ACC: Football Recruiting

Wake uses Kim K. and Photoshop to recruit

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
12:07
PM ET
It isn't entirely original. As Matt Fortuna detailed in this piece last week, schools have been using graphic design and creating fake magazine covers for a while now to amuse and impress recruits.

Just a few weeks ago, Tennessee created a Rolling Stone cover with Beyonce and Shy Tuttle, one of the Vols' top targets in this year's class.

But the one Wake Forest recently sent to Class of 2015 defensive end Kengera Daniel really caught our eye.



It's safe to say this wasn't the best Photoshop we've ever seen. And fans across the country will no doubt get a chuckle from the claim that the ACC is "the real power conference in college football."

And "KimGera?" Well, we're not sure what to make of that.

But it's not us the Demon Deacons were trying to impress. It's the 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior from Raleigh, North Carolina. And apparently it worked -- even though he has no idea how the Wake staff found out he's a fan of Kim Kardashian, whom they even dressed up in the Deacons' black and gold colors.

"It did impress," Daniel told ESPN.com. "But I haven't really told anyone I was a Kim K. fan. I guess they assume all guys are. But it's a cool edit."

Will it ultimately work? We'll find out Sept. 22. That's when Daniel said he'll release his top 5 finalists.

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:00
AM ET
video
Though next weekend begins the bulk of the key recruiting weekends in ACC play featuring some of the nation's top prospects on campuses within the conference, this past weekend featured a key commitment for Virginia Tech, and one of the Miami Hurricanes' top commitments making an unofficial visit to an SEC power.

Best of the visits: ACC

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:06
PM ET
From Boston College’s upset over No. 9 USC to Virginia’s win over Top 25 Louisville to Virginia Tech picking up a 2016 ESPN Junior 300 quarterback commitment despite the upset loss against East Carolina, prospects took to social media to show just how much fun they had on their trips.

Here is a look at some of the best posts, pictures and reaction from the weekend.

Boston College vs. USC

The scene on Alumni Field Saturday night following Boston College’s 37-31 upset win over No. 9-ranked USC was the talk of recruits in attendance.

ESPN 300 No. 288 Wyatt Knopfke summed up the experience on twitter.



Knopfke also snapped a picture of the Boston College fans storming the field after the win.



For the Eagles, this win is big for helping close out the 2015 class and any hopes Boston College has of pulling the upset for ESPN 300 No. 83 Christian Wilkins (officially visited Stanford over the weekend), but it was bigger when looking ahead to the classes of 2016 and 2017. This is a signature win that Steve Addazio and staff can build upon with future classes on the trail.

Virginia vs. Louisville

The top prospect to make the trip to Charlottesville for the Virginia Cavaliers' upset win over the Louisville Cardinals was ESPN 300 No. 15 and five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle.



“It was exciting,” Settle said. “I was happy to watch them beat Louisville!”

When diving deeper into Settle’s recruitment, he has been on the campuses of Virginia and Virginia Tech this season. The Hokies are in his top five along with Alabama, Florida State, Penn State and Tennessee. This win can only help the Cavaliers stay in the fight for the uber-talented interior prospect.

Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina

While the Hokies would have liked to continue to build momentum on the field after last week’s win over Ohio State, Frank Beamer and staff used the momentum created last week to reel in one of 2016’s top quarterback prospects. ESPN Junior 300 No. 258 Logan Byrd was in Blacksburg Saturday and ended the unofficial visit with a commitment.



Byrd’s visit to Virginia Tech was a big hit for Hokies fans, as #HokieNation showed love to the 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback from Georgia throughout the day.



Byrd’s commitment is a big one in 2016 but is also another shot in the arm for the Hokies with next weekend’s official visitor list being headlined by ESPN 300 No. 1 overall Josh Sweat.

ACC's top recruiting visits 

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
9:00
AM ET
Let’s call this week around the ACC the calm before the storm. A number of visits feature top prospects within the region are making official visits to schools outside the conference, and they are certainly impactful leading up to next weekend’s slew of big-time recruiting visits.

D.J. Jones
Commitment: Florida State
While the ESPN JC50 will not be released until later in the season, the name D.J. Jones is sure to be high on the list. The highly-coveted defensive tackle out of East Mississippi Community College remains a soft commitment to the Seminoles, but his recruitment gets a lot more interesting with this weekend's official visit to South Carolina. The former star at Wren High in Piedmont, South Carolina will not only visit the Gamecocks from within his home state, but a trip to Clemson is also a possibility. With Jones having already made his official visit to Tallahassee in July and scheduled to graduate from EMCC in December, this trip is the potential game-changer in his recruitment. The fact that he is friends with Gamecocks junior-college commitments Davon Durant and Marquavius Lewis out of Greenwood High only bolsters the Gamecocks chances.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
10:00
AM ET
The ACC once again had a weekend on the recruiting front without a number of big-time official visitors or a large number of commitments. With that said, Florida State made national news Friday, and the nation's No. 1 prospect made his first official visit -- which impacts the ACC.

Biggest commitment: Florida State


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best of the visits: ACC

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
1:19
PM ET
While nine ACC teams hosted opponents over the weekend, the big game on the recruiting trail in the conference took place in Columbus, Ohio, with Virginia Tech upsetting Ohio State 35-21.

As expected, the Hokies' big win sent Twitter into a Virginia Tech frenzy during the latter stages following the big win for Frank Beamer and staff.

This one is music to the ears of Hokies fans, ESPN300 No. and five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle during the fourth quarter.

When looking at Settle’s recruitment, Tennessee and Penn State have been atop the list recently. With that said, Settle was on campus in Blacksburg last weekend with good friend and No. 61 Matthew Burrell Jr., who was on an official visit this weekend at Ohio State and watched the Hokies beat one of schools considered to be Burrell Jr.’s favorites.

No. 90 overall Jalen Dalton took in the North Carolina game against San Diego State Saturday night. The Tar Heels are considered a forgone conclusion to land the Under Armour All-America defensive end, but the 6-foot-6, 235-pound sent out a pair of tweets following the Hokies huge win from his protected account while still on campus in Chapel Hill.

@JalenDalton5 … “I know Blacksburg is going crazy right now.” , and “Wish I was there right now.”

While it’s very likely that Dalton ends up committing to North Carolina in the not so distant future, this is the type of win by Virginia Tech that could very well get Dalton and family back up to Blacksburg for one more look before a decision is made, and Sept. 20 is a target date for the Hokies on the trail with nations no. 1 Josh Sweat scheduled to make his official visit that weekend.

Another top defensive target, No. 118 Ricky DeBerry chimed in on the impressive performance by the Hokies' defense.

DeBerry has official visits scheduled to Oklahoma Sept. 12, Alabama Sept. 19, Tennessee Oct. 3 and Texas A&M Oct. 10 with one official visit date remaining open. Programs such as Virginia Tech, Virginia, Penn State, Ohio State and others remain in the mix.

More than the class of 2015, this win for Virginia Tech could help kick tart the class of 2016 recruiting effort. One top target on the board for both programs is ESPNJr300 No. 24 Dwayne Haskins, who was watching the game all the way through with Ohio State having been his childhood favorite.

Four-star cornerback commitment Mook Reynolds fired off this tweet shortly following the Hokies huge road win in front of a national audience.

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
10:00
AM ET
The college football season is officially underway with the first week of games now in the rearview mirror. While the opening weekend was a slow one with the first official visits on tap this weekend, one team did pick up a key quarterback commitment while another program hosted a number of top targets for unofficial visits.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Boston College coach Steve Addazio remembers an era when players wanted to redshirt as true freshmen to better prepare them for the final four years of their college career.

"Now it's 'I want to play,' " Addazio, 55, said. "If you're talking about not playing them early, the majority are like 'What do you mean?'"

So, the ability to play or possibly even start as a true freshman has become a regular sales pitch for coaches from the Power Five to the Group of Five. It's certainly a tool in the belt for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Last week, Fisher alluded to the number of freshmen All-Americans he's coached the last four seasons. Twenty-four hours later, it was on the program's official recruiting Twitter page.

"The last [four] years we've had 14 freshmen All-Americans," said Fisher, condensing multiple outlets' freshmen award teams into one, concise Florida State propaganda poster. "If you come in ready to play, we're willing to put you on the field. It's critical for guys to come in saying 'When I'm the best, I'll play.'"

Fisher has the goods to back up his claims, even if the numbers are obviously skewed to best represent his program. But how does his résumé compare to those coaching some of the country's other top programs?

I tried to come up with a way to accurately discern which schools play the most freshmen and decided true freshmen letterwinners was the simplest and most effective way to crunch the numbers. To earn a letter, a player has to actually play consistently through the season. The disclaimer is each program can use different benchmarks when awarding letters, but there is never going to be a perfect way.

I began with Florida State's, looking back at the 2011-2013 classes. To properly quantify the data from Florida State, I decided I'd look at the five schools ranked highest in the preseason polls that have had its coach in place at least five seasons. Oregon's Mark Helfrich was offered an exemption because he was promoted from within and is in his sixth season with the Ducks. Coaches in place at least five years was the stipulation since an incoming coach might be susceptible to playing the prospects he recruited or having a number of transfers that could open up starting or rotational spots.

The criteria: Each class was looked at and the total number of signees was pared down to just those who enrolled as members of the football team in the fall. Junior college signees were excluded, as were any recruits who were academically or medically disqualified before playing a game. That explains why the total number of freshmen for our purposes might look different than what might be seen on RecruitingNation. Any true freshmen who spent a year at a post-graduate or prep school was also excluded. Redshirt freshmen were disqualified, too.

Bottom line is if the player was not a part of the football team the fall following his high school graduation, he was excluded.

Nearly all of the data was collected after poring through media guides and archives, although the communications departments at some of the schools were also helpful providing numbers and deserve recognition.

So, here is the actual data:

 

It is hardly a coincidence that Fisher and Alabama's Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher at LSU, have identical percentages of true freshmen earning a letter. Fisher and Saban arguably have been the two best recruiters over the last few cycles, and, the data shows those two are not going to keep young talent off the field simply because of age. Nearly half of the true freshmen at Alabama and Florida State lettered over the last three seasons.

Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a national title contender in a different manor, relying on experience. Only 12 percent of true freshmen lettered over the last three seasons. Recruiting to Michigan State is not the easy task it is at some other top-10 programs, and the Spartans are not recruiting as many ESPN 300-level players as the likes of Alabama and Florida State.

It should be noted Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oregon don't have quite the recruiting base Alabama and Florida State do.

Inquiring minds want to see how that 45 percent stacks up to some of the other top programs in the country, so even though they did not fit the criteria I looked at a few other schools with coaches in place at least five seasons and lately in the top half of the rankings. LSU was worth a look considering it's Les Miles' 10th season in Baton Rouge and, like Fisher and Saban, has recruited exceptionally well for a long period of time. Mark Richt is in his 14th season at Georgia and, like Miles, usually has a highly-regarded recruiting class. Steve Spurrier is in his 10th season at South Carolina and has steadily improved the Gamecocks' class to the point that the 2015 class is No. 5 nationally. Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson from a perennial disappointment into a two-time BCS bowl participant. And Ohio State and Texas A&M, mainly because it's worth seeing how third-year Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer fares considering he frequently voices his preference to avoid redshirting. Kevin Sumlin is also in the process of trying to build an SEC power that can compete with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.

 

For the Buckeyes, out of the 69 true freshmen to land in Columbus, Ohio, from 2011-2013, 31 lettered -- the same 45 percent. Looking at just Meyer's two seasons, however, he is decimals ahead of Fisher and Saban at 46 percent (21 out of 46), thanks in large part to 14 freshmen letterwinners in his first season.

Georgia's Mark Richt has a percentage of nearly 50 percent, but the Bulldogs' numbers might be the most skewed. Along with South Carolina, the Bulldogs had several recruits that either did not qualify or spent time at a prep school or junior college. Also, Georgia's long list of dismissals and transfers is well documented, and all of the departures has opened up spots for freshmen to earn immediate playing time.

It is Miles, though, who plays a higher percentage of freshmen than all of the others. Twelve true freshmen lettered for LSU in both 2012 and 2013, and another nine earned a letter in 2011. There were a total of 65 applicable freshmen to enter LSU during that span and 33 of them lettered. That's a percentage of 51 percent.

Certainly the numbers will fluctuate year to year, and coaches at every single program are playing freshmen more frequently than ever before. When taking into account the timeline is over three years, LSU averages just one more freshman letterwinner per season than Alabama and Florida State. For our intents and purposes, though, the data shows which top programs consistently play the most freshmen in this new era of freshmen phenoms.

And, uh, FYI, Alabama has 19 ESPN 300 players prepping for their freshmen season this fall. LSU has 16, and Florida State isn't far off with 13 of their own.
Clemson has the No. 3-ranked recruiting class for 2015, and more than half of its commitments, including a five-star lineman, signed financial-aid agreements with the Tigers on Friday, six months before signing day.

Five-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt (Suwanee, Georgia/North Gwinnett) headlines a group of 13 commitments in Clemson’s 2015 class, which has 21 total pledges, that signed financial-aid agreements with the school on the first day prospects entering their senior year are allowed. All 13 are expected to enroll at Clemson in January.

"We're signing 13 guys to financial aid before we have even played a game,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Friday. “We're excited to have them join the Clemson family."

The NCAA clarified a rule last year that allows for senior recruits planning to enroll in the midyear to sign financial-aid agreements with schools beginning Aug. 1, the same day schools can officially give a recruit a written offer. The financial-aid agreements do not bind the player to the school, but the school is locked into the player unless he is no longer eligible for midyear enrollment. For the recruits, it guarantees their scholarship in Clemson’s 2015 class.

The recruits did not sign national letters of intent and are free to sign financial-aid agreements with multiple schools, but only the school they signed with first receives the contact benefits. With the clarified rule, however, once a prospect signs a financial-aid agreement the school can publicly mention the recruit and is no longer limited to contact restrictions with that recruit. The Clemson coaches are not limited to calling those 13 prospects once a week during the season anymore. Before last year it was taboo for schools to mention a recruit by name before signing a letter of intent, but the Tigers updated its official Twitter account throughout the day Friday welcoming the 13 recruits and sent out a press release announcing the soon-to-be additions.

There is a minor risk in Clemson publicly announcing the 13 recruits, and Swinney said Friday it’s still uncomfortable to be speaking about high school players before they are locked in to Clemson. If any of the 13 players enrolls at a school outside of Clemson, it could be perceived as a recruiting violation for mentioning a prospective student-athlete by name. The NCAA told ESPN.com reporter Mitch Sherman in January one conference office requested it be a violation. Any violation, if the NCAA deemed it as such, would likely be minor in nature.

There is an upward trend with recruits graduating high school a semester early and enrolling in January, and Clemson is taking full advantage. Deshaun Watson, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 class, enrolled in January and went through spring practice, and now the Tigers will likely bring in 13 recruits from the 2015 class for the spring semester. The extra semester on campus coupled with the 15 spring practices allows those freshmen to potentially make a greater impact during the season. The Tigers had five early enrollees in the 2014 class.

Six ESPN 300 recruits were among the 13 who signed for Clemson. Hyatt (No. 17) was joined by Jake Fruhmorgen (No. 95), Garrett Williams (114), Ray-Ray McCloud III (150), Noah Green (181) and Shadell Bell (262). Kelly Bryant, Kaleb Chalmers, Zach Giella, Tucker Israel, Tanner Muse, Chad Smith and Van Smith were the remaining recruits to sign financial-aid agreements.

Elsewhere in the ACC, North Carolina announced that two 2015 recruits, Carl Tucker and Anthony Ratliff, signed agreements.

Best cross-conference recruiting battles 

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
8:25
AM ET
Some recruits get attention from all over the country. Whether it’s their prowess or proximity to multiple teams, top prospects will have schools from multiple conferences pursuing them. ESPN.com’s conference recruiting reporters look at five players in the recently updated ESPN 300 who have different conferences after them and have recruiting battles that could carry throughout the fall.

NOTE: For battles with multiple teams, reporters chose reported leaders or best fits.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

In every class there are must-get recruits for schools. They can be a top uncommitted prospect or even a pledge who is essential to keep in the fold.

Here are the picks for the teams in the ACC, with the prospect's overall ranking.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The ESPN 300 for the Class of 2015 has been updated with the 2014 season in clear sight. With the prestigious list updated and the helmets and pads just days away, RecruitingNation takes a look at five things to know for the ACC.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The ongoing NCAA investigation into academic fraud at North Carolina hasn't been a focal point in the Tar Heels' locker room, coach Larry Fedora said at Monday's ACC Kickoff, but it's been an ever-present speed bump on the recruiting trail.

The NCAA last month reopened the investigation, which had been concluded in 2012 and which Fedora said he'd believed was closed for good, sparking another round of negative recruiting from competing schools.

"It's not really affecting our team," Fedora said. "The players, they're not concerned with it. They've been hearing about it for three years. It's just old news. The ones it affects is in recruiting. That's where it hits you the hardest. The other schools, that's what they're using when they're recruiting against you."

To continue reading this story, click here.
On Sept. 1 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville will begin the 2014 season with a game against the Miami Hurricanes. This will be the Cardinals' first game as a member of the ACC with a schedule that features conference games against Clemson and Florida State, and a late-season matchup with Notre Dame.

That means a lot of prospect eyeballs will be on Louisville all season as the Cardinals make the jump to the ACC in the very competitive Atlantic Division. Out are games in which Louisville should be heavily-favored against Temple, Memphis and Connecticut with little fanfare and viewers watching, and in are competitive toss-up games along with the marquee matchups that are recruiting wins for Louisville, win or lose.

[+] EnlargePetrino
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe key to Louisville's success in its new conference will be Bobby Petrino's ability to recruit Florida and Georgia.
For ACC fans, Louisville will bring speed and skill with an excellent offensive mind in coach Bobby Petrino. Louisville will evaluate and recruit high-level offensive talent like it did under Petrino from 2003-06 when the Cardinals won 41 of 50 games and finished in the AP Top 20 three times. The Cardinals also have a head coach that proved he could win at a high level in the SEC at Arkansas with lesser talent than a number of his opponents.

The challenge for Louisville will be continuing to enjoy the same recruiting success it had under Charlie Strong in the key state of Florida, while adjusting to the weekly grind of the ACC, which produces the second-most NFL draft picks annually. Not only did Strong leave for Texas and take his deep Florida roots with him, but a number of NFL draft selections from the 2013 team have waved goodbye, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. That means the challenge of competing from day one in the ACC and setting a tone on the field and in recruiting could be a challenging one.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Clemson has grabbed headlines during the offseason for the recruiting class it has started putting together, serving notice that coach Dabo Swinney has his program have no plans on going anywhere.

The Tigers are now up to No. 2 Insider in the latest ESPN class rankings, up two spots from their previous ranking earlier this month. Alabama is ranked No. 1, while ACC nemesis Florida State is at No. 7. Clemson currently has a league-high 19 commitments, including 12 from players with four- or five-star rankings. The ESPN scouts write:
The Tigers continue to be hot on the recruiting trail, recently adding athlete Deon Cain and DE Clelin Ferrell, bringing the Tigers' current total of ESPN 300 commits to nine. The lengthy and athletic Cain, gives the Tigers offense a big play weapon, and Ferrell is another nice pickup that helps them address a need along the DL.
[+] EnlargeDabo Swinney
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesDabo Swinney has Clemson pointing toward a banner recruiting class.
It is impossible to get too excited about recruiting rankings in June, as there are still nearly eight months to go before national signing day. Rankings also are completely subjective, and it is impossible to know whether they were right until years down the road. But they do show the type of work Swinney and his staff have done now that they have a consistent 10-win, top-15 program.

Perhaps more impressively, Swinney has earned pledges from one recruit after another after despite finding himself on the defensive in April over his religion. The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint with Clemson, accusing Swinney of "unconstitutional behavior" at the public university. Swinney denied the accusations, but he was used as a case-study in a much larger debate that erupted about what place religion has in sports, especially at a public university. Did the firestorm even matter to recruits?

Apparently not. Clearly that publicity has done little to persuade top recruits to look elsewhere. Eight players committed after mid-April, when the first story about the complaint broke. That includes Cain and Ferrell, two of the four highest-rated players in the class.

There is still more work to be done. The Tigers are pursuing ESPN 300 players Tim Settle (No. 10), George Campbell (No. 11), Shy Tuttle (No. 22) and Jalen Dalton (No. 90), along with several others. Tuttle, a defensive tackle from Lexington, N.C., has ties to the program and fills an area of need. But along with trying to get a few more commitments, Clemson has to hang on to the ones it already has until February rolls around.

If they do, Clemson has a chance to ink one of the best classes in school history.

SPONSORED HEADLINES