NCF On The Trail: ACC

video Josh Sweat, the nation’s No. 1 prospect, has lined up all five of his official visits. Sweat said he turned down more than 50 scholarship offers to focus on Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon and Virginia Tech. He also said Texas A&M and Auburn are also still under consideration.

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 Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings.

Today’s offerings: Josh Sweat was recently promoted to the No. 1 player in the country Insider and it looks like we won’t have to wait too much longer for the five-star defensive end to announce what schools will make the cut for his top five list. Plus, with an addition of another ESPN 300 prospect on Tuesday, Miami’s class continues to climb the charts.

Handling it the right way

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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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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Though not as heavy on star-studded talent as in years past, there was still plenty of news at Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp. The day started with the Gators receiving a commitment from three-star offensive tackle George Brown Jr., and ended with some of the top prospects from the Southeast attending the one night camp. Here is a closer look at the top story lines from Friday evening.

ESPN 300 athlete set to decide

The 11th-ranked athlete and the No. 155-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300, Ray Ray McCloud III, will announce his college decision on Monday night.

McCloud didn’t participate at Friday Night Lights but did have a chance to spend some time with current Florida player and pre-season All-SEC selection Vernon Hargreaves III, who like McCloud is also a Tampa native.

"Vernon knows I’m coming from the same place he was a few years ago,” McCloud said. "He just told me to always keep my options open until signing day because you never know what could happen as far as coaching changes. He said to just take my time with the process.”

McCloud will choose between Florida, UCLA, Clemson and Maryland on Monday but his father, Ray McCloud Jr., also added that USF has recently made an impression on his son.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp had one last chance to speak with McCloud before he makes his big decision on Monday and his message was simple.

"He said he wants me to do what I do in my home state,” McCloud said. "He wants me to be a Gator."

Four-star running back remains committed to Miami

Despite Miami signing Joseph Yearby, the No. 4-ranked running back in the country last year, and having three running backs committed this year, ESPN 300 running back Dexter Williams said he remains strong in his commitment to the Hurricanes.

“It would be a good feeling to be in the backfield with them because all of them are great backs and they can do great things,” Williams said. "Wherever you go, there's competition. You've got to beat out your competitor.”

The Florida coaching staff was hoping to changes Williams’ mind on Friday but to no avail.

"They're just saying you can get on the field here," Williams said. "We're only going to take two [running backs]. They're taking four. Just think about it."

Williams admits his own father pushes him to switch his commitment to the Gators.

"He has loved the Gators since he was little, and he wants me to be a Gator a lot," Williams laughed. "So he tells me every morning, 'Be a Gator.' When I told him I was still thinking about it, he said, 'That's the way. That's where I want you to go.'"

Coney has leader, will decide soon

Four-star linebacker Te’Von Coney sent out a tweet recently that said he would be attending the same school as his friend George Brown Jr. On Friday, Brown committed to the Gators and Coney admitted that their packaged deal will likely still happen.

"It was, like, 85 percent true,” Coney said of his tweet. "Florida is my leader right now but I’m still checking out Auburn, Tennessee, Miami and other programs but Florida is still my leader. I’ll probably make my decision soon, like within the next month or so.”

Coney admitted his visit to Gainesville strengthened the Gators chances of landing him.

“I just think Florida’s a great school,” he said. "It’s the Harvard of the South. I can get a great education, they have a great business and engineering school which are two majors I’m thinking about majoring in.

"I think they have a great program and they need linebackers right now to come in and step up and I think Will Muschamp is a great defensive coach and they are always going to have a top defense and that’s what I want to play in."

Prince likes four

ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince was one of the most impressive linemen to attend FNL and received plenty of attention from the Florida coaching staff.

After the event concluded Prince said there are four schools that are standing out right now but he’s likely to add other schools as his recruitment continues.

"Right now, the schools that really stick out to me is Maryland, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State, but I’ll probably have more schools in the mix as I take more visits,” he said.

Though he has no set dates in mind, Prince knows of three schools he would like to visit in the fall.

“This visit helped Florida out a whole lot,” Prince said. "It’s a really nice campus, I want to study sports management and that building is right next to the stadium. I’ll most likely be back for a game in the fall as well as games at Alabama and Ohio State."

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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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: In case you missed it, the ESPN Class Rankings recently expanded to 25 teams Insider and this week’s update gave us the additions of both Ohio State and Oregon. But Nebraska, TCU, Duke and Arizona State are a few teams just outside the top 25 that could join the list in the future.


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BRADENTON, Fla. — There were as many as 10 games going on at the same time at the IMG 7v7 National Championship over the weekend, and at times it was difficult to determine just who the top performers were. After all, there were more than 30 prospects in the ESPN 300 who participated. Here's a closer look at several seniors who stood out during the two-day event.

ATH Deon Cain
Committed to Clemson
ESPN 300 rank: 25
Cain helped lead his team, Unsigned Preps from Tampa, to the championship game with several acrobatic catches. The trio of Cain, Ray Ray McCloud III and junior-to-be wide receiver Nate Craig proved to be too much for teams to handle. Cain is solidly committed to Clemson and said he is not considering any other schools at this time.
S Derwin James
Committed to Florida State
ESPN 300 rank: 26
James is known for his physical play, but he showed he is more than just a big hitter. James broke up several passes and just always seemed to be around the ball. Like Cain, he is solid with his commitment, but in this case to the Seminoles.
CB Iman Marshall
Uncommitted
ESPN 300 rank: 20
Marshall played wide receiver and defensive back for his team, B2G, and excelled at both. The four-star prospect teamed with another ESPN 300 receiver, Trent Irwin, to form a dangerous pass-catching combo. Marshall is still narrowing his choices but knows he will take visits in the fall to Florida State and Notre Dame.

Notebook: IMG 7v7 Championship 

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy over the weekend featured some of the top 7-on-7 teams from all over the country and even a few teams from Canada. The event, which included 12 prospects ranked in the top 50 of the ESPN 300, showcased some of the best talent you will find in a single tournament. Led by Alabama verbal commits Calvin Ridley and Shawn Burgess-Becker, the Florida Fire from South Florida defeated Tampa’s Unsigned Preps 20-18 in the championship game to take home the title.

Quarterbacks shine

There were several high-profile quarterbacks in attendance, and they lived up to the hype for the most part. Deondre Francois, who recently transferred to IMG Academy, made numerous impressive throws. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound signal-caller has a top three of Oregon, Auburn and Florida State and is planning to make his decision at the end of July.


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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 

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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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Clemson is up to No. 4 in the latest ESPN Recruiting Nation class rankings, and a big reason why is the way the Tigers have emphasized getting athletes out of Tampa and the entire West Coast of Florida.

So far for the 2015 class, Clemson has commitments from two players in Tampa, and both are highly rated at their positions -- ESPN 300 athlete Deon Cain and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen. That should not come as a surprise considering the inroads the Tigers have made in this area of the state. Clemson has signed more players from the West Coast of Florida under Dabo Swinney than it has from South Florida, often regarded as one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the entire nation.

The biggest name, of course, is Sammy Watkins out of Fort Myers, about two hours south of Tampa. Watkins signed in 2011, and that decision helped bolster the Tigers' efforts in that area of the state. In his first two recruiting classes, Swinney signed zero players from the West Coast of Florida. Since then, he has signed five -- with two more commitments for next year. Another player in Tampa, Ray-Ray McCloud III, is scheduled to visit Clemson this month, though he is reportedly a Florida lean.

Clemson is not the only program doing well in the Tampa area. Miami, at No. 10 in the latest rankings, has picked up four commitments from there, including ESPN 300 players Bowman Archibald and Dwayne Lawson. The significance of this should not be understated. While Miami was under the dark NCAA investigation cloud, it was difficult for the coaching staff to convince players from the West Coast to come down to campus for a visit. Given all the uncertainty, many recruits felt it was not worth the drive.

As proof, Miami signed zero players from the West Coast of Florida in 2013 and 2014. This has traditionally been an area where Miami has been able to sign talent, so to get back into the Tampa mix has to be encouraging for Al Golden and his staff.

Two other ACC schools have commitments from the West Coast area, too: Boston College and Virginia Tech.
From his start at Kansas State, to his time at Oklahoma that included a national championship and a number of top-five recruiting classes, to his move across the country to become Clemson’s defensive coordinator in 2012, Brent Venables has long been thought of as one of the best recruiters in college football. Now in his fourth recruiting class at Clemson, Venables has played a large role in the Tigers’ top-five start to the 2015 cycle Insider. Venables visited with RecruitingNation about what holes the Tigers still need to fill, what it’s like to recruit in the ACC instead of the Big 12 and other national recruiting issues.

[+] EnlargeBrent Venables
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsClemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says there's more recruiting competition in the ACC than in the Big 12.
Clemson’s 2015 class has already generated a lot of national attention, but what key needs do you still need to fill before signing day?

Brent Venables: It's such a critical year for us. We need to re-establish our depth on our offensive line and defensive lines. We have to do well there to help us determine our future success. As the old cliché goes, games are won on the line of scrimmage, and we're losing six D-linemen after this season. That's a bunch. Filling those needs are going to be absolutely critical for us to have future success, but we're off to a pretty strong start.

How is recruiting in the ACC different than your time in the Big 12?

BV: Kids on the East Coast are little more willing to relocate, all the way up from New York and all the way down to Florida. There's a little more theme-based approach of family and having them included in the recruiting process. They're willing to go to out of state schools more than in the Big 12, but they're still going to stay within arm's reach of home. The family unit is so important in the Southeast. It also seems like there are a lot more big guys with length that can run in this part of the country. It's also a lot more competitive. There are just more big-name schools that are involved with the same kids you're going after. From a numbers standpoint, there's more competition for recruits than in the Big 12.

Do you see more negative recruiting in the Southeast than you did in the Big 12?

BV: I'm just going to say it is more competitive (laughing). You have to be a lot more resourceful and creative recruiting in the Southeast because of that competition. There's just a lot more people with the financial and staff resources in the Southeast. There's a lot more of a commitment, so you have to really consistently work hard through all the proper channels, get information and get your brand in front of kids. There are also no days off in the Southeast. If you have a top-20 list of kids that are your top targets, if you go two days without having some form of communication it feels like it might as well have been two months. If you're not always recruiting, somebody else is.

How much has Twitter become a tool you use in recruiting?

BV: You have such instant access to these kids. Finding their film and finding them is so much easier. You do it sometimes by accident because they're friends or following somebody else you're recruiting. Or it’s the other way around. 'I'm in love with Clemson, here's a Clemson coach.' The access to each other and the lines of communication happen so much faster. You have to be careful to make sure you're not excluding the high school coach. I still think the coach at the end of the day, more often or not, can be the X-factor in a kid's recruitment. And it's the respectful way to treat the recruiting process. I hate that the coach sometimes is circumvented in the process. I think that just hurts relationships.

You’ve been around recruiting now for more than 20 years, and the process has become earlier and earlier each year. Now we’re at the point where schools are offering eighth graders. Is that a good or a bad thing?

BV: It is a joke, an absolute joke. I don't know what you can do to really do to manage it. It's unfortunate. None of us really like it, but you don't want to be left out. Then you think, ‘He's really talented for his age, so I can offer him now and it won't stick because there's plenty of time to get out of it.’ So what does it really mean? All it does is continues to feed the self-indulged monster, which is what we all hate.

I hear it from about 70 percent of the high school coaches. They say offering these kids at an earlier age really causes a lot of problems with the coach and the kid, the coach and the kid's parents and then even the other parents. Parents are like 'Why aren't you doing that for my kid?' It seems more and more like the basketball issues that we're trying to avoid in football. I've talked to three coaches this week with kids that have top 15, top 10 BCS offers that don't even start on their high school team.
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.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: There’s no question social media has forever changed the way recruiting is done. Coaches now have instant access to kids 24-7 through direct messaging on Twitter and Facebook. But many recruiters know the real key to winning the prized prospects over in the end is to not forget about the high school coach. Plus, Oregon isn’t the only school selling prospects on cool uniforms. TCU made an effort to let recruits know about their special relationship with Nike earlier this week.

High school coach could be ‘X-factor’

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