CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 23 North Carolina

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2013 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in ACC (5th in Coastal Division)
2013 postseason: Belk Bowl vs. Cincinnati (39-17 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Larry Fedora (49-29 overall; 15-10 in 2 years at UNC)
Co-Offensive coordinators: Gunter Brewer (3rd season at UNC); Chris Kapilovic (3rd season at UNC)
2013 offensive rankings: 85th rushing offense (148.31 ypg); 28th passing offense (277.4ypg); 49th total offense (425.7 ypg); 43rd scoring offense (32.7 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 9
Defensive coordinator: Dan Disch (3rd season at UNC)
2013 defensive rankings: 83rd rushing defense (182.38 ypg); 50th passing defense (220.7 ypg); 64th total defense (403.1 ypg); 43rd scoring defense (24.5 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Stadium: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000; natural grass)
Last conference title: 1980

THE GOOD
If you believe in ending one year on a high note having any impact on the following season, then consider UNC the team to beat in the ACC Coastal Division. The Tar Heels ended the 2013 season by winning five of their final six regular season games to become eligible for postseason play and then ran away from Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. Few teams ended the year on a hotter streak than the Tar Heels, so the pressure will be on to not have to dig out of a hole in the early going this season. Fortunately, despite losing some key players on offense like tight end Eric Ebron, Fedora’s offense should be ready to get off to a quick start this season. Now in year three under Fedora, the offense and defense both seem to be progressing and are expected to continue that development this fall. The defense returns seven starters, which should help that cause early on.

THE BAD
North Carolina tends to play some undisciplined football, and that can come back to haunt a team at any given time. The Tar Heels were called for a penalty more than any other team in the ACC (96 penalties), besides Syracuse (99 penalties). No other school in the ACC had more than 81 penalties last season. Those penalties add up as well. The average penalty yardage per game against UNC was 63.9 ypg, the most in the ACC (831 yards in total). That is more yards than two teams rushed for all of last season (Purdue and Washington State). UNC has to kick this habit. The Tar Heels have been ranked 9th or lower in the ACC in penalty yardage each season since 2009.

THE UNKNOWN
North Carolina can be a pretty good team if everything is working in sync right from the start. That has been a problem for Fedora’s Tar Heels since he arrived in Chapel Hill. North Carolina can be a streaky team it seems, but in a division that could be wide open for the taking, a slow start or a lull somewhere in the middle of the year is not going to have a good result. When UNC is firing on all of Fedora’s Red Bull-fueled cylinders, they can be the class of the ACC Coastal. The schedule throws some challenges with road games at Clemson, Miami and Duke, but if UNC is at the top of its game then all three are games capable of being won. Does this team have the mentality to take charge as the top team in the Coastal? That remains to be seen.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Miami
There are a few games worth noting for North Carolina this season (at Clemson on September 27 and home against Virginia Tech on October 4 perhaps being equally as worthy), but the road game at Miami could be the game that swings the entire race in the ACC Coastal in favor of the Tar Heels. In what could easily be a wide-open division race with as many as four or five teams in the hunt into November, division games will be critical. Heading into a bye week with a win and some momentum could be huge for UNC as they finish up at home against Pittsburgh and NC State with a road game at Duke in-between.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Marquise Williams
There has been much to say about a quarterback competition in Chapel Hill heading into the 2014 season, but Williams may be the best option to go with after the way he helped spark the second half success last fall. Last fall Williams completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He also ended the season as UNC’s leading rusher with 536 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. He gives opposing defenses something to think about when he is on the field, and he may give Fedora more wrinkles in the playbook.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Nearly three-fourths of 2017 first-round NFL draft picks were 4- or 5-star recruits

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For those who completely dismiss recruiting rankings, the NFL draft showed again last night that they do mean something.

The 2017 version of the annual player selection meeting kicked off Thursday night in Philadelphia, with a total of 32 players selected in the opening round.  Of those 32, nearly 75 percent — 22 to be exact — were either four- or five-star recruits.  Nine were the latter, 13 the former.

Four of the first six selections, and three of the first four, were five-star recruits.  Myles Garrett of Texas A&M, the No. 1 overall pick, was the No. 2 player in the 2014 recruiting class; LSU’s Leonard Fournette, drafted fourth by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was the top recruit in that same class.

Just two of the 32 selections came from non-Power Five conferences, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Temple’s Haason Reddick.  Davis was one of two two-star recruits, Missouri’s Charles Harris being the other, while Reddick began his career with the Owls as a walk-on.

There were also six three-star recruits drafted, the highest being Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 overall.  He was also the second quarterback taken, behind only Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina (four-star).

Add all of those up, and you get 31 of the players selected last night.  The 32nd?  Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk, who had an interesting, to say the least, route to major college football.  From Ramczyk’s NFL.com draft profile:

Ramczyk (pronounced RAM-check) is a rare case of a Division III student-athlete making the jump to major college football. Even though he was an all-state pick from Wisconsin, he chose to turn down offers from FBS and FCS schools (one from Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, who was at Pitt at the time) to attend a local technical college. After a year off, he decided to play at his hometown school, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Ramczyk was a two-time all-conference pick there at left tackle before deciding to transfer to play for Chryst at Wisconsin.

Appropriately, Ramczyk was the last player selected in the first round, taken at No. 32 by the New Orleans Saints.

1.) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, 2014 5-star (Cleveland Browns)
2.) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina, 2013 4-star (Chicago Bears)
3.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford, 2014 5-star (San Francisco 49ers)
4.) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, 2014 5-star (Jacksonville Jaguars)
5.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan, 2013 2-star (Tennessee Titans)
6.) Jamal Adams, DB, LSU, 2014 5-star (New York Jets)
7.) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, 2013 4-star (Los Angeles Chargers)
8.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford, 2014 4-star (Carolina Panthers)
9.) John Ross, WR, Washington, 2013 4-star (Cincinnati Bengals)
10.) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech, 2013 3-star (Kansas City Chiefs)
11.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State, 2014 4-star (New Orleans Saints)
12.) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, 2014 4-star (Houston Texans)
13.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple, walk-on (Arizona Cardinals)
14.) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, 2014 4-star (Philadelphia Eagles)
15.) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State, 2014 4-star (Indianapolis Colts)
16.) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama, 2015 4-star (Baltimore Ravens)
17.) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama, 2013 5-star (Washington Redskins)
18.) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC, 2014 5-star (Tennessee Titans)
19.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama, 2013 5-star (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
20.) Garett Bolles, OL, Utah, 2016 4-star (Denver Broncos)
21.) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida, 2013 3-star (Detroit Lions)
22.) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri, 2013 2-star (Miami Dolphins)
23.) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss, 2013 3-star (New York Giants)
24.) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State, 2013 4-star (Oakland Raiders)
25.) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan, 2014 5-star (Cleveland Browns)
26.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA, 2013 3-star (Atlanta Falcons)
27.) Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU, 2013 4-star (Buffalo Bills)
28.) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan, 2013 4-star (Dallas Cowboys)
29.) David Njoku, TE, Miami, 2014 3-star (Cleveland Browns)
30.) T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin, 2013 3-star (Pittsburgh Steelers)
31.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama, 2013 5-star (San Francisco 49ers)
32.) Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin, no rating (New Orleans Saints)

SEC remains atop NFL draft’s first-round perch

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The ACC may have knocked the SEC off its postseason perch this past season, but the latter conference remains the go-to first-round conference for the NFL.

With the first round of the draft officially in the books, the SEC easily led all leagues in selections with a record-tying 12.  The only conferences even remotely within shouting distance of the SEC were the Big Ten (seven) and the Pac-12 (six).  The ACC finished the first day with four players picked.

And what of the remaining Power Five conference not previously mentioned?  The Big 12 had as many picks, one, as the AAC and MAC.   Wrap your head around that.

Individually, there were six schools with two or more first-round picks, and three of those qualified for the College Football Playoffs last season –Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.  The others were LSU, Michigan and Wisconsin.

‘Bama had four players drafted, tying the program’s record for the first round.  LSU and Ohio State had three each, with two of the former’s coming in the first six picks.

Below are a handful of draft nuggets related to college football programs, followed by the complete first-round order of selections for those whom suddenly found themselves under a rock Thursday night.

  • Myles Garrett is the first-ever No. 1 overall pick Texas A&M has produced.  Luke Joeckel, picked No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft, had previously held the record for highest-drafted Aggie.
  • Clemson’s Mike Williams and Deshaun Watson are the first wide receiver-quarterback combination from the same school to be selected within the first 12 picks since the common draft began in 1967.
  • New #DBU? The three Ohio State defensive backs selected in the first round tied the record for that positional group set by Miami in 2002.  The four defensive backs in general and three cornerbacks specifically selected the past two years sets a draft record as well.
  • Stanford had two players, Solomon Thomas (No. 3) and Christian McCaffrey (No. 8), drafted in the Top 10 for the first time since Bob Whitfield and Tommy Vardell in 1992.  Thomas and McCaffrey became the 24th and 25th first-round picks in the program’s history, with six of those coming in the six seasons under head coach David Shaw. Five of those picks under Shaw came on the offensive side of the ball.
  • Michigan’s two first-round picks this year were as many as the football program had in the last 10 years combined.
  • Derek Barnett was Tennessee’s first draft pick in any round, let alone the first, since 2014.
  • The Miami Hurricanes have had a player chosen in every draft the last 43 years, dating back to 1972.
  • Wide receiver Corey Davis, selected fifth overall by the Tennessee Titans, is the second first-round selection from Western Michigan in the program’s history, joining 27th-overall pick Jason Babin in 2004.  He’s also the 17th player from the MAC to be drafted in the first round.
  • For the first time since 2009, a player who played his high school football in the state of Florida was not selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

1.) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (Cleveland Browns)
2.) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (Chicago Bears)
3.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford (San Francisco 49ers)
4.) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (Jacksonville Jaguars)
5.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (Tennessee Titans)
6.) Jamal Adams, DB, LSU (New York Jets)
7.) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (Los Angeles Chargers)
8.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (Carolina Panthers)
9.) John Ross, WR, Washington (Cincinnati Bengals)
10.) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech (Kansas City Chiefs)
11.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State (New Orleans Saints)
12.) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (Houston Texans)
13.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple (Arizona Cardinals)
14.) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee (Philadelphia Eagles)
15.) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State (Indianapolis Colts)
16.) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (Baltimore Ravens)
17.) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama (Washington Redskins)
18.) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC (Tennessee Titans)
19.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
20.) Garett Boles, OL, Utah (Denver Broncos)
21.) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida (Detroit Lions)
22.) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri (Miami Dolphins)
23.) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss (New York Giants)
24.) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State (Oakland Raiders)
25.) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan (Cleveland Browns)
26.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA (Atlanta Falcons)
27.) Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU (Buffalo Bills)
28.) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan (Dallas Cowboys)
29.) David Njoku, TE, Miami (Cleveland Browns)
30.) T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin (Pittsburgh Steelers)
31.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama (San Francisco 49ers)
32.) Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin (New Orleans Saints)

Michigan, UCLA to do combined football camp this summer

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A pair of teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 have decided to combine forces for a little camping action this summer.

During an interview Thursday, UCLA head coach Jim Mora revealed that his coaching staff as well as Michigan’s will work a football camp together in a couple of months. The camp will take place in June on the UCLA campus.

Mora’s counterpart at U-M, in case you were wondering, is expected to take part as well.

“We’re going to have a camp,” Mora told the Rich Eisen Show by way of mlive.com. “Michigan is going to send some of their coaches out, (Jim) Harbaugh is coming out – we’re going to do a combined camp with Michigan. It’s going to be fun.”

Interestingly, there is a very recent coaching connection between the two programs to add to the summer marriage.

The past two seasons, Jedd Fisch had served as the quarterbacks coach/wide receivers coach/passing-game coordinator for the Wolverines. In early January, it was announced that Fisch would be the Bruins’ new offensive coordinator. He’ll also serve as quarterbacks coach.

Football meets futbol as Texas A&M’s Kyle Field trying to host Manchester Derby friendly

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Football could turn into futbol at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field this summer.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the venue is on the short list to host English Premier League giants Manchester United and Manchester City for a stateside derby on July 20th this summer.

“We firmly believe Texas A&M is a world-class university, so you’re bringing world-class Premier League soccer teams to the campus,” Aggies senior associate athletic director Kevin Hurley told the paper.

For college football fans not aware, the two teams are some of the biggest soccer clubs in the world and annually stage a Manchester derby (think home-and-home series) several times a year for supremacy in the large, industrial English city. The upcoming game between the two in the United States is set to be part of the International Champions Cup, which has hosted several other major clubs from across Europe in matches at college football stadiums ranging from the Big House at Michigan to Oregon’s Autzen Stadium.

Perhaps most interestingly, the DMN notes that Texas’ Memorial Stadium was originally in the running to host the game but organizers had to look elsewhere because of scheduling issues. The Longhorns and Aggies used to have one of the best rivalries in all of college athletics so it just makes sense for the two to have a bit and a back-and-forth when it comes to hosting a rivalry of a different kind.

Houston’s NRG Stadium (home of the Texans) is also reportedly in the mix but playing a soccer game at one of college football’s loudest venues seems like the no-brainer choice on novelty alone. It would be worth going to alone to see A&M fans explain ‘Gig’em’ and the ’12 Man’ to those from across the pond.