NCF Nation: Jonathan Cooper

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.
One of the biggest priorities in Chapel Hill this spring is to find new starters on the offensive line and begin to develop some much-needed chemistry that will allow the Tar Heels to continue to rack up points and yards in a hurry.

A few weeks in, the new-look line is starting to take shape. Landon Turner has been practicing with the first team at right guard, Nick Appel has been lining up as the first-team right tackle and redshirt freshman Caleb Peterson has been with the first team at the position that is most in the spotlight this spring -- left guard, replacing All-American Jonathan Cooper.

The good news is that four of the five players getting first-team reps have game experience. Center Russell Bodine and left tackle James Hurst return; Turner started the last four games at guard; and Appel has played as a guard and tackle.

Now for the bad news: Peterson is the only one who has never taken a snap in a game as he replaces a player projected to go in the top 15 in the upcoming NFL draft. Oh, and North Carolina opens the 2013 season against South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney.

Gulp.

Needless to say, the more experienced players have taken Peterson under their wing to get him up to speed as quickly as possible.

"The responsibility is on the older guys in the room to pick up the younger guys and educate them on what’s expected and what they need to do," Turner said in a recent phone interview. "Caleb hasn’t played, but I think he’s doing well. He’s learning a lot and he’s got all of us to back him up."

As for having to replace Cooper, Turner said, "You can’t replace Coop. He’s a first-round draft pick. I love him to death. He’s one of the best offensive linemen I’ve ever seen. You can’t just replace somebody like that. Caleb is young, but he’s good. I’ve got confidence in him to step up and play well."

Turner at least got some starting experience last year at guard, when starter Travis Bond moved over to tackle following Brennan Williams' season-ending injury. That experience has allowed his confidence to grow as he now gets an opportunity to become a full-time starter.

"It’s been instrumental to my confidence," Turner said. "It was really great to get that experience and playing with such great guys that are going to be in the league next year. When Brennan Williams went down, they needed someone to step up and I was able to work in to get experience and it was just a dream come true."

ACC at the combine

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
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The poking, prodding, interviews and drills have wrapped up at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Now let's take a quick look at who stood out from the ACC during the all-important event.
  • The defensive backs were the last group to go, wrapping up Tuesday. And there were some pretty good performances. Miami cornerback Brandon McGee posted one of the fastest 40 times at the combine, running a 4.40 to rank him No. 13 among all participants. He also was a top performer in the bench press and 20-yard shuttle run. Those numbers will not do anything but help his draft stock.
  • [+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
    AP Photo/Dave MartinNC State cornerback David Amerson showed off his speed at the NFL combine, clocking a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash.
  • NC State cornerback David Amerson was out to prove himself at the combine after an up-and-down 2012 season. He definitely opened eyes with his performance, which NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described as "excellent." Amerson ran a 4.44 in the 40 and was also a top performer in the vertical jump.
  • Those two guys were not the only fast defensive backs at the combine. Of the players with the top 15 times at the position, six have ACC ties. Rod Sweeting of Georgia Tech (4.42), Shamarko Thomas of Syracuse (4.42), Xavier Rhodes of Florida State (4.43) and Earl Wolff of NC State (4.44) were among the fastest.
  • Speaking of Rhodes, his vertical leap was incredibly impressive, at 40.5 inches to tie for first among all defensive backs and rank No. 3 overall. He also was a top performer in the broad jump, and certainly helped himself with his day. So did Thomas, one of the most underrated players in college football last year. Though Thomas made some headlines after he fell at the end of his 40, he had a huge day. He also leaped 40.5 inches and was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle and broad jump.
  • The ACC had several top performers in the bench press as well. Wake Forest fullback Tommy Bohanon tied for No. 4 overall with 36 reps and was also a top performer in the vertical jump and 60-yard shuttle. Also in the top 15 overall for bench: North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper (35), NC State guard Zach Allen (32) and Virginia Tech offensive tackle Vinston Painter (32). Speaking of Cooper, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said the lineman "had one of the more impressive workouts."
  • Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel had a nice combine himself, though he was inconsistent with his throws. Manuel was a top performer in the broad jump, ranking No. 3 among all quarterbacks after jumping 9 feet, 10 inches. He also was a top performer in the 40 (4.65), vertical jump (34), 3-cone drill (7.08) and 20-yard shuttle (4.21) to rank among the top 5 in each category.
  • The folks at Scouts Inc. had this to say about Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a top performer at his position in the bench press and vertical jump (36): "His 4.57 in the 40 is about what we expected. His game is more about being physical, though, and Hopkins showed good ball skills. He is was one of the most natural pass-catchers on the field, with good focus in the gauntlet drill and the ability to extend fully for balls." He's got a second-round grade.
  • Virginia Tech receiver Marcus Davis put up some good numbers as well, topping his position with a vertical jump of 39.5 inches, while also posting good numbers in the 40 (4.56) and bench press (19 reps). It's never been about physical talent for Davis, so the numbers aren't much of a surprise. He has to put it all together on the field.
  • Now for running back: North Carolina's Giovani Bernard was a top performer in various categories. He ran a 4.53 in the 40; and was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. Miami running back Mike James also put up some good numbers.
North Carolina’s offense will have a new identity in 2013, as former tailback Giovani Bernard, the face of the program in 2012, decided to leave early for the NFL draft. His lead blocker, Outland Trophy finalist Jonathan Cooper, is also gone. Those within the program, though, are confident the Heels can be just as successful without them.

Enter running back A.J. Blue.

He was second on the team in rushing last year with 433 yards, and had 10 total touchdowns. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Blue got his first career start at Wake Forest and rushed 19 times for a career-high 106 yards and a touchdown.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Blue
AP Photo/Don KellyUNC running back A.J. Blue scored 10 touchdowns last season.
He’s looking for far more in 2013 as UNC’s No. 1 back, but first he has to earn that spot. I caught up with Blue recently to get his take on this season.

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

How much did you talk to Giovani before he made his decision to leave, and once he decided to do that, what went through your head?

A.J. Blue: We didn’t really talk too much about it. Gio’s a real humble person. The NFL was never something he decided to talk about amongst a lot of people. If we did talk about it, it was a talk that came down to a decision he would have to make with his family. It was never just me and him talking strictly about him leaving. When I did find out he was leaving, I told him congratulations and I looked at it as a positive for me and him. I felt like his draft stock wasn’t going to get any higher than it already is this year, and I also felt like with him leaving and it being my last season, it was also an opportunity for me.

What are you concentrating on most this offseason in order to be the player you need to be and want to be for UNC?

AJB: I’m just concentrating on my weight. I lost like 20 pounds last summer. That was of course when we were doing heavy running and all of that kind of stuff. I went from about 235 to 215, 212, and I’ve come back up to 220 now. I plan on being around 210, and I just want to be durable. I want to be able to run the ball 10 or 15 times, just like Gio did. I think the thing I’m working on most is just my speed and agility.

How concerned are you that Jonathan Cooper isn’t going to be blocking this year?

AJB: I’m not that concerned. The guys we have coming back, we have James Hurst, who obviously is one of the best tackles in the ACC, I think in the country. This will be his fourth year in a row starting. We have Landon Turner who will be back at guard. He’s a great guy. He got a lot of experience this year. We’ve got [Russell] Bodine at center, this will be his second or third year starting, so he has a lot of experience. I think the experience thing we have is pretty good. Guys who will be replacing Coop will be molded into the type of offensive linemen we need.

Check back tomorrow for Blue's take on the competition this spring and his lofty goals.
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.
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.

2012 ESPN.com ACC all-conference team

December, 10, 2012
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Despite the abundance of hype surrounding the quarterback position heading into this season, there was one player who quickly distanced himself from the rest. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd had a record-setting season and he was surrounded by several all-conference-caliber teammates. With five Tigers on the first-team offense, it’s no wonder Clemson was No. 6 in the country in scoring offense at 42.33 points per game. There was no running back in the ACC more electrifying than UNC’s Giovani Bernard, though, and to leave off his lead blockers in James Hurst and Jonathan Cooper would be unjust. Surprisingly, not one player from Florida State’s two-deep made the cut for first-team offense. There’s no question, though, the ACC champs dominated the defensive lineup with four first-team selections. Imagine a dream team made up of Clemson’s offense and Florida State’s defense.

Actually, the ACC’s dream team would look more like this, your 2012 ESPN.com ACC All-Conference team:

Offense First Team

QB -- Tajh Boyd, Clemson

RB -- Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

RB -- Andre Ellington, Clemson

WR -- DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

WR -- Conner Vernon, Duke

TE -- Brandon Ford, Clemson

T -- James Hurst, North Carolina

T -- Oday Aboushi, Virginia

G -- Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

G -- Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech

C -- Dalton Freeman, Clemson

Defense first team

DE--Cornellius Carradine, Florida State

DE--Bjoern Werner, Florida State

DT--Joe Vellano, Maryland

DT--Sylvester Williams, North Carolina

LB--Nick Clancy, Boston College

LB--Steve Greer, Virginia

LB--Kevin Reddick, North Carolina

CB--Ross Cockrell, Duke

CB--Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

S--Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

S--Earl Wolff, NC State

Specialists

PK--Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

P--Will Monday, Duke

SP--Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

AT&T ESPN All-America Team

December, 8, 2012
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With the regular season in the books, it’s time to hand out some All-America accolades. Heisman candidate Johnny Manziel leads the team as the SEC placed nine players on the squad. Watch The AT&T ESPN All-America Team Show on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.

QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Kenjon Barner, Oregon
RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
WR: Marqise Lee, USC
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
TE: Zach Ertz, Stanford
OT: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
G: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
C: Barrett Jones, Alabama
G: Chance Warmack, Alabama
OT: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DE: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DL: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
DE: Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
LB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia
LB: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
LB: Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
LB: Michael Mauti, Penn State
CB: Dee Milliner, Alabama
CB: Bradley Roby, Ohio State
S: Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
S: Eric Reid, LSU

P: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
K: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
KR: Reggie Dunn, Utah
All-purpose: Dri Archer, Kent State

Coach: Bill O'Brien, Penn State

Heather Dinich speaks with North Carolina guard and Outland Trophy finalist Jonathan Cooper at the "Home Depot College Football Awards" in Orlando.

Tajh Boyd makes AFCA All-America team

November, 28, 2012
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This one is for all those Clemson fans wondering why quarterback Tajh Boyd has not received more national recognition.

How is this: AFCA first-team All-American.

Boyd was voted the best quarterback in the nation by the American Football Coaches Association, beating out Heisman front-runners Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Collin Klein of Kansas State for the first-team spot. Dalton Freeman also made the AFCA first team at center, beating out favorite Barrett Jones of Alabama.

Boyd and Freeman are the first players to make a first-team All-America squad at their respective positions in Clemson history. This also is just the third time since the AFCA began selecting an All-America team in 1945 that the quarterback and center were from the same team.

Two other ACC players made the team: North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, who seem to be locks to make just about every All-America team that comes out in the next month. I think the only miss was Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins, who did not make the team. Coaches selected Quinn Sharp of Oklahoma State instead.

In all, the ACC ranks third among all conferences with four selections, better than the Big 12 and Big Ten.

The biggest shocker, of course, was seeing Boyd make the first team. This honor has to feel especially good considering the coaches are the ones who vote for this All-America team. He clearly has their respect; now maybe other observers will start giving Boyd the credit he deserves.

"This is a landmark accomplishment,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. "You don’t see your program getting two first-team All-Americans very often [although Clemson did do it last year as well]. Both young men have been great leaders for our program for more than just this year. We really have a young team with just 11 scholarship seniors.

"Dalton in particular with his 48 consecutive starts, has been the cornerstone of the offensive line as the only senior. And Tajh has been a great example of leadership to the entire team. We have had a record-breaking season on offense that has led to a second straight 10-win season and these two young men have played a big part in it."

Boyd leads the ACC and ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency with a 168.5 rating, on pace for a Clemson record. He has gone 251-of-377 for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns, and added nine scores on the ground. His 43 overall touchdowns are tied for first in the nation.

Boyd also leads the ACC and ranks eighth in the nation with 336.8 yards per game. Earlier this week, I did a little comparison showing how Boyd compared to Manziel and Klein. Not too shabby, right?

As for the other players honored, Freeman has started 48 straight games, and has played more snaps than any other player in Clemson history (3,267). Cooper won The Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best blocker in the ACC, while Werner has had a monster year, leading the ACC with 13 sacks and ranking second with 18 tackles for loss.

Tajh Boyd headlines All-ACC team

November, 26, 2012
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Clemson had the best offense in the ACC this season, so it comes as no surprise that the Tigers dominated the All-ACC first team released Monday.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd and five teammates won first-team honors on offense, the first time Clemson has ever place six players on the All-ACC first-team offense and the first time any team has done it since Florida State in 1995.

Florida State and North Carolina each placed five players on the all-conference team, determined by a vote of 46 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

Boyd is joined on the first team by running back Andre Ellington, receiver DeAndre Hopkins, tackle Brandon Thomas, center Dalton Freeman and tight end Brandon Ford. Boyd led the ACC with 34 touchdown passes while Hopkins had league-bests of 16 total touchdown catches and an average of 104 yards receiving.

Nine teams had at least one first-team selection. There were no unanimous picks to the first team, but North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard was chosen as a first-teamer on 45 ballots. Bernard, who had an ACC-leading 1,228 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns, joins Boyd as repeat first-team selections.

Bernard, a punt returner who also was picked as the first-team specialist, was joined by guard Jonathan Cooper, linebacker Kevin Reddick and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.

Four Florida State defensive players -- ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Lamarcus Joyner -- join kicker Dustin Hopkins on the first team.

Boston College (receiver Alex Amidon and linebacker Nick Clancy), Virginia (offensive tackle Oday Aboushi and linebacker Steve Greer) and Duke (cornerback Ross Cockrell and punter Will Monday) were the only other schools with multiple first-team picks.

You also should note that Virginia Tech and Miami did not have a first-team selection for the first time since they joined the ACC in 2004. Defensive end James Gayle, linebacker Jack Tyler and cornerback Antone Exum made the second team for Virginia Tech; Miami's Duke Johnson made the second team as a running back and specialist.

The league coaches will announce their all-conference team next week.

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE
  • QB-Tajh Boyd, Clemson
  • RB-Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
  • RB-Andre Ellington, Clemson
  • WR-DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
  • WR-Alex Amidon, Boston College
  • OT-Oday Aboushi, Virginia
  • OT-Brandon Thomas, Clemson
  • OG-Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
  • OG-Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech
  • C-Dalton Freeman, Clemson
  • TE-Brandon Ford, Clemson
  • K-Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
  • Specialist- Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE
  • DE-Bjoern Werner, Florida State
  • DE-Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
  • DT-Joe Vellano, Maryland
  • DT-Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
  • LB-Nick Clancy, Boston College
  • LB-Kevin Reddick, North Carolina
  • LB-Steve Greer, Virginia
  • CB-Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
  • CB-Ross Cockrell, Duke
  • S-Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
  • S-Earl Wolff, NC State
  • P-Will Monday, Duke

For the second-team and honorable mention selections, you can click here.
North Carolina offensive guard Jonathan Cooper has been awarded the 2012 Jacobs Blocking Trophy, the league announced Sunday.

Cooper becomes the first North Carolina player to receive the Jacobs Trophy since center Jeff Garnica won it in 1988.

The Jacobs Blocking Trophy has been awarded annually since 1953 to the player voted the most outstanding blocker in the ACC by a poll of the league’s head coaches and defensive coordinators. The trophy is given in memory of William P. Jacobs, who served as president of Presbyterian College from 1935-45.

Cooper, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior was the runaway winner with a total of 29 points, far outdistancing Clemson center Dalton Freeman (eight) and North Carolina junior tackle James Hurst (six). In all, 13 different ACC offensive linemen received votes in the balloting, but Cooper was named as the top choice on all but two ballots.

A four-year starter, Cooper last week became the first Tar Heel to be named a finalist for the prestigious Outland Trophy. He set a school record for games started against Maryland, his 47th career start.

"This is a tremendous honor for Jonathan,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "Coop is a tremendous player. He’s very athletic, he moves his feet like a tight end and can be dominant at the point of attack. I told our coaching staff that we should be happy we were able to coach him for one year because you might not ever see another player like him. He’s that special.

"I’ve learned from him this year and our team has benefited from his leadership and service. As good a player as he is on the field, he’s even a better person off the field."

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