ACC Spotlight: Winners and losers from the 2019 cycle
Every college coach praises their recruiting class but there are always winners and losers. Some new coaches or relatively new coaches are trying to string good recruiting classes together in consecutive years. With the 2019 recruiting class signed, take a look at the ACC teams that won, lost, and are still works in progress.
Clemson continues to run the most efficient recruiting operation in the country. Dabo Swinney targets relatively few prospects each year and seems to hit more than he misses on said targets. What’s most impressive, however, is the fact that the Tigers rarely have a decommitment. This year, every single prospect that was committed to Clemson at the time signed during the Early Signing Period.
The Tigers 2019 class ranks No. 1 in the ACC and includes five-star prospects Joe Ngata (WR) and Andrew Booth (DB). Clemson landed prospects from 14 different states as it continues to cash in on the momentum the program has created by winning two of the last three national championships. Swinney and company aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. That much is clear, and the drama-free fashion in which they recruit is remarkable given the current landscape.
The Wolfpack had a banner year on the recruiting trail, signing their best class since the 2005 recruiting cycle. Even though Dave Doeren and his staff missed on running back Jamious Griffin, they still reloaded on the offensive side of the ball. Running backs Zonovan Knight and Jordan Houston will join quarterback Ty Evans in the backfield. Three more very solid offensive linemen should help NC State keep finding the end zone.
Defensively is where the program really shined. Five new defensive linemen, led by Rivals250 prospects Joshua Harris and C.J. Clark, will help make sure the tradition of strong play in the trenches continues. One of the biggest signs of NC State’s success this year is how many in-state prospects the Wolfpack signed. Of the 20 prospects they signed, 15 of them are from North Carolina and that’s very important for a team battling three in-state rivals every year.
Mack Brown returning for the Tar Heels is a victory in itself, but the commitments and flips Brown and his staff got mean a lot to the future of this team. North Carolina finished at No. 31 in the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings and had an outstanding run up to the Early Signing Period in December and National Signing Day last week.
The core of this recruiting class is Rivals250 quarterback Sam Howell, a recruit Brown flipped from Florida State, Rivals250 wide receiver Khafre Brown, and four-star running back Josh Henderson. The Tar Heels flipped in-state offensive lineman Triston Miller from NC State and won a tightly contested battle for linebacker Eugene Asante on Signing Day. One of the biggest commitments for North Carolina came in the form of 6-foot-8, 280-pound Nigerian lineman Wisdom Asaboro, a prospect that has only played one season of football but has tremendous physical gifts.
Florida State’s inability to find an answer at quarterback lands them on this list. Not only did the Seminoles see Howell flip to North Carolina during the early signing period, but they also missed on backup option Lance LeGendre, who chose Maryland over Florida State during the late period. Willie Taggart is now down to just one scholarship quarterback and will need to scramble to find depth at the spot. The Seminoles' class obviously wasn’t a total disaster, as there were plenty of recruiting wins. That said, it certainly didn’t measure up to the lofty expectations of an FSU fan base that is starting to worry about the program’s direction.
Louisville signed the conference’s worst class, but that’s little fault of new head coach Scott Satterfield who has yet to coach a game at the school. Nevertheless, this cycle was an unmitigated disaster for the Cardinals, who signed just four players during the Early Signing Period and were left scrambling for warm bodies from that point forward. It’s going to take time to right the ship, and Satterfield may well be the man to do it, but painting the 2019 recruiting cycle as anything less than disastrous for Louisville would be dishonest. The Cardinals finished 89th nationally and failed to sign a single four-star prospect, after all. Ouch.
WORKS IN PROGRESS
Things didn’t break well for Miami down the stretch, as the Hurricanes lost legacy recruit Mark-Antony Richards to Auburn and managed to lose priority target Khris Bogle to both Alabama and Florida before everything was said and done. That said, a late, unexpected coaching change certainly played in a role in all of that. UM signed the worst class of the state’s three power programs, but should rebound as Manny Diaz gets settled into the head coach’s seat.
The Hurricanes’ class was headlined by talented wide receiver Jeremiah Payton and physical defensive back Christian Williams, who the program landed on signing day. Things must get better in Coral Gables at this time next year, but it’s not as though the team’s 2019 haul finished dead last in the league.
Bronco Mendenhall and his staff are stringing quality recruiting classes together and, even though the classes themselves aren’t highly rated, they are finding players that should help fill specific needs. Wide receiver and defensive back were priority positions for Virginia in this recruiting cycle and the Cavs did a great job finding stand out prospects at each. Four receivers, three defensive backs, and four athletes that could play on either side of the ball should help Virginia get more explosive and athletic at the skill positions.
Virginia also made sure to bring in important players on the offensive line and in the defensive front seven. Rivals100 defensive tackle Jowon Briggs is the crown jewel of this recruiting class but the staff is also hoping four-star linebacker Hunter Stewart can be the tackling machine he was in high school at the college level. Four-star Ja’quay Hubbard has been improving in at an impressive rate over the last two years and that should continue with the Virginia coaching staff’s help.
Geoff Collins has his work cut out for him at Georgia Tech as he tries to change over the Yellow Jackets’ offense from an option attack. It was huge for him to convince quarterback Jordan Yates to remain in this class. The signal caller was a prime target to flip as the Early Signing Period got closer but he ended up sticking with his commitment. Georgia Tech’s future star is running back Jamious Griffin and Collins flexed his recruiting muscles a bit when he stole Griffin away from NC State.
Collins’ recruiting prowess was also easy to see when he flipped tight end Dylan Deveney from Rutgers and got defensive end Mike Lockhart to sign with Georgia Tech after amassing a very strong offer sheet in the last month or two of the recruiting cycle. The Yellow Jackets have a lot of work to do before this roster turns a corner, but Collins has a solid foundation in this recruiting class.