Bryant’s Beehive: The ACC’s Top Rated Prospects
October 21st, 2010 By De'Angelo Bryant
Even with the whirlwind of inconsistency in the ACC, a talent pool of athletes continue to flourish throughout the conference. According to DraftNasty’s 2010 and 2011 Big Board, nine players are noted as top 25 prospects for the NFL Draft. Take a look as I name the top 20 ACC prospects according to their performances this season.
DE DeQuan Bowers, Clemson, Jr.
Junior DeQuan Bowers' on the field accomplishments may be overlooked by the fact Clemson has a disappointing 3-3 start this season. If you watch Bowers you will understand how difficult it is for any OL to contain the athleticism of the 6’4, 275 pounder off the edge. Bowers is an explosive athlete and could project as a 3-4 DE, as well as a 4-3 DE. Last weekend in Clemson’s win over Maryland, Bowers recorded 3 sacks and 4 TFL’s. He was later named ACC Defensive Player of the Week for his accomplishments. Bowers leads the nation with 14.5 TFL’s and is tied for 3rd with 7.5 sacks.
LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, Sr.
Despite missing the last 3 games this season, Sturdivant was one of the ACC’s leaders, averaging 9 tackles per game. Sturdivant is an instinctive LB that has saw duty at both inside and outside LB this season.
OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State, Sr.
Regardless the talk of Hudson being undersized, he is arguably the best OG in the country. Hudson has a great feel for the game and understands what lanes he needs to open up for the runner. He’s even improved on his pass blocking this season to make him more marketable to NFL teams. He is currently my front runner to win his second straight Jacobs Blocking Trophy after this season.
OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College, Sr.
The veteran leader continues his quest of starts along the offensive front. One thing you can’t take away from the 6’7 senior is size and experience. However, he has been exploited at times by speed rush specialists this season.
OLB Bruce Carter, North Carolina, Sr.
Bruce Carter has uncontested athleticism on the perimeter. Just to think, he has yet to develop into a true LB at this point in his career. Best of all he’s a dynamic special teams player as well. Carter has 5 career blocked punts on his resume'.
S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson, Sr.
I like to refer to McDaniel as the QB of Clemson’s defense. It’s one thing to lead by example, but to do both speaks volumes for the All-American. While teams are doing their best not to throw in his direction, McDaniel is making is presence felt in other areas. He has 35 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 3 PBU’s on the year.
QB Christian Ponder, Florida State, Sr.
It’s hard to not notice the ability of Christian Ponder. Before his season ending injury in 2009, Ponder was among the discussions of potential 1st round quarterbacks being selected in last April’s draft. Through seven games this season, Ponder has completed 60% of his passes and is tied for second in the ACC with 12 touchdown passes. The negative? Ponder has already matched the total number of interceptions he threw all of last season.
QB Russell Wilson, NC State, Jr.
No one is allowed to bring up the height requirement for a quarterback when discussing Russell Wilson. When you attempt 379 passes without an interception, I would like to think that accounts for something. Currently, Wilson is on track to surpass every passing record in NC State history. This includes the numbers of former first rounder and San Diego Chargers' QB Phillip Rivers.
LB Nate Irving, NC State, Sr.
Irving has picked up from where he left off in 2008 and appears to be playing with more aggression, as well as better ability to identify the football. Irving is an inspiring leader, but has also led the Wolfpack to its' best start under Coach Tom O’Brien. Irving has 52 tackles, 9 TFL’s, and 3.5 sacks on the year.
CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, Sr.
His stats won’t jump out to you this season, mainly because opponents are trying so hard not throw his way. This could explain the success of counterpart Chase Minnifield and his 4 interceptions this season. Dowling’s 6’2 statue alone is enough to turn heads of any NFL team in search for an Antonio Cromartie type defender. Dowling could make the switch to safety later in his career, but don’t be surprise if his longevity is at CB in the NFL.
CB Brandon Harris, Miami, Jr.
After being tested early this season, it didn’t take long for opposing QB’s and offensive coordinators to realize that #1 is the real deal. He has incredible ball skills and times his break ups better than anyone in the conference. Similar to Dowling, opposing teams are keeping the ball away from Harris, which has allowed the rotating corners opposite of him to account for 5 interceptions this season.
OLB Mark Herzlich, Boston College, Sr.
Herzlich’s return to the gridiron has been inspiring to players, coaches, and fans across the nation. The once ACC Defensive Player of the Year is slowly regaining his form after his early season struggles. Herzlich has 2 interceptions, both coming against two of the conference’s most prolific QB’s in the league this season (Tyrod Taylor & Russell Wilson). Each game he continues to get better and should increase his draft stock as the season goes on.
CB Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech, Sr.
The film study guru has spent much of the season leading the inexperience defense of Virginia Tech. Unlike last season, he’s displayed the 4.3 speed everyone raves about along with terrific range in zone coverage. Carmichael has 2 interceptions, 1 of which was returned for a touchdown. He’s only 6 yards shy of 2nd place in the conference with yards returned for an interception.
WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami, Sr.
Talk about emerging out of no where. This is a classic case of potential meeting talent. Hankerson ranks in the top 3 in every receiving category in the ACC except average yards per catch. What has been most impressive about the 6’3 senior has been the versatility to play the X, Y, and Z positions this season. Though I still believe Hankerson is a Day two pick, he has the potential to be a late first rounder.
RB Montel Harris, Boston College, Jr.
Similar to Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers, Harris will take criticism for his 5’9" statue as a RB. Harris runs with a low center of gravity and excellent balance between the tackles. The most intriguing thing about Harris is he makes all of the NFL runs each Saturday. His 6.9 yards per carry is second behind FSU sophomore Chris Thompson. Harris must improve his speed to become lethal.
OLB Anthony Ebuniwe, Georgia Tech, Sr.
While many of you may not agree with this pick, I like him because of his tenacity and potential as a 3-4 OLB. He has long arms and a decent motor to create havoc in the backfield. Adjusting to the 3-4 defense has been a bit of a challenge for him, but it could get him off the boards a few rounds earlier as a potential backup at 3-4 OLB.
CB Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson, Sr.
Gilchrist has had a silent career in the Tigers secondary. After spending the last two seasons at SS, Gilchrist has returned back to CB where he played during his freshman season. The High Point, NC native recorded 107 tackles last season, but has only 1 career interception. However, no one should question his ball skills as a defender. He does return kickoffs and punts for the Tigers.
WR Torrey Smith, Maryland, Jr.
With former Clemson star C.J. Spiller out of the way, Maryland’s Torrey Smith has taken over the all-purpose title of the ACC. Smith finished second behind Spiller with 2,196 all-purpose yards a season ago. His electrifying play making ability tops the ACC with 117.2 all-purpose yards a game.
TE George Bryan, NC State, Jr.
I said it once and I will say it again. George Bryan is arguably one of the most well rounded TE’s in the nation. Bryan is a great run blocker, but does an even better job of putting his body in position to catch the football. This is the reason he edges out North Carolina TE Zach Pianalto.
QB T.J. Yates, North Carolina, Sr.
Veteran savvy has revived his career at UNC. After nearly losing his job last spring, Yates is having a career year for the Tar Heels. He leads the ACC in completing 66% of his passes and is tied with Boise State QB Kellen Moore for second fewest interceptions in the country. Yates could end up a late round pick and solid NFL backup QB.
LB Alex Wujack, Maryland, Sr.
The Maryland LB is once again on track to finish his 3rd straight season with over 130 tackles.
FS Deunta Williams, North Carolina, Sr.
Suspended the first 4 games this season, but returned to average 5 tackles and 1 PBU thus far.
DT Matt Conrath, Virginia, Jr.
Moves well inside as a 3 technique. Another year in UVA’s 4-3 defense, he could be the darkhorse defender of the ACC.
QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, Sr.
The four-year starter leads the ACC with a QB rating of 159.4 this season. He continues to mature each game as the ACC’s top dual-threat QB.
OT/OG Orlando Franklin, Miami, Sr.
Franklin’s switch to OT has been up and down this season. I believe he will project better as an OG in the NFL.
DE Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest, Jr.
Wilber has been Wake’s only solid defender this season. Wilber is tied for 4th in the nation with 13.5 TFL’s this season. The gangling defender will most likely project as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL.
DE/DT Quinton Coples, North Carolina, Jr.
Coples has been forced to play DT and DE this season because of the suspension to Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn. Coples is emerging as a star for the Tar Heels defense; recording 37 tackles, 9 TFL’s, 9 QB hurries and 4.5 sacks.
CB Charles Brown, North Carolina, Sr.
CB Kendric Burney, North Carolina, Sr.
DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina, Sr.
WR Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech, Jr.
LB Adrian Moten, Maryland, Sr.
OT Zebrie Sanders, Florida State, Jr.
OG Thomas Claiborne, Boston College, Sr.
OT Chris Hairston, Clemson, Sr.
QB/RB Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech, Sr.
DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson, Jr.
DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson, Sr.
DT Allen Bailey, Miami, Sr.
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