NCF On The Trail: Duke Blue Devils

SUGAR HILL, Ga. -- With the world’s busiest airport down the road, quarterbacks from across the country flocked to the Atlanta Elite 11 regional camp on Friday at Gary Pirkle Park, including several highly regarded passers from outside the Southeast.

Part of that group was Indianapolis Decatur Central’s Tommy Stevens. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Stevens traveled more than 500 miles, but it was worth every mile because he proved he has the tools to compete with the best of the best.


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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.
Some are can't-miss prospects, such as Jameis Winston. The Florida State quarterback was ESPN's No. 1 QB in the Class of 2012, won the Heisman Trophy in his first season as the Seminoles' starter and added a national championship to cap his redshirt freshman year.

Others are not so easy to find.

Andre Williams, who finished three spots behind Winston in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting, was a two-star prospect in the Class of 2010. All the Boston College running back did this past fall was tally the fifth-highest rushing total in FBS history (2,177 yards).

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Andre Williams
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesAndre Williams and Jameis Winston came from opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum.
With national signing day coming Wednesday, we figured this is a good time to revisit where our All-ACC players stood when they signed with their schools. The results, as usual, offer some surprises.

Just one ESPN.com All-ACC player from this past season entered college as a five-star prospect. Williams was one of two two-star prospects. There were 11 four-star prospects and eight three-star prospects. Two players, both of whom are from the high school Class of 2009, don't have star ratings, as ESPN didn't start using star ratings until 2010. Kickers and punters have no ratings, rankings or grades.

(All rankings and information are from ESPN's Recruiting Nation.)

Offense

  • QB Jameis Winston, Florida State via Hueytown (Ala.) High: Four stars, No. 14 overall prospect, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 84
  • RB: Andre Williams, Boston College via Allentown (Pa.) Parkland High: Two stars, No. 152 RB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 73
  • RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State via Miami Central High: Four stars, No. 15 RB, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson via South Fort Myers (Fla.) High: Four stars, No. 39 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 82
  • WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Four stars, No. 125 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke via Monroe (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 65 WR, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina via Greensboro (N.C.) Smith High: Four stars, No. 8 TE, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • T: Cameron Erving, Florida State via Colquitt County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 83 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 76
  • T: Brandon Thomas, Clemson via Dorman (S.C.) High: No. 60 OG, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
  • G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke via Chicago Lane Tech High: Three stars, No. 65 OG, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • G: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State via Wayne County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 50 DT, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • C: Bryan Stork, Florida State via Vero Beach (Fla.) High: No. 45 TE, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
Defense

  • DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson via Adairsville (Ga.) High: Four stars, No. 19 ATH, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DE: Kareem Martin, North Carolina via Roanoke Rapids (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 59 DE, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt via Pittsburgh Penn Hills High: Four stars, No. 22 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • DT: Timmy Jernigan, Florida State via Lake City (Fla.) Columbia High: Four stars, No. 17 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 84
  • LB: Telvin Smith, Florida State via Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes High: Four stars, No. 107 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 81
  • LB: Kelby Brown, Duke via Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High: Three stars, No. 88 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • LB: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College via Stamford (Conn.) The King & Low Heywood Thomas School: Four stars, No. 20 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • CB: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Five stars, No. 6 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 87
  • CB: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech via Baltimore Mount St. Joseph High: Three stars, No. 43 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 77
  • S: Terrence Brooks, Florida State via Dunnellon (Fla.) High: Three stars, No. 21 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 70
  • S: Anthony Harris, Virginia via Cheesterfield (Va.) Lloyd C. Bird High: Two stars, No. 203 ATH, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 72
Special Teams

  • K: Nate Freese, Boston College via Strongsville (Ohio) High: Class of 2009
  • P: Pat O’Donnell, Miami via Palm Beach (Fla.) Central High: Class of 2009
  • SP: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina via Charleston (W.Va.) George Washington High: Four stars, No. 59 WR, Class of 2013. Scout grade: 80
Wide receiver Trevon Lee (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) committed to Duke on Monday and became the Blue Devils' first ESPN 300 verbal for 2014. Read below to see how coach David Cutcliffe can utilized his newest weapon:


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Duke is quietly putting together a solid 2014 class, which got a whole lot better Monday after landing a pledge from an ESPN 300 receiver; Oklahoma commit Joe Mixon has long been the center of rumors about how solid his commitment is, and an unofficial visit to UCLA this weekend only fanned those flames even more.

Blue Devils score ESPN 300 WR


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Duke secured the biggest commitment of the David Cutcliffe era, if not the school's biggest commitment of the last few decades.

The Blue Devils landed ESPN 300 receiver Trevon Lee (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) on Monday. Lee committed on Miami radio station WQAM 560.

Lee, who is ranked No. 235 in the ESPN 300, took an official visit to Duke over the weekend and hosted Cutcliffe for an in-home visit last week. The full-court press from Duke just a week before national signing day was enough to secure Lee from Vanderbilt, the school that finished as runner-up.

Since the inception of the ESPN rankings in 2006, the Blue Devils have never signed an ESPN 150 or ESPN 300 recruit. Four-star commit Nicodem Pierre was in the original 2014 ESPN 300 but dropped from the rankings during the season.

In the 2014 class, Duke has four commitments rated as four-star prospects. Between 2010 and 2013, Duke’s only four-star signee was a kicker.

The Blue Devils are making significant gains in the talent-rich area of south Florida. Three-star Edgar Cerenord (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) was recruited by several BCS schools before committing to Duke in late January. Pierre is from Miami, and three-star receiver Chris Taylor hails from Fort Lauderdale.

The 5-foot-11, 168-pound receiver is a natural at the position, his scouting report states. His on-field intelligence should suit him well at a program like Duke and with a coach like Cutcliffe, who runs a sophisticated offense, one of the ACC’s best.

With 18 commitments, Duke is pushing toward a top-40 class as signing day nears.

Key recruiting visits -- ACC 

January, 31, 2014
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Signing day is now officially less than a week away. Recruits can make their final visits to colleges this weekend, and then beginning Monday there will be no more in-person contact between coaches and recruits. So coaches better make these last visits count.

Here are the 10 biggest visits affecting ACC teams this weekend, although this late to signing day there is always a potential for a change of plans or cancellation.

1. WR Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis)
Visiting: UCLA
Florida State is feeling confident, but the Noles probably were hoping to get Dupre, No. 17 in the ESPN 300, for his last visit. Instead he visited Ole Miss during the middle of this week and now goes to UCLA. The Noles would have preferred to turn this into a FSU-LSU battle, but these last two visits could really muddy the waters for the nation’s top-ranked receiver.


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ACC class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
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National signing day is one week away, so this is the time of the year when schools hope to be trending up in the class rankings. As the final elite uncommitted prospects wrestle with decisions, another highly-rated recruit picking a particular school could influence others to do the same.

Momentum works both ways, and any bad news could snowball in the final few hours.


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Most important targets: ACC 

January, 28, 2014
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This is the time for schools to make final visits and final pitches to recruits. Only a select number of prospects remain uncommitted, as most programs’ classes are close to completion, which means coaching staffs are focusing their attention on the final big pieces to the puzzle.

Here are the top targets remaining for each ACC school:

Boston College
DT Oseh Saine (Worcester, Mass./Worcester)
6-foot-4, 295 pounds
Not rated
It is possible Boston College will add another commitment between now and signing day. Coach Steve Addazio is hoping for a quiet signing day, as his first full class at BC is a good one, and any unexpected news on Feb. 5 could be bad news for the Eagles. Postgraduate defensive lineman Oseh Saine could sign, however, and he made an official visit after the Eagles had offered. There are academic hurdles, but if Saine is playing FBS football next season, it likely will be with the Eagles.


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There are only 31 prospects in the ESPN 300 who have yet to make a commitment, and one of those is four-star wide receiver Trevon Lee (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons).

The nation's No. 235-ranked prospect is down to two schools, and he visited one of his finalists this weekend.


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Most important targets: ACC 

January, 8, 2014
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With less than a month until signing day, ACC schools are focused on closing out their 2014 classes before moving onto 2015. Here is the top signing day target for each ACC program.

Boston College
DE Harold Landry (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest)
6-foot-3, 230 pounds

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Midyear signings: Duke

December, 23, 2013
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According to GoDuke.com, one player has signed a financial aid agreement with the Blue Devils:

Johnathan Lloyd ATH Graham, N.C./Southern Alamance
HT: 6-0 WT: 175
Positional Rank: No. 57 ATH
Stars: 3

ACC signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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Signing day and Feb. 5 still might feel far away (50 days away to be exact), but for coaches the sense of urgency has officially set in. The offseason dead period was extended and began Sunday. It will last a month into mid-January, leaving coaches with only a few weekends left to host recruits on campus visits and meet prospects and their families inside their homes.

So with signing day closer than it appears in college football’s mirrors, here are 10 storylines in the ACC to watch between now and Feb. 5.

1. Who will sign the ACC’s top class?


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Most important targets: ACC 

December, 10, 2013
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A look at the most important recruiting targets remaining for each school in the ACC:

Boston College
DE Harold Landry (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest)
6-foot-3, 230 pounds
Four stars

Boston College is close to done for 2014, and coach Steve Addazio is looking toward taking the next big recruiting jump with the 2015 class. However, the Eagles' 2014 class would be dealt a devastating blow if he cannot hold on to Landry, No. 30 among defensive ends nationally and the second-highest-rated commit in BC's class. Reports in mid-October had Landry decommitting from the Eagles, but it was only for a short while. He made amends with the staff quickly and rejoined BC. But now coaches are coming through schools and homes, so BC will have its work cut out once again.


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ACC class rankings analysis 

December, 4, 2013
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It’s championship week in college football, and the ACC could have what is considered to be the most lopsided contest of the weekend. No. 1 Florida State and No. 20 Duke meet in Charlotte for the ACC title.

In a few more seasons, this game might not have a 29-point spread in favor of the Seminoles. Coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils on the rise after leading them to their first double-digit win season in school history. Duke’s ACC Championship Game appearance coupled with Cutcliffe’s desire to finish his career in Durham has the Blue Devils poised to make a future splash in recruiting.

Before we take a look at the latest from the ACC, here's the most recent class rankings and BCS conference class rankings.

Trending up: A successful season usually impacts the next cycle of recruiting more than the current one as a large number of BCS schools have at least half of their spots filled by December. So Duke’s best season in school history should pay dividends in 2015 more so than 2014. After talking with several 2015 recruits from the state of North Carolina, many are looking at Duke more seriously. Three-star Corey Bell (Cornelius, N.C./Hough), who has offers from Duke, NC State and UNC, already has Duke as his No. 1 school. He won’t be the last North Carolina prospect to place Duke at the top in the coming months. Cutcliffe has a lifetime contract at Duke essentially, and his job security is on the level of Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. He’s not going anywhere. If the Blue Devils do not crack the top 40 in the class rankings in 2014, there is a very good chance it will happen in 2015.


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