Thanks to recent success on the recruiting trail, Miami could be ready to stake its claim as the Coastal Division's dominant team
The ACC is a league filled with highly respected football coaches. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is among the elite of the elite and Miami’s Mark Richt has produced big winners for many years. Justin Fuente is building Virginia Tech the right way and Dave Doeren seems to be doing the same at NC State. And Willie Taggart is back home looking to continue Jimbo Fisher’s success at Florida State. From Bobby Petrino at Louisville to David Cutcliffe at Duke, the league has probably never been in better shape from a coaching perspective.
The first order of business for these coaches is to get players that can help them win on Saturdays. While it is great when a group of under recruited players reaches unexpected heights, like Dave Clawson’s Wake Forest team did in 2017, the top teams get the best players. The members of the Class of 2018 have now made their college decisions known, so let’s analyze which ACC teams have brought in the most talent over the past five recruiting cycles.
Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for ACC schools over the last five (2104-18) classes according to 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings and each team's record over the last five (2013-17) 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 2018
Clemson is just getting started
In their last two recruiting classes, Clemson signed a total of 31 players. But seven of those boasted a five-star designation. What that means is that Clemson has not lost a large number of players from their recent championship rosters and has replaced them with athletes with an even higher ceiling. Clemson has the best players in the ACC for 2018 and watch out moving forward. The Tigers will lose a bunch of players that have been key components during their three-year run, but Dabo Swinney will finally be able to take in a full class in 2019 and it will be filled with prospects possessing unlimited potential.
Florida State is still loaded
The Seminoles’ 7-6 showing in 2017 was not what anyone expected and the loss of Deondre Francois in the season opener was only part of the story. Florida State was not good enough along the offensive line and as a result of a subpar offense, the defense wore down as the season progressed. Despite these and early departures of several key players, the Noles still have more talent than most. Willie Taggart closed strong on National Signing Day and as the program attempts to show that last fall was just a blip on the radar, Florida State’s new head coach will become an even greater force on the recruiting trail going forward.
Miami is becoming the Coastal’s dominant team
Even when Miami dipped in the recruiting rankings at the end of the Al Golden regime, some perspective is needed. The Hurricanes bottomed out at No. 26 in 2015. While that is not up to Miami's high standards, the program still brought in quality players. Since Mark Richt took over, the Canes have made a big comeback, keeping more Dade and Broward County kids at home and going elsewhere to find top recruits, like recent top-50 tight end signee Brevin Jordan from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. Miami clearly has the best roster in the Coastal and as a result the Hurricanes figure to be the team to beat in the division over the next few years.
Virginia Tech and North Carolina are next up in the Coastal
In terms of bringing in players, the Hokies and the Tar Heels have been a model of consistency. Virginia Tech has had recruiting classes in the 20s in four of the last five seasons. Meanwhile, North Carolina has also had similarly ranked classes, as well. It was surprising that UNC’s best National Signing Day was its most recent, with the Heels coming off a disappointing 3-9 season, showing that there are still plenty of positive feelings surrounding Chapel Hill’s football team and indicating that UNC should rebound in the near future. As for the Hokies, they have brought in players that fit their system and that will make them a threat to Miami.
Surprising teams didn’t take full advantage of 2017’s success
NC State capitalized on a 9-4 season by signing its best recruiting class since 2008 when quarterback Mike Glennon was the headliner. But oftentimes wins on the field aren’t seen on the recruiting trail until the following year. Virginia, Wake Forest and Boston College are all hoping that is the case as all three of the ACC’s unexpected bowl teams fell a bit flat in bringing in top talent this cycle. Boston College was led by some dynamic freshmen this season, particularly running back AJ Dillon, so there is hope that the 66th-ranked class from 2017 will be better than advertised. Wake Forest loses some huge contributors like John Wolford, Duke Ejiofor and Jesse Bates, and Virginia was led by the now departed Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding as well as graduate transfer quarterback Kurt Benkert. These programs are banking that their recent classes fool the experts the way their teams did on the field this past fall.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.