- Corey Long, Reporter, RecruitingNation
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With national signing day (Feb. 2) around the corner, here is a breakdown of the ACC. School are listed in alphabetical order, not in order of their rank in the conference.
Overview: Five of the top six players in this class are on defense (and the sixth is a kicker), so the Eagles are focusing on remaining a tough team. As always, the defensive players in the class are generally described as tough, blue-collar talent that should mesh well together.
Top prospect: Four-star CB Albert Louis-Jean (Brockton, Mass./Brockton) started out as a Miami Hurricanes commit but removed himself from the class when Randy Shannon was fired. He was a good get for BC, and the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder is going to have huge expectations.
Don't be surprised if: Three-star DT Kieran Borcich (Bronxville, N.Y./Bronxville) is the next great Boston College defensive lineman. Don't expect Borcich to grow into the sort of space-eater that B.J. Raji was, but the 6-3, 270-pounder can play inside or outside and should have a very productive career.
Overview: Welcome to the Tigers' offense of the future with Charone Peake (Roebuck, S.C./Dorman), Martavis Bryant (Anderson, S.C./Hanna) and Sammy Watkins (Fort Myers, Fla./South Fort Myers) at the receiver position and explosive running back Mike Bellamy (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte) in the backfield. This should be a tough group to defend.
Top prospect: Peake is certainly an unfinished product, but if the 6-3, 195-pounder improves in some of the areas he's lacking (i.e. route-running), he could be a special talent.
Don't be surprised if: This class finishes with a different head coach. After a disappointing 6-7 season in 2010, coach Dabo Swinney dismissed several members of his coaching staff and should view 2011 as a make-or-break year, especially with former Clemson offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez available for work.
Overview: Three of the team's top five players are projected to be interior offensive linemen, and there could be some open competition for playing time, given the team averaged a shade above 3.4 yards per rush in 2010. But with 13 starters returning, there is a good chance much of this class will redshirt.
Top prospect: Four-star kicker Will Monday (Flowery Branch, Ga./Flowery Branch) should be able to handle punting duties right away and step in as a kicker in 2012 once All-American Will Snyderwine leaves.
Don't be surprised if: Three-star ATH Jamison Crowder (Monroe, N.C./Monroe) gives the Blue Devils a real threat in the return game. Duke averaged 20.9 yards per kick return in 2010, and the 5-8, 165-pound Crowder should be able to come in and compete for a major role on special teams.
Overview: There are few flaws in this class, and coach Jimbo Fisher has given a major overall upgrade in talent at nearly every position. With the Seminoles looking to get a class of 27 to 28 and several major prospects still on the board, things could get even better.
Top prospect: It took a while for S Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Ridge Community) to get his fifth star, but after his efforts in the practices leading up to the Under Armour All-America Game (not to mention in the actual game) there was little doubt that it was overdue.
Don't be surprised if: The Seminoles finish with the top-rated class in the nation. The Noles are major players for the services of LB Tony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla./Menendez), DT Tim Jernigan (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) and LB Arrington Jenkins (Miami/Coral Park), among others. Those three players would give Fisher a championship-caliber group.
Overview: For 24 hours, Georgia Tech fans were celebrating the arrival of Stephon Tuitt (Monroe, Ga./Monroe Area), arguably the biggest recruit in the program's recent history. But Tuitt switched back to Notre Dame a day later. Regardless, the class is filled with a lot of quality players and some sleepers that could turn out to be better than expected.
Top prospect: Four-star ATH Vad Lee (Durham, N.C./Hillside) is going to have every opportunity to be Georgia Tech's quarterback of the future, and his ability to throw will give the Yellow Jackets' diverse option offense another way to attack defenses.
Don't be surprised if: Some of the two-star players in this class turn out to be much better than advertised. For example, Jabari Hunt-Days (Powder Springs, Ga./Hillgrove) is a player with tremendous athletic skills that just need to be honed and molded into tremendous football skills.
Overview: With the early departure of 1,000-yard receiver Torrey Smith to the NFL, there will be an opportunity for wide receivers Marcus Leak (Monroe, N.C./Parkwood) and Nigel King (Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield) to make immediate contributions. Otherwise, this is a class heavy on defense and offensive linemen.
Top prospect: Leak is going to have every opportunity to contribute as a playmaker on offense and special teams as a freshman. The 5-11, 190-pounder doesn't have one dominant strength but does a little bit of everything well.
Don't be surprised if: Quinton Jefferson (Pittsburgh/Woodland Hills) turns out to be a special player. It might take a solid year for the 6-3, 225-pounder to grow into the size needed to be a BCS-level defensive end, but when he does, look out. Jefferson could also play linebacker early if needed.
Overview: New coach Al Golden is not going to have a large class, with 16 to 17 signees at most, but it looks as if his aggressive approach is paying immediate dividends. For example, ESPNU 150 prospects Kevin Grooms (Hollywood, Fla./South Broward) and Dallas Crawford (Fort Myers, Fla./South Fort Myers) weren't even on the board before he arrived.
Top prospect: DE Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) was named MVP of the Under Armour All-America Game and showed the advanced abilities you would expect from a player with three generations of high-level football in his family.
Don't be surprised if: Miami closes with a top-25 class and ends up with an out-of-nowhere shocker as a signing. Chickillo said he was going to be in the ear of QB Jacoby Brissett (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer), who hasn't had Miami listed in his top group. The Hurricanes desperately need a quality arm and stranger things have happened.
Overview: Despite what happened before the 2010 season and the controversy surrounding coach Butch Davis' future, the Tar Heels will bring in another quality class. This could have been a disastrous recruiting year for North Carolina, but Davis weathered the storm.
Top prospect: Four-star ATH T.J. Thorpe (Durham, N.C./Jordan) can do it all and will be given a chance right away as a receiver and return specialist. If receiver doesn't work out, Thorpe could easily move to cornerback and be effective there.
Don't be surprised if: Four-star LB Travis Hughes (Virginia Beach, Va./Kempsville) becomes the face of this recruiting class. During the practices leading up to the Under Armour All-America Game, the 6-1, 225-pounder proved to be better that expected at nearly every facet of the game.
Overview: The coaching staff has begun to plant more recruiting seeds locally, as more than half the class is from North Carolina or South Carolina. The recent addition of WR Hakeem Flowers (Greenville, S.C./Wade Hampton) gives the class a centerpiece.
Top prospect: Flowers was, by his own admission, a silent commit to Michigan but had a change of heart as the time came closer to an announcement. He heads to a program that hasn't had a receiver with his sort of potential since Torry Holt.
Don't be surprised if: Junior college defensive end McKay Frandsen (American Fort, Utah/Snow College) is expected to contribute immediately with the departure of three of the Wolfpack's top four defensive ends.
Overview: Any questions about Mike London's ability to recruit should be answered, as the Cavaliers are headed to their highest-ranked recruiting class in nearly a decade. With a focus on retaining much of the in-state talent, London has landed top-flight prospects such as CB Demetrious Nicholson (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside).
Top prospect: Nicholson is one of the nation's top cornerbacks and the Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia. He might be a little small (5-11, 170 pounds) but he has the type of ball skills one would expect from a wide receiver. He will be a big-time prospect for the Cavaliers.
Don't be surprised if: The Cavaliers add another ESPNU 150 recruit to this class, whether it's DB Dominique Terrell (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) or LB Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va./Hermitage). If London can somehow land both of these prospects, he will have a definite top-20 class.
Overview: The Hokies aren't going to have a recruiting class with a lot of stars because that's not what the program is about. What keeps Virginia Tech at the top of the ACC is constantly finding the best fits for the program, where the sum of the class is greater than its parts.
Top prospect: Four-star DT Kris Harley (Indianapolis/Warren Central) is a little undersized but a diligent worker with a high motor who plays with smarts. He also comes from a high school program with a history of winning.
Don't be surprised if: The Hokies add four-star LB Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, N.C./Anson) to this class. The 6-2, 220-pounder took an official visit to Blacksburg over the weekend with his parents, and a good experience was had by all. Anthony is the sort of star that coach Frank Beamer likes -- competitive on the field and low key off the field.
Overview: As expected, Wake Forest has done well in the state of Florida, including four top prospects and seven members overall. The Demon Deacons made upgrades on defense with LB Anthony Harrell (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit), DE Godspower Offor (Hialeah, Fla./American) and DE Desmond Floyd (Union, S.C./Union).
Top prospect: QB Kevin Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona) is a physical talent who continues to learn the quarterback position and appears to have much of his best football ahead of him. Originally a Michigan commit, Sousa switched to Wake Forest in part because he felt like he had an opportunity to get on the field sooner.
Don't be surprised if: Wake Forest is in a dogfight with Miami to keep Sousa's commitment. While Sousa's coach and adviser, Anthony Paradiso, said the 6-3, 210-pounder is firmly committed to the Demon Deacons, he will be taking an official visit to Miami this weekend, and the Hurricanes are in need of an arm for their class.
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five-star recruit Karlos Williams and Florida State leading the way in the ACC.