ACC Spotlight: Breaking down the 2023 class
National Signing Day has concluded which means recruiting classes across the country are mostly complete aside from a small handful of finishing touches from prospects that have yet to decide.
For the ACC programs, first-year staffs and developed classes made up the conference ranks as each program signed key components for its future. Here is how each team in the conference fared in the 2023 cycle.
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NSD COVERAGE: How new staffs fared | Tray Scott wins Recruiter of the Year | The Gorney Awards | Winners and losers | Alabama wins 2023 high school recruiting title | NSD LIVE – News, interviews & analysis | Announcement Guide | What's left? Just Duce
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CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State
CLASS OF 2024 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State
CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals100
HOW THEY FINISHED
1. Miami (No. 7 nationally) - This was a great recruiting class for Miami as it finished with its best class since the 2018 cycle. Five-stars Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola lead the class followed by late riser Ruben Bain, who made a push for five-star status in the final rankings update. The Hurricanes did a great job addressing the offensive line this year with five signees up front along with replenishing the linebacker corps. Two five-stars and 16 four-stars is a great core of young talent for Mario Cristobal and his staff to build on.
2. Clemson (9) - This is Clemson‘s sixth-straight top-10 recruiting class and there are some elite players heading to join Dabo Swinney‘s squad. Five-star Peter Woods and top-40 prospect Tomarrion Parker will replenish a defensive front that’s losing some top players to the NFL. Quarterback Christopher Vizzina, a top-100 prospect, will bring stability to the quarterback room again and an offensive line class headlined by Ian Reed and Harris Sewell, both Rivals250 prospects, should help the offensive front find its footing in the future. With a total of 15 four-stars and one five-star prospect coming in this year, Clemson still has a very bright future.
3. Florida State (25) - Even though this isn’t the highly-ranked recruiting class Florida State fans have become accustomed to over the last decade, the Seminoles still have some outstanding playmakers on the way. None are ranked nearly as high as five-star receiver Hykeem Williams, who should turn into a focal point of the offense early in his career. The receiving corps is the highlight of this Florida State recruiting class. After Williams, there are two four-stars joining him in Vandrevius Jacobs and Edwin Joseph. Four-stars Lamont Green and Keith Sampson along the defensive line should help solidify that group in the future.
4. North Carolina (28) - This recruiting class for the Tar Heels is a little bit off the pace they set the last three years, but there are some elite playmakers on the way to Chapel Hill. The incoming receiving corps should help the North Carolina offense remain one of the best in the ACC. In-state pass catchers Christian Hamilton and Rivals250 prospect Chris Colliver give North Carolina one of the best receiving duos this year. There’s also some excellent pass rushers on the way for North Carolina in four-stars Tyler Thompson and Jaybron Harvey. The two local prospects should help on the recruiting trail as well.
5. NC State (37) - The Wolfpack missed on a couple of top targets during the cycle but still ended up with a very solid recruiting class and one of the best pound-for-pound groups in the ACC. Dave Doeren and his coaching staff were really focused on replenishing the secondary and did a great job landing Rivals250 safety Daemon Fagan along with four-star safety Zack Myers in addition to four other defensive backs. NC State was active in the transfer portal but look for four-star receiver Kevin Concepcion and four-star running back Kendrick Raphael to complement the incoming transfers. The Wolfpack are also bringing in four new offensive line prospects from the high school ranks, led by in-state prospects Darion Rivers and Kaemen Smith, both of whom have extremely high ceilings.
6. Virginia Tech (39) - Head coach Brent Pry and his staff were extremely active recruiting in-state prospects this year, with nearly half of this recruiting class from the state of Virginia. Only two four-star prospects signed with the Hokies in receiver Chance Fitzgerald and defensive back Antonio Cotman Jr. Seven defensive backs are headed to Blacksburg this year along with four offensive linemen and three receivers. This balanced group of prospects should go a long way toward replenishing the talent that seemed to be lacking at Virginia Tech.
7. Louisville (43) - Despite the coaching change at Louisville, the Cardinals were still able to bring in some high-end playmakers who should impact the roster in the very near future. Rivals250 quarterback Pierce Clarkson was one of the ringleaders for this class and he helped keep this group together. Look for cornerback Aaron Williams and linebacker Stanquan Clark, both Rivals250 prospects, to see the field early and often in their careers. Defensive end Adonijah Green has a really bright future as well.
8. Wake Forest (47) - The Demon Deacons are bringing in their highest-ranked recruiting class ever. Four-star Antonio Robinson is the highest-ranked prospect in this class and he is joined in the secondary by Travon West and Davaughn Patterson. Offensively, the Demon Deacons were able to sign receivers Micah Mays and Hilton Alexander along with running back Drew Pickett. All three should find a lot of success in Winston-Salem.
9. Duke (54) - Head coach Mike Elko and the Duke Blue Devils exceeded expectations this past season and are bringing in more signees than any other ACC program this year. With 27 new members, Duke is expecting many of these players to see significant roles in the future. Quarterback Grayson Loftis was one of the earliest commitments for Elko and he was able to help bring in additional playmakers. This balanced recruiting class features double-digit signees on both sides of the ball and a number of players who have the traits to turn into all-conference type players.
9. Pittsburgh (54) - This may not be one of Pittsburgh’s better recruiting classes on paper in recent years but there are a number of players the Panthers are bringing in that the coaching staff expects to out-play their rankings. Four-star defensive tackle Isaiah Neal is the highest-ranked player in this recruiting class but hybrid defensive back/linebacker Jordan Bass is somebody the coaching staff is extremely high on. Also on the defensive ball, Shadarian Harrison and Antonio Camon have drawn a lot of praise.
11. Virginia (69) - It was an extremely difficult year for Tony Elliott and the Virginia Cavaliers but they did finish off the 2023 recruiting cycle with a major win by keeping linebacker Kamren Robinson from flipping to Florida State or South Carolina. Bringing in defensive tackle Jason Hammond should also be a major boost to the defensive front. Wide receiver Jaden Gibson out of Georgia was a record-setting high school prospect who the Virginia staff expects to make an early impact. With just two offensive line signees, expect the Cavaliers to prioritize this unit going forward.
12. Boston College (61) - After two straight above average recruiting classes, Boston College fell back down the rankings this year, finishing No. 61 in the overall team rankings. That being said, Boston College fans should be really excited about what they’re getting in four-star receiver Jaden Skeete. The local prospect turned a lot of heads at the All-American Bowl and should make a big difference once he gets on campus. Nate Johnson is another prospect Boston College fans should get familiar with because he could be in line for early playing time.
13. Georgia Tech (63) - The coaching change at Georgia Tech made things difficult for the staff to bring in a lot of high-quality prospects but it did a good job addressing key positions. The coaching staff made a concerted effort to reinforce the offensive line. Five new additions along the front should pay dividends down the road. Alabama native Patrick Screws and in-state prospect Gabriel Fortson lead the way as the highest-rated prospects in the group and in the class as a whole.
14. Syracuse (94) - Syracuse signed just 16 players in this recruiting class, opting to focus more on the transfer portal. A couple of players in this class, however, have very high ceilings and could be multi-year contributors down the road. Running back Ike Daniels has the look of a workhorse running back and defensive tackle Rashard Perry has a lot of traits that college coaches value. Junior college linebacker Lonnie Rice was a name a lot of coaches were tracking throughout the process and tight end David Clement is a massive player who could turn into a cornerstone on the offensive front if the strength and conditioning staff can work their magic with him.
BIGGEST SIGNING: He’s not the highest-ranked player to sign with an ACC team but receiver Hykeem Williams sticking with Florida State throughout the recruiting process was a major win for the Seminoles. The five-star receiver could have gone pretty much anywhere in the country but choosing to stay in-state and going with Florida State should be huge. Florida State has a chance to be one of the highest-ranked teams coming into next season, and with the addition of a high-end playmaker on the outside such as Williams, this offense could soar to heights it hasn’t seen in years.
BIGGEST STEAL: Defensive lineman Tomarrion Parker ended up a top-40 prospect, but he was committed to Penn State for a couple months earlier in the recruiting process. Once he decommitted and landed an offer from Clemson, all signs pointed to him picking the Tigers. Landing his commitment is huge for Clemson as it works to reload on the defensive front. Pairing him with five-star Peter Woods should bode well for their future.
BIGGEST SLEEPER: There are a bunch of players who could fit in this category, but one player that many people are talking about is Virginia Tech signee Krystian Williams. He was the second-best long jumper in Virginia and he’s an explosive prospect who could see a lot of action early in his career at Virginia Tech. He’s a versatile player who can make plays out of the slot or lining up on the outside.
TOP THREE RECRUITERS
Nick Eason, Clemson - Eason had his work cut out for him this year when trying to replace a lot of big-time players on the defensive front and he really came through for the Tigers. Landing Alabama legacy prospect five-star Peter Woods was extremely impressive. He was also the lead recruiter for Rivals250 prospects Stephiylan Green and Victor Burley. Eason also lent a hand in the recruitment of Tomarrion Parker, somebody he had a long-standing relationship with. There are plenty of coaches, players and parents around the region who speak very highly of Eason and his ability to recruit high-end players.
Alex Mirabal, Miami - Miami signed one of the best offensive line classes in the entire country and Mirabal was the lead recruiter for each of them. No other team signed two five-star offensive linemen. Getting five-stars Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola onboard were extremely difficult tasks but Mirabal was able to close on each of them. He was also able to reel in four-star Tommy Kinsler along with three-stars Antonio Tripp and Frankie Tinilau. This group of five offensive linemen will be a very solid foundation for the Miami offense for years to come.
Ron Dugans, Florida State - The only other ACC assistant coach who was able to recruit a five-star was Dugans from Florida State. That’s not the only reason he’s one of the top three recruiters in the conference this year. He also led the recruitments of four-star receivers Vandrevius Jacobs and Edwin Joseph along with three-star Darren Lawrence. Landing those four receivers was extremely important for the Florida State recruiting class, but he also lent a big hand in flipping Rivals250 safety Conrad Hussey from Penn State during the Early Signing Period.
Quarterback: Clemson - This wasn't a difficult choice. Only two teams in the conference signed a Rivals250 quarterback and Clemson had the highest ranked in Christopher Vizzina.
Running Back: Miami - Similar to quarterback, only one team in the conference signed a Rivals250 running back. The Hurricanes keeping Rivals250 running back Mark Fletcher in South Florida for his college career was a big win.
Wide Receiver: Florida State - Five-star Hykeem Williams is one of the best signees in the conference and he is just one of three receivers ranked at least four-stars that the Seminoles are bringing in this year. Williams is the seventh five-star receiver to ever sign with Florida State
Tight End: Miami - Riley Williams is the only Rivals250 tight end to sign with an ACC team this cycle. Originally from Oregon, Williams transferred to IMG Academy and became the third-highest-ranked tight end to ever sign with the Hurricanes.
Offensive Line: Miami - Another fairly easy choice here. Miami signed two five-star offensive linemen in Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola along with four-star Tommy Kinsler and three-stars Antonio Tripp and Frankie Tinilau.
Defensive Line: Clemson - The Tigers signed the conference's only five-star defensive lineman in Peter Woods, two additional top-100 defensive linemen in Tomarrion Parker and Victor Burley, and Rivals250 defensive lineman Stephiylan Green. Along with those four impressive prospects, Clemson is also bringing in four-stars David Ojiegbe and AJ Hoffler.
Linebacker: Miami - The Hurricanes are the only team in the ACC to sign two Rivals250 linebackers (Malik Bryant and Raul Aguirre) and the only team to sign multiple four-stars at the position.
Defensive Back: Clemson - Dabo Swinney's squad signed the conference's highest-ranked defensive back (No. 108 in the Rivals250 Avieon Terrell), were the only ACC team to sign two Rivals250 defensive backs (Terrell and Branden Strozier), and the only ACC team to sign four four-star defensive backs (Terrell, Strozier, Kylen Webb and Robert Billings).