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.”

About-face: Derrius Guice will play vs. Syracuse after all

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Never mind, I guess.

Wednesday night, Ed Orgeron flatly stated on his radio show that Derrius Guicewill not play this week” against Syracuse because of a left knee injury sustained in Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi State. Thursday, there was a complete 180-degree reversal.

“We got some good news today, at the beginning of the week, Derrius was ruled out, up to yesterday he wouldn’t be able to play,” Orgeron said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “He came to us today and said ‘Coach, I’m feeling better, I want to practice.’ He practiced pretty good today so he’s going to get some snaps. He will play.”

OK then.

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns. His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Pitt FB/TD machine George Aston set to return vs. Georgia Tech

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One of the most efficient touchdown producers in college football in 2016 that you were probably completely unaware of appears ready to make his 2017 debut.

A vague lower-extremity injury knocked George Aston out of most of not only summer camp but also Pittsburgh’s first three regular-season games as well. With Georgia Tech on the horizon in Week 4, the fullback is listed as probable on the team’s official injury report released Thursday.

For a team that has scored just four offensive touchdowns in two games against FBS competition, Aston’s potential return could serve as somewhat of a boon for that side of the ball.

Last season, Aston totaled 75 yards on 22 carries as well as 169 yards on 22 receptions. In those 44 touches, Aston totaled 10 touchdowns — five on the ground, five through the air.

Saturday’s game will serve as the ACC opener for both Pitt and Tech.

NCAA approves waiver to allow UCF to schedule Austin Peay as hurricane replacement game

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Hurricane Irma forced a lot of shuffling and cancellations on the college football schedule but perhaps no team was more uniquely affected than Central Florida.

The Knights had two home games cancelled as a result of the storm, last weekend against Georgia Tech and a contest against Maine that was bought out as a way for the team to play their full AAC conference slate. Dropping the games left UCF with only 10 games for the 2017 season and a not ideal five home games as a result.

That has been cleared up somewhat however, as the school announced on Thursday that the NCAA has approved a waiver and that Austin Peay is now scheduled to go to Orlando for a Oct. 28th contest.

“I can’t thank Oliver Luck and the staff at the NCAA enough for their help and understanding of our situation,” UCF athletic director Danny White said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate Austin Peay being willing to visit Spectrum Stadium. We’re thrilled for our student-athletes, who deserve every opportunity they can get to go out and compete. I know our fans will be excited about the opportunity to have another Saturday at Spectrum Stadium.”

The Knights are currently 1-0 heading into their trip to play Maryland on Saturday. With the addition of an 11th game to their 2017 slate, UCF needs to go at least 6-5 in order to become bowl eligible as a result.

Clemson kicker Greg Huegel injured during practice, out for the season after ACL tear

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If Clemson is to defend their national title this season, they will do so without the services of their reliable kicker.

The school confirmed various reports on Thursday evening that redshirt junior Greg Huegel was injured during the Tigers’ practice on Wednesday night — on the final kick, no less — and tore his ACL. He will have surgery and will not play again in 2017.

While he didn’t get the press of Deshuan Watson or others, Huegel was a key part of the Clemson run the past few seasons after taking over as the starter in 2015. The former walk-on was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year and had hit two of his four field goals to start off this season, one of which was a career-long 49 yard kick just last week.

Backup kicker Alex Spence is likely to take over for the Tigers in Huegel’s absence. The redshirt junior has never attempted a field goal in a game but has kicked off and made an extra point for Clemson this season.

Reserve tight end Cole Renfrow, the younger brother of title game star Hunter Renfrow, also tore his ACL in practice and is out the rest of the season as well.

Given the thin margins that College Football Playoff teams have nowadays, the loss of Huegel figures to be a big one for Dabo Swinney and company going forward. Clemson hosts Boston College this week but will face a stiff test on the road at Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch to end the month.