ACC: Clemson Tigers

Clemson has the No. 3-ranked recruiting class for 2015, and more than half of its commitments, including a five-star lineman, signed financial-aid agreements with the Tigers on Friday, six months before signing day.

Five-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt (Suwanee, Georgia/North Gwinnett) headlines a group of 13 commitments in Clemson’s 2015 class, which has 21 total pledges, that signed financial-aid agreements with the school on the first day prospects entering their senior year are allowed. All 13 are expected to enroll at Clemson in January.

"We're signing 13 guys to financial aid before we have even played a game,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Friday. “We're excited to have them join the Clemson family."

The NCAA clarified a rule last year that allows for senior recruits planning to enroll in the midyear to sign financial-aid agreements with schools beginning Aug. 1, the same day schools can officially give a recruit a written offer. The financial-aid agreements do not bind the player to the school, but the school is locked into the player unless he is no longer eligible for midyear enrollment. For the recruits, it guarantees their scholarship in Clemson’s 2015 class.

The recruits did not sign national letters of intent and are free to sign financial-aid agreements with multiple schools, but only the school they signed with first receives the contact benefits. With the clarified rule, however, once a prospect signs a financial-aid agreement the school can publicly mention the recruit and is no longer limited to contact restrictions with that recruit. The Clemson coaches are not limited to calling those 13 prospects once a week during the season anymore. Before last year it was taboo for schools to mention a recruit by name before signing a letter of intent, but the Tigers updated its official Twitter account throughout the day Friday welcoming the 13 recruits and sent out a press release announcing the soon-to-be additions.

There is a minor risk in Clemson publicly announcing the 13 recruits, and Swinney said Friday it’s still uncomfortable to be speaking about high school players before they are locked in to Clemson. If any of the 13 players enrolls at a school outside of Clemson, it could be perceived as a recruiting violation for mentioning a prospective student-athlete by name. The NCAA told ESPN.com reporter Mitch Sherman in January one conference office requested it be a violation. Any violation, if the NCAA deemed it as such, would likely be minor in nature.

There is an upward trend with recruits graduating high school a semester early and enrolling in January, and Clemson is taking full advantage. Deshaun Watson, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 class, enrolled in January and went through spring practice, and now the Tigers will likely bring in 13 recruits from the 2015 class for the spring semester. The extra semester on campus coupled with the 15 spring practices allows those freshmen to potentially make a greater impact during the season. The Tigers had five early enrollees in the 2014 class.

Six ESPN 300 recruits were among the 13 who signed for Clemson. Hyatt (No. 17) was joined by Jake Fruhmorgen (No. 95), Garrett Williams (114), Ray-Ray McCloud III (150), Noah Green (181) and Shadell Bell (262). Kelly Bryant, Kaleb Chalmers, Zach Giella, Tucker Israel, Tanner Muse, Chad Smith and Van Smith were the remaining recruits to sign financial-aid agreements.

Elsewhere in the ACC, North Carolina announced that two 2015 recruits, Carl Tucker and Anthony Ratliff, signed agreements.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 1, 2014
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As many schools open fall camp this weekend, talking season will die down.
And if you've been following along during this seemingly eternal offseason, you know that this year's chatter among coaches in particular has been extra salty.

Colleague Chris Low examined the dynamic in a column Thursday, looking at some of the jabs between coaches during July. The Wall Street Journal takes a different spin on things, looking at which coaches from each conference are the biggest chatterboxes.

The result, at least in the ACC, is a bit surprising.

Syracuse's Scott Shafer comes away with the title, having said 2,075 words on a transcript the WSJ analyzed. Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer was the least talkative, at 1,153 words.

The Beamer bit is not all that shocking. But the fact that Jimbo Fisher or Dabo Swinney is not at the top certainly raised an eyebrow. Math is math and it is difficult to argue, so we'll reason that Fisher's fast-talking ways make it seem like he says a lot more than he actually does. And, well, who can forget some of Dabo's jabs last month?

As the old adage goes, sometimes it's about quality, not quantity, especially during talking season.

As for the rest of your ACC links ...

Top ACC players: Nos. 5-1

August, 1, 2014
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We wrap up our preseason countdown of the top 25 players in the ACC with the best of the best:

5. Jamison Crowder, Duke

Position: Wide receiver
Year: Senior

Crowder has a chance to leave school as the ACC's career leader in receptions and yards receiving. The electrifying Crowder needs 85 receptions and 1,152 receiving yards to set those marks, well within reason considering he has gone over 1,000 yards receiving each of the last two years. But beyond his receiving skills, Crowder is one of the best punt returners in the country, ranking No. 6 in the nation last year. He has led Duke in all-purpose yards for three straight seasons and needs just 1,537 yards to set the school record in all-purpose yards.

4. Rashad Greene, Florida State

Position: Wide receiver
Year: Senior

Greene makes the top five here, but he continues to be one of the most underrated receivers nationally. His numbers speak for themselves. Greene has led the Seminoles in receiving three straight seasons and is coming off his first 1,000-yard campaign. Already, he ranks fourth in school history in career receptions (171), sixth in receiving yards (2,465) and tied for seventh in receiving touchdowns (22). Greene has caught a pass in 29 straight games, and that speaks to what he has done better than any receiver in recent history. He is consistent. Greene rarely makes mistakes and rarely drops passes. He will be critical to Jameis Winston's success this year.

3. Duke Johnson, Miami

Position: Running back
Year: Junior

Johnson knows how much he means to Miami. That became pretty clear when the Hurricanes went into a tailspin after he broke his ankle against Florida State in November. Nobody else on that team can replicate his speed, power, quickness and ability to make defenders miss. Johnson has never posted a 1,000-yard season -- a backup as a freshman and injuries derailed him last year -- but he does have something more impressive. His career average is 6.6 yards per carry, a true testament to how dynamic he is as a runner.

2. Vic Beasley, Clemson

Position: Defensive end
Year: Senior

Beasley could have left school early for the NFL draft after a monster 2013, in which he had 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss to rank as one of the best in the nation. But he decided to return to anchor what could be one of the best defensive lines in the country. Beasley is not that much bigger than a year ago, but he has worked on dropping back into coverage along with fine-tuning his pass-rushing skills to be even better this season. Clemson expects him to be, especially since the Tigers will be relying on Beasley and the defense to set the tone.

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State

Position: Quarterback
Year: Redshirt sophomore

Maybe Winston can do what Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel could not -- become just the second player in history to repeat as the Heisman winner. Winston has a terrific shot to do so, given all the talent the Seminoles return. He was the overwhelming choice to repeat as ACC Player of the Year and is on the preseason watch list for every major quarterback and player of the year award. He will be playing behind the best offensive line in the country, though he faces his biggest test adapting to new players at the skill positions. Outside of Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary, a new cast of players need to step up as reliable targets. There is no 6-foot-5, 240-pound safety blanket named Kelvin Benjamin anymore. If the offense can transition seamlessly with new faces at key spots, Winston will be the reason.

FSU No. 1 in coaches' poll

July, 31, 2014
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Surprise, surprise -- Florida State is the preseason No. 1 team in the Amway Coaches Poll.

The Seminoles received 56 of the 62 first-place votes as they enter 2014 looking to repeat as national champions.

Clemson and North Carolina were the only other ACC teams to be ranked, coming in at Nos. 16 and 23, respectively. For those keeping track, that means UNC is the only team from the Coastal Division to be ranked in the poll. This comes after Miami was chosen by the media in Greensboro, North Carolina, last week as the preseason Coastal favorite, in the same poll that saw Duke receive the most first-place Coastal votes. It is worth repeating again: This division race is wide open.

Notre Dame, which begins its football affiliation with the ACC this fall, checks in at No. 17 in the coaches' poll.

Miami leads the ACC contingent in the "others receiving votes" category of the coaches' poll, coming in at No. 34 overall. Right behind the Hurricanes? Duke and Louisville, at Nos. 35 and 36, respectively. Virginia Tech comes in at No. 40 while Georgia Tech is No. 48.

Half of the ACC's coaches vote in the poll: Frank Beamer, David Cutcliffe, Larry Fedora, Jimbo Fisher, Al Golden, Paul Johnson and Dabo Swinney. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly votes as well. Shockingly, all eight of those coaches saw their teams receive votes.
The time of year we've all been waiting for has finally arrived.

That's right, we're talkin' about practice.

Georgia Tech takes the field Thursday to kick off practice across the league. Here is a quick look at opening practice dates around the ACC:

Friday
Saturday
Monday, Aug. 4
Tuesday, Aug. 5

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 30, 2014
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In the spring, Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said he was looking forward to seeing a new and improved Wayne Williams ready to tackle fall practice.

I'd say these photos are proof of that.

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The picture on the left was taken in January, when Williams enrolled at Syracuse and weighed close to 350 pounds. The picture on the right is what he looks like now. Though Williams did not say how much weight he has dropped, it appears to be a significant amount.

A new and improved Williams indeed.

Why is this important? Williams' development is a huge key for a Syracuse defensive line that has to address major depth issues when practice begins Saturday. Syracuse has to replace tackle Jay Bromley, who led the team with 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last season. Williams was so out of shape in the spring, he could not really contribute in a meaningful way, and the Orange ended up cross-training ends to play inside to help make up for depth concerns.

An in-shape Williams changes the picture dramatically. Syracuse has been waiting on him for years now, a talented prospect who has been frustratingly out of reach. But now that it appears Williams has taken the necessary steps to get himself into playing shape, the Orange defensive front could end up surprising some people.

Now, here is a look at more headlines across the ACC:
 
In every class there are must-get recruits for schools. They can be a top uncommitted prospect or even a pledge who is essential to keep in the fold.

Here are the picks for the teams in the ACC, with the prospect's overall ranking.

Video: Swinney talks winning, having fun

July, 29, 2014
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video Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney talks about the importance of having fun, building a consistent winner, and expectations for this season.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 29, 2014
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video

What more can be said about the job Clemson has done recruiting for the class of 2015?

How about the addition of yet another ESPN 300 prospect? Ray-Ray McCloud III, thought to be a Florida lean, pledged to the Tigers on Monday, further bolstering one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Clemson has 21 commitments -- 12 are from ESPN 300 prospects.

Without a doubt Clemson has emerged as the big story during this recruiting period, gaining an edge on both Florida State and Miami not only in the latest class rankings but on the trail itself. The Tigers have come into Florida and wrested away big-time prospects from the state's Big Three: Florida, Florida State and Miami. Coach Dabo Swinney has gotten four ESPN 300 prospects from the state of Florida to join him in South Carolina. Three have come from the Tampa area.

Two -- McCloud and Deon Cain -- are the type of skill players a program like Florida so desperately needs. Both had Florida on their list of finalists, but both ultimately settled on Clemson. That alone should speak to the job Swinney has done making inroads in the state.

If all the commitments keep their pledges and sign in February, this will go down as the best class in school history.

Now here's a look around the rest of the ACC:
The ESPN 300 for the Class of 2015 has been updated with the 2014 season in clear sight. With the prestigious list updated and the helmets and pads just days away, RecruitingNation takes a look at five things to know for the ACC.


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The ACC has produced incredible talent over the last decade, with 353 players drafted into the NFL since 2005.

So it should come as no surprise the league is well represented in our countdown of the Top 100 players in college football.

Seventeen ACC players made the list -- 11 from Florida State. There is no question Florida State has one of the most talented teams in the country, perhaps the most talented team.

Ten of those 11 players made our ACC Top 25 player countdown, though the order is slightly different.

Clemson, Miami, Louisville, Duke and Pitt also have players represented in the Top 100.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 25, 2014
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'Tis the season to compile lists, fa-la-la ...

You get the point. In the absence of practice reports and games, we need something to do in the summer until football actually begins. So we make lists. Lots of lists. This one is a pretty fun, light read: Top revenge games for 2014. Because who doesn't love exacting revenge?

One ACC game makes the list. And it's a bit surprising.

Duke-Virginia Tech.

I suppose the Hokies do want to exact a measure of revenge on the Blue Devils, whose shocking win in Blacksburg last season helped propel them to the Coastal Division title. It was Virginia Tech's first loss to Duke since 1981. They meet again Nov. 16 in Durham, North Carolina, and just about everybody believes there will be ACC championship game implications at stake when they play.

Still, the Duke-Virginia Tech matchup does not exactly scream revenge the way most of the others on the list do. After all, this game has actually meant something just once. The shock factor clearly put this game on a different level.

Now, here are some choices for top revenge games in the ACC:

Boston College-Syracuse: BC coach Steve Addazio said last season's last-second loss to Syracuse was one of the toughest of his career. Syracuse scored with 6 seconds left to win 34-31. The Eagles surely want payback.

North Carolina-East Carolina: The Tar Heels came completely unraveled in a shocking 55-31 loss to the Pirates last season. It was East Carolina's first win in Chapel Hill since 1975.

Miami-Louisville: The Hurricanes are still smarting from their embarrassing performance in a 36-9 loss to the Cardinals in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Revenge could be served up in Week 1.

Let's take a look at other headlines across the ACC:
The preseason All-ACC team was released Wednesday, and naturally quarterback Jameis Winston led the way with the most votes. There were not too many surprises, beginning with Florida State players littered throughout the list of 26 names.

Here is the 2014 preseason All-ACC team, as voted on by the media at the ACC Kickoff:

 
 
 

Thoughts: While the ACC had the second-most NFL draft picks in May, there is significant talent returning to the conference for the 2014 season. Of the 26 players, 21 were named to one of the three All-ACC teams at the end of last season. That doesn’t include Parker, who will play his first season in the ACC this coming season. Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the leading vote getter (although not a unanimous one), and Beasley, who received the second-most votes, are two of the three returning consensus All-Americans from the 2013 season.

Few conferences would be able to rival that offense with Winston throwing to 1,000-yard receivers Crowder and Greene and a 6-foot-3 target in Parker. O’Leary is one of the best tight ends in the country. There was a seemingly close battle at running back behind Duke Johnson, Williams got the nod over Virginia running back Kevin Parks, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.

Defensively, that is one talented line. Beasley received the second-most votes for the preseason player of the year, and Edwards was the No. 1 high school recruit in the 2012 class. Maddy and Jarrett are two of the best defensive tackles in the country.

Duke has the second-most players on the team, which speaks to the program David Cutcliffe is building in Durham. The Blue Devils were not picked to win the ACC Coastal despite winning it last season and returning quarterback Anthony Boone. There is a constituency out there that still doesn’t believe Duke is the real deal and is bound for a letdown, but the media believes there is talent throughout the roster; the Blue Devils have a player at receiver, offensive line, linebacker and the secondary. Miami, which was picked to win the division, has two players on the list.

Even as Duke had four players, the Seminoles still had nine, only further signifying the gap between Florida State and the rest of the conference, although the league is undoubtedly improving. That list does not include Ronald Darby or Jalen Ramsey, two players who will almost certainly be on an All-ACC team by the end of the season. It is no surprise Florida State was ranked as having the most talent on its 2014 roster two weeks ago in ESPN.com's future power rankings.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 23, 2014
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Georgia Tech has had some major roster turnover this offseason, adding more fuel to the fire surrounding coach Paul Johnson.

On Monday, the school announced backups Anthony Autry, Travin Henry and Darius Commissiong had been kicked off the team for rules violations. Since last season ended, Georgia Tech has lost more non-senior players from its roster than any other team in the ACC.

Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes over the complete list of departures:
  • Defensive lineman Justin Akins (left team)
  • Receiver Anthony Autry (dismissed)
  • Offensive lineman Morgan Bailey (transfer)
  • Defensive end Darius Commissiong (dismissed)
  • B-back Travis Custis (transfer, academic issues)
  • Defensive end Jabari Hunt-Days (academically ineligible)
  • Quarterback Ty Griffin (transfer)
  • Defensive end Travin Henry (dismissed)
  • Jimmie Kitchen (expected to transfer after suspension)
  • Quarterback Vad Lee (transfer)
  • Defensive lineman Kevin Robbins (transfer)
  • Offensive tackle Chase Roberts (medical)
  • Defensive lineman Anthony Williams (scholarship not renewed)

That is quite a list, though only Hunt-Days and Lee were starters last season. Still, it is very unusual to see this much roster turnover on a team with a returning head coach. So why have so many players either gotten themselves into trouble or decided to leave? Does this have to do with Johnson or something else?

Johnson did not shed much light into the turnover during the ACC Kickoff, saying there is a consistency to the way he expects the program to run. Some players adhere to standards. Some don't.

Turnover is always expected, but not like this. Johnson has had to defend himself for months now, but that has gone deeper than just the roster changes. There is a growing segment of the Georgia Tech fan base that has become disenchanted with him, his style of play and efforts on the recruiting trail. Johnson criticized all the negativity in Atlanta while he was in Greensboro, N.C., pointing at his overall and conference records while at Tech.

Still, it is alarming to see so many players gone.

The Jackets may not be done losing players, either. Autry's younger brother, Myles, signed with Georgia Tech in February but has been unable to enroll because of NCAA Clearinghouse issues.

Myles Autry, an ESPN 300 player, told the AJC he was indeed reconsidering the Jackets. He was the highest-rated player in the 2014 Georgia Tech class, so losing him would be yet another blow.

Here's a look at other headlines across the ACC:
Steve Spurrier, Dabo SwinneyJoshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsSteve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney are keeping the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry interesting.

Is there any way to get a television show featuring Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney dropping one-liners on each other one after another?

Because right now, they have got the best two-man show going in all of college football. Want to stir the pot a little? Ask Spurrier what he thinks of Clemson. Ask Swinney what he thinks about Spurrier.

Ready ... set ... talk trash!

Who knew Spurrier and Swinney would become such a perfect match?

In an era when most coaches are too buttoned up and PC to speak in anything other than clichés, Spurrier and Swinney have honed their barb-jabbing skills, taking them to new heights every time they deliver a sound bite.

Spurrier, of course, has had years and years of experience dishing out one-liners. But he never had anybody to dish them right back. Phillip Fulmer? He fumed. Bobby Bowden? He shrugged.

Swinney? Completely unafraid to dish right back, putting an entirely different spin on the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry. Spurrier wants to talk championships, so he does. “Hey, these two Capital One Bowls in a row are pretty nice, but that state championship ain’t bad either,” he said after the Capital One Bowl win in January.

Swinney responded in kind after beating Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl, "We’re the first team from South Carolina to ever win a BCS bowl."

The "real" Death Valley? Spurrier knows where it is. Baton Rouge, right? "Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley," Spurrier said in 2012. “That is the Death Valley, isn’t it? Or is there another one around?"

Swinney responded in kind, "I can see where he might have a little confusion. Our guys have never been to USC. California's a long way from here. ... Got two Death Valleys and two USCs, but there's only one real one."

Swinney wants to talk philosophically, as in Dabo is from Mars, Steve is from Pluto? Well, wouldn’t you know it -- Spurrier knows a thing or two about planets. Leave it to these two to make college football fans Google “Is Pluto still a planet?”

The repartee works because Swinney and Spurrier know how to make it work. Both are incredibly gifted speakers with the ability to think on their feet rather quickly. Both know how to take a joke. Both coaches have a certain type of gumption, too. After all, Swinney has lost five straight games to Spurrier. But that does not stop him from plugging away. How many other coaches would keep on delivering the blows despite mounting losses to their bitter rival?

One in particular comes to mind. A man who went 5-8-1 against another rival in another era, with zero road wins.

You might find him on Pluto somewhere.

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