NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Clemson Prospects

DeAndre Hopkins Headlines a Group of Five Former Tigers Awaiting Selection This Month

DeAndre Hopkins Headlines a Group of Five Former Tigers Awaiting Selection This Month

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Clemson‘s resurgence over the past two seasons has largely been fueled by underclassmen contributors, so the team will once again lose just a few players to the Draft this spring. But also similar to last season, those few players did make a significant impact. Whenever your leading rusher, leading receiver and starting center are all on draft boards, it’s both a blessing and a curse. We’ll see where these Tigers could be selected in a few weeks:

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Junior (Projected: Mid-First Round)

Hopkins’s record-setting junior season has propelled him from well-regarded second receiving option to potential first-round draft pick. Scouts seem to love his blistering speed (his 4.5-second 40-yard dash time is not indicative of how fast he really is), along with his great hands and smart after-catch abilities. While his 6’1″ 200-pound frame is concerning for some, it’s also not a deal breaker for those looking to draft him, as he can certainly add some upper body weight between now and when the season starts. As it stands now, Hopkins may be the top receiver in a very thin class at that position, and may end up being selected as early as the middle of round one.

Andre Ellington, RB, Senior (Projected: Early Third Round)

Similar to Hopkins, the biggest concern around Ellington is his size (5’9″ 190 pounds) and how that will affect his durability as an NFL back in the long-term. Beyond that, however, there’s a lot to like from the speedy rusher who’s already drawing favorable comparisons to former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Atlanta Falcon RB Warrick Dunn. This draft is thin at running back, so there’s always the chance he’s taken far earlier than projected. But given the changing NFL ecosystem away from featured rushers, it could end up dropping him into the latter part of day two of the draft. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, and could potentially provide Ellington with just the chip he needs to excel come camp in July.

Malliciah Goodman, DE, Senior (Projected: Fourth Round)

Despite a limited senior year, Goodman still tallied seven sacks, looking great throughout his final three games in particular (five sacks). While he’s purely a pass-rush threat, there is some thought that the quick (4.67 40-yard dash) and agile end convert to the outside linebacker position for the right team running a 3-4 defensive scheme. With a long frame weighing in at just 276 pounds, it would seem the most natural fit for him, as he’d otherwise be manhandled directly on the line. Expect his name to be called on day three with a real chance to get into a linebacker rotation come the fall.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Clemson Tigers

Is Former Backup Roderick McDowell Ready to Take Over for Clemson at RB?

Is Former Backup Roderick McDowell Ready to Take Over for Clemson at RB?

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Clemson Tigers

Spring Practice Start Date: March 6

Spring Game Date: April 13

Following two-straight seasons of more than 10 wins, Clemson’s suddenly in the national spotlight and a real threat to win the ACC and the National Championship (and maybe even the Heisman trophy too). But even as they bring back a strong group of both players and coaches, there’s still plenty left to figure out heading in 2013 if they’re going to live up to the very lofty expectations attached to them.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris has returned for another year with the Tigers, meaning and he couldn’t be stocked with a better weapon than quarterback Tajh Boyd. Around the senior, though, there’s questions at wide receiver and running back, along with a gaping hole at center, formerly filled by NFL-bound Dalton Freeman. The odds-on favorite to fill that center spot is currently Ryan Norton, though he could also be challenged by redshirt sophomore Jay Guillermo. At receiver, Sammy Watkins will be called upon to quickly regain the all-world stature he’d reached as a freshman in 2011, especially without an experienced safety net to remove the pressure this time around. With Watkins at the top spot on the depth chart, Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant will likely take some time this spring to gain a better rapport with Boyd and prove they can handle a larger role in Clemson’s dynamic passing game. The Tigers must also replace the departed Andre Ellington at running back, but can luckily plug his experienced backup, Roderick McDowell (450 yards, five TDs in 2012), right into the role.

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ACC Football Top 25 Players of 2012: #20, Dalton Freeman

Dalton Freeman's Looking to Translate His College Durability to an NFL Payday

Dalton Freeman’s Looking to Translate His College Durability to an NFL Payday This April

As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 20, Dalton Freeman, C/Clemson (Preseason Rank: 20)

Where Freeman stood out during his Clemson career, more than most offensive line prospects, is durability. Starting 49 consecutive games at offensive line is no small feat — especially in college against a persistent rush in a pass-happy offense. As a senior, Freeman was a second-team All-American, first-team All-ACC and Academic All-ACC as well. With an average grade above 80 on the season (a number that grew as the season wore on), Freeman let up just two sacks on the entire season. Again, this was all while playing center in an offense that threw the ball 474 times this season (31st in the country). At the next level, some are curious about whether his 6’4″, 286-pound frame can hold up against pro defensive lineman, and there’s also an outward display of concern over his speed (or lack thereof). If you’ve watched Freeman over the past few years, however, you know this is a player who has and will put in the work to find success. He’s intelligent, durable and experienced — a skill set that can’t be found everywhere. It’s a mystery to when he’ll be drafted in April, but trust that he will.

Previously:

#21, Ray Graham, RB/Pittsburgh

#22, Oday Aboushi, OT/Virginia

#23, Andre Ellington, RB/Clemson

#24, Nick Clancy, LB/Boston College

#25, Aaron Donald, DT/Pittsburgh

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2012 All-ACC Football Team: Offense

Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins Was One of Several Star Performers in the ACC This Season

Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins Was One of Several Star Performers in the ACC This Season

As most other publications have also done, we’ve put together an All-ACC team here at Atlantic Coast Convos, honoring the best players from the 2012 football season. We’ve also included players from Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as that has always been our policy, and once bowl season is over, all ACC football news will have to involve them anyway. In this post, you’ll find both the first- and second-team offense, with choices for All-ACC defense now live as well.

See any selections you agree with? Disagree with? Feel free to voice your concerns in the comments below.

2012 Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team: Offense

First Team

QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

WR Alec Lemon, Syracuse

TE Brandon Ford, Clemson

G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

G Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech

C Dalton Freeman, Clemson

OT James Hurst, North Carolina

OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse

Second Team

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ACC Preseason Top 25 Players of 2012: #20, Dalton Freeman

Clemson’s Dalton Freeman is #20 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 25 Players for 2012

As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

No. 20, Dalton Freeman, C/Clemson

An elder statesman on a young Tigers offensive line this year, Freeman finds himself well-tenured and well-decorated heading into this season. After a fantastic 2011 campaign, the senior has been named to three different watch lists (Lombardi, Outland, Rimington) and has received tons of all-conference buzz. Throughout his career, he’s shown remarkable durability at the center position, starting the team’s last 36 games there, with 143 knockdowns. Due to Clemson’s high-powered, high-volume offensive attack, he also racked up a school record 1,044 snaps in 2011, too.

As we discovered toward the end of last season, Tigers QB Tajh Boyd still has some work to do under pressure. So while he’s addressing those issues on his own this offseason, it’ll also come down to how well the inexperienced offensive line to protect their passer. Over the final six games of last year, schemes fell apart quicker, allowing for less throwing time and more turnovers (nine in that time, versus just three in first eight games). Same goes for the running game, which saw a huge drop-off as the year wore on, and little success inside (right where Freeman lines up). Continue reading

Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team (Offfense)

Tajh Boyd is All-ACC First-Team, Despite Recent Struggles

The Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team honors the best players at each offensive position. We’ve provided a list of both first- and second-team selections based on what we’ve observed throughout the season. Feel free to disagree, however, since we did on several of the official ACSMA list.

First Team

Quarterback: Tajh Boyd, Clemson

Running Back: David Wilson, Virginia Tech

Running Back: Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Wide Receiver: Dwight Jones, North Carolina

Tight End: Dwayne Allen, Clemson

Offensive Tackle: Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech

Offensive Tackle: Oday Aboushi, Virginia

Offensive Guard: Omoreggi Uzzi, Georgia Tech

Offensive Guard: Austin Pasztor, Virginia

Center: Dalton Freeman, Clemson

Kicker: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

Special Teamer: T.J. Graham, NC State

Second Team

Quarterback: Mike Glennon, NC State

Running Back: Lamar Miller, Miami (FL)

Running Back: Andre Ellington, Clemson

Wide Receiver: Chris Givens, Wake Forest

Wide Receiver: Conner Vernon, Duke

Tight End: George Bryan, NC State

Offensive Tackle: Zebrie Sanders, Florida State

Offensive Tackle: James Hurst, North Carolina

Offensive Guard: Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech

Offensive Guard: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

Center:Tyler Horn, Miami (FL)

Kicker: Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson

Special Teamer: Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Breakdown by Team: Clemson (7), UNC (4), Virginia Tech (3), NC State (3), Florida State (2), Miami (2), Virginia (2), Duke (1), Georgia Tech (1), Wake Forest (1)

Check out the All-ACC Defensive Team, too.