NCF On The Trail: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2016 RB with offers has eyes on ACC 

February, 10, 2014
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The 2014 class is signed and delivered, which means it is time to look to the future. One recruit in the 2016 class already has a few offers and the attention of schools throughout Florida and the Southeast.


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Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson’s first recruiting class was put together in a matter of weeks -- a timetable cut unenviably short, much like the task of Penn State coach James Franklin.

Their approaches, though, were vastly different.

When Clawson left Bowling Green, he also left his recruiting class. Franklin, however, continued to pursue some of the recruits he had committed to Vanderbilt, and was praised for flipping five pledges from his former school. For some of those teenagers, the relationship with the head coach overrides the actual school. They commit to the coach, not the program.

[+] EnlargeDave Clawson
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesWake Forest coach Dave Clawson didn't believe it was right to try to recruit players who were committed to Bowling Green, his former school.
"It's not about the buildings; it's about the people inside the buildings," Franklin told ESPN.com Big Ten reporter Adam Rittenberg. "That comes down to relationships and trust and all those things. We've had guys we've been recruiting across the country for two years, and we were going to stick with those guys. The same thing with the recruits and families. They were comfortable with us and who we are as men and how we conduct ourselves. It also helped that we went from one school to another that has similar philosophies when it comes to academics."

Clawson, who was hired in December, used the recruiting dead period to hire his staff and called it a “three-week sprint” to start from scratch on the recruiting trail. He didn't consider Bowling Green’s targets much of an option, for several reasons.

“I didn’t think it was right to do that,” Clawson said. “We didn’t want to recruit anybody who had committed to us at our previous school. There were a handful of guys we had recruited there that had not committed there, and part of the reason they didn’t commit there is they were probably above us. Some of those players were able to get on [at Wake Forest], and I think those were some of our better commits.”

Ironically, so was a former Vanderbilt pledge.

Once Franklin left Vandy, that opened the door for Wake Forest to recruit some of those pledges, too. The Deacs’ top recruit, receiver Kameron Uter, was once a Vanderbilt commit. Head coaching changes open the door for last-minute decisions and late pushes by rival coaches. Clawson said the Wake staff was careful, though, to respect solid commitments.

“What we did, quite honestly, was, if that relationship was intact -- probably not too many kids were going to switch if they had committed to a place that had the same head coach, same coordinator, same recruiting coach, all those relationships,” he said. “If there were instances that that relationship had changed because of a head coaching change, we certainly approached those players and asked if they were still committed. If they told us no, that became our opportunity to get guys we felt were ACC-level players that we weren’t now at a relationship disadvantage.”

Clawson and his staff did the best they could under the circumstances -- just as Franklin did at Penn State. They just had a different philosophy in how to get it done.

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.

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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Key recruiting visits -- ACC 

January, 17, 2014
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The dead period has finally come to an end, and coaches are itching to get back on the road. The NCAA extended the dead period an additional week this January, so coaches have been quarantined in their football offices longer than they have ever been before with signing day just three weeks away.

With signing day quickly approaching, each official visit weekend becomes exponentially more important. This is the first of three official visit weekends in January. Here are this weekend’s 10 biggest visits in the ACC:

1. CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover): Florida State
The five-star cornerback was down to Alabama and Florida State, but there is some talk that Georgia could get in late with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt now with the Bulldogs. Although most project Humphrey to Alabama, the Seminoles were keeping it very close when Pruitt was their defensive coordinator and recruiting the No. 15 player in the ESPN 300. Maybe the Noles will impress Humphrey enough this weekend to remain a finalist, but, without Pruitt, it seems unlikely FSU will land him.


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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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ACC class rankings analysis 

December, 18, 2013
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This week is starting to look a lot like the week leading up to signing day. Four of the country’s premier ESPN 300 prospects committed Tuesday and a handful more will make decisions in the coming week.

Naturally, it has caused a few shakeups, so here is a breakdown of the updated class rankings, and how it affects the ACC.

Trending up: Once again this distinction belongs to Florida State after two commitments last week and another one Wednesday with junior college lineman Kareem Are (Fort Scott, Kan./Fort Scott CC) deciding Wednesday morning The Noles have added two juco linemen over the last 10 days; Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau) pledged to the Noles Dec. 9. Three-star Brock Ruble (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic) also joined the offensive line class with a commitment Friday. As for the rest of the class, things still look good to flip ESPN 300 running back Dalvin Cook (Miami/ Central) and landing five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover). There is still a chance for No. 1 cornerback Adoree' Jackson and No. 1 receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), too.


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QB Wolford mulls Penn State offer 

December, 13, 2013
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It was supposed to be a normal week for 2014 quarterback John Wolford (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny), who has been committed to East Carolina since September. He thought his recruitment was over and he would just prepare for the next stage in his career.

[+] EnlargeJohn Wolford
Tim Yocum PhotographyThe chance to work with Bill O'Brien at Penn State could change John Wolford's mind about his commitment to ECU.
That all changed, though, with a phone call from the Penn State coaches on Wednesday.

“I hadn’t been talking to them at all, it all just happened last week,” he said. “They saw my film and I talked to Coach [Bill] O’Brien and Coach [Tony] Midget. He came down on Wednesday and then I talked to O’Brien that night and he offered me.”

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ACC recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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Jim Grobe is out at Wake Forest and Dave Clawson is in. How will that affect the Deacons' recruiting efforts?

Also, teams are making visits to prospects and the Canes are battling for two wide receivers.


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ACC class rankings analysis 

December, 11, 2013
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The regular season and conference championship weekend are over. And with the extended dead period, college staffs are going into recruiting overdrive this week. The result has been a number of commitments (and decommitments) all over the country since the season ended, although it's still been relatively quiet in the ACC.

Trending up: It is time for Florida State to make its move, although it will be somewhat difficult with the staff preoccupied with a national title game. With the No. 6 class in the rankings, Florida State has fallen some from its former spot atop the rankings, but the Seminoles have some of the country’s elite prospects among its final targets. They landed that target on Monday with Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau), the No. 8 juco player nationally. The Noles will be getting four-star OT Frank Ragnow (Victoria, Minn./Chanhassen) to officially visit this weekend, and FSU was thought to be the leader in November when Ragnow originally planned to visit. If the Noles finish off the 2013 season with a national title, expect a small recruiting run before signing day and then a 2015 class that will challenge the SEC (or let’s be honest, Alabama) for the country’s No. 1 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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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

December, 9, 2013
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Wake Forest is still in the process of identifying and hiring a new coach as its 2014 recruiting class remains in flux. The Seminoles are heading to the national championship game and could be in for a big recruiting finish.

Meanwhile, a couple of very important visits and new offers to younger recruits went out in the ACC over the past week.

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Questions for signing day: ACC 

November, 12, 2013
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It is a chicken or the egg argument. Has the SEC ruled college football for much of the last decade because the conference annually places five or more teams among the top 10 of the recruiting rankings? Or is the SEC’s recruiting dominance a result of seven straight national championships?

The ACC, though, could be the David to the SEC on the field and in recruiting. In the 2014 cycle, two ACC schools have top-five classes. Will that remain the same come signing day?

We look at that question and nine others as we examine the most pressing ACC recruiting questions leading up to signing day.

1. Will FSU and Miami remain in the top five of the class rankings?
Both classes are close to completion, so it could be tough for the Noles and Canes to finish in the top five of the rankings. Alabama is at No. 1 and could end up running away with another recruiting title. The rest of the SEC will charge hard come signing day, too. Tennessee should be a safe bet to finish in the top five, and programs such as Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and more could break into the exclusive group come February. Tennessee recently jumped both schools, pushing Florida State to No. 3 and Miami to No. 4.

2. Can Miami surpass Florida State for the ACC’s top class?
If both were to fall out of the top five, there is still some pride in finishing with the top class in the conference. The Noles are ahead of the Canes at the moment, and it will be tough for the Canes to jump FSU. It looks as if Miami has two spots left and should finish with Johnnie Dixon and Anthony Moten. But the Noles could sign more than 30, and some of the country’s truly elite prospects have Florida State among their finalists. It looks doubtful that Miami -- or any ACC team -- will catch and pass Jimbo Fisher’s class.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Featherston
Courtesy of IntersportESPN 300 DE Lorenzo Featherston is a Clemson lean whose pledge would help the Tigers close strong.
3. Will Clemson finish in the top 10?
Sitting at No. 12 in the rankings, the Tigers have a good chance to finish in the top 10 and even an outside chance to crack the top seven. Defensive end Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page) is No. 27 in the ESPN 300 and a Clemson lean. It would be a surprise to see him land anywhere but with the Tigers. Cornerback D.J. Smith (Marietta, Ga./Walton), No. 88 in the ESPN 300, also looks to be leaning Clemson’s way, and the same could be said for defensive end Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Christian Landing), No. 168 in the rankings. The prize of the defensive class would be five-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan, however. He is slated to visit officially later this month, and the No. 12 player and top linebacker in 2014 has the Tigers among his top three.

4. Can Pitt close out with three of its four Western Pennsylvania targets?
For Pitt’s class to be considered a success, Paul Chryst needs to do just that. The Panthers are struggling some with Pittsburgh-area prospects in 2014, but the same happened in 2013 before Pitt landed Dorian Johnson and Tyler Boyd. In February, the Panthers hope to land Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon), Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and Shai McKenzie (Washington, Pa./Washington); Henry, Bookser and Nicholson are all in the ESPN 300 and have Pitt among their finalists. Henry is a Pitt legacy. Bookser looks to be focused on Ohio State and Pitt; Nicholson will decide in December and is projected to Pitt.

5. Will Duke sign an ESPN 300 prospect?
The Blue Devils have never signed an ESPN 150 or ESPN 300 prospect since the rankings began almost a decade ago. That was going to change in 2014 with quarterback Nicodem Pierre (Miami/Coral Reef), but the dual-threat dropped from the ESPN 300 in October. However, Trevon Lee (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) could be leaning Duke’s way with the Blue Devils on a roll this season. With a guaranteed winning regular season -- their first in nearly two decades -- Lee is thinking hard about Duke. Academics are big for the 241st-ranked player, so a decision could come down to Duke and Vanderbilt.


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Most important targets: ACC 

October, 22, 2013
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A look at the most important recruiting targets remaining for each school in the ACC:

Boston College

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ACC recruiting storylines: Oct. 17 

October, 17, 2013
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The third-ranked Clemson Tigers will welcome plenty of national recruits this weekend as they host No. 5 Florida State on Saturday night.

Elsewhere, North Carolina and Wake Forest add commitments from the state of Florida, and Maryland might be out in front for Adam McLean .

Clemson hosting a top group

While the country's eyes will be on the top-five matchup between Clemson and Florida State Saturday night, a group of elite national prospects will be on hand to see it in person.

Five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) headlines the group. He's a guy Clemson has work to do in order to get, but a big win during his official visit could propel the Tigers forward.

Other big names expected to attend include D.J. Smith, Trevion Thompson, Mitch Hyatt, Taj Griffin and possibly Andrew Williams.

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