ACC lands 35 players in 2011 NFL Draft

The Atlantic Coast Conference had a total of 35 of its players chosen in the 2011 National Football League Draft, held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The ACC finished second only to the SEC (38) among collegiate conferences in numbers of players chosen. The Pac-12 Conference had 31, followed by the Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences with 29 selections each. The Big East (22) and Western Athletic Conferences (15) were next followed by the Mountain West (9).

The ACC became only the second conference to have had 30 or more players chosen in each of the past seven years of the NFL Draft, a feat only matched by the SEC. During that time, the ACC has had 250 players drafted into the NFL. Only the SEC (273) has had more.

The ACC was particularly strong in the first two rounds of this year’s Draft. Of the first 60 players chosen, 15 came from the ACC, 10 from the SEC; nine each from the Big Ten and Big 12 and eight from the Pac-10.

On Saturday night, the conference tied its all-time high with 12 players taken in the second round of the Draft. The league previously had a dozen players selected in the first-round of the 2006 Draft, which is still an NFL record for first-round selections.

North Carolina and Southern California, which each had nine players chosen, led all schools nationally in numbers of players drafted. The nine players selected were the most in a single Draft for the Tar Heels, and the most for an ACC team since Miami and Virginia Tech each had nine players selected in 2006. UNC’s previous high of seven drafted players occurred three times (1949, 1959, 1998).

The ACC had three schools ranked among the nation’s top ten in players drafted. Miami was third among all schools with eight players chosen, the most for the Hurricanes since 2006. Nebraska was fourth with seven. Clemson, LSU, Iowa, and Georgia were tied for fifth place with six selections each.

In addition to North Carolina, Miami and Clemson, seven other ACC teams had players chosen in the Draft including Florida State and Virginia Tech with three selections each, followed by Maryland (2) and Boston College, Georgia Tech, NC State and Virginia with one apiece.

Five of Clemson’s six drafted players were on the defensive side, a single-season high for the Tigers. Clemson was the only team in the nation to have three defensive players chosen among the top 51 players in the Draft with defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins (41st), defensive back Marcus Gilchrist (50th) and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (51st) all selected on the second round of the Draft .

North Carolina also had five defensive players chosen led by Robert Quinn, who was taken 14th overall in the first round, but also including LB Bruce Carter (2nd, 40th), DT Marvin Austin (2nd, 52nd), DB Da’Norris Searcy (4th, 100) and LB Quan Sturdivant (6th, 171st). Four Tar Heels were also chosen on offense including WR Greg Little (2nd, 59th), RB Johnny White (5th, 133rd), QB T.J. Yates (5th, 152nd) and TE Ryan Taylor (7th, 218th).

Miami had four players chosen from its defense in CB Brandon Harris (2nd round, 60th), CB DeMarcus Van Dyke (3rd, 81st), DE Allen Bailey (3rd, 86th) and LB Colin McCarthy (4th, 109th). The Hurricanes also two players on offensein T Orlando Franklin (2nd, 46th) and WR Leonard Hankerson (3rd, 79th); as well as P/PK Matt Bosher (6th, 192). Bosher was one of only two kickers chosen (Alex Henery of Nebraska was the other) in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The Hurricanes have now had a player chosen in every NFL Draft since 1974, a span of 37 straight years. Virginia and Florida State have each had a player chosen in the draft in each of the past 28 years, or every year since 1983.

Florida State’s Christian Ponder, the first of three Seminoles taken in the Draft, became the first Atlantic Coast Conference player taken in the 2011 National Football League Draft being selected 12th overall by the Minnesota Vikings. It marked the second straight year the Seminoles had a player chosen in the first round of the Draft. Last year, FSU CB Patrick Robinson was a first-round selection. It also continued a streak by the Seminoles of having a player chosen in the first three rounds of the Draft in each of the past 24 years, or every year since 1988.

Ponder becomes the first ACC quarterback chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft since Boston College’s Matt Ryan was the fourth player taken overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Ponder also became the first Florida State quarterback drafted in the first round.

Despite being hampered by injuries in his final two seasons at FSU, Ponder who graduated after his senior season and earned an MBA Degree at FSU, bolstered his draft status by being named the MVP of the Senior Bowl as well as with a strong showing at the NFL combine. A native of Coffeyville, Texas, Ponder was honored this past year as winner of the ACC’s Jim Tatum Award which is annually presented to the league’s top football scholar-athlete.

Ponder was one of three ACC players taken in the first round on Thursday. North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn, an early entry into the NFL Draft, was taken two slots after Ponder, or 14th overall by the St. Louis Rams. Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo was the 22nd player taken on the first round by the Indianapolis Colts.

Quinn, from Ladson, S.C., did not play in the 2010 season, but enjoyed a strong sophomore campaign in 2009 finishing second in the ACC in quarterback sacks and leading the conference in tackles for loss and earning first-team All-ACC honors. Quinn also was honored by the ACC after his freshman season as winner of the league’s Brian Piccolo Award, which annually is presented to the league’s most courageous player. Quinn overcame surgery for a brain tumor in high school to start for the Tar Heels as a redshirt freshman in 2008.

Castonzo, from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., is a three-time member of the All-ACC Academic Football Team. He started an eye-catching 54 games in his career at offensive tackle with the Eagles and earned second-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Foundation this year. He is a two-time first-team All-ACC honoree at offensive tackle and was honored by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame as one of its 2010 National Scholar-Athletes.

In addition to Ponder, Florida State also had G Rodney Hudson (2nd, 55th choice), the ACC’s 2009 and 2010 Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner, and DE Markus White (7th round, 224th), chosen.

Virginia Tech saw RB Ryan Williams (2nd round, 38th), CB Rashad Carmichael (4th round, 127th) and QB Tyrod Taylor (8th, 180th), the ACC’s 2010 Player of the Year, drafted.

Maryland had WR Torrey Smith (2nd, 58th) and RB Da’Rel Scott (7th, 221st) drafted. The Terrapins hold the ACC record for most players taken in a single NFL Draft, having had 11 players chosen in 1975.

Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling (2nd, 33rd choice) was the first player chosen on second round while NC State LB Nate Irving (3rd, 67th), a first-team All-ACC honoree and co-winner of the Conference’s 2010 Brian Piccolo Award, was selected on the third round.

Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen (7th round, 225), the final ACC player chosen, extended Tech’s streak of having a player drafted to six consecutive years. He is the third Yellow Jacket running back drafted since 2008.

A total of 19 different NFL teams drafted ACC players with the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans both taking three players each. The Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins had two selections.

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