SEC maintaining NFL draft edge

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UPDATED 4/28/2012 @ 12:17 p.m. ET: With the first two days and three rounds of the 2012 NFL draft in the books, and with rounds 4-7 set for Saturday afternoon and into the evening, the SEC continues to hold an edge over all other conferences in players selected, although the gap has closed considerably since the first round Thursday night.

After watching nine of its players drafted within the first 18 picks opening night, the SEC saw “just” seven more selected in the next 77 picks, leaving the six-time-defending BcS champion conference with 16 players taken during the first three rounds.  Close on the SEC’s heels, however, are the Big Ten and Pac-12 with 14 apiece.  The only other conferences in double digits are the ACC (12) and Big 12 (10).

Below is the conference draft “leaderboard”, with the individual total for rounds 1-3 in parenthesis:

SEC: 16 (nine in 1st, five in 2nd, two in 3rd)
Big Ten: 14 (four, seven, three)
Pac-12: 14 (four, six, four)
ACC: 12 (three, three, six)
Big 12: 10 (five, two, three)
Big East: 7 ( two, three, two)
C-USA: 5 (one, one, three)
Non-FBS: 5
MWC: 4 (two, zero, two)
Sun Belt: 3 (zero, zero, three)
MAC: 2 (zero, zero, two)
Ind.: 2 (two, zero, zero)
WAC: 1 (zero, one, zero)

As far as individual schools go, it’s still defending BcS champion Alabama standing atop the draft with five players selected, four in the first round and one early in the second.  Illinois (Ron Zook, ladies & gentlemen), LSU and Stanford each have four apiece, while Boise State, Cal, Cincinnati, Clemson, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wisconsin have seen three players each selected.

The only other schools with more than one player selected are Baylor, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, USC and Virginia Tech.

LSU and Wisconsin are the only schools with at least one player selected in each of the first three rounds.

Perhaps more interesting than the top draft performers are the schools who have yet to hear one of its former player’s name called.  That list includes the likes of Florida, Florida State, Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, Pittsburgh and Washington (why no team has snagged running back Chris Polk is beyond me) among the 67 Div. 1-A (FBS) programs that have been shutout thus far.

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Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote the following: “Given the fact that they’re the five-time reigning national champions, it should come as no surprise that the SEC reigned supreme above all other conferences when it came to the number of players selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.”

Exactly 364 days later, and with a sixth straight crystal trophy stuffed firmly into its hip pocket, it’s lather, rinse, repeat.

From Alabama’s Trent Richardson at No. 3 overall to the Cleveland Browns (thank you, thank you, thank you Tom Heckert) to Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower at No. 25 to the New England Patriots, a total of 10 players from the SEC were taken in the first of seven rounds of the annual NFL draft.  Of the first 18 picks on the night, exactly half (nine, for those mathematically challenged) came from SEC schools — and, yes, Texas A&M was included as an SEC school for this exercise.

As was the case in 2011, the Big 12 was next up after the SEC, with five players selected on the draft’s first day.  Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 had four players apiece selected, while the ACC had three.  Appropriately enough, the Mountain West had two players taken, and both came from flagship program (for now) Boise State.

Just as apropos is that the best team in 2011 from the top conference the past six years dominated individual school honors on the night as well.  Heading into the first day of the draft, many mock projections had five players from Alabama being selected.  The Tide fell just short of that mark, however, “settling” for four players — Richardson, safety Mark Barron (No. 7, Jacksonville Jaguars), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (No. 17, Cincinnati Bengals) and Hightower.  Defensive end Courtney Upshaw was the only Tide player projected to go in the first round who didn’t, although he shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear his name called in the second round Friday evening.

Two other SEC schools — LSU and South Carolina — had two players each selected, as did Baylor, Boise State, Illinois, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Stanford and USC.  No other school had more than one player taken.

After the jump are some random notes sent out by the various sports information departments across the country regarding players selected in the first round of the NFL draft:

Andrew Luck becomes the fourth Stanford quarterback to be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft, following Bobby Garrett (1954; Cleveland), Jim Plunkett (1971; New England) and John Elway (1983; Baltimore).  Stanford is the only school that has produced four quarterbacks who were selected first overall in the NFL Draft.

— Luck and guard David DeCastro (No. 24, Pittsburgh Steelers, absolute steal) gave the Cardinal two first-round selections in the same draft for the first time since 1992.

— With quarterback Robert Griffin III going to the Washington redskins at No. 2 and wide receiver Kendall Wright going to the Tennessee Titans at No. 20, it is the second consecutive year and only the third time in the 77-year history of the draft that Baylor had two players’ names called during the first round.

— The four first-round selections tied Alabama’s school record, equaling the mark of four set just last season when Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Mark Ingram all went in round one. UA has now had 11 first-round picks during head coach Nick Saban’s tenure with the Tide and 10 in the past three years.

Dontari Poe is the first-ever defensive lineman for Memphis to be selected in the first round, and is the first defensive player drafted in the first round since defensive back Jerome Woods was selected as the 28th overall pick, also by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1996.

Chandler Jones (No. 21, New England Patriots) is the first Syracuse player to be chosen in the first round since defensive end Dwight Freeney was the 11th overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2002.

Quinton Coples (No. 16, New York Jets) was the 20th first-round pick in North Carolina history, and it’s the second straight year a Tar Heel defensive end (Robert Quinn, No. 14, St. Louis Rams) has gone in the top 20 of the draft.

— With wide receiver Michael Floyd (No. 13, Arizona Cardinals) and safety Harrison Smith (No. 29, Minnesota Vikings) off the board, it marks the first time since 1994 that Notre Dame has seen two players taken in the first round.

— With wide receiver quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s selection by the Miami Dolphins at No. 8 overall, Texas A&M had players taken in the first round in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the program’s history ( Von Miller, No. 2 overall pick to the Denver Broncos in 2011).  The last time an Aggies QB was selected as high as Tannehill?  1941 with Mario Pugh, which oddly enough was the same sound made by most NFL fans in general and many Dolphins fans specifically upon hearing of the reach selection.

— Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (No. 10, Buffalo Bills) and defensive end Melvin Ingram (No. 18, Sand Diego Chargers) of South Carolina were selected in the opening round, the first time that’s happened for the Gamecocks since 1981.  They join the tandem of running back George Rogers (1st pick overall by the New Orleans Saints) and tight end Willie Scott (14th pick overall by the Kansas City Chiefs) as the only set of Carolina teammates to be selected in the first round of the same draft.

— Two Boise State players (defensive end Shea McClellin, No. 19, Chicago Bears; running back Doug Martin, No. 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) were taken in the first round of the 2012 draft; prior to this year, the Broncos had two first-round picks in the program’s history.

— LSU head coach Les Miles, on the Dallas Cowboys trading up to No. 6 for cornerback Morris Claiborne: “I couldn’t be happier for Mo. He’s very deserving of this. He’s a guy that will work long and hard to be the best professional football player that he can be. It also makes me very happy that he went to the Dallas Cowboys. He’s going to look great wearing the star.”

— Saban, who wins the really cool quote of the night: “It is very exciting for these guys. But the first thing I remember is going into these guys’ houses when they were in high school or going to their high school to see them when they were juniors. I’m saying ‘that doesn’t seem like it was that long ago’ but the guy you met then and the man they are now – that is one of the great things about college football. To see these guys develop, grow and mature, personally, academically and athletically really makes you feel proud. And that is one of the things I love about college coaching.”

Finalists announced for a number of individual awards

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The final week of the regular season is upon us. Heck, some teams still have two games to play between now and bowl season. Still, it’s awards season in college football, and the petty matter of actual games won’t get in the way of the pageantry.

Let’s dive right in.

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
David Sills V, West Virginia
James Washington, Oklahoma State

Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Ed Oliver, Houston
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Butkus Award (best linebacker)
Devin Bush, Michigan
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josh Jackson, Iowa

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Mike Geisicki, Penn State

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Dominik Eberle, Utah State
Matt Gay, Utah

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Outland Trophy (best interior player)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Ed Oliver, Houston

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Dickson, Texas
J.K. Scott, Alabama
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State
Courtney Love, Kentucky
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Winners will be announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards show in Atlanta, Thursday, Dec. 7 on ESPN.

Kentucky loses TE C.J. Conrad to foot injury

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Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad has been lost for the season to a lisfranc injury in his left foot, head coach Mark Stoops announced Monday. He will undergo surgery to correct the issue on Tuesday.

Though he caught just 16 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns on the season, Conrad was Kentucky’s leading receiver this season. The junior caught one 17-yard pass in Big Blue’s 41-38 defeat of Louisville last season.

With Conrad, a junior, out, Kentucky will turn to senior Greg Hart and/or sophomore Justin Rigg at tight end, though the Louisville Courier-Journal notes that both have battled injuries of late.

Kentucky will close the season against Louisville in Lexington on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network) and in a to-be-determined bowl game.

Joey Jones steps down as South Alabama head coach

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There’s never a good time to lose a football game 52-0, but even by that scale it’s an especially bad thing to lose 52-0 in a game you had to win to keep your bowl hopes alive to a team so disgusted by its own season that it fired its head coach a month ago.

That’s what South Alabama did on Saturday in dropping a 52-0 decision to Georgia Southern, giving the Eagles their first win of the season.

And on Monday, South Alabama announced head coach Joey Jones will resign following the Jaguars’ Dec. 2 finale at New Mexico State.

“There comes a time in every program where there is a need for change.  For this program that I love so much, that time is now,” Jones said in a statement.  “One of the proudest days of my professional life was being the named the first head coach at South Alabama.  Today is difficult, but it is the right step for me, my family and for this football program.”

Jones is the only head coach South Alabama has ever known, hired Feb. 15, 2008. He led the Jags for three seasons as an FCS Independent before joining the Sun Belt in 2012, taking the club to bowl games in 2014 and 2016.

The loss Saturday dropped the program to 4-7 this season, ending hopes of returning to a bowl game for the first time in the program’s short history.

“Joey Jones is the father of our football program.  He, his wife Elise and his entire family put their arms around the program and committed to its establishment and growth,” said AD Dr. Joel Erdmann.  “He has placed South Alabama Football on strong footing, which is something he and his family can be very proud of and we sincerely appreciate.  His good, hard work and commitment will forever be recognized.”

As Bronco Mendenhall denies interest, Oregon State reportedly interviews two Pac-12 coordinators

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A report broke over the weekend that Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall was a person of interest in the ongoing Oregon State coaching search. An Oregon State graduate with significant experience in the region as BYU’s former head coach, Mendenhall made a lot of sense for the Beavers. Problem is, the Beavers didn’t make a lot of sense for Mendenhall, and on Monday he effectively withdrew his name from the search.

No matter, Oregon State quickly moved on to a group of qualified, logical candidates. According to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune, Oregon State interim head coach Cory Hall, Cal offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin and Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith have interviewed for the post.

Eggers wrote that Hall is running significantly behind the other two, but that Oregon State AD Scott Barnes would work to influence the actual hire to retain Hall.

Baldwin has a decade of experience as a head coach in the Pacific Northwest, one 10-3 season at Central Washington and an 85-32 run with an FCS national championship in nine seasons at Eastern Washington. Baldwin left EWU to become Justin Wilcox‘s offensive coordinator in Berkeley last winter.

Smith doesn’t have Bladwin’s head coaching experience, but he does have more successful experience within the Pac-12 and at Oregon State in particular. Smith has been Chris Petersen‘s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for his entire run at Washington, and spent two years as Boise State’s quarterbacks coach before that.

Smith was also a record-setting quarterback at Oregon State and began his coaching career as a Beavers graduate assistant in 2002-03.