NFL Draft 2013: Conner Vernon, Kevin Reddick, Ray Graham Top List of ACC Snubs This Year

Kevin Reddick is One of Several Standout ACC Prospects Who Did Not Hear His Name Called on Draft Day

Kevin Reddick is One of Several Standout ACC Prospects Who Went Undrafted This Weekend

While 31 (34) 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 254 players available.

We’ve listed out our top 10 biggest draft snubs out of the list of undrafted ACC players for 2013 below. Also included are notes on their respective skill sets, and if they’ve landed on an NFL team at this time.

Top 10 ACC Draft Snubs

1. Kevin Reddick, LB/North Carolina (signed with New Orleans Saints)

Reddick was viewed as slightly undersized before the draft, but was still slated to be selected sometime on day three. The fact that he was passed up obviously ends up being a blessing for New Orleans here, who now have one of the best undrafted players this year, with a huge chip on his shoulder.

2. Conner Vernon, WR/Duke (signed with Oakland Raiders)

In another shock, the ACC’s all-time leading receiver also went unselected; the issue being his less-than-stellar speed and primary use as a possession receiver on short routes. The Raiders may not be the perfect fit for Vernon, but perhaps he shows enough to head elsewhere before the fall.

3. Adrian Bushell, CB/Louisville (signed with Oakland Raiders)

Bushell was seen as a fringe corner, and there weren’t necessarily any guarantees he’d come off the board. Plus, for a team that already went about drafting defensive backs in Oakland, he’ll have a hard time making the roster.

4. Matt Furstenburg, TE/Maryland (signed with Baltimore Ravens)

Furstenburg gets to stay close to home, with the nearby Ravens snagging him shortly after the draft. As a late riser on most boards, there were thoughts he could’ve gone in the fifth round. But given his perfect fit for the Ravens’ offense, being passed up may have actually been a gift for both parties.

5. Ray Graham, RB/Pittsburgh (signed with Houston Texans)

Injuries obviously scared off observers, who saw Graham more as a health liability than the stellar halfback he was while with the Panthers. And even though the Texans fail to give hm any real shot to start (all-pro Arian Foster has that position locked up for the foreseeable future), Graham may get an opportunity to contribute in garbage time this year should Houston’s offense be as prolific as projected.

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Pittsburgh Prospects

Can Ray Graham Outlast Concerns About His Durability to Hear His Name Called This Weekend?

Can Ray Graham Outlast Durability Concerns, and Hear His Name Called at 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 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.

The well for NFL talent’s not doing so hot at Pittsburgh, but that’s what happens when you have a coaching carousel for an extended period of time. Players prefer consistency and a proven track record of successfully producing NFL talent, and for the Panthers, it just hasn’t been there lately. Though things could certainly change in the future, for right now, 2013 could even be another season of Pitt seeing zero players selected — a startling development when you consider the level of talent they currently have at the professional level (Darrelle Revis, Larry Fitzgerald, LeSean McCoy, to name a few).

Ray Graham, RB, Senior (Projected: Sixth Round)

At one point during his junior season, Graham could have very well been considered among the best running back prospects available — a smart, powerful runner who had tons of NFL potential. Now, unfortunately, his luck has turned a bit south. Though he certainly made a nice comeback from injury in 2012 (ran for over 1,000 yards), scouts see the 5’9″ 200-pound back as undersized and a risk with extended carries. Despite last year’s jump up to 258 touches (rushing and receiving), the prevailing thought on Graham is that his size prevents him from being durable over a long career, and his burst at the line just isn’t what it used to be. This is also reinforced by an unimpressive 40-yard dash time of just 4.68, which has knocked him down on many boards league-wide. For those who’ve watched his career closely, there’s certainly a prospect worth drafting in Graham. But if there aren’t enough running backs picked in the early rounds, he may be sweating it out late on day three.

Mike Shanahan, TE, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

As a wide receiver in college, Shanahan made great strides each and every season, developing into a smarter, stronger one-on-one receiver over time. But with his long, heavier frame (6’5″ and 225 pounds) and slower speed (4.82 40-yard dash), he’ll need to transition to the tight end spot if he hopes to make a roster for this fall. Instincts-wise, Shanahan is a proven commodity, using a basketball background to his advantage when it comes to positioning and upper-body strength. But it’s that same reason he’s also seen as a bit of a liability. He’ll be graded as a prospect, rather than a difference-making player right now, so it’s unlikely he’ll be drafted. Just the same, if a team’s willing to take a risk and help him develop into a professional tight end, it’s not as if it’s unheard of for basketball skills to translate quite well (hello, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates).

Previously: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, NC State, North Carolina

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Is Former Rutgers QB Tom Savage Ready to Take Over the Job at Pitt This Spring?

Is Former Rutgers QB Tom Savage Ready to Take Over the Job at Pitt This Spring?

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: Pittsburgh Panthers

Spring Practice Start Date: March 5

Spring Game Date: April 12

The Panthers jumped into spring practices a few weeks back, as they attempt to move on without key playmakers on offense, and adjust to a brand-new defensive coordinator as well. All this change is nothing new for Pitt, however, as any fan would tell you. Over the past four years, the team’s employed three head coaches and four different defensive coordinators. Now, replacing their starting running back and quarterback too, it’s the personnel the coaches that must adjust to the new personnel. Will it be an easy process, or another frustrating, long offseason?

As mentioned, the keys for Pitt’s offense are figuring out the quarterback and running back situations. While experienced passer Tom Savage (Rutgers transfer, by way of Arizona) appears to be the front-runner to succeed departed senior Tino Sunseri, it’s not necessarily a lock. In two years starting part-time for the Scarlet Knights, Savage struggled with accuracy (only completed about 52 percent of his passes) and regularly had his confidence shaken by poor performance. Behind him, Chad Voytik and Trey Anderson are also waiting in the wings, though both are largely unknown commodities. In particular, Anderson’s shown some fleeting promise in limited reps these past two seasons, but tough to make any over-arching generalizations after just 35 passes. At running back, on the other hand, Ray Graham‘s replacement is entirely proven. Rushel Shell was impressive in splitting carries with Graham last season, and he’s slated to do even more this season as the feature back (while also spelled by Isaac Bennett). Pitt has the potential to be among the nation’s best rushing teams this season (as they could’ve been last season as well), but a lot of that will ultimately come down to the offensive line push, which is undergoing its own transitions as well.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Pittsburgh Panthers

Pitt's 2012 Season Was a Roller Coaster, But Paul Chryst Has Bigger Plans Next Year

Pitt’s 2012 Season Was a Roller Coaster, But Paul Chryst Has Bigger Plans Next Year

Team: Pittsburgh Panthers

W-L: 6-7

Postseason: 38-17 BBVA Compass Bowl loss to Ole Miss

Top Offensive Performer: Ray Graham, RB

Top Defensive Performer: Aaron Donald, DT

For Pitt’s seniors, 2012 was the end of a three-year battle with uncertainty and mediocrity. Paul Chryst was their third head coach in as many years, and they also made their third consecutive trip to Birmingham’s BBVA Compass Bowl (not the most prestigious of honors college football has to offer). Rather than looking back at their time with joy and gratitude, it’s more likely these players are thankful to leave all the constant upheaval behind — no offense to Pitt, of course.

And it’s tough to capture those consistency issues better than you can by examining Pitt’s offensive attack — and sometimes lack thereof. Unlike previous years, the Panthers actually found themselves most successful this season when passing the ball with competence; or at least so long as they also ran it well. Which gets to the heart of the issue for Pittsburgh. There are no trends with this offense you can really dig deeply into to determine how they lost seven games. Quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 21 touchdowns versus just three INTs. He threw for 200 yards or more 10 different times, and in those games, the team was 5-5. Running back Ray Graham rushed for 100 yards or more four different times, and in those games Pitt was just 2-2. Balanced or not, run or pass, it just never seemed like the Panthers could find a consistent rhythm on offense. Though when they did — in those rare moments of clarity — this team was one of the country’s toughest to slow down. Six times they scored 27 or more points (5-1 record), moving the ball with ease and seemingly scoring at will. Unfortunately, that success was always fleeting, resulting in a wildly up-and-down campaign that saw them alternate two wins and two losses all year long (up until the final loss against Ole Miss, which occurred following two wins).

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Way-Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

When we last left our teams, there appeared to be hope on the horizon. Though the 2012 season was a difficult one, the bowls showed some real glimmers of great things to come, as the ACC racked up its first winning postseason record in seven years. Beyond some long-awaited hope for greater success, 2013 also brings some change to these rankings. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will now actually be participating in the conference, after two seasons appearing in the power rankings despite not doing so. And Louisville, our newest pals set to join in 2014, will also be joining the party — meaning 15 teams will be listed for the remainder of this calendar year (and slightly beyond into bowl season 2014). Cheer up! It’s less than 230 days ’till kickoff.

1. Clemson Tigers (Last Year: 2): Tajh Boyd‘s back, and the defense is improving steadily. So even without DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington, this team will still be fine in 2013. In year two under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, expect an even more aggressive front-seven as the coach works on improving linebacker play in particular. That secondary will still get burned, but be certain they’ve also learned some lessons from last year, too.

2. Louisville Cardinals (LY: NR): After the show Teddy Bridgewater put on during the Sugar Bowl this year, the Cardinals are an extremely hot commodity, and are likely to start strong in their final season of Big East football. It’ll be interesting to see how coach Charlie Strong and his team respond to having a target on their backs from week one, when they’ll likely be handed a top-10 ranking to start the year.

3. Florida State Seminoles (LY: 1): They’re losing a lot on the defensive side of the football, along with QB and senior leader, EJ Manuel. But like those old, Bobby Bowden-coached teams of teams of the 90s, this ‘Noles squad has already reloaded. The offense may take a few to warm up, but the defense will still be very much their strength heading into next season.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (LY: 5): After sitting out two straight years of postseason berths, the ‘Canes are really hoping they’re given a break from the NCAA in terms of leniency. With a ton of young talent eager to get a shot at a conference title, and arguably the best QB/RB tandem in the ACC in Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson, Miami could very well be out for blood come opening kickoff this fall.

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ACC Football Top 25 Players of 2012: #21, Ray Graham

Ray Graham's Senior Season Was a Memorable One, Piling Up Yardage for Pitt

Ray Graham’s Senior Season Was a Memorable One, Piling Up Yardage for Pitt While Coming Back From Injury

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. 21, Ray Graham, RB/Pittsburgh (Preseason Rank: 10)

Somehow, 2012 was the first season in which Ray Graham rushed for over 1,000 yards. For anyone who’s been following the star running back during his team at Pitt, it’s surprising to say the least. But injuries and a split backfield did, in fact, derail at least part of Graham’s career — however, when he actually received the necessary carries, the senior was a force of nature. Take a look at this season. Of the seven games in which he recorded less than 20 carries, Pitt won just twice (and in one of those victories, he ended up with 19 carries). In the others, the Panthers were 4-2, showing a much improved run/pass balance than when Graham was not as involved. So why not run him? Based on the overall year he had, it’s hard to tell, but it’s most likely due to injury concerns (as hackneyed an excuse as that may appear). On the season, Graham finished up with career highs in carries (222), receptions (36), rushing yards (1,042), total TDs (13) and rushing TDs (11). Tell me why that player should not have gotten the ball even more (again: seven times under 20 carries, and only once over 25). No matter, it was Pitt’s loss, and he’ll certainly be suiting up in the pros next season. Because of history and the Panthers’ lighter use of him in 2012, he may drop a bit due to injury concern, but trust he will be on a roster this fall (health permitting).

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BBVA Compass Bowl Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Ole Miss Rebels

Pitt Running Back Ray Graham Holds the Key for a Panthers Victory

Pitt Running Back Ray Graham Holds the Key for a Panthers Victory Against Ole Miss

After one of the streakiest seasons in recent memory, Pittsburgh attempts to end their string of two losses followed by two wins, as they come up against Ole Miss. This is Pitt’s third consecutive postseason trip to Birmingham, and each time, they’re less thrilled to get an invite. Mississippi, on the other hand, is thrilled to be back in the postseason after two consecutive down seasons, and their fans promise to show up in droves.

Bowl Game: BBVA Compass Bowl

Location: Birmingham, Ala.

First Year: 2006 (PapaJohns.com Bowl)

2012 Participants: Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (6-6)

Last Meeting: None

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Pittsburgh (previous bowl game: 28-6 loss vs. SMU in 2012 BBVA Compass Bowl)

Pitt’s season, as alluded to above, was as frustrating as it gets, alternating embarrassing losses with triumphant wins. So which Panthers team will we see in this game? According to the pre-established pattern, they’re looking at a loss, but it’s hard to ignore just how impressive they were in their last two wins. Faced with must-win situations in both games, Pitt outscored their opposition by a combined score of 54-9, holding them to 324 total yards while forcing five turnovers (four against USF). In their victories, not one game came down to one possession. In the Panthers’ losses, they saw defeat by a touchdown or less three separate times. And while Pitt’s defense was not among the country’s most talked about by any measure, it’s hard to understand why that’s the case. Only four opponents scored more than 20 points against them, and they ranked 17th in total defense. The issue, all season, has been the team’s spotty offense — boosted up by two games in which they scored over 45 points. In Pitt’s other 10 games, they scored 20 points or less half the time, and struggled to establish a running game; their Achilles’ heel. So long as running back Ray Graham ran the ball well, the team mostly found success. However, when relying solely on quarterback Tino Sunseri (who was stll vastly improved this season), they could not generate enough consistency to pull through.

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