Florida State Seminoles: Quin Blanding

Signing day wrap: ACC

February, 5, 2014
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Signing day is known for the crazy. Condense an entire college football season into 12 hours and that offers a glimpse -- albeit minimally -- into the first Wednesday of February.

It began with ESPN 300 defensive lineman Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), arms folded and chest out, announcing his intention to sign with Michigan State. His intention to sign. A glare from his parents and whispers in the gym let it be known this saga was not going to end at 10 a.m. in front of a microphone.

Both of McDowell’s parents would like to see their son, No. 60 in the ESPN 300, at any school in his top four not nicknamed the Spartans. Florida State is among those finalists, and several predicted the Seminoles would land McDowell considering his parents' distaste for all things Green. So Jimbo Fisher and those inside Doak Campbell are keeping the fax machine plugged in, offering a few more hours' respite from the storage closet for the condemned technology.

Ultimately, McDowell, whether of his own volition or executing his parents’ will, did not fax a letter of intent to Michigan State as of 8:00 p.m. ET, and the Noles finished signing day with the No. 3 class sans another elite lineman.

Compared to the McDowell drama, the rest of the morning was tame for the ACC. There were some tense moments, but signing day pretty much went the way most expected.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Nnadi
John Albright/Icon SMIGetting ESPN 300 DE Derrick Nnandi on Wednesday helped make national signing day successful for Florida State.
No team had more of an opportunity to close strong than the Noles, and Fisher did a fine job closing. It was unrealistic to expect Florida State to land every recruit on the board, five-star Lorenzo Carter (signed with Georgia) and No. 1 receiver Malachi Dupre (LSU) among them. However, into the fold for Florida State was ESPN 300 linemen Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and Derrick Kelly Jr. (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden), who was poised to sign with Florida but gave his commitment at the 11th hour.

Florida State was involved with a handful of signing day flips, but none that caught the Noles’ staff off-guard. No. 7 dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) switched to Florida and Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) signed with South Carolina, but the Noles flipped Ja'Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen), No. 117 in the ESPN 300. Harrison was committed to Virginia Tech for 18 months before his signing day change of heart. Harrison, ranked as an athlete, finalized what could be the best receiver class in the country. It was one of the best classes nationally, too.

“We’ve had large numbers this year, got needs all the way across the board and filled it with great players and everyone position across the board we had somebody in,” Jimbo Fisher said at his signing day news conference. “We were excited about that.”

Miami’s flipping efforts went for naught, but it prevented one of its own from changing allegiances. Local defensive end Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), ranked No. 3 among Hurricanes commits, took late official visits to Alabama and Florida State. There was some panic from fans when Thomas’ fax did not roll through exactly at 9 a.m., but Canes coach Al Golden said Thomas’ mother reassured him the 65th-ranked player in the country would stay near South Beach.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney would scoff at the claim FSU has the best receiver class. The Noles received the signing day pats on the back for landing No. 2 receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and Harrison on Wednesday while the Tigers had three four-star receivers already on campus. ESPN 300 receivers Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and four-star Kyrin Priester (Snellville, Ga./Fork Union) enrolled in early January. ESPN 300 receiver Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) signed Wednesday.

“It was a critical need for us ... and we are excited about all four,” Swinney said at his signing day news conference.

Mike London had a quiet signing day in his Charlottesville office, but that is all he could have hoped for following a winless ACC campaign. The Virginia coach did most of his 2014 recruiting work before the 2013 season, and he was able to secure the signatures of five-star Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) and ESPN 300 recruits Jeff Farrar (Upland, Calif./Upland), Jamil Kamara (Virginia Beach, Va./Bishop Sullivan) and Steven Moss (Fredericksburg, Va./Chancellor High).

“Obviously keeping the class was important when the season didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to ... but the in-state kids wanted to play together and build a brand together,” London said on the ESPNU signing day telecast.

While the day was quiet for Duke, it was still most the shocking signing day Durham has ever seen. The Blue Devils, coming off a 10-win season and an ACC title game, signed its first ESPN 300 recruit and four four-star recruits overall. Between 2010 and 2013, Duke signed only one four-star prospect -- a kicker.

While the ACC did not touch the SEC in the number of teams toward the top of the class rankings, for the most part the conference as a whole improved, and Florida State went a long way in challenging Alabama to become college football’s next dynasty.
Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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ACC recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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The holiday season is fast approaching, and with it, so too is national signing day.

ACC programs are scrambling to firm up their commitment lists and add to them as well. Here are a few top storylines for the conference:


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Under Armour game storylines: ACC 

December, 5, 2013
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The rosters are set, plane tickets purchased and coaching staffs assembled. The 2014 Under Armour All-America Game is less than a month away.

Deshaun Watson
Courtesy of IntersportDeshaun Watson could be the starter from Day 1 at Clemson.
With nearly all of the country’s elite prospects all together, there are bountiful storylines leading up to and during the Jan. 2 game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Here are five for ACC fans:

1. Will Deshaun Watson follow the footsteps of Jameis Winston and Christian Hackenberg? Both Winston and Hackenberg were the No. 1 quarterbacks in their respective classes and played in the Under Armour Game. Both then went on to have great freshman seasons (Winston after a redshirt year) and have their teams in position to make waves on a national level the next few seasons. Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) is the No. 1 quarterback for 2014 and will enter a similar situation to Hackenberg’s. Clemson will have an opening at quarterback in 2014, and Watson will enroll at Clemson following the game. He will have to beat out 2012 Under Armour All-American Chad Kelly, but there is a legitimate chance Watson could be the starter from Day 1 for the Tigers. He is that good.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

November, 18, 2013
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Miami was active with recruiting for its offensive line this weekend, while Florida State hosted one of its top targets on an official. Also, Duke and Virginia Tech each landed recruits for their 2015 class, and Maryland rebounded in a big way.

Biggest offer: If there is one thing Wisconsin does consistently well, it's produce offensive linemen. With that in mind, the Miami Hurricanes have offered one of the Badgers' commitments, George Panos (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead). At 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, Panos isn't necessarily a prototypical guard for most programs, but his big size would give any offensive line some extra beef. Panos has been committed to the Badgers since April, but has also taken an official visit to NC State. Other schools that have offered him include Arkansas, Florida State, NC State, Nebraska and Pittsburgh.


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Questions for signing day: ACC 

November, 12, 2013
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It is a chicken or the egg argument. Has the SEC ruled college football for much of the last decade because the conference annually places five or more teams among the top 10 of the recruiting rankings? Or is the SEC’s recruiting dominance a result of seven straight national championships?

The ACC, though, could be the David to the SEC on the field and in recruiting. In the 2014 cycle, two ACC schools have top-five classes. Will that remain the same come signing day?

We look at that question and nine others as we examine the most pressing ACC recruiting questions leading up to signing day.

1. Will FSU and Miami remain in the top five of the class rankings?
Both classes are close to completion, so it could be tough for the Noles and Canes to finish in the top five of the rankings. Alabama is at No. 1 and could end up running away with another recruiting title. The rest of the SEC will charge hard come signing day, too. Tennessee should be a safe bet to finish in the top five, and programs such as Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and more could break into the exclusive group come February. Tennessee recently jumped both schools, pushing Florida State to No. 3 and Miami to No. 4.

2. Can Miami surpass Florida State for the ACC’s top class?
If both were to fall out of the top five, there is still some pride in finishing with the top class in the conference. The Noles are ahead of the Canes at the moment, and it will be tough for the Canes to jump FSU. It looks as if Miami has two spots left and should finish with Johnnie Dixon and Anthony Moten. But the Noles could sign more than 30, and some of the country’s truly elite prospects have Florida State among their finalists. It looks doubtful that Miami -- or any ACC team -- will catch and pass Jimbo Fisher’s class.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Featherston
Courtesy of IntersportESPN 300 DE Lorenzo Featherston is a Clemson lean whose pledge would help the Tigers close strong.
3. Will Clemson finish in the top 10?
Sitting at No. 12 in the rankings, the Tigers have a good chance to finish in the top 10 and even an outside chance to crack the top seven. Defensive end Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page) is No. 27 in the ESPN 300 and a Clemson lean. It would be a surprise to see him land anywhere but with the Tigers. Cornerback D.J. Smith (Marietta, Ga./Walton), No. 88 in the ESPN 300, also looks to be leaning Clemson’s way, and the same could be said for defensive end Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Christian Landing), No. 168 in the rankings. The prize of the defensive class would be five-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan, however. He is slated to visit officially later this month, and the No. 12 player and top linebacker in 2014 has the Tigers among his top three.

4. Can Pitt close out with three of its four Western Pennsylvania targets?
For Pitt’s class to be considered a success, Paul Chryst needs to do just that. The Panthers are struggling some with Pittsburgh-area prospects in 2014, but the same happened in 2013 before Pitt landed Dorian Johnson and Tyler Boyd. In February, the Panthers hope to land Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon), Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and Shai McKenzie (Washington, Pa./Washington); Henry, Bookser and Nicholson are all in the ESPN 300 and have Pitt among their finalists. Henry is a Pitt legacy. Bookser looks to be focused on Ohio State and Pitt; Nicholson will decide in December and is projected to Pitt.

5. Will Duke sign an ESPN 300 prospect?
The Blue Devils have never signed an ESPN 150 or ESPN 300 prospect since the rankings began almost a decade ago. That was going to change in 2014 with quarterback Nicodem Pierre (Miami/Coral Reef), but the dual-threat dropped from the ESPN 300 in October. However, Trevon Lee (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) could be leaning Duke’s way with the Blue Devils on a roll this season. With a guaranteed winning regular season -- their first in nearly two decades -- Lee is thinking hard about Duke. Academics are big for the 241st-ranked player, so a decision could come down to Duke and Vanderbilt.


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Best ACC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

The best head coaches are often called the closer when it comes to sealing the deal with recruits. Whether on a visit or a trip to a prospect’s home, the head coach is called upon to secure the signature.

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ACC 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
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Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That is what college coaches must do when it comes to recruiting. Every coach would love to land their top target at every position, but coaches are forced to play the what-ifs and continue to recruit prospects lower on the recruiting board. With signing day a few months away and several classes close to completion, college staffs are pushing for those few final targets but also keeping a watchful eye on players down the board.

Here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for each of the ACC schools.


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Best ACC classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Florida State has the top class among ACC schools right now, but that is taking the Seminoles’ entire 23-recruit class into account. The Noles don’t have the best class at every position, as some of Florida State’s top rivals are looking stronger at certain positions. Here’s a look at which ACC school has the best class by position:

Quarterback

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The most important commitment in a team's recruiting class is a purely subjective. Is it the best overall recruit or the commit who fills the biggest need? Is it the lineman that has helped recruit other big-time prospects? And in six months, let alone a year or two, will they still even be on the team?

ACC reporters Corey Dowlar and Jared Shanker take these factors into effect and come up with the most important 2014 commitments for every ACC program.


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ACC class rankings analysis 

August, 14, 2013
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Florida State, the ACC's reigning champion, now owns the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country for the 2014 cycle, as Alabama has passed up the Seminoles. Miami, too, is in the top five giving the ACC some strong classes to go with the usual dominance of the SEC. There is a noticeable drop off beyond that, though. Clemson is next at No. 11, Virginia at No. 17 and North Carolina at No. 22.

Trending up: Mike London's Cavaliers have put together a tremendous class already. Their top two commitments, Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) and Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside), are both five-star caliber and in-state talents. Keeping highly rated guys home is important for any program, and London and Co. were able to do that. But last week, they reached across the country and snagged ESPN 300 ATH Jeff Farrar (Upland, Calif./Upland) out of California. That gives Virginia four ESPN 300 commitments, but at only 11 commitments, they'll need to fill out the rest of their class in the coming months. It's also worth noting that North Carolina picked up a verbal from three-star wide receiver Josh Cabrera (Jacksonville, N.C./Northside).

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Opening has concluded and it did not disappoint. The top prospects in the nation were invited to Nike headquarters to display their ability and compete against the best of the best.

RecruitingNation was on hand for every event to take in the happenings throughout the week. Here are a few storylines:

Who committed

Florida State landed two in-state prospects during the final day of The Opening on Wednesday: four-star offensive tackle Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) and three-star safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia). Marshall was a finalist for the SPARQ national championships where he posted a 40-yard-dash time of 4.34 seconds. ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra), son of former Tennessee Volunteers and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates, verbally committed to the Vols. Four-star linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) verbally committed to USC over UCLA.


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RN Top 10: The Opening, Day 2 

July, 3, 2013
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video The RN Top 10 will appear throughout the camp and combine season and rank prospects based strictly on their on-field performance at that particular event. It does not reflect their overall prospect rankings.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- After Monday's SPARQ testing, the nation's top players were ready for some actual football Tuesday. With a lineman challenge in the morning and seven-on-seven games throughout the afternoon, each player got a chance to see what he could do against top-notch competition. Many of the usual suspects thrived, but there were also some surprises.

10. Brad Kaaya
Chaminade (Calif.) College Prep | QB | 6-4, 213

Consistency is Kaaya’s game. He bolted out of the gate with a strong performance Saturday at the Elite 11 and then showed throughout Sunday's practice why Miami ventured all the way across the country to snag his commitment. He was almost flawless again Monday and then lit up pool play Tuesday. He drew rave reviews with a throw for a two-point conversion on which he lowered his arm to place the ball in a tight space. "He makes the extremely difficult look really easy," coach and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said. -- Jeremy Crabtree


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The Opening, presented by Nike, will feature 162 of the best high school football players in the country. The event, which will include linemen, 7-on-7 and SPARQ testing competitions, is set to run from June 30 to July 3 at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

The following events from The Opening will be televised on ESPNU:

July 1: SPARQ Rating National Championship, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. ET

July 2: 7-on-7 Pool Play, 9 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET

July 3: Linemen Challenge Finals and 7-on-7 semifinal and championship games, 9 p.m.-midnight ET

The players will be divided in to six teams -- Alpha Pro, Apocalypse, Field Generals, Land Sharks, Super Bad and Vapor Carbon. Here is a closer look at how the teams match up.

Team: Alpha Pro
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Jordan Palmer, defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson

The Alpha Pro team will have plenty of targets to spread the ball around. Ermon Lane and Tyler Luatua, the No. 1-ranked receiver and tight end in the country respectively, bring size and playmaking ability to the passing game. ESPN 300 athletes Corey Holmes, Jalen Hurd, John "JuJu" Smith, Ja'Von Harrison, and Derrell Scott are all explosive offensive weapons.

Defensively Alpha Pro is led by Andrew Brown, the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the country, ESPN 150 cornerback Damon Webb, defensive end Andrew Williams, Ohio State linebacker commit Dante Booker and LSU cornerback commit Chris Hardeman.

Complete Alpha Pro roster.

Team: Apocalypse
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Adam Tafralis, defensive coordinator Donovin Darius

The first thing that jumps out about team Apocalypse is the talent in the defensive front seven. Team Apocalypse will be led by five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Hand, from Woodbridge, Va., is the No. 4-ranked player in the country, while McMillan was recently bumped up to a five-star linebacker. Joining Hand and McMillan along the front seven are ESPN 300 defensive linemen Anthony Moten and Ainuu Taua, and linebackers D.J. Calhoun and Rashaan Evans.

Offensively, team Apocalypse has no shortage of playmakers. ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott, K.D. Cannon and Michiah Quick will provide explosiveness in the passing game, while athletic running backs Joe Mixon and Royce Freeman will provide athletic and reliable targets out of the backfield.

Complete Apocalypse roster.

Team: Field Generals
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, defensive coordinator Michael Fletcher

Seven-on-seven events are always geared towards the offense, but with five-star defensive back Adoree' Jackson, No. 3-ranked safety Jamal Adams, and ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett in the secondary, the Field Generals should more than hold their own. New Ohio State defensive end commit Jalyn Holmes and the No. 6-ranked defensive end in the country, Solomon Thomas, will be two to watch along the defensive line.

Offensively, the Field Generals are led by ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama, ESPN 300 wide receivers Austin Roberts and Thaddeus Snodgrass and explosive Notre Dame running back commit Elijah Hood.

Complete Field Generals roster.

Team: Landsharks
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Craig Nall, defensive coordinator Keith Bulluck

The Landsharks have some big-time talent along each line of scrimmage. Led by five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, the Landsharks also feature ESPN 300 offensive guard Corey Martinez. ESPN 300 defensive linemen Gerald Willis III and Thomas Holley, as well as ESPN 300 defensive end Chad Thomas, will form a very physical and athletic defensive line.

In the secondary, the Landsharks will have three defensive backs -- Arrion Springs, Chris Lammons and Tony Brown -- that are ranked among the top 85 players in the country. The defense also features ESPN 150 linebacker Nyles Morgan.

Offensively, explosive running backs Dalvin Cook, a Florida commit, and Racean Thomas form a dangerous tandem out of the backfield, and wide receivers Travis Rudolph and Jalen Harvey are solid receiving threats.

Complete Landsharks roster.

Team: Superbad
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Dennis Gile, defensive coordinator Harold Nash Jr.

The Superbad defense line is led by five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter and ESPN 150 defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson. The linebacking corp is stacked with three ESPN 300 members, including Clifton Garrett, Christian Miller and Edwin Freeman. Cornerback Jalen Tabor is the No. 19-ranked player in the country.

Offensively, Superbad has a huge advantage with the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, running back Leonard Fournette. This team is loaded on offense, with wide receivers Drake Harris, Josh Malone and Speedy Noil all in the mix.

Complete Superbad roster.

Team: Vapor Carbon
Coaches: Offensive coordinator George Whitfield, defensive coordinator Chris Gizzi.

Vapor Carbon will be tough to throw against with defensive backs Quin Blanding, Naijiel Hale and Ed Paris roaming the field. The linebacker group is just as impressive, with Ohio State commit Kyle Berger, Kain Daub and Dillon Bates all leading the way.

The offense for Vapor Carbon could be lethal with running back Joseph Yearby and Nick Chubb in the backfield. Spreading out wide receivers T.V. Williams, Justin Brent and tight end Ian Bunting on the outside could prove to be an awesome combination for this squad.

Team Vapor Carbon has a lot of pieces to make a long run in the 7-on-7 tournament, but then again, every team is stacked in this competition.

Complete Vapor Carbon roster.

State of the Noles: Safeties 

February, 25, 2013
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NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, an abundance of talent has led to an interesting debate at safety.


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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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