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Tuesday, October 8, 2013
ACC 2014 recruiting scenarios

By Jared Shanker

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.

Boston College
Best-case scenario: The Eagles might already be living their best-case scenario under first-year BC coach Steve Addazio. A strong start to the recruiting class has been aided with improvement on the field from the Eagles. They have the No. 34 class nationally and landed many of their top targets. Only a few targets remain on the board, but the Eagles are close to finished for 2014.

Worst-case scenario: It is hard to imagine the Eagles going through a worst-case situation at the moment. With Addazio only in his first season, Boston College’s class is pretty secure in that there likely won’t be any decommitments despite how the Eagles finish the season. One prospect the Eagles cannot afford to lose is four-star defensive end Harold Landry, who hails from Fayetteville, N.C. There is always a higher chance of a decommitment when a prospect is from outside the area.

Best-case scenario: Last week, I wrote in the ACC roundtable that the Tigers have the most to gain between now and signing day. No ACC program has more elite targets left on the board. While the Tigers are in the trail position for several, official visits could alter that dramatically. Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page) is a Clemson lean, and five-star Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) has the Tigers in his top three with an official visit coming this month. ESPN 300 offensive tackle David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence) visited for the Georgia game, as did receiver Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside).

Worst-case scenario: Last week, in that same roundtable, Corey Dowlar and Tom Luginbill believed Clemson had the most to lose between now and signing day. Clemson could conceivably miss out on all of those remaining top targets. Furthermore, if Chad Morris lands a head coaching gig elsewhere, the offensive class -- headlined by No. 1 quarterback Deshaun Watson -- could suffer some departures.

Best-case scenario: The Blue Devils are putting together their finest class since David Cutcliffe became coach. After years without a four-star commitment, Duke now has three verbal pledges ranked as four-star recruits. Among those three is Nicodem Pierre (Miami/Coral Reef), an ESPN 300 quarterback. Cutcliffe is considered one of the game’s greatest quarterback mentors with names such as Eli and Peyton Manning having learned from him. With 15 commitments in the 2014 class, if Duke can add a few more under-the-radar pieces, it could be one of Duke’s best classes in a long time.

Worst-case scenario: Following a 2012 campaign that ended with a bowl game, the Blue Devils have their sights set on second consecutive bowl. But Duke faces an uphill battle as the Blue Devils sit at 3-2. If Duke struggles and misses out on a bowl, the question becomes whether out-of-state four-star commitments Nicodem Pierre and Zavier Carmichael (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal) will stick. Pierre has several other BCS offers.

Florida State
Best-case scenario: Florida State lands two of three offensive tackle targets, including Damian Prince, Chad Mavety or Roderick Johnson. Complimented by a running back, perhaps even Marlon Humphrey out of Alabama or some other late snag, this class will be a complete one.

Worst-case scenario: Failure to land an elite offensive tackle would be pretty disheartening to Florida State fans. Perhaps losing wide receiver commitment Markell Pack and some other commitments such as C.J. Worton and JoJo Robinson without replacing them would really, really hurt.
Georgia Tech
Best case-scenario: The Yellow Jackets did not sign an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 cycle, so they are hoping that changes in 2014. The most likely ESPN 300 candidate is Myles Autry (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), who is No. 259 in the rankings. Autry’s brother, Anthony, is a sophomore for the Yellow Jackets, so Georgia Tech has a built-in advantage.

Worst-case scenario: Johnson’s class should remain largely intact between now and signing day. Although Georgia Tech looks to be out of the ACC title race, Johnson is not in any danger of losing his job. The worst-case scenario for Johnson would be to miss out on Autry, unable to use the family connection to Atlanta as an advantage.

Best-case scenario: First, Randy Edsall is 4-1 and off the hot seat in College Park. Before the start of the season, job security was a question Edsall had to answer with recruits. If the Terrapins finish strong, the 2014 commits should solidify and it will go a long way in putting the finishing touches on this class. For the Terrapins to break into the class rankings, Edsall will have to land both Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship) and Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), who are among the top 25 players in the ESPN 300.

Worst-case scenario: The 2014 class will be a disappointment if Edsall signs just one of Prince and Tabor. It will be an utter failure if he cannot sign either. At the moment, both are Maryland leans, so it would be a devastating blow to a program that looks to have righted the ship in Year 3.

Best-case scenario: With the No. 4 recruiting class, this 2014 class could be looked at as the one that brings Miami back to among the elite. The Canes have the potential to break into the top three, too. Miami is the favorite for ESPN 300 prospects Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) and Anthony Moten (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas). The Canes are still working hard to flip Gators commit Ermon Lane, the No. 2 wide receiver and a local prospect from Homestead.

Worst-case scenario: It is hard to envision the Canes losing out on Moten, so it would really hurt Miami if they miss out on Dixon. It will be tough to land Lane, so Dixon is of the utmost priority. As strong as Miami’s class is, the Canes still need an elite receiver.

North Carolina
Best-case scenario: The Tar Heels already achieved somewhat of a best-case scenario after flipping top commit Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic) from Notre Dame. Hood was a UNC lean before pledging to the Irish. Now the best-case scenario would be to land a few more in-state prospects that UNC trails for. Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page) and Kentavius Street (Greenville, N.C./J.H. Rose) are defensive linemen who would really help a porous Heels defense.

Worst-case scenario: The yards and the losses are starting to pile up in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels do not have a lot of possible recruiting options on defense, either. If the Heels cannot come back for Featherston or Street, then 2014 could be another long season defensively for Larry Fedora.

North Carolina State
Best-case scenario: Dave Doeren has done a strong job so far recruiting at NC State, and the Wolfpack are poised to end strong. Kentavius Street (Greenville, N.C./J.H. Rose) is a NC State lean, although he will make visits elsewhere. ESPN 300 receiver Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) and teammate Donte Thomas-Williams would be big additions as well.

Worst-case scenario: NC State is struggling on the field, and you have to wonder if the losing will affect Street. Although the Wolfpack lead, Street will visit elsewhere. He is NC State's top remaining target.

Best-case scenario: Pitt fans are not happy with where the 2014 class stands at the moment and with good reason. The good news, however, is that several top local targets remain. If the Panthers can sweep ESPN 300 prospects Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon), Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa) and Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway), plus three-star Shai McKenzie (Washington, Pa./Washington), Paul Chryst could earn a lot more credibility as a recruiter.

Worst-case scenario: It is hard to believe the Panthers would strike out on all four prospects, but even landing just one would be discouraging. Pitt is in the top two for three of those prospects, and the other, Nicholson, is very high on Pitt. Anything less than signing two of those four would be a major disappointment.

Best-case scenario: The Orange had two big linemen they were after and just landed one, completing the first part of their scenario. Now that Aaron Roberts is committed, Scot Shafer can put much of his attention on ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln). The Orange shot up Holley’s list following a summer visit, but Syracuse still is an unlikely option.

Worst-case scenario: Missing out on Holley would hurt, but it wouldn’t be unexpected. What would hurt more is if Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) opted for Penn State. The Nittany Lions recently offered after the scholarship additions and promptly tendered a scholarship to Cabinda. He will visit Penn State this weekend.

Best-case scenario: Already with a strong class, Mike London hopes to close out with two local prospects. At the top of the target board is Jamil Kamara (Virginia Beach, Va./Bishop Sullivan), who is a Cavs lean. Also favoring the Cavs is Melvin Keihn (Baltimore/Gilman). And although the Cavs trail for Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon), they still have a shot.

Worst-case scenario: The heat in Charlottesville, Va., is emanating from London’s seat following an ugly loss to Ball State. As the losses pile up, the questions surrounding London’s job security intensifies. If London is not retained, the next UVa coach will have to try to hold on to five-star commitments Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) and Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) and fellow ESPN 300 pledges Jeff Farrar (Upland, Calif./Upland) and William Richardson (Burlington, N.C./Hugh M. Cummings).

Virginia Tech
Best-case scenario: It is a bit of a longshot, but the Hokies are not giving up on five-star Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge). Once a Virginia Tech lean, Hand cut the Hokies because the school does not offer his preferred major. But with each Hokies win, Virginia Tech might be able to climb back into the race. Even if they miss out on Hand, the Hokies still stand to close strong with Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central), Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) and Shai McKenzie (Washington, Pa./Washington) high on Virginia Tech.

Worst-case scenario: McKenzie will be a tough pull from Pittsburgh, but the Hokies are in a strong position for Lee and Nnadi. With Ricky Walker now committed, the Hokies need to close on Nnadi to finish off a strong defensive tackle class. If Virginia Tech misses out on all three, it would stymie the momentum Frank Beamer is building in Blacksburg.

Wake Forest
Best-case scenario: With a win over NC State, the Demon Deacons have a shot to get to 6-6 and a bowl game. That would certainly result in Jim Grobe sticking around in Winston-Salem, N.C., at least one more season. The Wake Forest class would likely remain intact at that point and Grobe can go on to finish out the 2014 class.

Worst-case scenario: If Grobe is not retained, several of the 2014 commitments would at least take a second look at their options. A new coach would have to try to salvage the class while trying to sell a downtrodden program.