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With two weeks remaining until National Signing Day, let’s run down the programs in the ACC who rank nationally in the top 25 and those who are on the cusp of breaking into the upper echelon of college football recruiting for the class of 2015.
Florida State Seminoles (#2 Rivals, #2 247sports and #2 ESPN)
Coming off of a 59-20 throttling by the Oregon Ducks in the national semifinal game played in the Rose Bowl, the Seminoles look towards 2015 by cementing the second best overall class in the country. Since taking over as head coach in Tallahassee in 2010, Jimbo Fisher has produced six consecutive top 10 classes, with four of those being in the top five.
As it stands, the ‘Noles have 21 verbal commits heading into National Signing Day. Of those 21 prospects, 15-16 of them (depending on which recruiting service you follow) are in that elite 4 and 5-star category. That figure is flat out exceptional and there is no secret as to why Florida State has won multiple conference titles and 2014’s national championship.
The NCAA allows only 25 signee’s per year, but with attrition and deferred admissions the numbers tend to be slightly higher and lower depending on the respective school’s situation. For Florida State, they are still very much in the race for a number of top-ranked players.
5-Star Defensive End, Byron Cowart (6’4″, 250lbs – Armwood High School)
Arguably the best defensive end prospect in the nation, Cowart from Seffner, FL appears to be down to his final four schools with Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Florida State. According to 247sports, the Florida Gators seem to have the edge, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how the recent firing of former Gator head coach Will Muschamp will affect Cowart’s decision. The ‘Noles will receive an official visit from Cowart the weekend of January 30th.
My top schools are great for journalism/ broadcasting UF, AUBURN, FSU ,ALABAMA so when it comes down to it i will get my degree in 3years
— Byron Cowart (@ByronHawkStar99) January 16, 2015
4-Star Defensive End, Shelton Johnson (6’5″, 220lbs – Atlantic High School)
Another top flight defensive end recruit is considering the ‘Noles. Shelton, from Delray Beach, FL is considering FSU along with Miami, Michigan and Virginia Tech. He is expected to make an official visit to Florida State the weekend of January 30th.
— Scout Recruiting (@scoutrecruiting) January 15, 2015
Other top prospects Florida State is currently in contention for:
5-Star CB – Inman Marshall (Long Beach, CA – Long Beach Poly) a suspected long time USC Trojan lean, the 6’1″, 190lbs corner back took a visit this past weekend to Tallahassee. Marshall is also considering USC, LSU, Michigan and Notre Dame.
5-Star DE – CeCe Jefferson (Glen Saint Mary, FL – Baker County Senior) the 6’2″, 275lbs defensive end standout Jefferson appears destined for the SEC with Ole Miss and Florida among his favorites along with LSU, Alabma and Auburn in which he visited this past weekend.
5-Star DT – Terry Beckner, Jr. (East Saint Louis, IL – East Saint Louis High School) like Jefferson, Beckner, Jr. made the trip down to Auburn this past weekend on an official visit. One of the top defensive tackles in the nation, the 6’4″, 293lbs prospect is also considering Ohio State and Missouri, who most feel has the inside track on Beckner’s signature.
Clemson Tigers (#3 Rivals, #4 247sports and #4 ESPN)
The Clemson Tigers are just about done with their 2015 class as they currently have 25 committed recruits. Coach Dabo Swinney looks to reload the Tigers and challenge Florida State for the top spot in the ACC Atlantic. An astounding 11 early enrollees started classes this month, with four to five of those early entrants (depending on which recruiting service you follow) listed as a 4 or 5-star prospects.
A few notable early enrollee’s include 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt (6’5″, 272lbs) from Suwanee, GA, 4-star defensive tackle Albert Huggins (6’3″, 283lbs) from Orangeburg, SC, Jake Fruhmorgen (6’5″, 280lbs) 4-star offensive tackle from Tampa, FL and 4-star OLB Chad Smith (6’3″, 215lbs) from Sterling, VA.
The balance of the class of 2015 that will enroll in the summer will include an outstanding group led by 5-stars (Rivals) WR Deon Cain (6’1″, 195lbs) from Tampa, FL, ATH Ray-Ray McLoud (5’9″, 175lbs) also from Tampa, FL and DT Christian Wilkins (6’4″, 290lbs) from Suffield, CT. 4-stars CB Mark Fields (5’11”, 190lbs), DE Clelin Ferrell (6’5″,225lbs), QB Kelly Bryant (6’4″, 205lbs) and TE Garrett Williams 6’4″, 200lbs) round out an outstanding class for the Tigers.
The Upper Middle Class
We now enter the “upper middle class” of the ACC in terms of recruiting. With other programs like Georgia Tech and Duke performing well on the field, they still haven’t been able to attain that top 25 threshold when it comes to gaining top tier recruits. We will review Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina who fit into this group.
Miami Hurricanes (#20 Rivals, #20 247sports and #20 ESPN)
The Miami Hurricanes continue to recruit well annually, trying to put it all together is another thing. While the talent is present in Coral Gables, the Canes have yet to see the fruits of many top 20 recruiting class.
3-Star OT Frederick Johnson, 6’6″, 300lbs from (West Palm Beach, FL) Royal Palm Beach High School. Johnson, who committed to Virginia Tech back in September only to de-commit in November seems to be heavily leaning towards staying in South Florida and playing for the Canes over the Hokies, Gators and Volunteers.
4-Star OLB John Houston from Gardena, CA (Junipero Serra High School) . The Canes appear to be the longest shot of the top five in landing Houston, though he did officially visit Miami in November. The odds on favorite at the moment appears to be the home-standing USC Trojans. Also in the mix are Oklahoma, Arizona State and Oregon.
— John Houston (@Official_John10) December 19, 2014
Virginia Tech Hokies (#19 Rivals, #22 247sports and #23 ESPN)
Coming off of three straight mediocre seasons, the Virginia Tech Hokies have made some headway the past month or so and look to finish with a top 20-25 national ranking. Despite early misses in-state with prominent four and 5-star prospects, Coach Frank Beamer and staff have really made up ground to finalize a very solid class for 2015.
With 23 recruits in the fold, seven have decided to get a jump start on their college careers and have already enrolled. Some of the notables include 4-star OT Austin Clark (6’6″, 300lbs) from Lexington, VA, 4-star DT Yosuah Nijman (6’5″, 265lbs) from Maplewood, NJ and 4-star CB Mook Reynolds (5’10”, 175lbs) from Greensboro, NC.
Others that will join those seven in the summer include highly touted and 4/5-star DT Tim Settle (6’2″, 330lbs) from Manassas, VA, 4-star QB Dwayne Lawson (6’5″, 210lbs) from Tampa, FL, and 4-star DE Trevon Hill (6’4″, 220lbs) from Virginia Beach, VA (according to 247sports).
Rivals includes those aforementioned players and adds the following to their 4-star lot that features CB Jahque Alleyne (6’1″, 180lbs) from Virginia Beach, VA, LB Tremaine Edmunds (6’3″, 215lbs) from Danville, VA, DE Darius Fullwood (6’3″, 240lbs) from Olney, MD who originally committed to Kentucky and RB Deshawn McClease (5’10”, 178lbs) from Chesapeake, VA.
North Carolina Tarheels (#19 Rivals, #22 247sports and #23 ESPN)
Rounding out the upper middle class of the ACC in terms of recruiting are the North Carolina Tarheels. While the Tarheels generally recruit on par with the Hokies as a fringe top 20-25 team, the results on the field have been underwhelming.
Currently, the Tarheels have 18 recruits and are in on a few more. 4-star DE Jalen Dalton (6’5″, 235lbs) from Clemmons, NC, 4-star OC Tommy Hatton (6’3″, 280lbs) from Montvale, NJ and 4-star OT Mason Veal (6’6″, 285lbs) from Charlotte, NC (according to 247sports) lead the way with hopes of making Carolina hoops more of an after-thought in basketball rich country.
Per Rivals, the following are also deemed as 4-star worthy: ATH Mike Hughes (5’10”, 160lbs) from New Bern, NC, WR Juval Mollette (6’4″, 186lbs) from Randleman, NC and towering OT William Sweet (6’7″, 280lbs) from Jacksonville, FL round out the 4-star group set to arrive in Chapel Hill this summer.
In two weeks time, we will surely know if these current verbal commits have remained true to their word and will stay with their respective teams. As always, there’s usually a surprise or two that catches even family, coaches, and friends by surprise.
In the ACC, with two of its programs firmly entrenched in the top 5 overall this signals that recruits are taking notice of on field performance, what the programs have to offer, the coaching staff and style of play, and ultimately if they can get them to the “league.”
In the coming weeks, we will examine in more depth all the teams in the ACC as we close in on National Signing Day.