2012 NFL Draft Preview: Top 10 ACC Prospects

On the Day Before the NFL Draft, Boston College’s Luke Kuechly Looks Like He’ll Be the ACC’s First Selection

Over the last few weeks, we took a look at the ACC players that would find themselves selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, which begins this Thursday, April 26. And now, that day is nearly here, and we can finally end the charade of these athletes not getting paid to do what they do (only half-joking)…

If you’d like to take a more thorough look at how each of these prospects stack up, feel free to glance over all 14 teams’ draft preview posts, which you’ll find links to in the series’ final post for Wake Forest. As for this post, however, we’ll be listing the top 10 prospects, with a quick note on their skill set, and where they could possibly end up. Feel free to disagree with these, of course, since no one actually talks about when projecting out the NFL Draft.

Top 10 ACC Prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft

1. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (Projected Round: 1)

As the top linebacker in the 2012 NFL Draft class, Kuechly could go to a myriad of teams, depending on need, but consensus says he’s a surefire top-10 selection. With this in mind, his most likely destinations (barring trades) are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins or Carolina Panthers.

2. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina (Projected Round: 1)

The New York Giants have proven continuously that a consistent pass rush can lead teams single-handedly to the Super Bowl — a strategy that will benefit players like Coples this year, who know how to get after the quarterback. Nearly every team in the middle of the first round could use him, but odds are on the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals or San Diego Chargers. Continue reading

2012 NFL Draft Preview: Miami (FL)

Lamar Miller is Among Eight Miami Hurricanes With a Great Chance to Be Selected in the 2012 NFL Draft

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 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Given the current state of Miami Hurricanes football, it’s amazing that there are only eight players on this list. Yet, they all create massive holes that the team must fill this spring as they try for a successful season amidst controversy. No one blames the players below for departing, however. Faced with a potential multi-year postseason ban, how could you?

Lamar Miller, RB, Sophomore

While Miller may lack that true “breakaway” speed (he ran a 4.45 40-time at the Draft Combine), he does have a strong early burst to the line — allowing him to quickly gain leverage against would-be defenders. As a sophomore last year, he proved himself a workhorse for an inconsistent offense, eating up over 1,500 all-purpose yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. While not overly fast or strong, his instincts and vision served him well while at Miami, and they translate well to the NFL. Ideally, he’d serve a LaDainian Tomlinson-type role in a West Coast offense as a prime target out of the backfield as well. He’s currently projected as a late-first or early-second round pick, and sure starter as a pro.

Sean Spence, LB, Senior

From his physical appearance (5’11”, 231 pounds) and basic Combine numbers (4.71 40-time, 12 reps on bench), Sean Spence appears to be a lower-tier prospect with little upside. Yet, the linebacker has managed All-ACC selections and is a monster tackler — among the surest in wrapping up in the conference, to be precise. While he lacks the speed, size and strength that many project as vital to NFL success, he’s a player whose instincts keep him on par with his competition. A team leader for Miami, Spence of course raises some questions. But for those willing to insert him on at least a limited basis, they could be plenty surprised with this potential late-second or early-third round pick. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Miami Hurricanes

Veterans Like Jimmy Gaines Will Be the Key to This Miami team Having a Productive Spring

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Miami Hurricanes

After a respectable 6-6 season amidst off-the-field distractions, there was a predictable mass exodus for the Hurricanes on both sides of the ball. While senior quarterback Jacory Harris was an expected departure, underclassmen like RB Lamar Miller and WR Tommy Streeter declared early to avoid the repercussions of an NCAA investigation, sprinting from Coral Gables as fast as their 40-yard dash times (each recorded a 4.4) would imply. To replace them, head coach Al Golden will rely on a cast of young, unproven players. Just four offensive starters returned for the ‘Canes in 2012, none of whom beyond senior receiver Allen Hurns play at the big-three skill positions. The leadership role in this young, retooled group then falls to junior QB Stephen Morris — or rather, it would if he wasn’t missing spring practice due to back surgery. Without Morris for the time being, Miami stands little chance at developing the type or rhythm and comfort with the system necessary to succeed at this level. Adding in the fact that you’re dealing with an inexperienced team at nearly every position and it’s a recipe for disaster. The only senior starter is predicted to be running back Mike James, who put up seven touchdowns in limited relief of Miller last year. For the spring at least, he’ll be the glue that helps these players mesh while they wait for their quarterback to heal up.

Continue reading

Top 15 ACC Players at the 2012 NFL Draft Combine

Boston College LB Luke Kuechly Leads a Strong Crop of ACC Players to the NFL Draft Combine

Another crop of players leaves the college ranks this spring to take part in one of my favorite events growing up (that is, until Roger Goodell ruined it): the NFL Draft. In preparation for their selections come April, the league released its official Combine invite list, and there are plenty of ACC players in attendance. In total, the 14 teams had 51 selections, with Miami scoring the most (eight). No surprise with the questions still looming over that program.

Below, we’ll list the top 15 prospects invited to the Combine, followed by a quick team-by-team list based on total numbers.

Top 15 ACC Players at the 2012 NFL Draft Combine

1. Luke Kuechly, LB/Boston College

2. David Wilson, RB/Virginia Tech

3. Andre Branch, DE/Clemson

4. Lamar Miller, RB/Miami

5. Dwight Jones, WR/North Carolina

6. T.J. Graham, WR/NC State

7. Sean Spence, LB/Miami

8. Chris Givens, WR/Wake Forest Continue reading

2011 ACC Season Recap: Miami Hurricanes

Can Miami Overcome the Loss of Players Like Lamar Miller in 2012?

Team: Miami Hurricanes

W-L: 6-6 (3-5)

Postseason: N/A

Top Offensive Performer: Lamar Miller, RB

Top Defensive Performer: Sean Spence, LB

Rocked by an offseason scandal, subsequent suspensions, and even murmurs about the NCAA “death penalty,” the fact that the Hurricanes were still able to win six games this season is miraculous. With a black cloud hanging over much of the season, Miami would trade wins and losses with regularity — yet they were within one score in all six of their defeats, which included four-point losses to nationally-ranked Florida State and Kansas State, plus another heartbreaker to Virginia Tech by three. Of course, with the NCAA’s ruling still pending, not only has it been difficult to recruit the usual top talent that regularly shuffles into Coral Gables, Fla., but many of its current stars are sprinting for the exits.

For all the talent the Miami offense possesses, it was amazing the team could only put up 26.1 points per game. Quarterback Jacory Harris and running back Lamar Miller were regularly two of the best players on the field during ‘Canes games, yet the squad would fail to score more than 24 in eight of their 12 contests. Miami would finish near the middle of the pack in nearly every offensive measurement, scoring just 39 touchdowns on the season — “good” for eighth in the ACC. For all of their speed and apparent skill sets on the offensive side of the ball, one of the Hurricanes’ biggest concerns was its inability to pick up first downs. Recording just 220 on the season, they’d rank 11th in the league, sitting just ahead of Boston College, one of the worst offenses in the country. Continue reading

ACC’s Top 25 Players of 2011: No. 17, Lamar Miller

Miami's Lamar Miller is Number 17 On Our Countdown of the ACC's Top 25 Players

To recap the 2011 season of ACC football, we’ll be ranking the top 25 players in the conference this year, starting at 25, and heading all the way to the number-one slot. While these rankings can surely be debated, it’s still entertaining to assemble them. And on we go…

No. 17: Lamar Miller, RB/Miami (FL)

After just two seasons of college ball at Miami, and Lamar Miller recorded nearly 2,000 rushing yards, to go along with 15 scores on the ground. In spite of playing in less games than many of his ACC counterparts, Miller still managed to record the conference’s second-highest rushing total in 2011, with 1,272 yards on just 227 carries. Miller also finished the year ranking sixth in total touchdowns in the conference, with 10 (nine rushing, one receiving). Though he seemed to lose steam near the end of the year, Miller’s success running the football also directly coincided with how competitive Miami was in their contests. In what was then a big non-conference win over Ohio State, he tallied 184 yards, followed by 106 and a score in a close loss to Kansas State. His signature game, however, was a two-score, 189-total yard effort against a staunch Virginia Tech defense back in October. It could certainly be argued Miller had one of the year’s top offensive outputs against one of the nation’s best defenses. Given his performance, and the evolving tumultuous situation at Miami, Miller has already declared for the NFL Draft this spring, where he’ll likely go in the first two or three rounds. Continue reading

ACC Power Rankings, Week 14

How Many More Trophies Will Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas Be Hoisting This Season?

In these conference rankings, I list the ACC teams, one through 14, as if Pitt and Syracuse were already in the league. Yes, adding the additional teams may seem pointless now, but wait until they officially join. Then it’ll seem like old news and we can get past that initial awkwardness. No, I won’t reconsider. On to this week’s rankings!

1. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1) (7-1) (LW: 1): The Hokies played as complete a game as they have all season this past Saturday. Against upstart Virginia, the team completely controlled the line of scrimmage, looked impressive in both the passing and rushing games on offense and absolutely dominated on defense to the tune of four forced turnovers. Tech’s defense has carried them through much of this season, but with more consistent play from quarterback Logan Thomas and more superb efforts from RB David Wilson, finishing as a top-five team isn’t out of the question.

2. Florida State Seminoles (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 5): The Seminoles end the regular season as the league’s second-best squad due mostly to a lack of quality conference teams. Still, it’s hard to deny FSU credit where credit is due, turning in dominant defensive performances throughout the season’s second half to drag them out of a 2-3 hole and onto what could be a nine-win campaign. No opponent has scored over 20 against Florida State since Wake Forest put up 35 on October 8.

3. Clemson Tigers (9-3) (6-2) (LW: 3): Once a commanding offense capable of scoring on teams at will, the Tigers haven’t just stalled — they’ve crashed during the year’s final third. At just 1-3 in their previous four games, the once-undefeated “best squad in the ACC” is showing flaws all over; from the one-dimensional passing game to its tackling and coverage struggles. It’s probably best to forget about their dominant win over Virginia Tech earlier in the year, because that team will not be the one that shows up in Charlotte.

4. Virginia Cavaliers(8-4) (5-3) (LW: 2): If you’d told Cavaliers fans in the preseason they’d miss the ACC title game by just one win, they’d probably have been thrilled to hear it. Now, however, most see Saturday’s 38-0 drubbing as an incredibly anticlimactic ending to an otherwise fun and surprising season. As predicted, Virginia’s offensive ineptitude caught up with them against a great defense (unlike their lucky finish versus FSU), and the results were disastrous.

5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): The ‘Wreck have relied heavily on the effectiveness of quarterback Tevin Washington all season, so when he has an off-game, the team’s results are rarely pretty. In total, Washington racked up just 75 total yards on Saturday and had two picks before getting benched near the close of the game. For the offense (and this team) to grow, it’ll need to expect production of out multiple skill players.

6. NC State Wolfpack (7-5) (4-4) (LW: 7): Down 20 points at the end of the third quarter to the ACC’s worst team, it looked like NC State’s bowl dreams were about to die in a long, drawn-out crash. Then Mike Glennon accounted for three touchdowns, the defense came up with a shutout fourth quarter and the Pack put up 35 points in the final 15 minutes. What could have been a horrible day turned into one for the ages as State beat Maryland 56-41, with Glennon getting involved in six scores total. With seven wins, they’re now going bowling.

7. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5) (3-5) (LW: 8): As inconsistent as it gets, Carolina recorded one of its best offensive outputs of the season on Saturday, defeating Duke 37-21. Limping to scoring totals of 21 or less as a habit of late, UNC surprisingly saw very little trouble from a sneaky Blue Devils squad on either side of the ball. The Heels are expected to go bowling, though chances are the rival Wolfpack will surpass them in the priorities order.

8. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-6) (3-5) (LW: 8): The way Miami’s been playing lately, it’s for the best they’ll be foregoing a trip to the postseason. Since October 22, they’ve alternated wins and losses, and scored over 24 points just once. For a team that possesses two of the league’s most explosive individual performers in Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller, it’s a puzzling sight.

9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-6) (5-3) (LW: 9): For those who were confused as they watched the Demon Deacons get shelled by Vanderbilt this weekend, the Commodores are not representing the SEC East in their conference title game. Although playing well on D this year, Vandy is still just 6-6, so there’s little excuse for Wake’s embarrassing show. Even with Wake going to a bowl game (however mediocre it may be), there must be a ton of re-evaluation on both sides of the ball before this team takes the next step.

10. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-6) (0-0) (LW: 10): Pitt fought hard in what may be the last “Backyard Brawl” for some time, but in the end, came up short 21-20 to a vastly superior team. The moral of the story: Galvanized by Ray Graham‘s injury, this team’s mental-makeup can overcome any talent deficiencies they may encounter. This weekend’s must-win versus Syracuse does loom large, however.

11. Boston College Eagles (4-8) (3-5) (LW: 13): Seemingly left for dead months ago, BC won three of its final five games to save face with a 3-5 conference record. In spite of some real scoring issues (just 18.2 points per game), the Eagles did sport quite the defensive effort from start to finish, and it showed in their pure dominance of Miami on Friday afternoon. If this group can keep it together, it may be a very quick turnaround for Boston College to get back to contention.

12. Syracuse Orange (5-6) (1-0) (LW: 11): Syracuse scored 49 points against West Virginia back in October, sporting an aggressive defense and an offense clicking on all cylinders. A little over a month later, the Orange have scored just 60 total points since, and are losers of four straight games. If you’ve watched any portion of an SU of late, you’ll also notice they aren’t very good at tackling in the open field (or on any field, for that matter). This will be problematic when trying to secure a bowl berth next week.

13. Duke Blue Devils (3-9) (1-7) (LW: 12): Even worse than Syracuse, Duke started out their season 3-2, and then proceeded to lose all seven subsequent games. So was this year’s 3-9 team better than last year’s edition with an identical record? The Blue Devils lost four games by a score or less in 2011, versus the same amount in 2010. The highlight of this season will end up being their four-point loss to Virginia Tech, while last year saw big wins against Virginia and Navy.Verdict: 2010, by a nose.

14. Maryland Terrapins (2-10) (1-7) (LW: 14): In a season full of horrendous performances, Saturday’s 20-point collapse against NC State seemed to set a new standard for this squad. Do the Terps have an answer at QB going forward? What about this atrocious D, which gave up 34.3 points per game (103rd in the FBS) and saw 30 points or more hung on them in six of their last seven games? We’ve said it before: Randy Edsall, your seat’s getting warm already.