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A look back at how UNC fared in the NFL draft


North Carolina's Giovani Bernard was the first running back selected in the NFL draft

CHAPEL HILL — For the third time in the past five years, at least five North Carolina players were selected in the NFL draft, which began last Thursday and ended on Saturday. It was another productive draft for the Tar Heels, who have produced four first-round picks during the past three drafts.

Before some thoughts on UNC’s draft class, a recap of when and where the Tar Heels went:

Draft analyst on Glennon, Amerson, Bernard, Renfree

With the NFL’s draft combine getting started this week in Indianapolis, I spoke with draft analyst Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com about the prospects of a few notable local players, including N.C. State’s Mike Glennon and David Amerson, North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard and Duke’s Sean Renfree.

Brugler also mentioned Wolfpack safety Earl Wolff as one of the players who had impressed him the most leading up to the combine.

UNC RB Giovani Bernard to enter NFL Draft

UNC running back Giovani Bernard will enter the NFL Draft. ROBERT WILLETT

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard will forego his final two years of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft, he announced earlier today in a statement.

Bernard led the ACC in rushing, all-purpose yards, punt return average and scoring. After missing two games earlier in the season, he ran for 1,228 yards and averaged 122.8 rushing yards per game. His average of 198.1 all-purpose yards per game ranked fifth nationally.

Bernard produced his share of spectacular plays, but he’s likely to be most remembered for his game-winning 74-yard punt return for a touchdown in the final moments against N.C. State. That play broke a tie and allowed UNC to break a five-game losing streak against the Wolfpack.

Here’s the full statement, courtesy UNC:

UNC WR T.J. Thorpe nears end of his recovery from broken foot

Giovani Bernard became North Carolina's punt returner after T.J. Thorpe suffered a broken foot in the preseason. ROBERT WILLETT

CHAPEL HILL T.J. Thorpe established himself as a dangerous kick returner during the 2011 season, his first at North Carolina. He anticipated greater things entering his sophomore season, and why not? Given the Tar Heels lack of proven playmakers at receiver, Thorpe figured to play a significant role in UNC’s no-huddle spread offense. 

UNC RB Giovani Bernard on the NFL draft: I don’t think about it at all

Giovani Bernard says thoughts of the NFL aren't on his mind. ROBERT WILLETT

CHAPEL HILL — NFL personnel types might be thinking about it. North Carolina’s coaches and fan base might be, too. But Giovani Bernard, the Tar Heels’ running back, says he isn’t thinking about whether he might leave school early for the NFL draft.

Asked earlier today about whether he is, Bernard said: “I don’t think about it at all, honestly. But it’s something that I’ll obviously think about at the end of the season. But right now, we’ve still got three more games left – we’ve still got three games that I want to prove to everybody what I can do.”

UNC RB Giovani Bernard vs. recent Heisman candidates

Giovani Bernard compares favorably to other recent running backs who have been candidates for the Heisman Trophy. ETHAN HYMAN

CHAPEL HILL — After North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard gained 304 all-purpose yards during the Tar Heels’ 43-35 victory against N.C. State on Saturday, I took to Twitter and wrote something rather bold: That Bernard should have a place in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

After comparing Bernard to others at his position who have been recent Heisman candidates, though, it turned out that statement wasn’t all that bold at all. Instead, believing that Bernard should be in the Heisman discussion is more common sense than some bold, fringe opinion. At least it should be. 

UNC RB Giovani Bernard, OG Jonathan Cooper earn ACC player of the week honors

Giovani Bernard earned ACC specialist of the week honors after his 74-yard punt return gave North Carolina a 43-35 victory against N.C. State. ETHAN HYMAN

CHAPEL HILL — No surprise here: Giovani Bernard, the North Carolina sophomore running back, has been named the ACC’s specialist of the week for his performance in the Tar Heels’ 43-35 victory against N.C. State on Saturday.

Bernard returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown with 13 seconds to play to give UNC a dramatic come-from-behind victory. Bernard isn’t the only UNC player who earned ACC Player of the Week honors. Jonathan Cooper, the senior offensive guard, was named the conference’s offensive lineman of the week.

Here’s the rundown on both, from the ACC:

Giovani Bernard returns a punt 74 yards to beat N.C. State: VIDEO

For your viewing pleasure -- or displeasure, if you happen to be an N.C. State fan -- here's Giovani Bernard's game-winning 74-yard touchdown return that gave North Carolina a 43-35 victory against N.C. State on Saturday.

Bernard's late touchdown gives UNC 43-35 win over N.C. State

 

Updated 8:01 p.m.

CHAPEL HILL — While Giovani Bernard ran up the sideline and into the legend of the North Carolina-N.C. State football rivalry here at Kenan Stadium on Saturday, his teammates on the Tar Heels’ sideline ran with him. 

They swarmed him in the back of the end zone, after Bernard’s 74-yard punt return with 13 seconds remaining broke a tie and gave UNC an improbable 43-35 victory against the Wolfpack. 
 
“He just kept running, kept running,” Sylvester Williams, the Tar Heels’ senior defensive tackle, said. “The little guy ran for his life, man. He ran for his life.”

UNC RB Giovani Bernard, WR Sean Tapley earn ACC player of the week honors

UNC receiver Sean Tapley, seen here returning a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown on Saturday at Virginia Tech, earned ACC Player of the Week honors. ROBERT WILLETT

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina sophomore running back Giovani Bernard ran for a career-high 262 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown, during the Tar Heels’ 48-34 victory against Virginia Tech on Saturday. Sean Tapley, the UNC sophomore receiver, returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.

Both Bernard and Tapley on Monday earned ACC Player of the Week honors – Bernard as the league’s offensive back of the week, and Tapley as the conference’s specialist of the week.

Here’s the release the ACC sent out earlier today:

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