Giovani Bernard

CFT Predicts: the ACC

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As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the ACC.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig Ten, Pac-12

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat LSU in Chick-fil-A Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Tigers shook their ‘Clemsoning’ curse and previous Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia by going 11-2 and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

So why are they ranked here?
Offense, offense, offense. And some offense sprinkled in. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is a legitimate Heisman candidate and he’ll have Sammy Watkins to throw to for a third straight year. Watkins had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012 — at least by his standards — because of a variety of issues, from a suspension to injuries, but he still finished second on the team in receiving yards. His touchdown production should rise again after getting in the end zone just four times.

Anything else?
The defense improved under first-year coordinator Brent Venables. With as good as the Tigers offense projects to be, there’s more wiggle room on that side of the ball. Also, can Clemson finally beat South Carolina after dropping four straight games?

2. Florida State (Last year: 12-2; beat NIU in Orange Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The ‘Noles won the ACC and beat NIU in the Orange Bowl. They also pulled their annual head-scratcher by losing to North Carolina State. The circle never ends, it seems.

So why are they ranked here?
Talent isn’t a question Tallahassee, but there are a lot of new faces. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston has a ton of upside at the quarterback spot, it just remains to be seen at this point how he handles his first year as starter. Wide receiver depth is becoming an issue too. The defensive line loses two pass rushers in Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner, but that’s an area stacked — almost unfairly — with capable players.

Anything else?
Florida State had a whopping 11 NFL draft picks in April, but Jimbo Fisher also had to replace roughly half his coaching staff. That’s a lot of turnover and it’ll be interesting to see how players and coaches jell this year.

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K-State WR, return ace arrested for failure to appear

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One of these days, people in general and college football players will learn that, if you are scheduled to appear in court, you might want to consider showing up.

The latest to learn this lesson the hard way is Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson, who was arrested Wednesday for, yes, failure to appear.  He was subsequently released on a $119 bond.

The original charge on which he was to appear but didn’t?  Driving on expired tags, which means the wide receiver took a minor traffic offense and turned it into a much costlier affair.

As a redshirt junior last season, Thompson finished third on the team in receptions (37) and receiving yards (526), and tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns with four.  He also topped the team in kick return average (33.4) and punt return average (19.75), returning one punt for a touchdown.

His punt return average was tops in the country in 2012, over three yards per return ahead of No. 2 Giovani Bernard of North Carolina.

(Tip O’ the Cap: ArrestNation.com)

Record number of underclassmen enter NFL draft

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We’ve been keeping track of underclassmen who have declared for this year’s NFL draft. This morning, the NFL released its list of 73 underclassmen who have been granted “special eligibility” for the draft by being at least three years removed from high school before declaring.

That number is a new record, breaking the one held in 2012 with 65 underclassmen declaring. In 2011, 56 players left early and 53 took off in 2010. In fact, the 73 who declared this year is 30 more than in 2004.

Of the 73 players, 33 come from SEC schools, or began their careers at SEC schools. That’s far and away the most of any conference. LSU has 11 underclassmen with ties to the program represented.

You can view the NFL’s release HEREbut here’s the alphabetized list.

Keenan Allen WR, California
David Amerson DB, North Carolina State
Alvin Bailey G, Arkansas
Stedman Bailey WR, West Virginia
David Bakhtiari T, Colorado
Dwayne Beckford LB, Purdue
Le’Veon Bell RB, Michigan State
Giovani Bernard RB, North Carolina
Tyler Bray QB,Tennessee
Terrence Brown DB, Stanford
Duron Carter WR, Ohio State
Knile Davis RB, Arkansas
Mike Edwards DB, Hawaii
Matt Elam DB, Florida
Zach Ertz TE, Stanford
Gavin Escobar TE, San Diego State
Chris Faulk T, Louisiana State
Sharrif Floyd DT, Florida
Michael Ford RB, Louisiana State
Travis Frederick C, Wisconsin
Kwame Geathers NT, Georgia
William Gholston DE, Michigan State
Johnathan Hankins DT, Ohio State
Jajuan Harley DB, Middle Tennessee
DeAndre HopkinsWR, Clemson
Justin Hunter WR, Tennessee
Jawan Jamison RB, Rutgers
Stefphon Jefferson RB, Nevada
Tony Jefferson DB, Oklahoma
Jelani Jenkins LB, Florida
Luke Joeckel T, Texas A&M
Jarvis Jones LB, Georgia
Jose Jose DT, Central Florida
Joe Kruger DE, Utah
Eddie Lacy RB, Alabama
Marcus Lattimore RB, South Carolina
Corey Lemonier DE, Auburn
Bennie Logan DT, Louisiana State
Stansly Maponga DE, Texas Christian
Tyrann Mathieu DB, Louisiana State
Dee Milliner DB, Alabama
Barkevious Mingo DE, Louisiana State
Kevin Minter LB, Louisiana State
Sam Montgomery DE, Louisiana State
Brandon Moore DT, Texas
Damontre Moore DE, Texas A&M
Alec Ogletree LB, Georgia
Cordarrelle Patterson WR, Tennessee
Bradley Randle RB, Nevada-Las Vegas
Joseph Randle RB, Oklahoma State
Jordan Reed TE, Florida
Eric Reid DB, Louisiana State
Greg Reid DB, Florida State
Xavier Rhodes DB, Florida State
Sheldon Richardson DT, Missouri
Nickell Robey DB, Southern California
Logan Ryan DB, Rutgers
Ace Sanders WR, South Carolina
Darrington Sentimore DT, Tennessee
Tharold Simon DB, Louisiana State
Dion Sims TE, Michigan State
Akeem Spence DT, Illinois
Kenny Stills WR, Oklahoma
Levine Toilolo TE, Stanford
Spencer Ware RB, Louisiana State
Menelik Watson T, Florida State
Bjoern Werner DE, Florida State
Steve Williams DB, California
Marquess Wilson WR, Washington State
Brad Wing P, Louisiana State
Cierre Wood RB, Notre Dame
Robert Woods WR, Southern California
Tom Wort LB, Oklahoma

Nation’s second-leading rusher leaving Nevada for NFL

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Two days after their long-time head coach stepped down, Nevada has lost its most productive offensive cog as well.

In a tweet posted a couple of days ago to the Twitter account of Kelli Masters Management, it was announced that running back Stefphon Jefferson has signed with KMMSports and will be a part of the 2013 NFL draft.  Jefferson is a redshirt junior and had one year of eligibility remaining.

In a statement, Jefferson confirmed his decision to become the fourth draft-eligible back to leave early for the NFL, joining North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, Arkansas’ Knile Davis and South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore.

“I have decided to take my career to the next level and forgo my senior year to enter the NFL Draft,” Jefferson’s statement read. “I do want to thank Nevada and all the staff and coaches for everything. I could not have done it without the opportunities Nevada provided to me to be successful. I will always bleed silver and blue. I know that God has plans greater than football.”

This season, Jefferson rushed for 1,883 yards and 24 touchdowns.  The latter total is tops in the nation, while the former is second behind Arizona RB Ka’Deem Casey‘s 1,929.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Dave Miller)

Tar Heels lose Giovani Bernard to the NFL

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Dozens of eligible underclassmen have or will announce in the coming weeks that they are leaving early for the NFL, with each carrying various degrees of impact on their respective team’s prospects for the 2013 season.

This one will likely have as big of an impact as any other.

Largely overlooked and undervalued outside of Chapel Hill specifically and the ACC in general over the past two seasons, Giovani Bernard announced that he has decided to leave North Carolina and enter the 2013 NFL draft.  The running back, who likely would’ve been included in the preseason Heisman mix, is foregoing his final two years of eligibility to make the leap.

A press conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. ET today for Bernard to discuss the decision.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my three years in Chapel Hill and coming to UNC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Bernard in a statement released ahead of the press conference.  “I feel like the best decision for my future is to enter the NFL draft this year.  I want to thank Coach Fedora, this coaching staff and the previous coaching staff for putting me in a position to succeed.  I am on track to graduate and I plan on coming back to earn my degree in the Spring of 2014.”

A torn ACL suffered during summer camp cost Bernard all of his true freshman season in 2010, but the redshirt sophomore came back to earn All-ACC first-team honors the past two seasons.  He led the conference in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yardage in 2012, and led the nation in punt returns average (16.4 yards per).

He accomplished all of that this season despite missing two games with a left knee issue.

“Gio is a special player and an even better person,” said UNC head coach Larry Fedora.  “He flourished in our offense and was an outstanding leader for our program.  After the season was over, we helped him gather as much information as possible so he and his family could make the best decision for his future.  We support his decision and wish him nothing but success as he takes the next step in his football career.  He is a tremendous ambassador for this program.”

Depending on which direction other players at his position take before the mid-January deadline, the 5-10, 205-pound Bernard could be the first running back selected in the upcoming draft.