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Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Top ACC recruiting rivalries

By Jared Shanker



Rivalries extend past the field in college football. The bad blood and feud seeps into the fans, the coaching staffs and especially in the high schools when it comes to top recruits. Often the teams duking it out on Saturdays were going head-to-head in February for several of the players on the field.

The ACC might not be on the same level as the SEC when it comes to recruiting rivalries, but the conference has its fair share, including one of the nation’s most intense.

1. Florida State-Miami
Big surprise this is No. 1, huh? Both programs reside in the talent-rich state of Florida, so naturally there are days in December and January when coaches from each staff will bump into each other on the recruiting trail as the schools make their last pitch to prospects. The history is well documented, and many years you will see a prospect flip from Florida State to Miami or Miami to Florida State. Miami's top commitment Joseph Yearby (Miami/Miami Central) was originally a Florida State commit. It was redemption for 2013 when the Seminoles flipped Jeremy Kerr and signed Levonte Whitfield, who was committed to Miami for close to a year. Florida State also signed five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas, who graduated from Miami Booker T. Washington. But the Hurricanes also made a big splash by plucking one of the Noles’ top recruiters James Coley, now the Canes’ offensive coordinator after five seasons as an FSU assistant. The move paid big recruiting dividends as Coley is one of south Florida’s best recruiters and signed 2013 No. 4 receiver Stacy Coley.

2. Virginia-Virginia Tech
This might come as a bit of a shock, but consider the class Virginia is putting together and the rapid increase in talent from the DMV -- D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia. If we are looking at the present and future, this could turn into one of the ACC’s fiercest battles. What was once a stronghold for the Hokies is now starting to turn Cavaliers orange and navy blue. Virginia landed Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) and Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside), the Nos. 2 and 3 prospects in Virginia, respectively, over Virginia Tech so far in 2014. It also looks as if in-state ESPN 300 receiver Jamil Kamara (Virginia Beach, Va./Bishop Sullivan) will also pledge to the Cavs. The Hokies are out in front for Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), but he is the No. 9 player in the state. This will be the second straight class Virginia’s top in-state commitment is ranked higher than Virginia Tech’s. The Hokies could be on the rebound, however, as Frank Beamer’s defense is one of the country’s best, positioning the Hokies for an ACC title run. If Beamer can get Tech back to an ACC championship, it could swing momentum back his way.

3. Clemson-North Carolina
This might be another surprise to some, but the bordering states boast a lot of talent, and Clemson is routinely looking north for prospects. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, it has been a little one-sided over the last few classes. In the 2014 class, the Tigers have commitments from four-star Chris Register (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley) and three-star Jefferie Gibson (Hope Mills, N.C./Grays Creek) from North Carolina, both of whom had UNC offers. Clemson is also the leader for ESPN 300 defensive end Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page), who is No. 2 in North Carolina and No. 27 nationally. In the 2013 class, ESPN 300 lineman Tyrone Crowder signed with the Tigers, and going back to 2012 the Tigers signed ESPN 300 North Carolina standouts Germone Hopper and Carlos Watkins. In all, Clemson has 14 players from North Carolina on its 2013 roster. The Tar Heels were able to land a few key in-state players from Clemson, including top pledge Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic). Originally a Notre Dame commit, Clemson was probably the biggest threat to North Carolina. ESPN 300 offensive tackle and UNC commit Bentley Spain (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) also had a Clemson offer. Overall, though, Clemson is way out in front in this budding rivalry.

4. Clemson-Florida State
As the Tigers continue to build their brand in the southeast under Dabo Swinney, Clemson and Florida State are contending for more of the same prospects in the region. Few prospects were more coveted in the 2014 class than Deshaun Watson, who literally sits in the middle of Clemson and Florida State. The Gainesville (Ga.) High School product had offers from both schools and eventually committed to Clemson in February 2012. He is the No. 1 prospect in the 2014 class and could be the Tigers’ starter as early as next season. Fellow Clemson commits Milan Richard (Savannah, Ga./Calvary Baptist Day) and Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), who is a receiver from Florida, had offers from the Noles. Historically, however, it is the Noles who have beat out Clemson, although many of the prospects both schools are after hail from the Sunshine State. Rarely does Florida State try to break into South Carolina. Surprisingly, the Noles have bested Clemson for two Maryland prospects -- Rick Leonard in the 2014 class and highly touted cornerback Ronald Darby in 2012. But FSU’s batting average against Clemson does not mean the Tigers have not taken away a few prized recruits from Florida State in recent memory. Five-star Tony Steward out of St. Augustine, Fla., signed with Clemson in the 2011 class, and NFL first-round pick C.J. Spiller played at Clemson after growing up just two hours east of Tallahassee.

5. Maryland-Virginia
It might be a bit of a push calling this one a true rivalry, but the two programs are often in the mix for the same prospects. Virginia coach Mike London is constantly looking to the state of Maryland for talent, and he has pulled quite a few prospects from the Terrapins. In the 2013 class, the Cavs signed Kirk Garner and Micah Kiser from Maryland. In all, Virginia has 15 prospects from Maryland on its roster, many of whom had offers from the Terps. Nothing intensifies a recruiting rivalry than going into the other team’s state and landing a coveted prospect, and the Cavs could do it again in 2014 with three-star Baltimore Gilman linebacker Melvin Keihn.