By Keith McGonigle.
Even though no ACC team finished in the top 15 in the final standings this year, the ACC continues to have strong recruiting classes. Florida State and Clemson represented the ACC well this year with their top classes.
Florida State Consensus #1- Most consider Florida State’s new class to be the best in the nation; they added one of the best defensive backs in Karlos Williams and added a lot of depth to their offensive and defensive line.
Clemson Consensus # 9- Clemson still has a chance to be considered one of the top classes in the country if they can land DE Jadeveon Clowney. Adding Clowney, who may be the best prospect in the last 5 years, would send shock waves through all of college football and let everyone know that the Tigers are for real.
North Carolina #16 – They added big armed quarterback Marquise Williams, and added two top guys Clemson was after in DT Devonte Brown and LB Travis Hughes. If the Tar Heels can get past their off the field controversies they could be a dangerous team.
Virginia # 23 – The Cavaliers added a plethora of athletes with speed to their squad; look out for ATH Dominique Terrell, RB Clifton Richardson and a guy Clemson coaches liked CB Demetrious Nicholson.
Past recruiting tendencies: With many ACC schools located in prime recruiting areas it is not surprising to see schools like Miami, Florida State, and Clemson pull top in-state talent and produce some great classes. Over the last five years Florida State is the best in the ACC in terms of recruiting, they average about the 10th best recruiting class in the country, (although they use to be even more of a recruiting power house) this year’s class may help them get back to the ‘old’ Florida State. Miami and Clemson come in tied for second and have averaged about the 16th best recruiting class over the five years.
Recruiting isn’t everything: Although these schools have dominated in recruiting compared to other ACC competition, between them they have only 2 ACC Championship appearances in the last 5 years and 0 wins. During this time schools like Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Boston College, who are consistently ranked out of the top 25 in recruiting, have been regulars at the ACC championship game. How can this be? I believe the reasoning is great systems and great coaching.
The one thing you know about Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Boston College is their systems and identity as a football program. Virginia Tech has always been about great defense, special teams and a conservative offense; Georgia Tech’s has a great defensive line and has quickly implemented the option attack, and Boston College, even though they have gone through coaching changes, have always had a stingy defense and pro-style offense. Because these teams have stuck to their systems over the years and know what they are looking for in recruits, they have been successful. Over the last five years it has been hard to figure out what Clemson’s offense is trying to do and what type of player they are looking for. Is it a spread offense? Do they want a running quarterback? Is it a pass or run first offense? Do they want big play receivers or possession receivers? It seems the offense has continued to change every year and instead of recruiting players to fit their systems they are recruiting players and then changing the offense to fit them. This may work in the short-term but in the long term it just hurts the program.
Another thing that sets these programs apart is they have great coaching. Even though they do not get the best recruits they are able to fit them into their system and in many cases help them become great players. Michael Johnson (GT), Demaryius Thomas (GT), Matt Ryan (BC), BJ Raji (BC), Brandon Flowers (VT) and Jimmy Williams (VT), were all low rated (3-star or lower) coming out of high school. With the help of some great coaching, these programs turned these guys into great players and high draft picks.
Work-in Progress: Clemson fans have to be happy with the direction Coach Swinney has taken the program in the off-season. First and foremost, he added Chad Morris an offensive coordinator that will hopefully give Clemson’s offense an identity. Secondly he added some new position coaches that may not be as strong recruiting wise, but have great coaching backgrounds and can make players better. All signs point to the fact that Coach Swinney is trying to establish a new system and bring in great coaches over anything. You add top recruiting to a great system and great coaching and that is how the best teams in the country are made.