Heels garner five All-ACC football picks
Unable to go to a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions, North Carolina received some postseason satisfaction Monday.
The Tar Heels picked up five All-ACC first-team selections, one behind the six for league-leading Clemson.
Two of UNC’s slots were filled by all-purpose threat Gio Bernard, who led the league in rushing average (112.8 yards per game), punt return average (16.4 yards), all-purpose average (198.1 per game) and scoring average (11.4 points per game). He was chosen as a running back and as a kick return specialist and also was the closest to a unanimous selection, being named on 45 of 46 ballots.
The other Tar Heels selected included offensive guard Jonathan Cooper (the conference’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner), defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Kevin Reddick (who led the league with 18.5 tackles for loss).
Among the other Big Four schools: Duke had two first-team selections — cornerback Ross Cockrell and punter Will Monday; and N.C. State had one with safety Earl Wolff. Monday was the league leader in punting average at 44.1 yards per kick.
The second team included receiver Michael Campanaro and defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock of Wake Forest; offensive tackle James Hurst, tight end Erik Ebron, defensive tackle Kareem Martin and punter Tommy Hibbard of North Carolina; offensive guard R.J. Mattes and cornerback David Amerson of N.C. State; and wide receiver Conner Vernon and safety Walt Canty of Duke. Casey Barth of North Carolina tied Chandler Catanzaro of Clemson for second-team placekicker.
The six first-team Clemson selections were all on offense — quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, center Dalton Freeman and tight end Brandon Ford,
Boyd finished as the league leader in total offense (336.8 yards per game) and passing efficiency rating (168.5). Hopkins led in yards receiving per game with an average of 101.2
Even though State quarterback Mike Glennon led the league in passing yards (3,648), he was not selected as second-team honors went to Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. The Seminoles had five first team selections — one on offense and four on defense.
Among the FSU selections were defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine (who were 1-2 in sacks), and placekicker Dustin Hopkins (the leader in kick scoring with a 10.8 points per game average, field goals with 24 and point after touchdowns made with 58).
OTHER LEAGUE LEADERS
Campanaro, who missed two games because of injury, still led the league in total receptions with 79 and receptions per game with 7.9. On the other side of the ball, Amerson and Cockrell tied for most interceptions with five each.
Malliciah Goodman of Clemson was tops in fumbles forced with four and Steele Divitto of Boston College was first in fumbles recovered with four.
Nick Clancy, a first team selection from Boston College, continued the tradition of former Eagle linebacker Luke Kuechly and led in tackles with 145.
N.C. State linebacker and High Point Central product Rickey Dowdy tied for 22nd in tackles with 81, tied for fifth in tackles for loss with 13.5 and tied for seventh in fumbles recovered with two.
N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow dreams big.
In her remarks Sunday as she announced the firing of head coach Tom O’Brien because they differed on the path to take in making the Wolfpack a top-25 football program, Yow said she wanted State to be ranked consistently and “not every six years but almost every year.”
She is going to need a coach with the stature of Lou Holtz or, at the very least, Dick Sheridan to pull off that with a program that has been mostly average in an average conference.
To reach her goals, a different culture will be needed in West Raleigh.
Of the 60 seasons State has played in the ACC, it logged a winning record just 33 times. It has won more than nine games in a season just once (the 11-win campaign of 2003), reached the nine-win mark in nine seasons and will get to the eight-win mark for the ninth time if it wins its bowl game. And, don’t forget, the last ACC championship in football came in 1979.
As far as finishing in the top 25, the Wolfpack have done it 10 times in the AP poll and total of 13, counting the coaches poll. As far as doing it on a regular basis, the only time State has done it three straight years was the first three under Holtz (1972-74). The only other consecutive Top 25 finishes came under Bo Rein in 1977 and 1978 and under Sheridan in 1991-1992 — the center of a run that included four Top 25 finishes in six years (the last one under Mike O’Cain).
State’s best final poll finishes were ninth in the coaches poll and 11th in the AP poll under Holtz in 1974, although the celebrated 1967 team set the program’s high-water mark at No. 3 before losing its last two regular season games.
All of that is ancient history. In recent seasons that matter the most, the Pack have posted a losing record in five of the past nine years and have finished in top 25 just once in the past 10 seasons.
It adds up to a new coach climbing a tall mountain, trying to find a pot of gold for Yow with an unproven quarterback, shaky receivers, a decent running game and a pass defense that was torched repeatedly this season.