NCF Nation: Bjoern Werner

Previewing ACC in NFL draft

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
9:00
AM ET

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

First, let us start with Mel Kiper Jr., who plays general manager for every single team and predicts the first three rounds of the draft Insider. It is Insider content, but here is a look at where he has placed players from ACC schools. Oh, and be sure to read his ground rules to have a better understanding of his thought process.

First round
Second round
Third round

As Kiper Jr. states, that piece is not a mock draft. It's his preference for each team at that spot. His mock draft features Cooper, Williams and Rhodes. Disagree with his first-round picks? Well you can make your own mock draft Insider. Two thumbs up on that tool.

Kiper also has updated his Big Board Insider, ranking the Top 25 prospects. Only Cooper and Williams make that list.

Meanwhile, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has revealed the Scouts Inc. tier rankings Insider, which list prospects by their ratings. There are seven tiers and 109 players rated, with 17 from ACC schools (counting incoming members Pittsburgh and Syracuse).

McShay also has named his All-Satellite team Insider, comprised of the best prospects when playing in space. North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard checks in at No. 5. McShay writes, "He has super-quick feet, good initial burst and outstanding lateral agility. Bernard can stop and start on a dime, strings together multiple moves and is a slippery runner between the tackles."

Want more? Kiper also has updated his top 5 prospects by position Insider.
With half of the conference playing spring games this weekend, here’s a look at what to watch if you’re keeping an eye on the ACC as spring ball comes to a close:

CLEMSON

When: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN3)

What to watch:
  • Quarterbacks of the future. You know Tajh Boyd is good. Expect Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly to take most of the snaps. Boyd played just four snaps in the last scrimmage. Let's see his backups.
  • The tight ends. Clemson tight ends Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford have been the first team All-ACC tight ends the past two years. Clemson tight ends have 118 receptions and 21 touchdowns the past two years, perhaps the most underrated area in Chad Morris’ offense. So who moves in there this year? Sam Cooper is the most experienced, but freshman Jordan Leggett has been impressive this spring.
  • How much better is the defense? All eyes will be on Brent Venables' group to see how much progress it has made this spring. If the D gets better, it could be a special season in Death Valley.
FLORIDA STATE

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, (ESPN3)

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. It's been one of the hottest topics this spring in the ACC and arguably the biggest position battle in the conference. Check out Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston as they all battle to replace starter EJ Manuel.
  • The defensive line. The competition is on to replace Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine. Mario Edwards Jr. is ready to jump in, along with Giorgio Newberry.
  • Don't forget the kicker. It's big at FSU. The Noles have to replace Dustin Hopkins, the ACC's all-time leading scorer and the NCAA's all-time kick scorer. It's your chance to see Roberto Aguayo, who was one of the nation's top kickers coming out of high school.
MARYLAND

When: 7 p.m. on Friday in Byrd Stadium

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • The running backs. Both Brandon Ross and Albert Reid have had strong springs and will be competing for playing time come the fall.
  • The receivers. This group should be a strong point for the team this year, as Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Nigel King are a talented trio.
  • New faces on defense. The Terps have to replace six starters on defense, including some of their best leaders in Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis.
DUKE

When: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN3) in Wallace Wade Stadium

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • Booooooone. Anthony Boone takes over at quarterback, and there have been rave reviews about him from within the program all spring. He's got a strong arm and is mobile.
  • New faces at safety. Some big names are gone, as Duke has to replace graduates Jordon Byas and Walt Canty, and Brandon Braxton, who moved back to receiver. Jeremy Cash, eligible now after transferring from Ohio State and sitting out last fall, headlines the group that includes sophomore Dwayne Norman (60 tackles in 2012 as true freshman) and redshirt freshman Corbin McCarthy.
  • Front and center: There is one hole to fill on the offensive line and Matt Skura takes over at center for Brian Moore.
MIAMI

When: 3 p.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium (ESPN3)

Gates open: 12:30 p.m.

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • Defensive improvement. Is there any? The Canes were one of the worst in the country last year, but they return every starter up front.
  • The No. 2 QB. Who is it? Gray Crow started the last scrimmage as the backup to Stephen Morris and completed 8 of 13 passes for 73 yards, with a touchdown and interception. Ryan Williams, who entered the spring as the expected No. 2, completed only six of his 12 passes with a touchdown and an interception. The coaches will be watching these guys closely on Saturday, so should you.
  • Running back Dallas Crawford. You know Duke Johnson. It's time to get to know this guy. Those within the program have said Crawford has had a great spring and could be a rising star this fall. He scored two touchdowns in a scrimmage in Naples earlier this month.
NORTH CAROLINA

When: 3 p.m. ET on Saturday at Kenan Stadium (ESPN3)

Admission: Free

Parking: $5/vehicle

What to watch:
  • Gio's replacement(s). A.J. Blue and Romar Morris have been working to ease the loss of leading rusher Giovani Bernard. Can they be as effective as he was, how much progress have they made and who will replace Bernard in the return game?
  • The O-line. Former guard Jonathan Cooper should be a first-round draft pick later this month, and it won't matter how good Blue and Morris are if they can't find anyone to help block for them. A total of three starters have to be replaced on the offensive line.
  • Replacing big names on D. Cooper and Bernard aren't the only big names that will be missing. The defense is going to miss tackle Sylvester Williams, who could be another first-round draft pick, and linebacker Kevin Reddick (85 tackles, 8.5 for loss). How does the D look without them?
PITTSBURGH

When: 7 p.m. ET on Friday at Bethel Park High School (ESPN3)

Gates open: 5:30 p.m.

Admission: Free

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Fifth-year senior Tom Savage has taken most of the reps with the first team, and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik appears to be the backup, but coach Paul Chryst has yet to name a starter.
  • The running backs. Earlier this month, it was announced that Rushel Shell has decided to transfer. Since then, the bulk of the carries have gone to junior Isaac Bennett, sophomore Malcolm Crockett and senior Desmond Brown. How they fare will go a long way in determining how Pitt fares in its first season in the ACC.
  • The offensive line. It's been problematic for the Panthers in each of the past two seasons, and Pitt now has to break in two new starters in Gabe Roberts and Adam Bisnowaty.
ESPN Insider Todd McShay recently released his latest mock draftInsider, and once again, it is looking like a strong first round for the ACC. If McShay is right, and seven former ACC players are chosen in the first round, it would be the most the conference has had drafted in the first round since 2008:

2008: 7
2009: 5
2010: 4
2011: 3
2012: 3 (No. 9 Luke Kuechly, BC; No. 16 Quinton Coples, UNC; No. 32 David Wilson, VT)

McShay's piece is Insider content, and he has analysis on each player, but here is a sneak peek at who he has going and when:
As far as ACC quarterbacks go, McShay says wait until Round 2. The only ACC players listed in his second-round mock draft are former FSU quarterback EJ Manuel and former NC State quarterback Mike Glennon.
You look at the Florida State roster, and you look at the Florida State coaching staff, and the automatic assumption is this could be a rebuilding year for the Noles.

Jimbo Fisher does not see it that way. Not one bit. As spring practice opens today, Fisher needs to find new starters at some key positions, including quarterback, defensive end and linebacker. But he sees players who have had valuable playing experience ready to step right into starting roles, not wet-behind-the-ears freshmen in over their heads.

To him, there is no dropoff between the talent on his 2012 ACC winning team, and the talent on his 2013 team.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsThere will be a competition for FSU"s starting quarterback, but Clint Trickett has more game experience than the others.
"I ask people this: Lawrence Dawsey is arguably one of the best receivers in Florida State history," Fisher said during his pre-spring news conference earlier this week. "How many years did he start here? He started one year. How about Odell (Haggins)? He was a linebacker that got moved. Nowadays he’d be, 'Oh, he wasn’t what we said he was, you moved him.'

"Just because you don’t start a game doesn’t mean you’re not starter material. Do you understand what I’m saying? We’re establishing ourselves as a program again and guys still played as much ball as anybody else."

Fisher gave a host of examples. Every starter on the defensive line is gone -- ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, and tackles Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. But the players expected to move into the starting lineup played extensively last season. Mario Edwards Jr. and Giorgio Newberry will start with the first-team at end; Timmy Jernigan, perhaps the best interior lineman last year, moves up to start at one tackle spot.

Vince Williams and Nick Moody are gone at linebacker. Into the middle steps Telvin Smith, who has extensive game experience and should have no problems moving up.

Then of course, there is the quarterback spot, a position that folks across the ACC will be paying attention to as the competition begins. Clint Trickett starts out No. 1 on the depth chart, and here again is where playing time has helped him. Trickett has played in 16 games with two starts behind EJ Manuel the last two seasons.

The other three players competing for the starting job -- Jacob Coker, Sean Maguire and Jameis Winston -- have either limited or no game experience. That does not take them out of the mix by any stretch. Fisher already said the position is wide open, and he has no timetable to make a decision. But having game experience is certainly not going to hurt him as the Noles try to find their leader on offense.

"From a talent standpoint, I think we’re still a very talented football team and we have guys with a lot of experience still playing," Fisher said. "We look at returning starters sometimes, it’s a very misleading factor about depth of a team and how much guys have played behind them. I’m excited about these young guys. Even though they’re new starters, they've still played like starters."

As for the coaching changes, six new assistants will be on the field this spring, including new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. But Fisher downplayed those changes as well, saying nothing would change about philosophy or with the schemes the Noles run.

"We're going to do things the Florida State way, the way we've been doing," Fisher said.

That means plugging new guys into the starting lineup and believing there will be few hiccups along the way.

ACC's spring position battles

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
2:11
PM ET
There are going to be position battles this spring at every school in the ACC, but some will be in the spotlight more than others. If you’re just tuning in to ACC football, here are some of the biggest competitions in the conference this spring:

OFFENSE

1. Florida State quarterback: This is arguably the most intriguing competition in the entire conference, as the Seminoles have to replace veteran EJ Manuel. Clint Trickett enters the spring at the top of the depth chart, but consider this job open. Sophomore Jacob Coker is the total package, but redshirt freshman Jameis Winston was the nation’s No. 1 quarterback and could be the answer, too.

2. North Carolina running back: The Tar Heels have to find a way to replace leading rusher Giovani Bernard, who left early for the NFL draft. Not only will his loss be felt in the running game, but probably even moreso in the return game, as Bernard was one of the nation’s top punt returners. UNC returns A.J. Blue and Romar Morris, who combined for 819 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.

3. Syracuse quarterback: The Orange enter the ACC with a new coach and in need of a new quarterback. Record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib is gone, leaving behind a wide-open competition. Backup Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder, and dual-threat Terrel Hunt are the top candidates. Ashton Broyld, who moved to running back in 2012, could be in the mix as well.

DEFENSE

1. Florida State defensive ends: The cream of the crop is gone, as Tank Carradine, Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins all have to be replaced. Enter Mario Edwards Jr., who has a leg-up on the competition because he played in 11 games as a true freshman, and started the final two games of the year in place of the injured Carradine. Don’t forget about Giorgio Newberry, though, and Chris Casher, who is now healthy after a knee injury. Casher will start spring ball on the two-deep depth chart. Dan Hicks, who was Jenkins’ backup two years ago, had a knee injury and missed all of last season. He had moved to tight end, but was in the rotation at defensive end earlier in his career and could come back.

2. NC State secondary: This group will have an entirely new look this spring, as three starters have to be replaced, including Earl Wolff, Brandan Bishop and David Amerson, the school’s career interception leader. Cornerback Dontae Johnson returns, along with Juston Burris, who played in the nickel package. There are also several redshirts and younger players who will compete.

3. Virginia Tech cornerback: Virginia Tech’s defensive backfield lost its star last month when cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. Several young players will compete for his reps this spring, including Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes. Highly touted cornerback Kendall Fuller will join the team in the summer.
Florida State got some good news for its defense Monday when leading tackler Christian Jones announced he is returning for his senior season.

“After a lot of conversations and time thinking about it, I’ve decided to return to Florida State for my senior season,” Jones said in a statement. "A lot of guys the past couple of years have helped to turn the program around, and I want to continue to be a part of that process. I’ve always talked with some of the guys I came in with and we’ve always talked about finishing together and that’s also something I wanted to do. This is the best decision for me and my family. I’m looking forward to coming back, working hard, improving my game but also helping Florida State continue with the success we’ve had."

Jones started every game in 2012 at weakside linebacker, totaling 95 tackles to rank seventh in the ACC. He also set a new career high for tackles for loss, pass breakups and fumble recoveries.

The Florida State defense already has lost defensive end Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes as early entrants into the NFL draft. But Jones will return with safety Lamarcus Joyner, who announced earlier this month he would return for his senior season.

"I’m excited for Christian to return to Florida State and further his education, playing career and helping put Florida State back at an elite level," coach Jimbo Fisher said in a statement. "I think his decision shows great commitment to FSU and great commitment to his future. We’re fortunate to have the leadership he brings on and off the field."

ACC's 2012 All-Bowl team

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:24
AM ET
The ACC went 4-2 this bowl season, its first winning record since 2005. There were plenty of top performers to highlight, but these are the players who were most deserving of the ACC’s 2012 All-Bowl team:

Offense first team

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Tajh Boyd had a record-setting game in Clemson's victory against LSU.
QB -- Tajh Boyd, Clemson: He had 368 yards of total offense against LSU on 79 total offensive plays. He set a Clemson record for plays in a game by a quarterback.

RB -- Lonnie Pryor, Florida State: He had a career-long 60 yard touchdown in the first half of the Orange Bowl, which was the second-longest touchdown run in FSU bowl history. In his final game as a Seminole, he also had a 37-yard run in the fourth quarter for his second touchdown in the game.

RB -- David Sims, Georgia Tech: He rushed for a game-high and career-best 99 yards on 17 carries, and caught a touchdown pass in the 21-7 win against USC.

WR -- DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson: He finished the game with 13 receptions for 191 yards and finished the season with 82 receptions for 1405 yards. Hopkins tied his own Clemson record for receptions in a game with 13. He also had 13 in the opener against Auburn.

WR -- Conner Vernon, Duke: He caught 10 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. He helped Duke to 34 points against a Bearcats defense that entered the game ranked 12th nationally, allowing just 17.2 points per game.

TE -- Brandon Ford, Clemson: His nine receptions against LSU tied the overall Clemson single-game record for receptions by a tight end. He finished with 69 receiving yards, including one reception for 20 yards.

T -- Cameron Erving, Florida State: It was the sixth game this season with over 500 yards of total offense for the Seminoles. All three touchdown runs came between center and left tackle, and quarterback EJ Manuel had all day to throw.

T -- Perry Simmons, Duke: He led an offensive line performance that yielded zero sacks and allowed quarterback Sean Renfree to establish Belk Bowl records for pass completions (37), pass attempts (49) and passing yardage (358). Simmons also aided a running game that gained 200 net yards on 39 attempts as running back Josh Snead picked up a career-high 107 yards on just 17 attempts.

G -- Josue Matias, Florida State: The Noles racked up 243 rushing yards, 23 first downs and 534 yards of total offense. He was part of an offensive line that didn’t allow Manuel to be sacked once by Northern Illinois. Two of Pryor’s runs came between Erving and Matias.

G -- Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech: He helped pave the way for 294 rushing yards in the win against USC, and 369 total yards. He made his 39th career start, the second-most on the team.

C -- Dalton Freeman, Clemson: The Tigers had 100 plays and 32 first downs, and his blocking was a major factor.

Defense first team

DE -- Malliciah Goodman, Clemson: He set a bowl record with three sacks as Clemson held LSU to 219 yards of total offense.

DE -- Bjoern Werner, Florida State: In his last game with the Noles, the dominating end knocked down his eighth pass of the season, which is the second-most in the FBS by a defensive lineman. He finished with two tackles.

DT -- Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech: He had four tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and a sack. The sack was on Rutgers' first play of overtime, forcing them into long yardage which led to a long (and missed) field goal.

DT -- Grady Jarrett, Clemson: He had four tackles, including two tackles for loss, and one was a sack. He was a big reason Clemson held LSU to just 99 yards rushing.

LB -- Christian Jones, Florida State: Jones tied for the team lead with 10 tackles in the 31-10 Discover Orange Bowl win against Northern Illinois.

LB -- Vince Williams, Florida State: He tied Jones for the team lead with 10 tackles, and finished with one tackle for loss and a sack.

LB -- Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech: He led the Hokies with 11 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and had a pass breakup. Virginia Tech’s defense held Rutgers to 196 yards and three offensive points, none in the last three quarters.

CB -- Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech: Even though his statistics were modest -- three tackles, two pass breakups and an interception returned for 21 yards -- Sweeting was voted the game’s MVP. He fared well in a tough assignment, matching up with Biletnikoff Trophy winner Marqise Lee.

CB -- Antone Exum, Virginia Tech: The Russell Athletic Bowl’s MVP led a stifling pass defense that allowed just 129 yards. He made the play of the game with an interception of Gary Nova to set up the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech’s defense allowed just 196 yards total, and just 17 completions from Nova on 40 attempts.

S -- Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State: He finished third on the team with six tackles, including one tackle for loss. The Northern Illinois receivers were no match for the FSU secondary and were rendered ineffective.

S -- Rashard Hall, Clemson: He led the team with nine tackles, including eight solo, in the win against LSU.

Specialists

PK -- Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson: He kicked the 37-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to give Clemson and the ACC a monumental 25-24 win against LSU. It was the fourth walk-off field goal in Clemson history, and Catanzaro has two of the four.

P -- A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech: He tied the record under coach Frank Beamer for punts in a game with 11. He finished with an average of 42.2 with four punts inside the 20-yard line, and a long of 57.

SP -- Tobais Palmer, NC State: He returned a second-quarter kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in the loss to Vandy, and became the first Pack player since Greg Golden in 2001 to return a kickoff for a score in a bowl game. He finished with 173 kickoff return yards, setting a new NC State season record with 1,130 KOR yards. Palmer and T.J. Graham (1,028 in 2008) are the only two Wolfpack players to go over 1,000 yards in kickoff returns in a single season. Palmer also went over 100 yards receiving for the third time in 2012, as he finished with eight catches for 111 yards.

What we learned in the ACC bowls

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
11:00
AM ET
The entire 2012 season is in the books. So what did we learn during bowl season?

1. The ACC had a rockin' bowl performance. You guys know as well as I do that the league did not exactly earn much national recognition for its performance in the regular season. The league only had two ranked teams and was forced to go with a 6-6 team in the ACC title game because of postseason bans. But who cares about the regular season when you have such an outstanding bowl season! The ACC went 4-2, its first winning bowl record since 2005, beating to a pulp the dismal 2-6 mark from a year ago. That means the ACC joined the SEC and Big East as the only leagues among the automatic qualifiers with winning bowl records. So sorry Big 12 (4-4), Pac-12 (4-4) and Big Ten (2-5). Better luck next year. You can check your ACC jokes at the door while you're at it.

[+] EnlargeNorthern Illinois' Jordan Lynch
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State's defense dominated Northern Illinois and quarterback Jordan Lynch.
2. Heavy D! By all accounts, this was a down year for defense in the ACC (outside of Florida State), if only because offenses exploded and set league records left and right. But when it counted most, defenses stepped up big time in the four ACC bowl wins. I have gone back and forth on which team had the most impressive performance: Florida State and its complete shut down of Jordan Lynch? Georgia Tech holding USC to seven points? Clemson with its best defensive performance of the season? Virginia Tech giving up less than 200 yards of total offense in a game that went into overtime? No sense in picking. They were all outstanding performances -- just what the ACC needed after an up-and-down season across the league.

3. The ACC can beat the SEC. So the ACC split against SEC competition during bowl season, with Clemson beating LSU and NC State losing to Vanderbilt, but that beats the dreadful performance in the final week of the regular season when the league laid a big ol' goose egg against its SEC opponents. The highlight, of course, was Clemson beating No. 8 LSU with a thrilling come-from-behind 25-24 win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Not only was that game one of the best during bowl season, but the win marked the highest-ranked SEC team Clemson has beaten since taking down No. 6 Tennessee in the 2004 Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Tigers ended the year with the only two ACC wins over SEC competition. So maybe this should read: "Clemson can beat the SEC ..."

4. Duke still has a ways to go. Props to the Blue Devils for getting back to a bowl game, but this program still has a long way to go on the road toward respectability. Duke dropped its final five games of the season -- all to teams with winning records. In fact, it only beat one team with a winning record all season. There is no doubt that final stretch was brutal, but this team had opportunities to beat winning teams throughout the year. Duke blew first-quarter leads against Virginia Tech and against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl and had its chances late against Georgia Tech. To take it to the next level, the Blue Devils have to find ways to win these games. Next season is absolutely critical for momentum.

5. So long Werner and Rhodes. The Discover Orange Bowl marked the last time we got to see Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes in Seminoles uniforms. Both players declared early for the NFL draft in the days after the win over Northern Illinois. No doubt both were major impact players on a defense that ended the year ranked No. 2 in the nation. Werner was a unanimous All-American selection and ACC Defensive Player of the Year; Rhodes was an All-ACC first-team selection as one of the top shutdown corners in the nation. Good luck to both as they embark on their new careers.
Brace yourselves.

This is not the ACC power rankings you are used to. It is bigger. Let’s hope it’s not badder. The first version of the 2013 ACC power rankings reflects the addition of Pittsburgh Panthers and Syracuse Orange. There are 14 teams here (and Boston College is still last). Welcome to the league, Pitt and Cuse.

There are still plenty of questions for several teams that have players still undecided about their NFL careers, but this is your first take on a ranking likely to change many times between now and the opening kickoff. Lots can happen (and does) during signing day, spring ball and summer camp, but here is how Andrea Adelson and I think the ACC will shape up this fall based on what we know now:

1. Clemson -- With quarterback Tajh Boyd and offensive coordinator Chad Morris working together again, the Tigers would have the best coordinator/quarterback combo returning in the ACC. The defense should take another step forward in the second season under coordinator Brent Venables, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over LSU was a monumental springboard for the program heading into the offseason.

2. Florida State -- The Seminoles will be going through a transition, as coach Jimbo Fisher has to replace at least five assistants on his staff, as well as starting quarterback EJ Manuel. With several players, including defensive end Bjoern Werner, leaving early for the NFL draft, the Noles will have to reload.

3. Miami -- The Hurricanes hoped their self-imposed bowl ban was a preemptive strike against NCAA sanctions. With quarterback Stephen Morris returning, along with ACC Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson and what could be one of the best offensive lines in the ACC, expectations should be much higher for the Canes in Year 3 under Al Golden.

4. Georgia Tech -- The Yellow Jackets will have some momentum and confidence to build on after their bowl win over USC, but more importantly, they’ve got an experienced, talented roster to work with. Georgia Tech will have eight starters back on a defense that made measurable progress in the second half of the season.

5. UNC -- Coach Larry Fedora is going to have to work some magic in trying to replace leading rusher/returner Giovani Bernard, who left early for the NFL, and his lead blocker, Jonathan Cooper. Quarterback Bryn Renner will be a senior, though, and the Tar Heels have other talented running backs waiting in the wings.

6. Pitt -- The moment every Pitt fan has been waiting for -- Tino Sunseri will no longer be the starting quarterback in 2013. Does that mean the position gets an automatic upgrade? Promising running back Rushel Shell returns, and Pitt's defense should be much better, but questions remain on the offensive line.

7. Virginia Tech -- The school has yet to announce any staff changes, quarterback Logan Thomas has yet to announce whether or not he is returning for his senior season, and the Hokies open the schedule against national champion Alabama. Doesn’t look good.

8. Syracuse -- Major questions surround the Orange now that coach Doug Marrone has left for the Buffalo Bills. This is a team that already had to replace starting quarterback Ryan Nassib, all-Big East tackle Justin Pugh, record-setting receiver Alec Lemon and leading tackler Shamarko Thomas. But Syracuse does have 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith returning, along with linebackers Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis. Many questions must be answered before 2013 begins.

9. Maryland -- It can only get better, right? Maryland was down to its fifth-string quarterback last year, linebacker Shawn Petty. Starter C.J. Brown should be ready to return to the starting lineup this summer and healed from a torn ACL. The defense has some big shoes to fill, but the Terps should have enough experience to be bowl bound in their final season in the ACC.

10. Wake Forest -- The Deacs were thrown off track last season by injuries and suspensions and should be a better team this year. Quarterback Tanner Price returns for his senior season, along with receiver Michael Campanaro, who should be one of the best in the ACC if he can stay healthy.

11. Duke -- The Blue Devils have to replace quarterback Sean Renfree and his top target, ACC record-setting receiver, Conner Vernon. Duke went to its first bowl game since 1994, but the program still has something to prove after losing its last five games of the season. The Coastal Division should collectively be stronger this year.

12. Virginia -- Phillip Sims will take over at quarterback after the transfer of Michael Rocco, but how much time will David Watford see under center? The hires of Tom O’Brien and Jon Tenuta were smart moves, but the staff will have to find a way to extract more out of many of the same players who struggled last year.

13. NC State -- Quarterback Mike Glennon is out, and first-year coach Dave Doeren is in. The Wolfpack will have an entirely different look this fall, and some bumps in the road should be expected as the program begins a new era under Doeren.

14. Boston College -- The Eagles have lots of work to do under first-year coach Steve Addazio. It all starts with recruiting, but the staff is also going to have to find a way to improve the running game and get the defense back to its stingy ways.
Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner has a chance to accomplish what has become a rarity for the Noles -- become a top-10 draft pick.

Since 2001, the Noles have had two top-10 picks in the NFL draft. The last? Linebacker Ernie Sims, who went No. 9 overall to Detroit in 2006. Between 1989-2000, they had nine.

So it is safe to say that Werner is the highest rated Seminoles player to come out in quite some time. Even quarterback Christian Ponder -- who went No. 12 overall to Minnesota in 2011 -- was not expected to go as high as he did. As of today, Scouts Inc., has Werner rated the No. 8 player available in the April draft in its ranking of the top 32 players.

What do scouts like about Werner? Todd McShay describes Werner as "tough as nails" and has a great ability to keep his would-be blockers off balance with his inside and outside quickness. He then makes an interesting comparison:
It's not a perfect comparison, but I do see many of the same qualities that St. Louis Rams DE Chris Long had showed coming out of college. Werner might take a minute to adjust and figure out how to best use his skills, just as Long did, but it's hard for me to imagine him being a bust.

Given what we have seen out of Werner the past several seasons, I completely agree with McShay -- hard to envision any scenario where Werner is a bust, no matter where he is drafted.
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper only has one quarterback listed on his latest Big Board Insider of the top 25 players available for the upcoming NFL draft.

Not Geno Smith.

[+] EnlargeNC State's Mike Glennon
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsNC State quarterback Mike Glennon passed for 4,031 yards and 31 touchdowns this season.
Not Matt Barkley.

Hello, Mike Glennon.

Though Glennon had an up and down performance in a loss to Vanderbilt in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl -- throwing three interceptions to one touchdown -- Kiper has elevated the NC State standout to the top of his quarterback class. Who would have thought that a year ago, when Barkley was the clear No. 1 quarterback for 2013?

Barkley struggled this year and has a shoulder injury; Smith looked terrible in a loss to Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Glennon, meanwhile, has all the measurable scouts love -- size (6-foot-6, 232 pounds) and arm strength -- and experience in a pro-style offense.

Kiper says of Glennon, ranked No. 22: "Tall, with a big-time arm and the ability to make any throw, Glennon sees the field well, and while he gets dinged on accuracy if you go by the numbers, he was a victim of tons of drops. The tape helps his case."

Glennon ended up throwing for 4,000 yards this season, in part because his team had no consistent running game and played from behind a lot. Still, he has been chosen for the Senior Bowl and has major potential to become a starter on the next level.

Two other ACC players are featured on the Big Board: Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, who just declared for the draft, is at No. 8; while North Carolina offensive guard Jonathan Cooper is at No. 11.

Kiper also has updated his list of the top seniors Insider available by position; and the top juniors Insider available by position. Plenty of ACC names in the group, including Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. No sign of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
1. Bill O’Brien owed it to himself and his family to listen to the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Bill O’Brien who pulled Penn State football out of the ditch this year and drove the Nittany Lions to a memorable 8-4 season would never leave after one season. The coach who preached loyalty and commitment and convinced a fractured community to come together behind him decided Thursday he couldn’t leave. And you thought he couldn’t endear himself any more to Penn State.

2. Given everyone who is leaving Florida State -- defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig and two other assistants, All-ACC defensive end Bjoern Werner and All-ACC corner Xavier Rhodes -- the news that safety Lamarcus Joyner will return for his senior season should calm a lot of Seminoles nerves. At 5-foot-8, Joyner might not be made for the NFL combine. But he is the glue that holds the secondary together. Amid all the change, that’s more important than ever.

3. NFL scouts measure physical attributes. Writers can tell when a college star is ready for Sunday football when he conducts an interview with a glaze of boredom descending over his eyes. Even the friendliest, most thoughtful players reach their limit. I saw it last season with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, and again Thursday with Alabama center Barrett Jones, who would make anyone’s All-Decade Interview team. Then again, if I had to answer the Dynasty question as often as Jones has, I would go robotic, too.

Report: Bjoern Werner to NFL

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
2:30
PM ET
Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner will enter the NFL draft, according to ESPN's Joe Schad.

This shouldn't come as any surprise. In fact, the bigger news would have been if he would have decided to stay. That would have been shocking. Werner is hands-down one of the best ends in the country. He's a machine, and after seeing the season-ending injuries that happened to his teammates this year -- ends Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine -- why stick around and gamble the same thing happening to him? Werner is expected to be a top 10 pick in this year's draft.

Pregame: Discover Orange Bowl

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
10:00
AM ET
Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC) vs. Florida State (11-2, 7-1 ACC)

WHO TO WATCH: The quarterbacks. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08) behind Baylor’s Nick Florence and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel could become just the second quarterback to win four straight bowl games, joining former West Virginia quarterback Pat White. In just his second season as a full-time starter, Manuel is FSU’s career leader for completion percentage at 66.8 percent -- which is significantly ahead of No. 2 Charlie Ward (62.3).

WHAT TO WATCH: Florida State’s defensive line vs. NIU’s offensive line. Florida State defensive line coach D.J. Eliot was hired at Kentucky as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator, but Eliot stayed in Tallahassee to help the Noles prepare for Lynch. FSU’s defensive line has been one of the best in the country, despite season-ending injuries to star defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine, who tore his ACL in the loss to Florida. FSU is No. 26 in the country with 2.54 sacks per game. NIU is tied for No. 16 in the country in sacks allowed with 1.08 per game, a total of 14 all season. FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally with 13 sacks this season.

WHY TO WATCH: Because No. 13 FSU might actually lose. The Noles are the more talented team, but the No. 15 Huskies will be playing to prove they belong in a BCS bowl. This will be the first BCS bowl game for a member of the Mid-American Conference. It is also the first bowl game between the ACC and MAC. NIU is the only program in the country to win 21 of its past 22 games, and joins Oregon as the only schools with three straight 11-win seasons. The Huskies' seniors are the winningest class in school history with 41 victories. FSU is 1-5 all-time in BCS bowls since playing in the first-ever BCS national championship game (1999 Fiesta Bowl).

PREDICTION: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 17: The Huskies will come out fired up and ready to prove they deserved their title as BCS Busters, and they’ll keep it uncomfortably close in the first half. FSU fans will prematurely panic, an upset watch will look possible, but then reality will set in. Florida State has too much talent and speed, and the gap will continue to widen in the third quarter. The Noles will win the battle up front, and the defense will fare well in its first game without former coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles will finish with 12 wins, including an ACC title and a BCS bowl win -- not a bad consolation prize for a team that had hoped to win a national title.

SPONSORED HEADLINES