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Tuesday, August 19, 2014
ACC preseason recruiting report card

By Gerry Hamilton

Of the more than 1,500 prospects that have committed to FBS programs, 239 are headed to the ACC, including 37 members of the ESPN 300. In the months of June and July alone, 21 four-star prospects -- including 17 members of the ESPN 300 -- have committed to ACC programs. The impressive summer doesn’t just begin and end with the class of 2015. In the class of 2016, eight members of the ESPNJr 300 pledged to ACC schools during June and July, giving the conference 11 members of the prestigious group to date. After having seven conference teams finish in the RecruitingNation Top 40 class rankings in 2014, there are again seven in the Top 40 in 2015 led by No. 2 Clemson, which is working on a historic recruiting class.

Trending up: Miami (Fla). The Miami Hurricanes currently have the No. 12 ranked class in 2015, but are also on a serious run in 2016 with seven ESPNJr 300 prospects already committed. In the two classes combined, Al Golden and staff have 29 commitments with 15 being ESPN 300 and ESPNJr 300 pledges.

Trending down: Virginia. After landing a pair of five-star prospects in the 2014 class, Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding, the Cavaliers were and are long shots for the cream of the crop in-state and many are wondering about the future of the program with this season being vital for Mike London and staff. Virginia has just one of the Top 10 in-state prospects committed after signing four of the Top 10 in 2014.

Biggest remaining target:

Boston College: No. 83 Christian Wilkins

Clemson: No. 15 Tim Settle

Duke: No. 149 Nyheim Hines

Florida State: No. 10 George Campbell

Georgia Tech: Three-star defensive end/outside linebacker Anree Saint-Amour

Louisville: No. 84 and Miami (Fla.) commit Dexter Williams

Miami (Fla): No. 21 and Alabama commit Calvin Ridley

North Carolina: No. 31 Shy Tuttle

NC State: No. 165 Darian Roseboro

Pittsburgh: No. 138 Jordan Whitehead

Syracuse: Three-star Amir Ealy

Virginia: No. 118 Ricky DeBerry

Virginia Tech: No. 1 Josh Sweat

Wake Forest: Three-star receiver Lawrence Cager

Three teams that must improve their class:

While this subject is certainly up for debate, Virginia Tech, Louisville and NC State are three fairly simple selections. In the case of Virginia Tech, the Hokies have suffered some early blows in the class but remain in the hunt for No. 1 Josh Sweat and four-star pass-rusher Darrell Taylor, among others. A Sept. 6 game at Ohio State followed by a favorable ACC slate provides coach Frank Beamer and staff the chance to grab closing momentum. The 2014 and 2015 classes thus far have netted zero top-10 prospects from in-state, and that must change. For Louisville, the task is simple. Continue to recruit Florida along with recruiting the offensive skill talent that Bobby Petrino has enjoyed at Arkansas and during his first stay in Louisville. Playing in the ACC will boost the Cardinals' recruiting, but they must take advantage on the field this season with a marquee win. NC State signed a top-40 class in 2014 featuring five four-star prospects, including two from the ESPN 300. In 2015, however, the Wolfpack are off to a slower start following last season's oh-fer in ACC play. Dave Doeren and staff simply can’t miss out on all four ESPN 300 prospects from in-state still on the board.

Three that stand to gain the most:

Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech have the most to gain. For the preseason No. 1 ranked team and defending national champion Seminoles, they have a slew of ESPN 300 prospects left high on the board in No. 1 Josh Sweat, No. 10 George Campbell, No. 44 Tarvarus McFadden, No. 46 Jacques Patrick, No. 49 Da'Vante Phillips. No. 61 Matt Burrell Jr. and others. Another ACC title run and regular-season-ending victory of archrival Florida would set up the type of finish that could challenge Alabama for the top-ranked class. The Tar Heels are recruiting in a loaded state in 2015 and are in position to keep two or three key prospects home. While the game-day atmosphere may not be on the same level as programs North Carolina has to compete with for difference-maker type talents, there is an impressive energy from Larry Fedora and staff, and the type of schedule that can make a difference in 2015 and beyond with three opportunities to grab national attention with big-time road wins. The Hokies could make the biggest splash nationally during the last half of the season should they win out for No. 1 Sweat, but are also nicely positioned to pull the upset for ESPN 300 running back/slot receiver Bryce Love and a number of others.

One big prediction: Only one time in 10 years have three ACC teams finished in the top 10 of the RecruitingNation class rankings -- 2012, with Florida State No. 2, Miami (Fla.) No. 8 and Clemson No. 10. That will happen again in 2015 with Florida State and Clemson both inking top-3 classes, as well as the Hiurricanes making a run at the top five, but coming up just short at No. 7.