Thursday, March 6, 2014
Top position classes: ACC
By Gerry Hamilton
With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes in each conference. For the full series, click here.
Syracuse is going to an open, up-tempo offense next season, and, on national signing day, the Orange signed a pair of quarterbacks who could be near-perfect fits. Four-star recruits Alin Edouard (Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah) and A.J. Long (Lebanon, Tenn./Friendship Christian) fit the bill as athletically skilled, dual-threat prospects who can play fast and spin the ball.
Much of the talk around the Clemson recruiting class centered on quarterback Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) and a trio of ESPN 300 receivers, but the running back position was a need, and the Tigers scored big. The running back haul includes ESPN 300 No. 223 Jae’lon Oglesby (Central, S.C./D.W. Daniel), No. 252 Adam Choice (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County) and four-star C.J. Fuller (Easley, S.C./Easley). In Oglesby, Clemson is getting a back with the initial explosive ability to burst to the second level. Although Choice needs time to add lower-body strength, he can be the compact and quick back with between-the-tackles ability.
Clemson put together a terrific offensive class in the 2014 cycle, and that includes tight ends. The Tigers signed a pair of ESPN 300 players in No. 195 Milan Richard (Savannah, Ga./Calvary Baptist Day School) and No. 237 Cannon Smith (Columbia, S.C./Hammond School). Long-armed Richard has the ability to stretch the field without being limited as a route runner, and Smith is quickly developing physically. He has ability as an in-line blocker who could grow into an offensive lineman at the next level after adding more than 20 pounds to his frame in the past year.
Clemson not only had a terrific class at the running back position but also at wide receiver with a strong class of pass-catchers being an absolute must in this cycle. Dabo Swinney and staff might not have signed an electric difference-maker on the level of Sammy Watkins in this class, but a solid trio of ESPN 300 prospects is next up at Clemson in No. 83 Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), No. 152 Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) and No. 167 Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek). Add in 2013 ESPN 300 No. 170 Kyrin Priester (Snellville, Ga./Fork Union Military Academy) as a postgraduate and the Tigers more than addressed the key need. With Scott, Kitt and Priester already enrolled and available for spring practice, expect to see the group hit the field running in the fall of 2014.
Florida State's skill talent and speed almost always come first, but the most important area of need in 2014 might have been the offensive line. As expected, the national champion Seminoles walked away with an impressive seven-player haul. At tackle, ESPN 300 No. 158 Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and three-star Derrick Kelly Jr. (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden) were signing day wins. A third edge prospect in the class is No. 2 junior college tackle Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau Community College), and the guards include ESPN 300 No. 191 Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) and junior college transfer Kareem Are (Fort Scott, Kan./Fort Scott Community College). The Seminoles also inked the No. 8 center, Alec Eberle (Mechanicsville, Va./Atlee).
Miami addressed its needs in the 2014 cycle, and that includes adding talent on the defensive line. Although the Hurricanes would have loved to grab one more defensive tackle, this haul includes seven prospects. The class features defensive end and No. 65 prospect Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), who is full of potential and has a terrific frame. No. 133 Trent Harris (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park) is a second end with excellent first-step quickness and strength, and three-star Demetrius Jackson (Miami/Booker T. Washington) is another end with upside -- and a 6-4, 225-pound lengthy frame. On the interior, junior college prospects Calvin Heurtelou (Spring Valley, N.Y./Scottsdale Community College) and Michael Wyche (Monterey Park, Calif./East Los Angeles College) are expected to play right away, and No. 182 Anthony Moten (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) brings run-stuffing ability.
Virginia might not have signed a big class of defensive backs, but the Cavaliers did sign No. 1-ranked safety and instant impact player Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside). Five-star Blanding teams with three-star corner Darious Latimore (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett) and Jeff Farrar (Upland, Calif./Upland) to form the conference’s top group.
There are bigger linebacker classes than Florida State's, but there might not be one with the Seminoles’ quality. The trio signed by Jimbo Fisher and his staff includes one inside linebacker prospect in ESPN 300 No. 32 and early enrollee Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood), along with outside linebackers No. 110 Jacob Pugh (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) and No. 114 Delvin Purifoy (Pensacola, Fla./Pensacola Catholic). The group has size, length, range, speed and knock-back tackling ability.
NC State’s 2014 class flew under the radar nationally, but it features a bevy of talented athletes. Leading the way is four-star future defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman School). He is joined by high three-star Elliott Davis (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard), jumbo athlete Jaylen Samuels (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek), Stephen Louis (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Lakes) and Mike Stevens (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School).