ACC: Football Recruiting

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 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
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.’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.

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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.
Virginia Tech associate head coach Shane Beamer is widely recognized as one of the top assistant coaches in college football. With stops at Mississippi State and South Carolina before returning to his alma mater in 2011, Beamer has a decade of recruiting experience in the most talented region in the country.

Beamer recently chatted with RecruitingNation on all things Hokies and the future of recruiting.

[+] EnlargeShane Beamer
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIVirginia Tech assistant Shane Beamer has several good points about an early signing period and early official visits for college football recruiting.
Virginia Tech is about to break ground on a new, $21 million indoor practice facility. How big will the addition be for the Hokies football program in what has become an “arms race”?

Shane Beamer: You know, it will be huge. It’s already paying dividends and we haven’t even got far in the process (building it) yet. When the pictures first got out of what the indoor facility was going to look like, I was a little bit surprised by all the positive reactions from the recruits. I mean, I knew it would be big, but it was an even bigger and better reaction from high school prospects than I imagined. It will be huge. It will be a beautiful building, a credit to our administration and Hokie nation to come up with the resources to build it. It will also help other sports as well. One thing that is a positive about Virginia Tech is how easy it is to get around, and how everything from an athletic standpoint is close together. The football stadium, the academic center, the locker room, the dorm the guys live in and now the indoor facility -- guys don’t have to be driving all over campus. This is another key piece to the puzzle for us.

Michael Vick is one of the rare players who has stood the test of time with the youth of America. Despite leaving Virginia Tech in 2000, he remains a topic for top prospects. What is it about Vick that has kept him in the minds of prospects?

SB: He’s definitely one that has stood the test of time. I think there are a few reasons. One, the national championship game. A lot of teams talk about the goal being to play for a national championship. Well, we did it. Mike was the one that had a big hand in taking us there. He really kind of changed the quarterback position, in my mind, in both college and the NFL. What he did in the national championship game against Florida State, coaches are still taking about -- college coaches, high school coaches and prospects. There are a lot of guys in the NFL with Virginia Tech ties such as Brandon Flowers, Kam Chancellor, DeAngelo Hall, Eddie Royal and I could go on and on, but Mike is one that even though he left in 2000 still carries a big name.

If one begins naming the top programs in terms of player development, Virginia Tech is near the top. What do you guys do as a staff that has led to the success in this area?

SB: Number one, I think we do a really good job evaluating. You are going to have misses like any other school, but we are very thorough in our evaluation process. I know some other schools, the position coach walks into a high school, offers a kid a scholarship and that’s it. We do it a little different. If we offer a kid a scholarship, our entire staff has watched the kid on video, including our head coach, and the entire staff has signed off on a prospect. When we get them here, I like to think that we do a good job coaching and developing the players. We have a staff with a system that has been in place, and we have a lot of continuity on the staff. We also have a great strength and conditioning program, too. Our coach, Mike Gentry, has been here since 1987 and is nationally known and nationally respected as one of the best, if not the best strength coach in the country. You put all those combinations together and I think it equals success in developing players on and off the field.

What are the most pressing needs in the 2015 class for the Hokies?

SB: I think the biggest need for us is on the defensive line. We need some playmakers at the end position that can rush the passer. We have had a lot of those guys here at Virginia Tech, such as Cornell Brown to Corey Moore to Jason Worilds to Darryl Tapp and James Gayle just graduated. There have been a lot of them that has kind of made our defense go, and there are some great ones out there this year. We need that next round of guys as pass rushers. Then the offensive line, I believe we have four or five seniors graduating this year. We signed a good group last fall, but we need to put another class on top of that as well.

The sentiment is growing for an early signing period in college football. Has the staff sat down and talked about the possibility? What are your thoughts on the subject?

SB: We have talked about it a little bit as a staff. Not too much in depth because there is only so much you can do, but we have talked about it just to be sure we get our thoughts about it as a group. For me, I would be for it. For one, if a guy knows where he wants to go to school -- you hear guys all the time that commit say they know where they want to go to school and concentrate on their senior year academically and athletically -- then that would be an opportunity for them to sign and do that. I think from a recruiting standpoint, it would clear up some things. If you have a guy that is committed to you but he doesn’t want to sign early, then he is probably not committed to you. As coaches it would allow us to know which of these commits is really solid and which ones are not -- which positions do we need to recruit at because some guys may not be as solid as we think. I think from a financial standpoint, it would alleviate some costs of having to go see committed guys every single week that are committed to you. Even though guys are committed, you still have to go see guys every week because you know other people are still recruiting the player.

People say that if you have an early period, then you have to change the recruiting calendar around because of official visits earlier and such, but I don’t think so. I don’t think you need to change the recruiting calendar at all, maybe just change and allow for an official visit during their junior year. If we had the same calendar we had last year and had an early signing period in August or September, we would have had 20 guys sign early. The process is sped up so much with kids taking visits to campuses early -- some kids have been on campuses seven or eight times by their senior year. I would be for it. Are there negatives? Sure there are, but there is going to be in anything.

If not an early signing period, what are your thoughts on the NCAA allowing prospects to make official visits during the spring of junior year?

SB: To be able to get the family members on campus I think would be big. To be able to get mom and dad or whoever on campus for an official visit -- to come and see your campus would be big. We have had prospects come on campus, but maybe with their teammate or friend or what have you, but not with their parents. ... I think it would be great to have families on campus, spend more time on your campus and see everything they can’t see on an unofficial visit.

Top ACC recruiters 

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
The ACC has come a long way in the national recruiting battles, mainly because of the quality assistants who have gravitated to ACC teams. The league’s top five recruiters include veterans at Florida State, Miami, Clemson and North Carolina who have plenty of victories on the trail over the years. The rankings also feature a surprise from Tobacco Road.

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Tim Brewster has a reputation for being one of the nation’s best recruiters, going back to his time at North Carolina, Texas and even Minnesota, when he was able to lure quality prospect to the Golden Gophers. Brewster is now in his second recruiting class as Florida State’s recruiting coordinator, and he's played a key role in helping the Seminoles land the No. 3 class in 2014 and get off to a fast start with the 2015 class.

Brewster visited with RecruitingNation to talk about what it’s like to recruit when you’re the defending national champion, the challenges of building for the future and other national recruiting issues.

[+] EnlargeTim Brewster, Jameis Winston
AP Photo/Phil SearsFlorida State recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster said cornerback is the biggest priority for the 2015 class.
How excited are you about the start of the 2015 class?

Tim Brewster: It's extremely important we seize the momentum the national championship created. You're the national champion. There's one team that has that title, and that's Florida State. We need to build on that. We need to seize the moment. We need to spread our brand, and that's exactly what we're doing. At the end of the day, this 2015 recruiting class is going to go down in history as one of the great classes at Florida State. We're on an amazingly high caliber of kid in this recruiting class.

How do you juggle building the national brand without getting away from the Florida talent that helped FSU win the national title?

TB: You'll never want to forget for one second about what made you great in the first place, and that's our home state of Florida. To us, we're the state champions in Florida. As the NFL draft dictated, far above other states, Florida produces NFL football players better than any state in America, and it's not even close. We understand very, very clearly that the best football players in America, the elite players, more than anywhere come from the state of Florida. First and foremost, we're always going to take care of the home state. We understand where our bread is buttered. The truly elite player nationally, we're going to get involved with, but we're not going to forget what made us great.

What do you see as the biggest needs that FSU needs to fill before signing day?

TB: I would say corner for sure on defense is a big priority. Defensive tackle would be a close second, maybe defensive end. On offense, we're going to lose four out of five starting offensive linemen to graduation after this season. Last season, we had a phenomenal offensive line recruiting class, and it's just really critical to address that each and every year. We have to do well at those positions the rest of the way for our class to reach the type of success we expect.

Has the dawn of the College Football Playoff altered the way Florida State has had to recruit in any way?

TB: I don't see it changing much of anything from a recruiting standpoint. Regardless of whether there's a playoff or whether the bowl system remains in place, you're going to need a certain amount of depth. Football is a 13-, 14-game season right now. It's not an NFL season, but it's considerable. Injuries are a big part of the game. The key is not having ups and downs in recruiting. Recruiting is a 24/7, 365-day lifestyle. It is a lifestyle. It is who you are. The minute you deviate from that lifestyle, it's going to bite you right in the ass.

In today’s fast-forward world of recruiting, is the one phone call allowed in the spring evaluation period even important anymore?

TB: It's totally changed today with social media. You're talking to kids by direct message. You're talking to kids on Facebook every week. To me, kids don't enjoy talking on the phone. Kids don't communicate on the phone. They're socially inept. I think social media has truly lessened the value of that one phone call. I don't think that one phone call means near as much today as it meant five years ago when you weren't in such direct contact with recruits on a regular basis.

Is the call then more important for the parents than the recruits?

TB: To be honest, that one phone call is more important to speak to mom than it is the kid. I really do think that. To me, the key to the one phone call is making sure you're having a great conversation with particularly mom. My experience is that you win mom, you have a whole lot better chance to win dad and the son. So mom having a level of comfort is a key. When their baby says, "Mom, I want to go Florida State University," how does mom respond? Mom needs to be extremely positive, and the only way she's going to be positive is if you've gained her trust through the process. Recruiting mom is absolutely huge.

Top five recruiting jobs: ACC 

May, 21, 2014
May 21
In the ACC, three programs -- Florida State, Miami and Clemson -- are far and away superior from a recruiting standpoint. Florida State and Miami are on another level from even Clemson due to the fact that they sit in the most talented state in the country, and with a national appeal that is match by only a few.

After the top three, there are a number of programs that could be argued to round out the top five, but a pair of programs from neighboring states get the nod in the current landscape.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJimbo Fisher led Florida State to the BCS title.
1. Florida State Seminoles
Proximity to out-of-state talent: FSU is the closest major university to parts of talent-rich South Georgia, and is 245 miles from Mobile, Alabama, 270 miles from Atlanta, 385 miles from New Orleans, 710 miles from Houston and 865 miles from Washington.

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ACC recruiting scorecard

May, 21, 2014
May 21
Clemson has had a big week on the recruiting trail, as the Tigers picked up the nation's No. 2 tight end, Garrett Williams on Monday. With that, we figured now is as good of a time as any to compile an ACC recruiting scorecard.

Below you will find each ACC team, its number of commitments and its most recent recruiting news. There's obviously a ways to go between now and national signing day on Feb. 4, 2015, but here's a look at where everyone in the league currently stands.

(Note: ESPN has only ranked the top 15 recruiting classes for 2015.)

Boston College
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The highlight of the Eagles' class is No. 7 tight end-H Jakeb Burt, a 6-foot-5, 238-pound three-star prospect. BC’s other big commits include three-star, No. 35 cornerback Lukas Denis and three-star, No. 52 offensive tackle Anthony Palazzolo.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Current commitments: 16
Spotlight: The Tigers' best recruit is five-star tackle Mitch Hyatt, the nation's No. 7 overall player and the highest-ranked offensive lineman to commit to the program in the 10 years ESPN has ranked players. Clemson has nine four-star commitments as well, with Williams and three other offensive linemen among them.
ESPN 300 commitments: 7
ESPN rank: 5

Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Blue Devils have just three commitments, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 39 defensive tackle Brandon Boyce and No. 37 defensive end Zach Morris.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Florida State
Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: The Seminoles have hauled in No. 25 overall player Derwin James Jr., the nation's top safety. They also scored a major win by beating out in-state rivals Florida and Miami to get No. 5 cornerback Tyrek Cole. Florida State has six four-star players among its 11 commitments.
ESPN 300 commitments: 4
ESPN rank: 7

Georgia Tech
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: No. 25 athlete Jaylend Ratliffe highlights this haul for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-1, 200-pound four-star is ranked as the No. 278 overall player in the nation, flashing tremendous athleticism as a left-handed quarterback at the prep level.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

Current commitments: 1
Spotlight: Bobby Petrino's only commit in his first class with the Cardinals is 6-foot, 205-pound safety T.J. Jallow.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: No. 5 running back Dexter Williams has been the biggest get for the Hurricanes, as they stole him out of Gator Country. Miami also boasts No. 5 tight end-Y Bowman Archibald and No. 4 dual-threat quarterback Dwayne Lawson, two of seven four-star commitments for the program so far.
ESPN 300 commitments: 5
ESPN rank: 11

North Carolina
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The Tar Heels have landed the nation’s No. 3 tight end-H in ESPN 300 prospect Carl Tucker, a four-star recruit and the nation's No. 260 overall player. They have landed two other four-star prospects: No. 31 offensive tackle Mason Veal and No. 22 safety Ronnie Harrison.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

NC State
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: Three of the Wolfpack's four commitments have come from within the state, with the lone exception being wide receiver Freddie Phillips.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Panthers have just three commitments for this class, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 27 outside linebacker Kevin Givens and No. 42 offensive guard Alex Paulina.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Current commitments: 7
Spotlight: The Orange's run game should look pretty good down the road: Five of their seven current commitments are either offensive linemen or running backs, with the top three prospects coming on the offensive line, and two of them currently prep teammates: tackle Colin Byrne and guard Samuel Clausman.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Cavaliers' 2015 recruiting class doesn't quite stack up to its 2014 haul as of now, but among their three prospects are nationally ranked, three-star players: No. 22 pocket-passing quarterback Nick Johns and No. 28 safety Juan Thornhill.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Virginia Tech
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: The Hokies' class is also short on numbers but features three nationally ranked, three-star prospects: No. 39 athlete Mook Reynolds, No. 29 cornerback DuWayne Johnson and No. 37 defensive tackle Harry Lewis.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Wake Forest
Current commitments: 2
Spotlight: Dave Clawson's first full class currently has two players: defensive end Paris Black and offensive tackle T.J. Haney.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0
During the ACC spring meetings last week, commissioner John Swofford announced that league coaches are in favor of an early signing period. The topic has long been debated and is up for discussion next month at a meeting of the College Commissioners Association, which governs the national letter of intent program.

So is it a good idea for the ACC to be in favor of an early signing period? Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna debate.

Adelson: An early signing period makes sense.

Coaches begin recruiting players earlier and earlier. Players begin making verbal commitments earlier and earlier. They begin enrolling in college earlier and earlier, too. So explain why an early signing period is not in place yet?

[+] EnlargeDave Doeren
Lance King/Getty ImagesDave Doeren is one of the ACC coaches in favor of an early signing period.
Early is the name of the game these days, therefore an early signing period makes sense. There is no reason to prolong an already arduous process unnecessarily. If a player has made up his mind on a school, let him sign early. Makes life much simpler not only for the player, but for the schools that are doing the recruiting, too.

Six of the 14 ACC schools already have seven or more commitments for the Class of 2015. Rather than having an early signing period, the powers-that-be believe it is best for these players to continue to be recruited for nine more months; and for schools to continue to spend money and resources “recruiting” these players. More like baby-sitting.

As NC State coach Dave Doeren told me last week: “There's a lot of young men that commit early that would like to get it over. This is where they’ve wanted to go, have no need to drag it out or have distractions in their life and for us, just a way to know who's coming for sure and where we could use our resources to go recruit other players.”

Yes, there are concerns, especially from schools with higher academic standards. There are concerns about allowing players to sign before their senior seasons. There are concerns about players signing early and then wholesale coaching changes wiping out the staff that did the recruiting. There are concerns that recruiting will turn into a year-round event. But these concerns should not deal breakers.

No school waits until a player's senior year to offer scholarships anymore. Hence all the early commits. Players should be fully aware that coaching staffs can change before they sign on the dotted line. If a player wants to go to a prestigious academic school, then they don’t have to sign early if there is uncertainty about admissions.

Basketball has two signing periods. But the argument is that football is “different.” There are differences, yes, but not enough to keep an outdated model as the norm. Recruiting has changed drastically in the last 10 years. The rules have to change, too. And there are models that could work, even if it means moving the second signing period later than February. Approving an early signing period does not mean every player must sign before they are ready.

But it does gives players and schools more options than they have now.

Fortuna: Keep signing period where it is

All of the points that Andrea makes about everything within the recruiting calendar seemingly being accelerated has plenty of merit. But, to borrow a phrase used oh-so-often last week from officials at ACC and Big Ten spring meetings, the devil is in the details.


Are you in favor of an early signing period for football?


Discuss (Total votes: 1,242)

Coaches recruit earlier, yes. Players verbally commit earlier, sure. But what would happen to the important opportunities that high school kids receive to actually evaluate their options up-close and in-person? This would require many changes to the recruiting calendar rules, perhaps none bigger than the official visit date, which currently prohibits anyone from making an official visit to a school until Sept. 1 of his senior year.

What's more, the date of this early signing period remains very much up in the air. Early summer? Late summer? Sometime in the fall? Good luck trying to gain a consensus on that, as a series by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed just how many different ideas are flowing through the minds of head coaches.

And while high school recruits should be more cognizant of who and where they are committing to -- as the possibility for a coach being fired or jumping to another job is always there -- let's not pretend that, as non-noble as it may sound, the fact of the matter is that the majority of recruiting is based on relationships between players, their families and their coaches. Though many schools have their own selling points and will march on regardless of who is in charge, most players are committing to their coaches, not to the logo on their future helmets.

The academic component is an impediment as well, as some schools with higher standards in the classroom don't admit their incoming football players into school until much later in the recruiting process, sometimes as late as right before national signing day. That could create more pressure on prospects from other schools, as those schools could guarantee them entry earlier than the kids' first choices could.

Recruiting has its flaws and is a machine that needs to be tamed in some capacity. But forcing already-confused teenagers to sign away their futures earlier than they currently are is not the answer.

ESPN 300: Top ACC targets 

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
With Wednesday’s release of the 2015 ESPN 300, here’s a look at five top ACC targets in the 2015 class.

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