NCF On The Trail: Duke Blue Devils

Early Offer: 2016 targets come off board
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: It’s been said recruits are committing sooner than ever before and the recent run of pledges in the 2016 class proves to some that an early signing period is needed now more than ever. Plus, if you want to know how competitive it is to recruit in the Southeast, just check out the up-and-down two weeks the Florida Gators have had on the recruiting trail.

It’s never too early
Signing day for the Class of 2016 isn’t for another 555 days, but that hasn’t stopped a high number of ESPN Junior 300 prospects from making early decisions. In the last eight days alone, seven of the best players in next year’s class committed, and overall 47 of the top 300 prospects have made their decisions.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: ESPN.com conducted a survey of the top 300 2015 football recruits, and throughout the week it's been exploring the results. This includes a look at how recruits are open to playing with gay teammates and how they would support unionization, stipends and an expanded College Football Playoff.

So which schools scored with recruits for the best food, top facilities, greatest campus atmosphere and coolest uniforms?


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Duke football can no longer be overlooked on the football field.

Or on the recruiting trail.

The Blue Devils have capitalized on their Coastal Division championship with an impressive commitment list for the class of 2015 so far. The latest coup? ESPN 300 tight end Tyler Petite chose Duke over USC on Wednesday.

 

Petite is now the second ESPN 300 commitment the Blue Devils have secured. Duke has never signed more than one ESPN 300 player in any given class.

Perhaps most impressive of all? Duke is getting pledges from players who are spurning more prestigious football programs. Not only did Petite pick Duke over USC; ESPN 300 receiver Keyston Fuller chose the Blue Devils over offers from Auburn, Clemson and hometown Georgia to name three.

Just last month, Duke also picked up a commitment from three-star offensive lineman Reno Rosene, who had offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Duke has worked the California recruiting trail hard under David Cutcliffe, but the Blue Devils also have reaped the benefits of staying closer to home, too.

As ESPN Recruiting Nation reporter Jeremy Crabtree points out Insider, Duke has made particular headway inside the state of Georgia for this class, with six commitments to date. He writes:
Keep an eye on three-star receiver T.J. Rahming's stock, too. He has a big upside and could shoot up the rankings with a solid senior season. One ACC coach called him “the biggest sleeper in the state of Georgia.”

Cutcliffe has never had a class finish in the top 50 of the ESPN recruiting rankings, but he has been reaping the rewards of his team's on-field success. Back in February, the Blue Devils signed four four-star players -- including one in the ESPN 300 -- the best group of talent they have signed to date.

That earned the Blue Devils a No. 51 ranking from ESPN, its highest ever. Now consider: Duke has made back-to-back bowl games and its first ACC championship game without top-rated recruiting classes.

What will Cutcliffe be able to do with all the talent he is now assembling?
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The Blue Devils stay hot on the trail with the addition of ESPN 300 TE Tyler Petite, who has the potential to be a versatile weapon in the passing game.


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The Opening presented by Nike Football will take place July 7-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects set to compete. With four days of dynamic training, coaching and competition among the best of the best, The Opening is the perfect chance for recruits in the Class of 2015 to make big jumps and shine on the national stage.

Here are five prospects with the most to gain at the prestigious event:


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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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Duke landed its first ESPN 300 prospect for 2015 in Keyston Fuller. Read on to see why Fuller, evaluated as a wide receiver, could also be a fit on defense for the Blue Devils:


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Top ACC recruiters 

June, 9, 2014
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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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ACC recruiting scorecard

May, 21, 2014
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Clemson has had a big week on the recruiting trail, as the Tigers picked up the nation's No. 2 tight end, Garrett Williams on Monday. With that, we figured now is as good of a time as any to compile an ACC recruiting scorecard.

Below you will find each ACC team, its number of commitments and its most recent recruiting news. There's obviously a ways to go between now and national signing day on Feb. 4, 2015, but here's a look at where everyone in the league currently stands.

(Note: ESPN has only ranked the top 15 recruiting classes for 2015.)

Boston College
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The highlight of the Eagles' class is No. 7 tight end-H Jakeb Burt, a 6-foot-5, 238-pound three-star prospect. BC’s other big commits include three-star, No. 35 cornerback Lukas Denis and three-star, No. 52 offensive tackle Anthony Palazzolo.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Clemson
Current commitments: 16
Spotlight: The Tigers' best recruit is five-star tackle Mitch Hyatt, the nation's No. 7 overall player and the highest-ranked offensive lineman to commit to the program in the 10 years ESPN has ranked players. Clemson has nine four-star commitments as well, with Williams and three other offensive linemen among them.
ESPN 300 commitments: 7
ESPN rank: 5

Duke
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Blue Devils have just three commitments, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 39 defensive tackle Brandon Boyce and No. 37 defensive end Zach Morris.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Florida State
Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: The Seminoles have hauled in No. 25 overall player Derwin James Jr., the nation's top safety. They also scored a major win by beating out in-state rivals Florida and Miami to get No. 5 cornerback Tyrek Cole. Florida State has six four-star players among its 11 commitments.
ESPN 300 commitments: 4
ESPN rank: 7

Georgia Tech
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: No. 25 athlete Jaylend Ratliffe highlights this haul for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-1, 200-pound four-star is ranked as the No. 278 overall player in the nation, flashing tremendous athleticism as a left-handed quarterback at the prep level.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

Louisville
Current commitments: 1
Spotlight: Bobby Petrino's only commit in his first class with the Cardinals is 6-foot, 205-pound safety T.J. Jallow.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Miami
Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: No. 5 running back Dexter Williams has been the biggest get for the Hurricanes, as they stole him out of Gator Country. Miami also boasts No. 5 tight end-Y Bowman Archibald and No. 4 dual-threat quarterback Dwayne Lawson, two of seven four-star commitments for the program so far.
ESPN 300 commitments: 5
ESPN rank: 11

North Carolina
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The Tar Heels have landed the nation’s No. 3 tight end-H in ESPN 300 prospect Carl Tucker, a four-star recruit and the nation's No. 260 overall player. They have landed two other four-star prospects: No. 31 offensive tackle Mason Veal and No. 22 safety Ronnie Harrison.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

NC State
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: Three of the Wolfpack's four commitments have come from within the state, with the lone exception being wide receiver Freddie Phillips.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Pitt
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Panthers have just three commitments for this class, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 27 outside linebacker Kevin Givens and No. 42 offensive guard Alex Paulina.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Syracuse
Current commitments: 7
Spotlight: The Orange's run game should look pretty good down the road: Five of their seven current commitments are either offensive linemen or running backs, with the top three prospects coming on the offensive line, and two of them currently prep teammates: tackle Colin Byrne and guard Samuel Clausman.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Virginia
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Cavaliers' 2015 recruiting class doesn't quite stack up to its 2014 haul as of now, but among their three prospects are nationally ranked, three-star players: No. 22 pocket-passing quarterback Nick Johns and No. 28 safety Juan Thornhill.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Virginia Tech
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: The Hokies' class is also short on numbers but features three nationally ranked, three-star prospects: No. 39 athlete Mook Reynolds, No. 29 cornerback DuWayne Johnson and No. 37 defensive tackle Harry Lewis.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Wake Forest
Current commitments: 2
Spotlight: Dave Clawson's first full class currently has two players: defensive end Paris Black and offensive tackle T.J. Haney.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0
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The state of Georgia has quickly risen to be considered the fourth most-talented state in the country in terms of producing high school football talent behind Florida, California and Texas. While the state has churned out several big-time defensive linemen and skill players in the last two classes, there were only three Georgia offensive linemen in the ESPN 300 in the 2013 and 2014 combined.

In the Class of 2015, the offensive line has become the position of strength in the Peach State, with 10 big uglies among the top 300 prospects in the country:

No. 7 Mitch Hyatt: The five-star Hyatt was a "must get" for Clemson in the 2015 class with family ties strong in the Tigers' favor, along with proximity to home. Clemson wrapped up its highest-ranked offensive line commit in recent memory on Feb. 5, holding off Ohio State, Auburn and Georgia. While Hyatt has some maturing to do physically, he is blessed with every athletic quality that can’t be coached.


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The state of North Carolina is loaded in the 2015 class and beyond. With 11 prospects from the state in the ESPN 300, college programs from around the nation have made the Tar Heel State a top priority.

Here is the latest, with three of the most highly sought prospects on the East Coast.

Can Duke reel in ESPN 300 RB?

Nyheim Hines put together a state record-breaking season in 2013. Not only did the 5-foot-9, 187-pounder, with 10.67 100-meter speed, rush for 3,137 yards and 49 touchdowns on just 299 carries, but he also caught 29 passes for 599 yards and nine scores. The versatile back added 471 yards in kickoff and punt return yards for a 14-game total of 4,207 yards, 59 touchdowns and 362 total points scored.


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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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