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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
ACC class rankings analysis

By Jared Shanker

National signing day is one week away, so this is the time of the year when schools hope to be trending up in the class rankings. As the final elite uncommitted prospects wrestle with decisions, another highly-rated recruit picking a particular school could influence others to do the same.

Momentum works both ways, and any bad news could snowball in the final few hours.

Trending up: North Carolina remains steady at No. 30 in the rankings, but Larry Fedora and Co. did a great job of assembling a class with NCAA restrictions on scholarship allowances. The Tar Heels likely wrapped up their 2014 efforts Tuesday with the commitment of Jared Cohen (Owings Mills, Md./McDonough), who ranks No. 33 among guards. The three-star lineman is commitment No. 23 and comes on the heels of receiver Devin Perry’s commitment. Perry hails from Memphis (Tenn.) University School. Fedora, an offensive coordinator for nine seasons before landing the Southern Miss job, has a top-heavy class with offense as their three ESPN 300 commitments and other four-star recruit are all on that side of the ball. However, the class has a strong balance throughout with nine offensive players and nine defensive players; athletes and specialists make up the rest.

Trending down: Cohen committed to UNC over Maryland, the school he pledged to in February 2013. If Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), who is ranked No. 26 in the ESPN 300, commits to Florida on signing day, it will put an exclamation point on what would hardly be considered a banner recruiting cycle for Maryland, a program moving to the Big Ten. Prince is taking an official visit to Florida this Friday, and it has to make the Terps' coaches uneasy that Prince is visiting Gainesville, Fla., this close to signing day. While distance could benefit Maryland as most of Prince’s family is in the D.C. area and within an hour of College Park, Md., his mother, LaKeyia Chappell, told on Tuesday she would look to move with her son to Florida if he chooses the Gators on ESPNU next week. If Maryland misses on both, the Maryland staff will need to re-examine its local recruiting efforts.

Ermon Lane
Ermon Lane could make signing day a cause for celebration at Florida State.
What to watch: It will be fun to see just how well Florida State finishes the 2014 recruiting class. It was only two years ago that rival Florida looked to be in the same situation before whiffing on all of its final targets. The Seminoles look to be safe from an 0-fer on signing day as at the very least No. 2 receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central) seem to be near-locks. The Seminoles are in tight races for several of their remaining targets, however, and cases could be made Florida State trails in all of them. There are also compelling cases abound that Florida State is in the driver’s seat.

Five-stars Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) looks to be heading to the SEC. Top-ranked receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) made an official visit to Tallahassee this past weekend, but it will be tough to pull him from LSU. Defensive linemen Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) has Florida State in his final four and looks to be the biggest threat to Michigan State, although an official visit to Ohio State on Friday could change that. Fellow ESPN 300 defensive lineman Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington) should be signing with Miami, and the Seminoles are hoping they don’t lose his teammate, Treon Harris, the No. 7-ranked dual-threat quarterback; he visited Auburn recently. Virginia Tech is looking to hold on to committed ESPN 300 athlete Ja’Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen) and uncommitted ESPN 300 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), who is thought to be a Hokies lean. Florida State is also desperately trying to flip Gators commit J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee), who could visit this weekend. Ironically, Jackson, No. 79 in the ESPN 300, was originally the Noles’ first 2014 commitment.

Even if Florida State signs only half of the final targets on their board, they should rack up another top- three class and could push even higher.

Bold prediction: Vanderbilt is struggling on the recruiting trail since coach James Franklin left for Penn State, and that could play a role with ESPN 300 receiver Trevon Lee (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons). The four-star recruit, who is ranked No. 33 among receivers, enjoyed his official visit to Vandy, but Duke coach David Cutcliffe makes his in-home visit Wednesday. A decision will come down to those two schools, and with the Commodores struggling and Cutcliffe putting together an unprecedented class in Durham, expect Lee to choose the Blue Devils.