Draft Dominance

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When St. Louis selected Robert Quinn with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the defensive end became the 31st first-round pick coached or recruited by Butch Davis. That level of proficiency in talent evaluation and player development has lifted Davis into rare air in college coaching.

Davis's sixth and final Miami squad in 2000 boasted 15 eventual first-round draft picks – Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Damione Lewis, Ed Reed, Dan Morgan, Bryant McKinnie, Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee, Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Mike Rumph, Phillip Buchanon, Vernon Carey and William Joseph.

So while no one doubted Davis's recruiting prowess when he took over the North Carolina program prior to the 2007 season, the fact remained that the Tar Heel recruiting footprint was much different than wealth of talent located within driving distance of Miami's campus. After all, 10 of the aforementioned 15 first-round draft picks in '00 played their high school ball in Florida.

It has only taken Davis four years to prove his doubters wrong. Since his arrival in Chapel Hill, 18 Tar Heels have been drafted, including three first-round and four second-round selections. North Carolina has led the ACC in most players drafted for two years in a row and set the school record this year with nine players drafted.

That total ties Southern California for the most players drafted in the country.

The Buffalo Bills selected two of those players – safety Da'Norris Searcy in the fourth round (No. 100 overall) and Johnny White in the fifth round (No. 133 overall).

Bills scout Tom Roth joined general manager Buddy Nix, V.P. of college scouting Tom Modrak and fellow scout Darrell Moody in attending North Carolina's Pro Timing Day on Mar. 31. Roth estimated there were 150 pro scouts in Chapel Hill for the event.

"It was unbelievable evaluating those guys," Roth said. "I mean, there was 15, 16, 17 guys I wrote up… Some teams had their whole coaching staff there. It was unbelievable. Next year and years to come, they're going to have guys. "

Bills head coach Chan Gailey echoed his scout's comments, saying, "That was pretty impressive, the amount of guys that came out of North Carolina this year."

But while Davis's ability to put players in the draft is notable, his first-round success (31 picks) is approaching ridiculous heights. Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden sit atop the all-time wins category in Division I football. Paterno has coached or recruited 31 first-round draft picks in his 45 years as a head coach, while Bowden has coached or recruited 32 first-round draft picks in his 44 seasons.

A more apt comparison may be Pete Carroll's nine-year run at USC from '01-'09. Carroll's resume includes having coached or recruited 14 first-round draft selections.

Talent evaluation has been the key ingredient to Davis's remarkable run. Jimmy Johnson, the first football coach to win both a college national championship and a Super Bowl, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2001 that he chose Davis for the final opening on his first Miami staff in 1984 in part because he was "a great talent evaluator."

But another aspect that has played a role in Davis's draft success has been his unwavering belief in pro-style schemes despite a growing trend for college teams to switch to variations of the spread offense.

"One of the things that you keep hearing from the NFL scouts is that they love coming and watching our video and tape of our kids because what we do schematically – offensively, defensively and on special teams – is almost a carbon copy of what all 32 teams do in the National Football League," Davis told reporters following UNC's Pro Timing Day.

That fact has not been lost on his players. T.J. Yates became the first UNC quarterback drafted since Ronald Curry in 2002 after Houston selected him with 21st pick (152nd overall) of the fifth round.

"Our offense is extremely similar to the Houston Texans," Yates said in a press release. "That was one of the main reasons they said they took me was because they knew the transition would be easy for me. Coach Davis handles the program with an NFL mentality. He brought in NFL coaches, installed NFL offenses and defenses and it paid off."

Critics have argued that Davis's ability to stock his rosters with pro talent hasn't matched up evenly with his success in the college ranks, as evidenced by just one double-digit win season and one top-10 ranking in the final polls (11-1, No. 2 ranking in ‘00).

But it's important to note that Miami's snub from the national title game in '00 ignited the heavy criticism currently directed at the BCS system. And after Davis left for the Cleveland Browns following the '00 season, Larry Coker was handed the loaded roster and promptly won the '01 national championship before losing to Ohio State in the '02 title game.

Also add in significant rebuilding jobs at both Miami and North Carolina and that criticism falls short in accurately portraying the situation, especially considering that Davis has delivered eight seasons of eight wins or more in his 10 seasons as a college head coach.

The key ingredient in building on UNC's three-straight eight-win seasons is to steadily improve the talent level in the Kenan Football Center cupboard. Davis is apparently excelling in that regard as Sports Illustrated recently tabbed defensive ends Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss and linebacker Zach Brown as three of the top-40 prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft.


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