NCF On The Trail: Virginia Cavaliers

Dominating Florida is always critical for Florida State, but another secret to the Seminoles' success is doing well in Virginia, and highly-coveted corner Levonta Taylor could be the Noles' next big get from the state.
"Signing day delivers usual intrigue and drama"

The headline that capped the madcap fun that is the first Wednesday of every February did not apply to the ACC this year.

That had to be a relief to coaches across the league.

While No. 1-rated ESPN 300 prospect Byron Cowart dawdled between Auburn and Florida, the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 each withstood their share of nationally televised signing day announcements, flips and flops.

In ACC country, nobody had to wait on a hat choice. Clemson finished up its No. 4 class by mid-morning with nary a surprise. Of course, it helps that 15 of its freshmen had already enrolled, including five-star offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt.

Florida State did not have to wait on pins and needles for wavering recruits, either. The Noles had eight early enrollees themselves, including elite players Josh Sweat, George Campbell and Derwin James.

As FSU reporter Jared Shanker wrote:
"A program once known for its signing-day surges had no surprises as all 20 commitments faxed their letters of intent by mid-morning. Even the signing-day addition of ESPN 300 safety Marcus Lewis was mostly expected, capping the nation’s No. 2 class at 21 signees."

The same went for Virginia Tech, which had nearly its entire Top 25 class ready to sign for weeks. The Hokies had seven early enrollees, but several commits withstood late offers -- including tackle Mike Arnold -- to hold firm.

"We had one guy make a decision to join our class in the last two weeks,” Virginia Tech recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. “The rest of them have been committed. We held on to this class, and I think we're really proud of that."

It was an unusual feeling, considering every coach is prepared for the twists and turns that come with 18-year-olds making big decisions about their future.

“You have those signing day moments every year,” Stinespring said. “That's what you expect. You hope they're to a minimum. This is one we really felt good throughout with this class. I like for it to always be that way, but we know it's probably not going to go that way often.”

Louisville may have provided the most drama not only on Wednesday but in the days leading up to signing day: first offering troubled defensive end Devonte Fields, then coming under scrutiny for asking long-committed back Matt Colburn to grayshirt.

On signing day itself, Louisville held on to commitments from defensive end G.G. Robinson and quarterback Lamar Jackson after late pushes from SEC schools (Auburn for Robinson; Florida for Jackson). The Cards lost just one player, defensive end Sheldrick Redwine flipped to Miami.

Still, Louisville finished with the No. 30 class in the ESPN RecruitingNation rankings, as 12 ACC teams finished in the top 50.
  • No. 2 Florida State
  • No. 4 Clemson
  • No. 23 Miami
  • No. 24 North Carolina
  • No. 25 Virginia Tech
  • No. 30 Louisville
  • No. 33 NC State
  • No. 41 Georgia Tech
  • No. 42 Wake Forest
  • No. 45 Duke
  • No. 46 Virginia
  • No. 48 Pittsburgh

"It's a celebration," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after announcing his class Wednesday. "And no drama. That’s the way it ought to be.”

Completed class: Virginia Cavaliers

February, 4, 2015
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Virginia has announced its 2015 class:

ESPN 300
Jahvoni Simmons ILB -- Ocean Lakes High School, Virginia

Four-stars
Warren Craft WR -- William Fleming High School, Virginia

Three-stars
T.J. Griffin ATH -- Ocean Lakes High School, Virginia
Olamide Zaccheaus RB -- St. Joseph's Prep School, Pennsylvania
Nick Johns QB-PP -- Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C.
David Eldridge III WR -- Kettle Run High School, Virginia
Dominic Sheppard OLB -- Gulliver Prep High School, Florida
C.J. Stalker OLB -- Lakota West High School, Ohio
Gladimir Paul DE -- Northeast High School, Pennsylvania
Steven Wright DE -- Ware County High School, Georgia
Myles Robinson WR -- Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Maryland
Grant Polk OG -- Charlotte High School, Florida
James Trucilla DT -- Cathedral Prep School, Pennsylvania
Christopher Sharp OLB -- The Hun School Of Princeton, New Jersey
Ryan Bischoff OG -- Plymouth-Whitemarsh Sr. High School, Pennsylvania
Tanner Cowley OLB -- Manasquan High School, New Jersey
Kareem Gibson CB -- Greater Johnstown High School, Pennsylvania
Juan Thornhill S -- Altavista High School, Virginia
Richard Burney TE-Y -- Hickory High School, Virginia
Eli Hanback OG -- Patrick Henry High School, Virginia
R.J. Proctor OT -- Liberty High School, Virginia
Eric Gallon II ILB -- George Jenkins High School, Florida
Naji Abdullah DE -- Sandalwood High School, Florida
Not only did Virginia beat Miami 30-13 on Saturday, very likely ensuring that the Cavaliers' staff stays intact, but also jump-started the 2016 class, picking up a verbal from ESPN Jr. 300 quarterback Sonny Abramson, who is the third junior commitment for Virginia.


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UA jersey tour: Louie Zervos

November, 12, 2014
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TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. -- Three-star kicker Louis Zervos was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Wednesday afternoon in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of family, friends and teammates at the Tarpon Springs High School gymnasium in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Zervos, the ninth-ranked kicker in the country, said he felt honored to be selected to one of the top All-American games in the country.

"It's a great honor," Zervos said. "I know a lot of top athletes from around the country play in this game so it’s a big honor to be selected for this game."

Normally players are selected for the prestigious game by playing well on the field, but for kickers the process is a little different. On-field performance still counts but the kickers also have to attend a camp and compete for a position.

"We went to a camp. Two punters were selected based on how they perform," Zervos explained. "One kicker was selected which was the automatic bid and then me -- I had to compete with someone else for my spot. I won it with a 55-yarder."

Zervos is 6-of-10 on field goals this season with a long of 46 yards and last season he went 9-of-13 with a long of 49. Despite his excellent two years kicking, the talented kicker has yet to receive any scholarship offers -- but he feels a few may be coming his way soon.

"I've been talking to Florida," he said. "I've been trying to get a visit set up there. Purdue, I'm hoping they are going to offer me sometime soon. East Carolina, I went on a visit there for their homecoming game and still waiting to hear from then, and then Virginia is showing interest."

Six questions with Louie Zervos

Who was the best kicker you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

Zervos: Sean Covingon. He was a kicker in 2011. He played on my brother's soccer team, so I was rooting for him.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?

Zervos: Yianni Mehas, he's a receiver on our team. I'd start a team with him.

What's your earliest football memory?

Zervos: Kicking my game-winning field goal in eighth grade against Dunedin. That was the first year I played. I played soccer before that.

What's something that most people don't know about you?

Zervos: I don't actually play video games and I love the watching the "Walking Dead." It's my favorite show.

What are you looking forward to the most during the Under Amour week in Orlando?

Zervos: I'm looking forward to playing against playing with guys from all over the country and going against the top athletes. I'm just really looking forward to kicking for Under Armour.

What would you like to improve on before you get to college?

Zervos: I'd like to improve on my power and distance on my kickoffs. I'm set for field goals right now.

Help is on the way: ACC 

October, 8, 2014
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Each year on the recruiting trail, schools are met with needs that need to be addressed to shore up depth issues both immediately and down the line. With four months until national signing day for the class of 2015, many teams have addressed and met needs.


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Early Offer: Could LSU lose RB pledge? 

September, 15, 2014
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Should LSU fans be worried that Tigers running back commit Nick Brossette plans to take official visits to other schools, and South Carolina's defense is about to get even better thanks to JUCO linebacker Davon Durant?


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Best of the visits: ACC

September, 14, 2014
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From Boston College’s upset over No. 9 USC to Virginia’s win over Top 25 Louisville to Virginia Tech picking up a 2016 ESPN Junior 300 quarterback commitment despite the upset loss against East Carolina, prospects took to social media to show just how much fun they had on their trips.

Here is a look at some of the best posts, pictures and reaction from the weekend.

Boston College vs. USC

The scene on Alumni Field Saturday night following Boston College’s 37-31 upset win over No. 9-ranked USC was the talk of recruits in attendance.

ESPN 300 No. 288 Wyatt Knopfke summed up the experience on twitter.



Knopfke also snapped a picture of the Boston College fans storming the field after the win.



For the Eagles, this win is big for helping close out the 2015 class and any hopes Boston College has of pulling the upset for ESPN 300 No. 83 Christian Wilkins (officially visited Stanford over the weekend), but it was bigger when looking ahead to the classes of 2016 and 2017. This is a signature win that Steve Addazio and staff can build upon with future classes on the trail.

Virginia vs. Louisville

The top prospect to make the trip to Charlottesville for the Virginia Cavaliers' upset win over the Louisville Cardinals was ESPN 300 No. 15 and five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle.



“It was exciting,” Settle said. “I was happy to watch them beat Louisville!”

When diving deeper into Settle’s recruitment, he has been on the campuses of Virginia and Virginia Tech this season. The Hokies are in his top five along with Alabama, Florida State, Penn State and Tennessee. This win can only help the Cavaliers stay in the fight for the uber-talented interior prospect.

Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina

While the Hokies would have liked to continue to build momentum on the field after last week’s win over Ohio State, Frank Beamer and staff used the momentum created last week to reel in one of 2016’s top quarterback prospects. ESPN Junior 300 No. 258 Logan Byrd was in Blacksburg Saturday and ended the unofficial visit with a commitment.



Byrd’s visit to Virginia Tech was a big hit for Hokies fans, as #HokieNation showed love to the 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback from Georgia throughout the day.



Byrd’s commitment is a big one in 2016 but is also another shot in the arm for the Hokies with next weekend’s official visitor list being headlined by ESPN 300 No. 1 overall Josh Sweat.

#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 3 

September, 3, 2014
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ESPN 300 Hines to cut list today

ESPN 300 No. 149 Nyheim Hines will announce his Top 7 at 7 ET tonight. While he's not technically cutting schools from consideration, programs that don't make the Top 7 are essentially out of contention at this point. Among those that are near locks to make the seven are NC State and Duke with North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio State also good bets. Also in serious contention are Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida, Virginia Tech and Virginia. The major factor in the speedster's recruitment is his twin sister, Nyah. Nyah has been offered by NC State as a hurdler. Duke was considered the favorite last spring, but things are certainly pointing to the Wolfpack as the current team to beat with the track offer resting with Nyah.


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ACC recruits who fill biggest needs 

August, 12, 2014
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RecruitingNation takes a look at the 2015 recruits who most fill the needs of each of the ACC schools.


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video
The Virginia Cavaliers have landed their first major 2015 pledge with the addition of ESPN 300 inside linebacker Jahvoni Simmons. Below, see how the Under Armour All-American can make an impact at Virginia:


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ESPN 300: ACC's must-get recruits 

July, 30, 2014
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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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Notebook: Virginia Tech camp 

June, 9, 2014
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BLACKSBURG, Va. -- On Sunday, Frank Beamer hosted the first of two key one-day camps.

While the July camp is considered the marquee event for the Hokies, several targets were on hand Sunday with a pair of key verbal offers going out.


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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
CLIFTON, Va. -- Five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle, No. 10 in the ESPN 300, will not be making an early commitment, that much has been known from the start. What is also known about Settle is that he intends to go through the entire process and take all five of his official visits.

What wasn’t known is that Settle has started to think about what schools will make the cut.

“I’m going to trim it down in August to 14,” said Settle, who earned an invitation to The Opening Saturday after a stellar performance at the Nike Football Training Camp at Centreville High School in Clifton, Va. “The reason I’m going to trim it down in August is two-a-days and getting ready for the season. I don’t want a lot of pressure on me. I just want to play and have fun my senior season.


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