Commentary

FSU tops in the ACC and the country

Originally Published: February 3, 2010
By ESPN Recruiting | ESPN.com

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of the ACC's 2011 recruiting classes.

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1. Florida State Seminoles

Top prospect: Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Ridge Community), the top rated safety in the country, combines the size and physicality of a linebacker with the range and ball skills of a defensive back.
Name to remember: RB Devonta Freeman (Miami/Miami Central) came on late with a big senior season that saw him rip off big yards, utilizing his great burst and strength through the hole.
Breakdown: The Seminoles came on strong and signed the premier class in the country that is simply loaded, including 12 ESPNU 150 prospects. It's deep with speed and difference-makers, both at the skill positions and up front. DT Tim Jernigan (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) has an excellent blend of size and short-area quickness in the trenches and was a signature way to end this excellent recruiting class. Coach Jimbo Fisher put a strong focus on safety and hybrids with Williams, ESPNU 150 prospects Keelin Smith (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast) and Tyler Hunter (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes), as well as four-star recruit Lamarcus Brutus (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast). No. 2 corner Nick Waisome (Groveland, Fla. South Lake) adds to the talented secondary. The Seminoles added two top OTs in Bobby Hart (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) and Jordan Prestwood (Plant City, Fla./Plant City), a position with depth issues. Giorgio Newberry (Fort Pierce, Fla./Central) has the tools to shine at both offensive tackle and defensive end. Four-star athlete James Wilder Jr. (Tampa, Fla./Plant), who will play RB at FSU, could be a future load back and is physically ready to play. As is No. 2 tight end Nick O'Leary (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer), one of the better athletes in the entire class.

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2. Clemson Tigers

Top prospect: Tony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla./Pedro Menendez), the top linebacker in the country, has rare size, speed and closing burst to make an immediate impact.
Name to remember: QB Cole Stoudt (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman), one of the lower rated prospects in the Tigers' class, may have the most upside and the chance to develop into a quality passer in the ACC, if not asked to do too much.
Breakdown: Clemson pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the day with the signing of Steward, the Tigers' second five-star prospect. Steward helps them upgrade immediately on defense, but Dabo Swinney has brought in some real offensive firepower, despite having a lackluster season. This offensive class is headlined by five-star WR Charone Peake (Roebuck, S.C./Dorman), the No. 2 wideout in the country with great hands, playmaking ability and prototypical measurables. Fellow top-five receiver Sammy Watkins (Fort Myers, Fla./South Fort Myers) may be more savvy and consistent and is a fellow playmaker. The Tigers signed another difference-maker in RB Mike Bellamy (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte). It's hard not to make the C.J. Spiller comparison as Bellamy is one of the faster and more explosive backs in 2011. He fills a position of need in this class.

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3. North Carolina Tar Heels

Top prospect: ATH T.J. Thorpe (Durham, N.C. / Charles E. Jordan) is a smooth athlete who offers North Carolina versatility in how he can be used. Already on campus, Thorpe will likely get a chance to help at wide receiver and in the return game first.
Name to remember: ILB Travis Hughes (Virginia Beach, Va. / Kempsville) is a big and active linebacker who had an impressive week of practice down in Orlando, Fla., at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Breakdown: It was a rough year for North Carolina football as off-field issues created changes to the roster and coaching staff. While it seemed mayhem surrounded the Tar Heels program, Butch Davis was able to forge ahead and still sign a top-20 class. Tight end is a thin position and North Carolina addressed it with a pair of top-15 players in Eric Ebron (Greensboro, N.C./ Smith) and Jack Tabb (Red Bank, N.J./ Catholic) and also brought in a promising quarterback prospect in Marquise Williams (Charlotte, N.C./ Mallard Creek), who has ideal measurables, good arm strength and the athleticism to be an offensive weapon. Known for talented defenses, the Tar Heels also have some talent coming in on that side of the ball. Hughes can fill downhill with great strength, but also pursue well laterally. A pair of prep defensive tackles, led by high three-star Devonte Brown (Fayetteville, N.C./ Jack Britt), were signed and the Tar Heels have a sleeper defensive end to keep an eye on in Tyler Alberts (Lewsiville, N.C./ Forsyth Country Day).

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4. Virginia Cavaliers

Top prospect: CB Demetrious Nicholson (Virginia Beach, Va. / Bayside), an Under Armour All-American, was a good in-state keep for the Cavaliers. He is a quick-twitched defensive back who seems to find ways to come up with big plays in coverage.
Name to remember: There are several good defensive line pickups in this class for Virginia, but Thompson Brown (Richmond, Va. / Saint Christophers) is a guy to keep an eye on. He comes from a smaller school and has battled through some injuries, but has good size and athleticism and, with work, could develop into a good defensive end for Virginia.
Breakdown: In his first full year on the job, Mike London has done an outstanding job on the recruiting trail and landed a top-25 class. He and his staff were productive in their surrounding area as the majority of top prospects in the class either hail from in-state or nearby Maryland. They closed extremely well by landing ESPNU 150 athletes Darius Jennings (Baltimore, Md./Gilman) and Dominique Terrell (Manassas, Va./ Osbourn) on signing day. Both are quick, versatile and explosive athletes who could play on either side of the ball and help in the return game. Defense was a priority in this class and many of the top prospects they landed project to that side of the ball. Nicholson is one of the better cover corner guys in the country and heads a strong DB class that features another top 10 corner in Brandon Phelps (Damascus, Md./Damascus). To help strengthen a rushing defense that was near the bottom in the nation, Virginia has brought in several defensive linemen led by defensive tackles David Dean (Virginia Beach, Va. / Green Run) and Vincent Croce (Olney, Md. / Our Lady of Good Counsel).

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5. Miami Hurricanes

Top prospect: Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla. / Alonso), the Under Armour All-America Game MVP, was a prospect new coach Al Golden needed to hold onto. A third-generation Hurricane, Chickillo is a four-star defensive end who has a great motor and a feel for the end position. He should be able to contribute quickly, especially as a pass rusher.
Name to remember: Olsen Pierre (Rahway, NJ / Fork Union Military Academy), a prospect who followed Golden from Temple to Miami, has good size and the tools to be a stout and productive presence in the trenches. A season at Fork Union should also help him to contribute quickly.
Breakdown: Golden took over a small class that had lost some key prospects, but made up some ground in the end by landing two ESPNU 150 cornerback prospects in Kevin Grooms (Hollywood, Fla./South Broward) and Dallas Crawford (Fort Myers, Fla./South Fort Myers). Miami did hold on to prospects like Chickillo and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Saint Thomas Aquinas). It's difficult to fairly judge Golden and his staff off this class, and Miami fans will need to show some patience and give him a full year to show what he could do leading the Hurricanes on the recruiting trail.

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6. Boston College Eagles

Top prospect: CB Albert Louis-Jean (Brockton, Mass./Brockton), a top-10 corner, is expected to make an impact early in BC's secondary; he has a great blend of size, speed and athleticism.
Name to remember: Alexander Howell (Florence, S.C./West Florence), the No. 5 kicker in the country, has great strength on field goals and is also a strong punter -- invaluable for team that puts priority on defense and field position.
Breakdown: This is arguably the best Boston College class in recent years. It has a few national recruits and is also very deep in quality three-star prospects. The emphasis was put on defense, which is the side of the ball that has carried this program the past few seasons. Louis-Jean has the size, athleticism and versatility to contribute early in Chestnut Hill, at least in sub-packages. BC knows how to recruit linebackers out of Saint Xavier in Ohio and have another good one in physical and instinctive three-star Sean Duggan (Cincinnati, Ohio/Saint Xavier).

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7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Top prospect: Vad Lee (Durham, N.C./ Hillside) is a dual-threat quarterback who can be dangerous as a run/pass threat and is a good fit for the Yellow Jackets' offense.
Name to remember: Jamal Golden (Wetumpka, Ala./Wetumpka), who we expect to stay at the quarterback position in Tech's offense, is a quick and elusive athlete on the ground with a quick release as an underneath passer.
Breakdown: To help keep the nation's top ranked rushing attack a weapon, the Yellow Jackets have brought in several offensive linemen led by three-star prospects Errin Joe (Lakeland, Fla./ Lake Gibson) and Bryan Chamberlain (Albany, Ga./ Monroe Comprehensive); both tough and aggressive run blockers. The Yellow Jackets also have brought in multiple prospects, such as Airyn Willis (High Point, N.C./ Southwest Guilford), who are versatile athletes and can help them in multiple ways.

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8. Duke Blue Devils

Top prospect: Kicker Will Monday (Flowery Branch, Ga.) leads this class, and while having a kicker lead a class may not raise much excitement, he is considered the most college-ready punter in the 2011 class. He could also handle other kicking duties if needed.
Name to remember: WR Blair Holliday (Westlake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) is a tall target with a long wingspan. He is a smooth route runner with deceptive speed and should be a good addition to a passing attack that ranked second in the ACC.
Breakdown: The Blue Devils need defensive help and while the class is a little offensive heavy they do have some solid prospects that could possibly aid a defense that ranked 108th nationally. Athlete Jamison Crowder (Monroe, N.C./Monroe) could provide plays on offense as a wide receiver, but could also help at corner as well. Inside linebacker David Helton (Chattanooga, Tenn. / Baylor School) has good size, athleticism, and toughness for the position and Mario Sanders (Greer, S.C./Greer) shows upside as a pass rusher. Head coach David Cutcliffe also had some success in a state he spent many years in as a coach landing several prospects out of Tennessee, led by a pair of top-25 guard prospects in Cody Robinson (McMinnville, Tenn. / Warren County) and Lucas Patrick (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood).

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9. Maryland Terrapins

Top prospect: WR Marcus Leak (Monroe, N.C./Parkwood) is a sleeper with very good quickness and acceleration that allows him to separate after the catch and as a route runner.
Name to remember: Don't underestimate the importance of a 240-pound fullback like FB Tyler Cierski (Hoschton, Ga./Mill Creek), who has the athleticism to move the chains on the ground.
Breakdown: Randy Edsall didn't have a lot of time to shape this class, but he closed well on a few prospects down the stretch, such as he did with three-star DE Quinton Jefferson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills). This class has put an emphasis on improving the overall speed and athleticism at linebacker and receiver. Leak is a threat as a pass catcher and with the ball in space. On defense, OLB Cole Farrand (Sparta, N.J./Pope John) is a big and athletic linebacker who may get a look at TE as well during his career.

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10. Virginia Tech Hokies

Top prospect: DT Kris Harley (Indianapolis, Ind. / Warren Central), the only member of the ESPNU 150 in the Hokies' class, lacks ideal size, but is a physical, active and tough defender.
Name to remember: DE Matt Roth (Ponta Vedra Beach, Fla. / Nease), a prospect who seems like a great fit for the Hokies' defense, is not overly flashy but plays hard and produces.
Breakdown: It's a typical Virginia Tech class. It lacks much flash, but it consists of some good productive prospects that should help the Hokies maintain their winning ways. The program is one of the best at developing talent and have that in this class. The defensive line and secondary were addressed with several prospects being brought in at those two areas. At corner, we really like what the quick closing Kyshoen Jarrett (East Stroudsburg, Pa./East Stroudsburg South) brings to the table. This class has good overall athleticism and versatility at the skill positions. The tight end position was also addressed with two quality three-star prospects, including Christian Reeves (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing).

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11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Top prospect: QB Kevin Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona) needs some passing refinement, but it's hard to ignore his size and athleticism.
Name to remember: RB Orville Reynolds (Parkland, Fla./M. Stoneman Douglas), a short but explosive player, who fell under the radar in the talent-rich state of Florida.
Breakdown: Not a very deep class with upper-tier talent, but Jim Grobe is one of the better coaches at developing talent and has signed a few prospects with a lot of ability. This class filled a lot of needs at many different positions and as usual is made up of a lot of prospects from the Sunshine State. We like the pair of three-star defensive ends they brought in, highlighted by Godspower Offor (Miami, Fla./American). Physical development may dictate whether he remains at end or moves to linebacker, but either way he should find the ball and create some havoc with his up-field quickness and motor. Sousa and Reynolds add a playmaker element to this offensive class.

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12. N.C. State Wolfpack

Top prospect: WR Hakeem Flowers (Greenville, S.C./Wade Hampton) is not a speedster, but he's a tall and athletic prospect that will most likely end up as an intermediate-to-deep pass catcher for N.C. State.
Name to remember: QB Brian Taylor (Angier, N.C/Harnett Central), only graded as a two-star recruit, has some potential as a passer and is athletic enough to move the ball on the ground. He needs some time to develop, but will get that at N.C State.
Breakdown: Tom O'Brien has proven to build winning programs without signing blue-chip prospects and this 2011 class follows suit. There are not a lot of big names but some quality in-state athletes, kickers and potentially a future workhorse at running back signed by the head coach with a great eye for undervalued talent. It will be interesting to see if Maurice Morgan (La Grange, N.C./North Lenoir) remains in the backfield or is used on defense. Juston Burris (Raleigh, N.C./ Needham Broughton) is a three-star athlete with good size, speed and athleticism at the skills position to help the Wolfpack in all three phases of the game. They have another big and versatile athlete in Michael Rose (Simpsonville, S.C./Hillcrest) who could rush the passer out of a two- or three-point stance. NC State also signed a few high-upside tackles.