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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The List: Most important ACC recruits

By Corey Dowlar and Jared Shanker

The most important commitment in a team's recruiting class is a purely subjective. Is it the best overall recruit or the commit who fills the biggest need? Is it the lineman that has helped recruit other big-time prospects? And in six months, let alone a year or two, will they still even be on the team?

ACC reporters Corey Dowlar and Jared Shanker take these factors into effect and come up with the most important 2014 commitments for every ACC program.

Boston College
RB Marcus Outlow (Norwich, Conn./Norwich Free Academy)
5-11, 203
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
The three-star running back got the ball rolling on new coach Steve Addazio’s first full recruiting class at Boston College, and it was a significant addition for Outlow. Several BCS programs continue to recruit Outlow, who remains committed and is even doing some recruiting for the Eagles. Outlow is also the top prospect in Connecticut in 2014, and Addazio needs to lockdown New England’s top talent.

Clemson
QB Deshaun Watson
6-3, 190
ESPN 300 rank: 16
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and Watson is the top quarterback in the country -- dual-threat or pro-style. Clemson has had a recent string of productive quarterbacks, and Watson will have an opportunity to play right away in 2014 when senior Tajh Boyd enters the NFL. Watson has been committed to Clemson for 18 months and looks to be solidly committed to the Tigers, which has helped bring in top-15 receivers Demarre Kitt and Artavis Scott. The scouting report on Watson compares him to Jameis Winston, who is earning rave reviews at Florida State.

Duke
Taariq Shabazz (Kennesaw, Ga./Kennesaw Mountain)
6-2, 228
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
The Blue Devils reached down into the hotly contested state of Georgia for three-star defensive end commit Shabazz. Cincinnati, East Carolina, Marshall, Southern Miss, UCF and Vanderbilt were some of the competitors Duke faced. At 6-2, and nearly 230 pounds, Shabazz will bring a development-friendly frame to the ACC.

Florida State
OLB Jacob Pugh (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby)
6-4, 234
ESPN 300 rank: 108
For a team that's going to have a wealth of quality options at linebacker,Pugh doesn't exactly seem like the obvious choice. Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) is even ranked higher than him. But with the Seminoles likely transitioning to more three-man fronts under defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Pugh is the perfect player for an outside rusher's role.

Georgia Tech
CB Stepheny Durham (Jacksonville, Fla./Atlantic Coast)
5-10, 177
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets were able to go down into Florida and land a four-star cornerback in Durham in June. A lot of attention usually lies on the offensive side of the ball with Tech's triple-option offense, but the Jackets have always been at their best when their defense was stout.

Maryland
ATH William Ulmer (Washington, DC./Saint John’s College)
6-1, 190
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
If Randy Edsall is going to remain at Maryland for the long haul, he is going to have to keep at least half of the top talent in the area known as the DMV -- the region of DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. Each year sees an increase in talent in the DMV, and the four-star Ulmer is one of the highest-rated prospects from there. The Under Armour All-American had offers from several big-time BCS programs, so getting Ulmer’s commitment was a big win for Edsall.

Miami
RB Joseph Yearby (Miami, Fla./Miami Central)
5-9, 191
ESPN 300 rank: 21
Keeping talent home has been the problem for the Hurricanes over the last several years, but not this time around. Yearby  is one of the nation's elite running backs and ranked the No. 3 tailback in the country. Miami was able to flip Yearby from his early commitment to Florida State.

North Carolina
QB Caleb Henderson (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock Secondary)
6-4, 217
ESPN 300 rank: 186
Virginia and North Carolina are two ACC states with a strong talent base, and mining both of those states will be key for coach Larry Fedora as he builds the UNC program in his image. Henderson should bring significant competition for the starting job in 2014 as he will join Mitch Trubisky, an ESPN 300 member in 2013 who is now a freshman at UNC.

NC State
Jalan McClendon (Charlotte, N.C./West Mecklenburg)
6-4, 195
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
Quarterback was definitely a need for the Wolfpack this time around, and fortunately for them, they've found a good one. McClendon is a four-star prospect according to ESPN. Standing at 6-4, McClendon will have all kinds of room to fill out and has the requisite height that pro-style quarterbacks seem to have these days.

Pittsburgh
QBs Adam Bertke (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local) and Wade Freebeck (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas)
Bertke 6-4, 190; Freebeck 6-4, 180
ESPN 300 ranks: N/A
Quarterback has been a constant issue at Pitt for the last few years, and now the starting job will be handed to transfer Tom Savage over four-star 2012 signee Chad Voytik. Tra’von Chapman, who signed in 2013, spent part of his summer in jail. So Pitt has a desperate need at the position, and the hope is either Bertke or Freebeck will be the answer. The silver lining is Bertke and Freebeck are the two highest-rated commitments in 2014. But if neither quickly becomes the answer, Chryst might not get a third chance to find the future in 2015.

Syracuse
QB A.J. Long (Lebanon, Tenn./Friendship Christian)
6-0, 180
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
Four-star quarterback Long deserves a mention, but wide receiver KJ Williams (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) is the guy that could make this class go. At 6-2, 190 pounds, Williams will be able to play all the receiver positions, even on the outside, and can be an all-around threat to defenses in the passing game.

Virginia
S Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside)
6-2, 209
ESPN 300 rank: 10
Blanding is a five-star prospect and the No. 1 safety, but his commitment is about more than just the accolades. He committed at the end of February, causing waves across the recruiting world as it put into motion the Cavs’ best class under coach Mike London. Blanding is actively recruiting for Virginia, which has four ESPN 300 commitments and six prospects ranked either five or four stars.

Virginia Tech
ATH Travon McMillian (Woodbridge, Va./C.D. Hylton)
5-11, 186
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
McMillian is not the highest-rated prospect in Virginia Tech’s class but he is the highest-rated prospect from the Hokies’ own state. It is one of the strongest crops of talent Virginia has seen with three prospects with a five-star ranking, and the Hokies missed on all three. McMillian is the No. 11 prospect in Virginia, and the Hokies cannot afford to lose out on too many four-star in-state recruits if Frank Beamer plans to make a few more national title runs in Blacksburg.

Wake Forest
QB Lemar Harris (Raleigh, N.C./Millbrook)
6-2, 184
ESPN 300 rank: N/A
Dual-threat quarterback Harris isn't necessarily the most ready to play commitment the Deacons have, but he's probably the most intriguing. Harris makes things happen with his arm and his legs making defensive coordinators account for both parts of his game. Harris might not play for a couple of seasons, but if he's able to put it all together, he could be one to watch at quarterback in the ACC.