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April 24, 2009

Nicks carries UNC flag

Saturday will be a big day for Carolina football because for the second consecutive season a player is expected to be selected in the first round of the National Football League draft.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks should hear his named called by a team in the first round, one year after defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer went to the San Francisco 49ers as the 29th overall selection a year ago. Defensive end Hilee Taylor was drafted in the seventh round in 2008 by the Carolina Panthers, and he eventually made the team.

The draft will be televised on ESPN and will begin at 4 p.m. The Detroit Lions have the first selection in the draft. Nicks is expected to go in the middle to late part of the first round.

Wide receiver/kick return specialist Brandon Tate, safety Trimane Goddard, offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds and wide receiver Brooks Foster could also get drafted somewhere during the two days of the process.

As time goes on, the more Carolina names get called each year the better the team's record should be from the previous season.

UNC became a veritable wasteland of talent for several years when it came to putting players in the NFL. Naturally, this revealed itself on the field each fall in the ACC standings, which the Tar Heels continued to slide down.

That is progressively changing under Coach Butch Davis as the roster has been stocked with more and greater talent during his brief tenure at UNC. Just as he did when he was head coach at Miami, Davis is stockpiling talent.

For example, it's possible that the entire defensive line and starting trio of linebackers on this fall's team will eventually play pro football.

More than 20 young men recruited by Davis at Miami were picked in the first round alone before and after he left the school. The correlation between winning and placing former players in the NFL exists. During a three-year span from Davis' final season in Coral Gables, Fla., to two years afterward, the Hurricanes lost two games, won a national championship and played for another.

In Mack Brown final two seasons at UNC (1996 and '97, the Tar Heels went 21-3 and were third behind Notre Dame and Florida State (which were tied for first) with the most alumni in the NFL, and that statistic does not include the players who played on the '97 team and eventually moved to the NFL.


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