Fourteen From ACC Headed to Mobile

Jan. 16, 2012

Mobile, AL —Fourteen players from seven different schools will represent the Atlantic Coast Conference in the 2012 Senior Bowl. The list of senior prospects from the ACC includes 11 All-Conference selections and one All-American. All 14 players have not been previously announced. The 2012 Senior Bowl is set for 3pm (CT) on Saturday, January 28th in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game and all practices will be televised by NFL Network.

“This is an extremely talented group from the ACC and we’re really looking forward to every one of them showcasing their skills in front of the National Football League later this month at the Senior Bowl,” Senior Bowl President and CEO Steve Hale said. “Last year alone we had a couple of first round draft choices from the ACC on our roster in Christian Ponder and Anthony Castonzo, and we’re hoping to have the same—if not more—this year.”

North Carolina will have the most representatives in the senior showcase event with four Tar Heels slated to play in Mobile. Defensive end Quinton Coples, defensive tackle Tydreke Powell, linebacker Zach Brown and wide receiver Dwight Jones have all accepted invites to the 2012 game.

The Tar Heels are followed closely by Clemson’s three participants (DL Brandon Thompson, DL Andre Branch, FB Chad Diehl), two apiece from Florida State (OL Zebrie Sanders, LB Nigel Bradham) and NC State (LB Audie Cole, WR T.J. Graham) and one each from Boston College (DB Donnie Fletcher), Miami (LB Sean Spence) and Virginia (DL Cam Johnson).

Coples was a first-team All-ACC selection this season after leading the Tar Heels in both tackles for loss (15.5) and sacks (7.5). He posted 55 total tackles on the year—good enough for fourth-best on the team. He ranks fourth in the country among active players with 24 career sacks and leaves Chapel Hill with 144 total tackles, five forced fumbles, 22 quarterback hurries and four pass breakups.

Powell was an Honorable Mention All-ACC honoree in 2011 after starting all 13 games at defensive tackle for the Tar Heels. He recorded 46 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and a forced fumble. The Ahoskie, N.C., native tallied 135 total tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in 27 career starts.

Brown earned first-team All-ACC honors and was a Butkus Award semifinalist this season after leading the Tar Heels with 105 tackles. He also posted 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and four pass breakups. Brown closed out his career with a season-high 14 tackles in North Carolina’s bowl game against Missouri—his fifth double-digit tackle game of the year. He totaled 230 career tackles, including 19 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, seven interceptions, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

Jones was a second-team All-ACC pick in 2011 after leading the league with 85 receptions and 12 receiving touchdowns. He also totaled 1,196 receiving yards and averaged 92 yards per game. His 85 receptions were the fifth-most in ACC history for a single-season. Jones posted five 100-yard receiving games this season and nine for his career. He finished his career with 2,163 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

Thompson was a second-team All-ACC selection after posting 77 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a team-tying-high 18 quarterback pressures. He had a season-high nine stops against Georgia Tech this year and finished fourth on the team in tackles. The Thomasville, Ga., native notched 208 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 47 quarterback hurries, nine pass breakups two caused fumbles and three recovered fumbles in 38 career starts.

Branch was a first-team All-ACC pick and earned All-America honors (Walter Camp-2nd team, AP-3rd team) in 2011 after leading the Tigers in tackles for loss (17) and sacks (10.5)—marks that ranked third and first in the conference, respectively. The defensive end was second on the team in tackles (85) and also recorded 17 quarterback hurries. He is tied for fourth in school history with 17.5 career sacks and made at least one tackle in 41 straight games. Branch leaves Clemson with 197 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss 40 quarterback hurries and 11 pass breakups in 27 career starts.

Diehl helped open holes for Clemson running back Andre Ellington to gain 1,178 yards this season. He also played a key role in a Clemson offense that ranked second in the ACC in total offense, averaging 440.8 yards per game. Primarily used as a blocker out of the backfield, Diehl did gain eight yards on six carries and added another 39 yards on seven catches in 19 career starts. He played in a school-record 57 games for the Tigers.

Sanders was a first-team All-ACC selection for the Seminoles this season after posting a team-high 28 knockdown blocks while playing both right and left tackle. He was part of a Florida State offense that ranked third in the ACC in passing offense this season, averaging 257 yards a game. The four-year starter finished his career with 36 consecutive starts and is tied for the second-most starts in school history with 50. He led all FSU linemen with 139 career knockdown blocks.

Bradham led the Seminoles in tackles each of the last three seasons. The Honorable Mention All-ACC selection in 2011 posted 86 total tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He also recorded two interceptions this season, one of which set up FSU’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter in their bowl victory over Notre Dame. The three-year starter leaves Tallahassee with 306 career tackles, including 21.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. He had three interceptions and made 39 career starts.

Cole was an Honorable Mention All-ACC selection for the Wolfpack this season after posting a team-high 132 total tackles. He also notched 14 tackles for loss, six sacks, eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. He had seven double-digit tackle games, including a career-high 16 stops against both Cincinnati and Georgia Tech. He leaves NC State tied for 12th in school history with 328 tackles and is 13th on the school’s all-time list with 32.5 tackles for loss and tenth with 15 sacks.

Graham recorded four 100-yard receiving yard games this season and finished the year with 46 catches for 757 yards and seven touchdowns. His best outing of the year came against Cincinnati when he reeled in seven passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. The first-team All-ACC selection as a specialist also totaled 1,181 return yards and scored one touchdown.

The Raleigh, N.C., native finished his career with 99 receptions for 1,453 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. He’s the school’s all-time leader in kickoff returns (137) and kickoff return yardage (3,153).

Fletcher posted 35 total tackles in 2011 to go along with four pass breakups and one interception. He enjoyed his best game of the year against Notre Dame, totaling six stops and two pass breakups versus the Fighting Irish. As a junior, Fletcher finished tied for 11th nationally with five interceptions. He leaves Boston College with 181 total tackles, including four tackles for loss, ten pass breakups and ten interceptions.

Spence was a first team All-ACC selection in 2011 and Butkus Award semifinalist after leading the Hurricanes with 106 tackles. He ranked fourth-best in the ACC with an average of 9.64 tackles per game. He also tallied 14 tackles for loss, three sacks and one forced fumble on the year.

For his career, Spence started 43 games, totaling 318 tackles, including 47 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception. His tackle for loss total ranks second among active NCAA players. He posted 13 career double-digit tackle games, including three 14-tackle efforts this season alone.

Johnson led the Cavaliers in sacks (4.0) and was second in tackles for loss (11.0) this season. He notched 30 tackles on the season to go along with one fumble recovery, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. In 34 career starts, Johnson totaled 130 tackles, including 33.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. The three-year starter also tallied three career fumble recoveries, seven career pass breakups and two career quarterback hurries.

ACC Players in the 2012 Senior Bowl

Boston College: Donnie Fletcher, DB

Clemson: Andre Branch, DL; Chad Diehl, FB; Brandon Thompson, DL

Florida State: Nigel Bradham, LB; Zebrie Sanders, OL

Miami: Sean Spence, LB

North Carolina: Zach Brown, LB; Quinton Coples, DL; Dwight Jones, WR; Tydreke

Powell, DL

NC State: Audie Cole, LB; T.J. Graham, WR

Virginia: Cam Johnson, DL

About the Senior Bowl

The Senior Bowl is college football’s premier senior showcase event, annually featuring the nation’s best senior collegiate football stars and top NFL draft prospects on teams coached by NFL coaching staffs. Senior Bowl practices and game week festivities are attended by more than 800 general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and other front office personnel from all 32 National Football League teams, making Mobile and the Senior Bowl the week-long host to a one-of-a-kind NFL Coaches Convention. For more information on the 2012 Senior Bowl please visit the bowl’s website at

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