,000-yard back. Back in 2010, the only season the Tigers did not produce a 1,000-yard rusher, Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington had similar rushing totals and combined for 1,446 yards.
Alabama coach Nick Saban agreed, sparking renewed debate about the place of FCS games in major college football, especially when strength of schedule will mean more in the playoff era.
But during the ACC spring meetings last month, there was no such debate. The ACC remains firm in its desire to play FCS opponents. There are a few reasons why. First, scheduling nonconference games has become more challenging than ever. Sometimes, an FCS team is needed to fill out the schedule. Second, there are many FCS teams in the South that are in close geographic proximity to ACC teams, and they always benefit greatly when they are scheduled to play.
These are not the most appealing games. Sometimes, upsets happen, which is probably why Muschamp does not want to go the FCS route anymore. But from the ACC perspective, the FCS games are not going anywhere anytime soon.
All 14 ACC teams have FCS teams on the schedule for 2014. Seven are in the same state as their ACC opponent. Nearly all the rest are located in bordering states. Miami, for one, plays Florida A&M this season and also has played in-state Bethune-Cookman in the past.
"Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman are great games for us," Miami athletic director Blake James said during the ACC meetings. "Those are schools within the state, there’s a real benefit for them to be able to come down and have games in Miami where they have alumni. It’s a benefit for us. As of right now I would see us still scheduling Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman and those types of schools. Those are the ones we have historically played and those are relationships we’d like to be able to continue."
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, who also serves on the College Football Playoff committee, was asked how teams with FCS opponents on the schedule would be judged when it came time to make decisions. The Tigers, for example, have South Carolina State on the schedule this season and for 2016 and a game with Wofford set for 2015.
"You’re going to have to look at what FCS teams you play, if any, because there are some FCS teams that are more difficult to play than the lower-ranked Division I teams," Radakovich said. "It comes into the totality of the schedule."
Until further notice, the totality of the ACC schedule will include an FCS opponent.
What has changed in terms of scheduling is a rule that will require all teams to play at least one nonconference game against a team from a Power 5 conference (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC). While that won’t affect the four ACC teams with annual rivalry games against the SEC (FSU, Clemson, Louisville and Georgia Tech), it will force some others to up the ante on future scheduling.
Rather than look ahead, however, we decided to take a look back at how the ACC has fared against Power 5 competition in recent years.
As colleague Andrea Adelson pointed out, the 2013 nonconference slate in the ACC was one of the toughest in the nation, and the 2014 schedule projects to be similarly daunting.
“The ACC played one of the most challenging nonconference schedules in the country a season ago, featuring games against Georgia, USC, Florida, Northwestern, Penn State, Alabama, South Carolina, BYU and Oregon.
This year, Oklahoma State, Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska, UCLA, USC and Iowa are on the nonconference schedule, in addition to the standard SEC rivalry games for Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville.”
But while the ACC played a fair number of tough nonconference games, it didn’t exactly perform particularly well in them.
In fact, going back five years to the 2009 season, the numbers are pretty bleak.
The 11 current ACC members who have been a part of the conference since 2009 have played a total of 73 regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 teams. Their combined record is a dismal 22-51 (.301).
Here’s how bad it actually is:
• Three of those 22 wins actually came against Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville when those programs were not part of the ACC.
• Seven more wins came against Vandy, Kansas, Rutgers and Indiana — hardly traditional powers despite their conference affiliations.
• No ACC team has a winning record in nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 teams during that span. The team that has performed the best during that stretch is North Carolina, which is 3-3.
• The most impressive nonconference, regular-season wins over Power 5 teams for the ACC in the last five years amounts to a short list: Clemson over Georgia (2013), Miami over Florida (2013), Clemson over Auburn (2011), FSU over Florida (2010), Miami over Oklahoma (2009) and Virginia Tech over Nebraska (2009).
The failures against Power 5 teams are league-wide, but the spread is a bit one-sided. Since 2009, there are a few teams that have distinctly avoiding playing nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 teams. The full list is in a chart on the right.
What’s worse, four of those six games played by NC State and Virginia Tech came in 2009, meaning those two programs have each played just one regular-season, nonconference game against a Power 5 team in the last four years. (Virginia Tech played Alabama last season, while NC State played Tennessee in 2012.)
Of course, conference games are also played against Power 5 foes, and the ACC has won its share of bowl games against teams from major conferences as well. With that in mind, here are the league’s standings since 2009 based on all games against teams currently in a Power 5 conference (plus Notre Dame).
It’s probably no surprise that Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech -- the league’s power teams -- have performed the best.
Georgia Tech’s solid 31-24 record might be a nice feather in Paul Johnson’s cap, if not for the five straight losses to UGA.
Miami and North Carolina have played .500 football in big games the last five years, which puts them in the middle of the pack but, of course, is far below the expectations for two programs with the resources to perform much better.
The league’s newcomers -- Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville -- have won a few significant games, but the ACC obviously has higher hopes for all three schools moving forward.
(Note: Losing Maryland certainly isn't hurting the ACC with respect to these numbers. The Terps were a dismal 13-33 (.282) against all Power 5 teams in the last five years and just 1-5 in regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 foes.)
Overall, however, the win-loss records don’t exactly tell the story of the ACC as a rising power in the national landscape. In fact, the new scheduling strategy is effectively a carbon copy of the one installed by the SEC, but the difference between the performance of the two leagues in those games is actually quite stark.
In the last five years, the 12 continuous SEC programs are 41-24 (.631) in nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 opponents, winning at more than double the rate of the ACC. While the ACC doesn’t have a single team that has won more than half of its games against Power 5, nonconference teams in the regular season, the SEC has three teams (Alabama, LSU and South Carolina) that are undefeated in such games.
The knock on the SEC, of course, is that its programs have widely shied away from top-notch competition outside the league. While ACC teams have played, on average, 6.6 regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 foes in the last five years, the SEC has averaged just 5.4.
But that doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Scheduling big-name opponents wasn’t really the problem in the first place. Winning more of those games is the big hurdle the conference needs to clear.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, one of 13 members on the committee, said plainly, "It’s going to be the totality of the schedule. Being a conference champ is one of the top priorities as is winning the games, so there’s really not just one factor that is overwhelming the others. It’s the body of work associated with the program."
In the selection committee procedures, released earlier this month, there is a brief mention about how strength of schedule will be evaluated. The committee will be given data from SportSource Analytics, which will provide stats on every FBS team, along with opponent records and opponents' opponents' records. Unlike the basketball model, which relies heavily on RPI, the committee will not use just one data point.
That means much of this is left up to interpretation. The Pac-12, for example, finished second in the ESPN Stats & Information Conference Power rankings to end the 2014 season. The Pac-12 plays nine conference games. The ACC, on the other hand, finished fifth in the same set of power rankings. The league decided to stick with eight conference games. Does this automatically mean the Pac-12 gets a built-in advantage based on playing a conference schedule that is perceived to be more difficult?
Nobody really knows until we see the committee pick four teams based on on-field results.
What we do know is three conferences have opted for nine league games. That is a big reason why the ACC will require teams to play at least one power-five opponent in nonconference per year, beginning in 2017. Notre Dame is included in that group; BYU is not.
Will that be enough?
The Pac-12 already plays a tougher conference schedule, plus most of its teams play power-five opponents. Last season, only four teams did not have at least one power-five nonconference game. Four -- including Oregon and USC -- had two.
"It’s a wait and see," Miami athletic director Blake James said. "It will take some programs not making it to the final four and having the committee or someone come out and address that it was a scheduling issue that prevented them from being there. With that said, we all have to be cognizant of the fact that our schedules are going to be evaluated and you want to be one of the four teams. The challenge there is no one knows who is going to be the dominant program three, five, 10 years out, which is how we’re doing our schedules. You can schedule an elite program right now and by the time you play them, they might not be an elite program and vice versa. It’s a real challenge and it will be interesting to see how it plays out."
You saw examples of that throughout college football last year. Oregon had Virginia and Tennessee, power-five opponents, yes, but both teams finished with losing records. Ohio State scheduled Cal when the Bears were good, not knowing they would have a 1-11 season when the teams ended up playing. Perhaps more scheduling contracts will be broken in the playoff era, as teams jockey to get current elite teams on the slate.
"In Blacksburg, if we have Michigan and Notre Dame on the schedule, I think our fans would be fine with that," Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said.
Elite games like that are hard to find, because both parties have to be willing to play one another. That could make more scheduling challenges for everyone, especially since the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten will have fewer nonconference spots open because they play more league games.
"The cost of guarantees continues to rise, too," James said. "You have three of the five conferences that are playing nine games so right away there are fewer games needed and geographically you want to try to stay within your area and schedule games that make sense for your fan base and alumni base. When you put all those things together it makes scheduling already challenging and I do think it will be more challenging in the future."
Given all the challenges and the uncertainty about strength of schedule during playoff evaluation time, ACC athletic directors left open the possibility that they could change their minds on scheduling. Like James said, it's wait-and-see.
"As we get through the first cycle of this new football playoff, I think it will be telling for us as to whether or not this decision is the right decision or whether we need to do something else," Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox said. "I think we felt comfortable knowing we're not the lone conference out there, that we're comfortable being at eight."
For all the scheduling models studied and dissected, the hours and hours of discussion and debate, the formulas and variations turned all around and upside down, the ACC decided status quo in scheduling is best.
That should not come as a real surprise, even though momentum seemed to be swinging toward nine conference games. Indeed, it was a tight vote Monday at the spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida -- 8-6 in favor of staying at eight league games (plus one nonconference game against a power five opponent).
It's no coincidence both were staunchly in favor of remaining at eight conference games. Move up to nine conference games, plus their annual SEC rivalry game, plus Notre Dame every three years, and, well, that is asking them to do more than any other elite team in any other power five conference is asked to do on a yearly basis.
But it wasn't just Clemson and Florida State in favor of staying at eight. The ACC coaches leaned heavily toward staying at eight league games, as well.
Last month, the SEC drew widespread criticism for deciding on the exact same scheduling model. While it may be convenient to heap the same criticism on the ACC, there are two major scheduling differences between the two leagues. The first is the aforementioned five-game scheduling agreement with Notre Dame.
If that agreement did not exist, the ACC would be just like the Pac-12, Big 12 and soon-to-be Big Ten at nine conference games. The league voted that way before Notre Dame entered the picture. But that scheduling agreement changed everything.
Based on what we have seen from Notre Dame under coach Brian Kelly, the Irish present a challenge to every team on their schedule. That includes Florida State, which faces the Irish, Florida and Oklahoma State in nonconference play in 2014. If the ACC had moved to nine conference games, you can bet that matchup against the Cowboys most likely would never have happened.
The second is nonconference scheduling. The ACC played one of the most challenging nonconference schedules in the country a season ago, featuring games against Georgia, USC, Florida, Northwestern, Penn State, Alabama, South Carolina, BYU and Oregon.
This year, Oklahoma State, Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska, UCLA, USC and Iowa are on the nonconference schedule, in addition to the standard SEC rivalry games for Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville.
This obviously was not a slam-dunk decision, and that should not be lost in the end result. The ACC needed eight votes to stay at eight conference games, and it got eight on the nose.
Some schools, like Miami and NC State, wanted nine conference games to have the ability to play more league teams, balance out conference schedules, and create more appealing matchups. Scheduling power nonconference opponents has become increasingly difficult not just for ACC athletic directors but for ADs around the country. Adding that ninth conference game would have created inventory while also providing more frequent matchups between rotating crossover opponents.
Perhaps the ACC will make a different decision somewhere down the line. The truth is, 2014 will be a test case for every conference in America. How do leagues that play eight conference games fare in the College Football Playoff vs. leagues that play nine conference games? How does all of that impact strength of schedule, especially for leagues with challenging nonconference opponents? Will the ACC be viewed favorably or unfavorably when judged against a team from the Big Ten, for example?
Despite the vote Monday, nobody really has the answer. So status quo appears to be the best way to go, at least for now.
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.