NCF On The Trail: North Carolina Tar Heels

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The ongoing NCAA investigation into academic fraud at North Carolina hasn't been a focal point in the Tar Heels' locker room, coach Larry Fedora said at Monday's ACC Kickoff, but it's been an ever-present speed bump on the recruiting trail.

The NCAA last month reopened the investigation, which had been concluded in 2012 and which Fedora said he'd believed was closed for good, sparking another round of negative recruiting from competing schools.

"It's not really affecting our team," Fedora said. "The players, they're not concerned with it. They've been hearing about it for three years. It's just old news. The ones it affects is in recruiting. That's where it hits you the hardest. The other schools, that's what they're using when they're recruiting against you."

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Signing a top quarterback remains at the top of the list for the Oregon Ducks.

After first losing out to Texas A&M on five-star Kyler Murray, the top quarterback on the board, the Ducks went after former Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett. While it appeared as if Oregon had a very good chance to land the Under Armour All-America selection, Barnett committed to Alabama on Wednesday in what was another hit at the position for the Ducks.

The Ducks, however, wasted little time moving on to the next quarterback on the board.

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina Gamecocks hosted their annual prospect camp on Friday. With the three consecutive 11-win seasons and top-10 finishes, as well as producing a number of high NFL draft choices led by 2014 No. 1 overall selection Jadeveon Clowney, the level of talent at the camps continues to rise.

Here is some news and notes from the camp:


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The Tar Heels have reached double-digit pledges with the addition of offensive lineman Tommy Hatton. Here’s how North Carolina is expected to utilize the ESPN 300 prospect:

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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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Austin King saw the pile and immediately knew something was different about today’s mail. As one of the Georgia’s most heavily recruited quarterbacks, he’s used to getting letters from schools all over the country. But the stack of 100 envelopes addressed to him from South Florida caught his attention.

USF letters
TwitterClass of 2015 signal-caller Austin King received 100 letters at once from South Florida.
As King ripped through envelope after envelope, he discovered this just wasn’t some mass mailing of form letters with a few handwritten notes sprinkled in from a school -- a recruiting tactic used by a number of programs in the past. He knew that this was something different.

“As I opened each letter, I discovered they were 100 hand-written notes with exactly 100 reasons why I should commit to South Florida,” King said. “They’re all handwritten. There’s so many. I haven’t even gotten through all of them yet. It definitely feels great being wanted at a school like this. I'm still in a little bit of a shock."

King isn’t leaning toward a school, but he does have scholarship offers from South Florida, West Virginia, Southern Miss and UCF, among others, with schools such as North Carolina, Mississippi State and Notre Dame showing interest. It’s safe to say he has plenty of reasons now to consider South Florida even more than before.
In the ACC, three programs -- Florida State, Miami and Clemson -- are far and away superior from a recruiting standpoint. Florida State and Miami are on another level from even Clemson due to the fact that they sit in the most talented state in the country, and with a national appeal that is match by only a few.

After the top three, there are a number of programs that could be argued to round out the top five, but a pair of programs from neighboring states get the nod in the current landscape.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJimbo Fisher led Florida State to the BCS title.
1. Florida State Seminoles
Proximity to out-of-state talent: FSU is the closest major university to parts of talent-rich South Georgia, and is 245 miles from Mobile, Alabama, 270 miles from Atlanta, 385 miles from New Orleans, 710 miles from Houston and 865 miles from Washington.


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ACC recruiting scorecard

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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
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The state of Florida has become center of the recruiting universe in recent years. Whether it’s because it’s arguably the most talented state for prospects or the fact that teams go head-to-head in spring matchups, the Sunshine State has become the go-to state for college coaches in the spring evaluation period.

In the Jacksonville area, there is an abundance of talent in not only the Class of 2015 but in the 2016 and 2017 classes as well. Here is the latest news and notes from that talented part of the state.

Prediction time
[+] EnlargeJeffery Holland
Gerry Hamilton/ESPNOLB Jeffery Holland, No. 24 in the ESPN 300, says Auburn is a slight favorite, but Florida, UCLA, USC, Bama, Tennessee and Ohio State are still in the mix.
Jeffery Holland, No. 24 in the ESPN 300, continues to list Auburn as a “slight” favorite over Florida, with UCLA, USC, Alabama, Tennessee and Ohio State on the periphery. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound edge-rushing specialist had the Gators on top of his list from the start of his recruitment, but the Tigers have pulled in front in recent weeks. Holland is expected at Auburn’s “Big Cat Weekend” on May 31 with a decision possible in early July, or closer to the Under Armour All-America Game. Auburn and Florida are scheduled to be at the Trinity Christian spring game Thursday, with Florida recruiting him the hardest. Holland is working to be a mid-term graduate in December.


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The state of Georgia is loaded in both the 2015 and 2016 classes.

In the 2015 class, the linebacker position is one of strength, as a number of rangy, athletic prospects -- highlighted by ESPN 300 prospects Adonis Thomas and Roquan Smith -- are available.

Five schools made the final cut on Thursday night for Thomas, one of the nation's top prospects.


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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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CLEMMONS, N.C. -- Jalen Dalton is one of the first defensive ends mentioned when talking about prospects with the most upside in the Class of 2015.

Shortly before measuring 6-foot-6 and 231 pounds before a weight room workout, the ESPN 300 edge rushing prospect updated his recruitment.

“I’ll probably make a top list around summer time after I visit a couple of places, and go from there with my official visits,” Dalton said. “I plan to make it five this summer. UNC, Virginia Tech and Florida State will be in there [for sure].”


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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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ASHBURN, Va. -- If there was an award given out for the most physically gifted quarterback at Friday’s Elite 11 regional camp at the Washington Redskins' practice facility, Brandon Wimbush would undoubtedly be a runaway winner.

The No. 107-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 showed impressive arm power, a strong frame that can carry 225 pounds, and the feet and balance that have earned him offers from the likes of Penn State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Ohio State, LSU and a host of others. The news of the day Friday was the offer list might soon be growing, and one could be a game-changer.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Florida State already has one of the best 2015 classes in the nation, but after a key prospect says he's ready to commit, it's about to get even better. South Carolina quarterback prospect Kelly Bryant continues to be a hot target with recruiters this spring, but Bryant says only five schools are on the top of his list.


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