Clemson is the defending national champion, but Florida State continues to dominate the recruiting trail in the ACC
The ACC has won two national titles in the past four years, something no other conference can say.
That’s due in large part to better coaching hires, improved facilities and just an overall larger commitment to football. But more than anything, these titles come down to having the best players.
Graduations and early departures have created some roster turnover, with most of the replenishments having come last Wednesday during National Signing Day. Who has made out the best?
Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for ACC schools over the last five classes according to 247Sports Team Composite rankings and each team's record over the last five seasons. Obviously, this doesn't take into account attrition but, over time, this should be considered relatively even across the conference.
Ranking the ACC's College Football's Rosters in 2017:
Florida State and Clemson dominate, again
Florida State and Clemson have combined to win the last six ACC titles. Between them, they’ve won two national titles, appeared in one national title game and had one College Football Playoff semifinal exit in the past four years alone. Looking at the above chart, it is no secret why: The Seminoles and Tigers have far and away the most talent to work with each season. FSU ranks fourth nationally in average national ranking, trailing only Alabama, Ohio State and LSU.
Is Miami closing the gap?
Mark Richt won nine games in Year 1 in Coral Gables, including the Hurricanes’ first bowl victory since 2006. His staff has also done well on the recruiting trail, with the Canes’ 13th-ranked 2017 class ranking eight spots better than last year’s No. 21 class, and even three spots ahead of Clemson’s haul this year. While there is still a talent gap between FSU/Clemson and everyone else, Miami looks like the class of the Coastal Division.
The ACC move is paying off for Louisville
As if returning the Heisman Trophy winner was not enough, the Cardinals bring in the nation’s No. 32 class in 2017. Their average ranking from last year to this year has risen from 39.2 to 36.6. The biggest reason for that is likely the move from the Big East/American Athletic Conference to the ACC, as the Cards started play in the league in 2014. It is no coincidence that they saw an uptick on the trail immediately after their first year in the ACC, as they landed the nation’s No. 32 (2015), No. 37 (2016) and No. 32 (2017) classes after pulling in the No. 45 haul in 2014.
Hokies rising under Justin Fuente
Virginia Tech won the Coastal in Fuente’s first year, and with the smoothest transition in college football now fully in the rearview mirror, it is full speed ahead for the new regime. The Hokies jumped from the No. 41 class in 2016 to No. 25 this year, and while they lost several key pieces to the draft, there is no question that the program is stocking up nicely and should be built to succeed for the long haul.
More wins = better recruits
In addition to Virginia Tech — which won three more games in 2017 than it did in ‘16 — Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Boston College experienced sizable recruiting bumps this year. The Yellow Jackets went from No. 59 to No. 46 after a six-win turnaround in 2016, while the Eagles went from No. 75 to No. 66 after a four-win improvement from 2016. The Orange had the same record as they did in 2015, but given the learning curve under new head coach Dino Babers — not to mention the promise they showed in wins such as the stunner over Virginia Tech — the program’s energy has translated nicely on the trail: Syracuse went from the No. 66 class in 2016 to No. 55 this year.
— Written by Matt Fortuna, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and spent six seasons covering college football for ESPN.com. Fortuna’s work has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) seven times. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Fortuna and like his Facebook page.