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ACC Spotlight: Grading the Early Signing Period

Considering the challenges all coaches had to deal with while recruiting during a pandemic, there is plenty of praise to go around for teams throughout the ACC and the nation. Here is a report card for how each ACC team fared during the early period.

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RELATED: Grading the Early Signing Period in the Big Ten | SEC

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series

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  Boston College (7th ACC, 27th nationally)

Clinton Burton
Clinton Burton (Rivals.com)

Analysis: Jeff Hafley and his staff are taking a major step forward with this recruiting class. It's Boston College’s first top 30 class since 2004 and there are important playmakers on both sides of the ball headed to Chestnut Hill next year.

This group of signees leans more heavily toward the defensive side of the ball, with standout defensive backs Clinton Burton and Jalen Cheek leading the way. Linebackers Bryce Steele and Owen McGowan will be counted on to play a major role on the Eagles defense in the not-too-distant future. The crown jewel of Boston College's 2021 recruiting class, Rivals100 offensive lineman Drew Kendall, signed late on the last day of the Early Signing Period and he should help contribute to the solid offensive line they are building.

Grade: B

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Clemson (1st ACC, 7th nationally)

Barrett Carter
Barrett Carter (Rivals.com)

Analysis: Another year, another top 10 recruiting class for the Tigers. This year, Dabo Swinney and his staff are bringing in one five-star in linebacker Barrett Carter and two top 50 prospects in running back Will Shipley and defensive tackle Payton Page. Clemson has an excellent tradition at receiver and the Tigers reloaded at the position in this class with Rivals100 prospect Beaux Collins and Rivals250 prospects Troy Stellato and Dacari Collins. Offensive playmakers like tight end Jake Briningstool and running back Phil Mafah should also draw plenty of headlines during their time at Clemson. Carter, along with legacy linebacker and Rivals100 prospect Jeremiah Trotter Jr., highlight Clemson's defensive haul in this class.

Grade: A+

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  Duke (13th ACC, 57th nationally)

Dylan Merrell
Dylan Merrell (Rivals.com)

Analysis: While there aren't many true standouts in this Duke recruiting class, there are some important players that fill holes in the roster and secure the future at certain positions. Led by signees Dylan Merrell and Cameron Bergeron, the defensive backfield was clearly a priority position this year with five of them in this class. David Cutcliffe has a history of developing outstanding quarterbacks and he's got two in this class to work with in Riley Leonard, the highest-rated prospect in this recruiting class, and super-athlete Jordan Moore. The Blue Devils needed to add a couple receivers in this class and they signed two in Trent Broadnax and Sahmir Hagans, but they lost Harrison Wallace when he flipped to Penn State on the first day of the Early Signing Period.

Grade: C


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Florida State (8th ACC, 28th nationally)

Shambre Jackson
Shambre Jackson (Rivals.com)

Analysis: Most Florida State fans will remember the 2021 cycle for all the misses the Noles had on the recruiting trail, but Mike Norvell and his staff are still bringing in plenty of important players this year.

This class is heavy on defensive talent, led by Rivals250 defensive back Hunter Washington and Rivals250 defensive end Shambre Jackson. The depth of talent at both of those positions in this class should help improve the on-field product significantly. After almost losing Rivals250 receiver Malik McClain, the Noles were able to reel him back in during the Early Signing Period.

Unfortunately for the Seminoles, they weren't able to replace Rivals250 quarterback Luke Altmyer after he decommitted. If they don't add a quarterback before the February Signing Period, it will be the third time in the last four years that Florida State hasn't signed a quarterback.

Grade: B-


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Georgia Tech (11th ACC, 44th nationally)

Kaleb Edwards
Kaleb Edwards (Rivals.com)

Analysis: After an above-average top 25 recruiting class last year, Georgia Tech returned to near their average recruiting ranking in this cycle but still brought in some outstanding players that should help this team take the next step.

Geoff Collins and his staff reeled in three four-stars in receiver James BlackStrain, defensive back Kaleb Edwards and linebacker Trenilyas Tatum. This class is fairly balanced between the offensive and defensive talent. Along with BlackStrain, the Yellow Jackets are bringing in receiver Malik Rutherford and tight ends Ben Postma and Leo Blackburn. Along with Edwards and Tatum, defensive ends Joshua Robinson and Noah Collins should provided significant help on defense.

Grade: B-


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Louisville (5th ACC, 24th nationally)

Trevion Cooley
Trevion Cooley (Rivals.com)

Analysis: Louisville is bringing in an above-average class this cycle, and it leans heavily toward the defensive side of the ball.

The Cardinals have commitments from six defensive backs - seven if athlete Derrick Edwards is counted - and five defensive linemen. Four-star defensive back Jaraye Williams is the highest-rated prospect in this Louisville class, but he did not sign during the Early Signing Period. On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback TJ Lewis, tight end Victor Mullen, running back Trevion Cooley and receivers Demetrius Cannon and Ahmari Huggins-Bruce should help make this offense explosive for years to come.

Grade: B

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Miami (2nd ACC, 11th nationally)

James Williams
James Williams (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Analysis: The Hurricanes signed an outstanding class this year, and most of these players will be large contributors for the next few years. And here's an important statistic: 18 of Miami's 21 signees are from the state of Florida.

Landing five-star safety James Williams, Rivals100 defensive lineman Leonard Taylor and former USC Rivals100 quarterback commit Jake Garcia were big wins for Manny Diaz and his staff. Those three and nine others in this recruiting class are Rivals250 prospects. Jacolby George, Romello Brinson and Brashard Smith - all Rivals250 prospects - along with three-star Malik Curtis, make this Miami receiving corps the deepest in this class.

Grade: A

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NC State (9th ACC, 40th nationally)

Aaron McLaughlin
Aaron McLaughlin (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Analysis: Despite sitting at No. 40 in the team rankings, this NC State class has a ton of potential. Rivals250 wide receiver Micah Crowell is back from his knee injury and is on track to make an impact fairly early in his career. Quarterback Aaron McLaughlin, a former Auburn commit, was a heavily recruited prospect who has the physical traits to outperform his ranking. The Wolfpack's defensive haul, while not ranked very high, is impressive. Linebacker Jordan Poole, defensive back Chase Hattley and defensive linemen Travali Price and Zyun Reeves are prospects with sky-high potential and they could have risen up the rankings with more opportunities to evaluate them.

Grade: B

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North Carolina (3rd ACC, 16th nationally)

Drake Maye
Drake Maye (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Analysis: This North Carolina class could prove to be special. It isn't a huge group, but the incoming players should all play important roles in the very near future.

The heir-apparent at quarterback after Sam Howell is now obviously Rivals250 signal caller and former Alabama commit Drake Maye. He is one of the 15 in-state signees the Tar Heels picked up in the Early Signing Period. Linebackers Power Echols and Raneiria Dillworth and defensive ends Keeshawn Silver and Jahvaree Ritzie, all Rivals250 and in-state prospects, should be fairly significant contributors next season. The Tar Heels also replenished their receiving corps with players like four-star Gavin Blackwell and three-stars Kobe Paysour and JJ Jones. Originally, five-star Tony Grimes would have been part of this class and be factored into the team rankings, but he opted to graduate early to play for North Carolina this season.

Grade: A


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Notre Dame (9th nationally)

Blake Fisher
Blake Fisher (Rivals.com)

Analysis: Notre Dame's first and only season (for now) in the ACC led to plenty of success on the field and its first top 10 recruiting class since 2013. Brian Kelly and his staff signed an incredibly balanced and talented recruiting class last week, and it should lead to continued success on the field.

Eight of the Irish's 26 signees are in the Rivals250 and three are in the Rivals100. Five-star Blake Fisher and Lorenzo Styles Jr. are the crown jewels of this recruiting class, but the Fighting Irish did a fantastic job of upgrading at some positions down the stretch by flipping a few highly rated prospects. During the Early Signing Period, Notre Dame flipped Rivals250 running back Audric Estime away from Michigan State and four-star defensive back Khari Gee away from LSU. They are just two of a handful of prospects that signed with Notre Dame after previously committing to other schools.

Grade: A+

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Pittsburgh (4th ACC, 21st nationally)

Terrrence Ranki
Terrrence Ranki (Josh Helmholdt / Rivals)

Analysis: This recruiting class Pat Narduzzi and his staff put together is very good, and the defensive line recruits are the clear leaders of the group, much like how it is on the team itself.

Former Pitt legend Aaron Donald's nephew, Rivals250 defensive tackle Elliot Donald, has a chance to be special for the Panthers. His running mate, Rivals250 defensive end Nahki Johnson, will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

Offensively, Narduzzi loves to have a huge offensive line and a stable of tough running backs. Offensive linemen Terrence Rankl and Terrence Enos - along with running backs Mallik Newton and Rodney Hammond - fit that description. The receivers, Jaden Bradley and Myles Alston, along with tight end Jake Renda, should give quarterback signee Nate Yarnell and the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster plenty of options.

Grade: B+

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Syracuse (12th ACC, 48th nationally)

Darius Chestnut
Darius Chestnut (Rivals.com)

Analysis: It seems odd to say this is Syracuse's highest-rated recruiting class since 2008 considering the season the Orange just had, but it is true. Four-star signee Darian Chestnut is a big-time defensive back with great ball skills and he should create plenty of turnovers at the college level. This recruiting class is skewed more toward the offensive side of the ball, with five signees on the offensive line, three receivers, two tight ends and a quarterback and running back. While none of them were rated very highly, there is plenty of potential for a number of them to become major playmakers during their careers. On the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye on defensive ends Terry Lockett and Jatius Geer, along with Chestnut.

Grade: C

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Virginia (6th ACC, 25th nationally)

Noah Josey
Noah Josey (Rivals.com)

Analysis: Even though Virginia had a .500 season, the Cavs were able to sign their first top 25 recruiting class since 2011. This is a fairly balanced class, but they really loaded up on offensive linemen. They signed five of them, led by four-star Noah Josey, but the defensive line class features Josh McCarron and Bryce Carter, the other two four-stars in this Virginia recruiting class. There is a lot to like about the group of linebackers Virginia signed, also. West Weeks is the highest rated of the group, but James Jackson and Michael Green have a ton of potential. Langston Long is a very intriguing defensive back because he is so big and moves well, but he might be in line for a move to linebacker once he hits the field in Charlottesville. Keep an eye on the two quarterbacks Virginia signed as well. Jay Woolfolk is a dual-threat quarterback with a big arm, and Jacob Rodriguez is more of a pro-style prospect that does a good job of distributing the ball on time to the right receiver.

Grade: B

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Virginia Tech (10th ACC, 41st nationally)

Jack Hollifield
Jack Hollifield (Rivals.com)

Analysis: It was a debacle of a season and the coaching situation appeared to be up in the air for a little while, and it's easy to see that when you look at this Virginia Tech recruiting class. Outside the top 40 and no four-star signees is very unlike a Hokies recruiting class, but there are still a number of bright spots in this group and a few players that could bring some more excitement to Blacksburg.

Four receivers signed with the Hokies, and the two in-state pass catchers, Jaylen Jones and DJ Sims, have turned some heads this year. The Hokies signed three running backs, and each has a little bit of a different skillset. Nykelius Johnson is listed as an athlete, but he projects to the offensive side of the ball. He is electric with the ball in his hands and should provide some big plays during his time with Virginia Tech. On the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye on defensive back DJ Harvey and linebacker Jack Hollifield, the younger brother of current Hokies linebacker Dax Hollifield.

Grade: C


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Wake Forest (14th ACC, 67th nationally)

Santino Marucci
Santino Marucci (Rivals.com)

Analysis: This Wake Forest recruiting class doesn't have a ton of bright spots, but there are a few players that should get the fans excited. Quarterback Santino Marucci is the highest-rated prospect in this class, but he isn't the only signal caller headed to Winston-Salem. Billy Edwards, a former Old Dominion commit, and Christian Greene are also listed as quarterback signees, although Greene is probably going to end up a wide receiver. Running back Will Towns has a skill set that should allow him to get on the field early, and offensive linemen Erik Russell and Jaydon Collins could develop into cornerstone linemen for the Demon Deacons. Keep an eye on linebacker Joshua Sosanya. He may not have the prototypical measureables for a standout linebacker, but he makes a lot of plays and could turn out to be a regular contributor on defense.

Grade: C-

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