NFL Draft 2012: Dwight Jones, Chase Minnifield and Other ACC Players Go Undrafted

North Carolina’s Dwight Jones Will Now Be Playing for the Texans, With a Chip On His Shoulder

While 31 (33) of their ACC cohorts were selected during this weekend’s NFL Draft, the festivities still left plenty of ACC players without an NFL team to call home yet. Of course, many have since signed as free agents with squads, however, it still doesn’t eliminate the questions about why they weren’t considered among the top 253 players available.

We’ve listed out our top 10 most puzzling undrafted ACC players for 2012 below. Also included are notes on their skill set, and if they’ve landed on an NFL team since.

Most Confusing Undrafted ACC Players for 2012

1. Dwight Jones, WR/North Carolina (signed as free agent with Houston Texans): Considered a top wideout prospect by most, it’s honestly baffling how Jones’s name failed to be called by Friday — nevermind the entire draft. Quick and physical, he’s a big-play guy who should make for the perfect pairing opposite Texans’ star Andre Johnson.

2. Chase Minnifield, CB/Virginia (signed as free agent with Washington Redskins): Some injury concerns scared off teams from drafting Minnifield this weekend — a shame, considering he was projected to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick. Given the pass-happy competition the ‘Skins face in the NFC East, the cornerback’s ballhawking skills will surely come in handy. Continue reading

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2012 NFL Draft Preview: Syracuse

Syracuse DE Chandler Jones May End Up as a Top-20 Pick in the 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.

For Syracuse, all four of their potential draft picks hurt, but none more than defensive end Chandler Jones. And while he keeps climbing up draft boards, fans’ expectations of the defensive line continue to drop with no real sign of what’s next. They’ve seen what happens when he’s not involved in the pass-rush. It’s not pretty.

Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Junior

After functioning as the de facto leader of the Orange defense these past few years, Jones will leave a gaping hole which the team may struggle to fill all season. As for his future, however, Chandler Jones is slated to join his brother, former SU player Arthur Jones, in the NFL. At 6’5″ and 266 pounds, he’s a perfect fit for the now-common transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, though also more suited for a 4-3 scheme. While those who’ve watched his career closely know the type of speed and strength he can bring on both pass- and run-defense, he’s better off using the line to lead runners to him. Of course, he did rack up his fair share of sacks in college, and that’s likely the role any team will call on him for again. With his height and long arms, plus instincts folks are raving about, there’s a lot he can do in the passing game. Expect him to be drafted well before the first round’s over. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Receiver Marcus Sales Returns as a Featured Part of the Offense Once More

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: Syracuse Orange

After losing their final five games of 2011, the Syracuse Orange are surrounded by questions. What happened to the team that lit up West Virginia back in October? The offense, the defense — all of it? Though that questions will likely remain unanswered, a lot of work needs to be done to replace the team’s key departures. Major contributors on both offense (Antwon Bailey, Nick Provo) and defense (Chandler Jones, Phillip Thomas) are headed to the NFL and head coach Doug Marrone would love nothing more than to have those spots settled this spring. At running back, the Orange are set by most accounts. Rising-juniors Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith both showed promise in limited action last year, and at worst, they could split time until a clear starter is chosen.Tight end, on the other hand, features enough unproven targets to make it a complete crapshoot. Lucky for ‘Cuse they’re already settled at quarterback and wide receiver though, giving these other skill positions time to develop. While the seasoned Ryan Nassib won’t have his normally TE safety valve, the hope is that reinstated big-play receiver Marcus Sales can team with SU record-setter Alec Lemon to give the passing game much-needed firepower. Sales’ homerun capabilities were sorely missed in 2011, and we’ll see how quickly he can shake the rust off this spring. Continue reading

2011 ACC Season Recap: Syracuse Orange

After a Disappointing 2011 Season, Syracuse Has A Lot of Work Ahead in 2012

Team: Syracuse Orange

W-L: 5-7 (1-1)

Postseason: N/A

Top Offensive Performer: Ryan Nassib, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Phillip Thomas, FS

Agonizing, tantalizing, exciting and disappointing — all of these adjectives likely would’ve been apt to describe Syracuse’s 2011 football season. After “returning to prominence” in 2010, it appeared that head coach Doug Marrone had permanently righted the ship. Alas, we (and I say “we” as a ‘Cuse fan myself) were duped. For all of the toughness, discipline and fundamentals Marrone was supposedly instilling, it appeared they were regularly left at the door of the Carrier Dome. From poor tackling, to an unseemly number of personal fouls come season’s end and outright poor decision-making in all three facets of the game, the 2011 made it appear as if not much had changed from the Greg Robinson era. If 2012 goes just as poorly, maybe nothing has.

As an offense, Syracuse topped 30 points in a game five separate times (unthinkable as recently as 2010) — including their 49-23 demolition of West Virginia in October. Yes, the same Mountaineers team that hung 70 points on Clemson. I was, and am, as shocked as you are. Following that glorious Friday night stunner (which I enjoyed from the appropriate confines of Las Vegas), SU would never score more than 21 points in their remaining five games. The pinpoint accuracy of quarterback Ryan Nassib vanished. The running game (spotty to begin with) might as well have been racking up negative yardage. And, unthinkably, the Orange failed to win six games after beginning their season 5-2. You can blame the Rutgers choke, but then there’s the Toledo gift to counter it. As lucky as they were in their first seven contests (four wins by a single score), they were devastatingly unlucky in the final five. It was a settling of accounts, if you will. Continue reading