- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes have already begun to separate Florida State and Clemson from the rest of the Atlantic Division -- at least on paper.
It’s only news, though, when those programs don’t bring in some of the nation’s most talented players.
Clemson, after all, just won its first ACC title for the first time since 1991. Florida State last year couldn’t beat Wake Forest. Which is why there is no reason for the Deacs or anyone else in the division to surrender just yet.
“They key for us is not how many stars they come in with, it’s how good they play when they’re juniors and seniors,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “At least that’s our key. For us it’s all about developing players. It’s a standard joke among coaches, ‘How’d your recruiting go? Well, we’ll know in a couple of years.’ Sometimes that’s good to laugh and giggle about, but absolutely at Wake Forest, we know when they’re juniors and seniors if we’ve done the right thing in recruiting.
“For us, I think we know where we are. We’re a development program. We’ve got to do a great job of coaching our kids in the offseason and the weight room and out on the practice field, so by the time they’re juniors and seniors, there are a lot of other teams in the league that look at them and say, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve taken that guy.’”
Guys like Alphonso Smith, Aaron Curry, Chris Givens and Joe Looney. At Boston College, guys like Montel Harris and Luke Kuechly.
“Here’s the way I’ve always looked at the competition,” said BC coach Frank Spaziani. “As the competition gets better, everybody else better get better and move forward. There are a lot of other areas to it than just that.”
Just how much of a talent discrepancy is there within the division? Can BC compensate for a lack of stars with its hard-working, disciplined, blue-collar traits? Can Wake Forest continue to develop diamonds out of its “recruiting puddle?” NC State already beat a No. 7-ranked Clemson team, but can it win consistently? Will the hire of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley change Maryland recruiting?
Florida State and Clemson are ahead of the race, there’s no question about it. But until either one of them plays and wins with more consistency, it won’t be a two-team race in the ACC.