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ACC Spotlight: Wrapping up the early signing period

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Clemson five-star signee Andrew Booth
Clemson five-star signee Andrew Booth (Rivals.com)

While the final 2019 team rankings are not complete, with about 80 percent of the prospects off the board it is easy to get a read on where things stand. And in the ACC, things do not stand in an overly positive light, at least compared with the 2018 team rankings.

The ACC had three teams in the top 10 and five in the top 25 last season. After the Early Signing Period, the ACC has just two teams in the top 25 for 2019. Here is a wrap-up for the league with six weeks to go before things officially close.

MORE: Big Ten early signing wrapup

STANDING OVATION: CLEMSON

Clemson continues to be almost-miraculously efficient on the trail. The Tigers are building a reputation for having their committed prospects stay committed and avoiding the recruiting drama that plaque most other teams in the country.

Dabo Swinney signed every single one of his committed prospects during the early period and put a bow on the week by snagging four-star offensive lineman Will Putman, a Florida-based lineman some thought would choose Florida State. The Tigers now have 27 signed players, including two five-stars, and will turn the bulk of their attention to the 2020 class, giving the program a head start on signing yet another impressive haul a year from now It’s amazing how little attrition Swinney seems to experience on the recruiting trail and it’s why the Tigers will once boast the ACC’s top class.

SURPRISE PARTY: FLORIDA STATE

Florida State missed a bowl game this season and looked pretty bad at times in the process. That didn’t stop Willie Taggart from putting together an early signing period haul a lot of programs would kill for.

Despite the on-field issues, the Seminoles signed 14 prospects, including nine ranked as four-stars. FSU’s two highest-ranked commits, Akeem Dent and Brendan Gant, declined to sign during the early period, but there’s no reason to think either will exit the class at this juncture. And while the Noles also lost longtime committed quarterback Sam Howell to North Carolina (a mild surprise of its own), the class is still impressive when you consider just how poorly Taggart’s debut season went. FSU is unlikely to break into the top 10, but a top-15 or 20 class would be a good finish when you consider the larger context.

WORK TO DO: LOUISVILLE

The sooner Louisville fans can forget this past season, the better off they’ll be. Issues with Papa John's before the season, a dismal record on the field, and missing out on their top choice for their next coach all led to this Louisville team signing fewer recruits than any other Power Five program.

New head coach Scott Satterfield has his work cut out for him as he builds his staff and tries to fill out this class with recruits that can help the Cardinals compete in the tough Atlantic Division of the ACC. Offensive lineman Zach Williamson and linebacker Dorian Jones are the two highest rated prospects in this class, but holding onto Williamson was a big deal because a few other teams were trying to steal him away. Quarterback Evan Conley committed to App State when Satterfield was the head coach there and followed him to Louisville, flipping on the first day of the Early Signing Period. Louisville’s fourth signee was local running back Aidan Robbins.

RANKING THE ACC

1. CLEMSON

The good: Every committed Clemson prospect signed a letter of intent, continuing Dabo Swinney’s tradition of flying above the recruiting drama that habitually plagues most other programs. The Tigers will finish the cycle with the ACC’s top class and have most of the hard work on that front of out the way. The Tigers grabbed commitments (and ensuing letters of intent) from three players last week, most notably offensive line Will Putnam, a Florida-based four-star the Tigers snatched away from FSU. The Tigers also signed a pair of five-stars in wide receiver Joe Ngata out of California and defensive back Andrew Booth.

The bad: There isn’t much to put here. Clemson avoided attrition and won most of the remaining recruiting battles in which it found itself during the ESP.

Top remaining target: Running back Jerrion Early

2. FLORIDA STATE

The good: The big picture here looks solid. FSU overcame a five-win season so sign six four-star prospects and currently boasts the nation’s No. 14 recruiting class. When you consider the context, the Seminoles early signing period achieved some measure of success even of the program’s top two commits, Akeem Dent and Brendan Gant, declined to sign letters of intent.

The bad: Florida State certainly didn’t enjoy losing longtime quarterback commit Sam Howell to North Carolina, especially when you consider the team’s lack of proven depth at the position. Also, the class as a whole isn’t impressive for a Florida State class when viewed through historical perspective. It’s also less than ideal that Gant and Dent remain unsigned.

Top remaining target: Four-star quarterback Lance Legendre

3. NC STATE

The good: The Wolfpack reloaded on the defensive line in a major way. Their top three signees, Rivals250 prospects Joshua Harris, Savion Jackson, and C.J. Clark, all project as difference-makers on the defensive line, a position N.C. State has become known for in recent years.

The bad: N.C. State wanted to added a couple running backs in this cycle and they signed one in Zonovan Knight, but four-star Jamious Griffin didn’t signed last week. He remains committed, but Dave Doeren and his staff really want to get him onboard.

Top remaining target: Griffin

4. VIRGINIA TECH

The good: Justin Fuente will have a lot of new toys to play with when this recruiting class gets to Blacksburg. There are a lot of really good offensive weapons in this class with guys like wide receivers Jaden Payoute, running back Keshawn King, and many others.

The bad: The Hokies missed out on some linebackers and edge rushers as the Early Signing Period approached. They’ll look to fill those needs in the few weeks before Signing Day in February .

Top remaining target: Ohio State Rivals250 OL commit Doug Nester

5. VIRGINIA

The good: The Cavaliers will be considerably stronger on the offensive line and in the defensive front seven in the coming years thanks to this recruiting class. All three of Virginia’s highest rated signees in this class are either an offensive lineman, defensive lineman, or linebacker. Rivals100 defensive tackle Jowon Briggs could be a day one contributor.

The bad: This recruiting class lacks a marquee offensive playmaker with a high rating. The same could be said of Virginia’s past few recruiting classes but that hasn’t mattered too much because they have done a good job of developing talent.

Top remaining target: DT Joseph Darkwa

6. MIAMI

The good: Miami had a less than ideal early signing period, but still managed to ink 13 players, including seven four-star prospects, The top rated Hurricanes signee is Rivals100 wide receiver Jeremiah Payton, who projects as a college star. There’s some impressive depth to UM’s class, even if the top-end talent is as plentiful as it was a year ago.

The bad: it’s impossible to ignore the fact that UM signed just two of the top 20 prospects in the state of Florida and let a number of priority targets walk out of its own backyard. UM’s recruiting class would be a solid one for a number of Power Five schools, but expectations in Coral Gables are always sky high. Miami is still alive with four stars Tyrique Stevenson, Khris Bogle and Mark-Antony Richards, so it’s not as if anyone should wave the white flag on the 2019 class just yet. The month ahead should be an interesting one.

Top remaining target: Five-star wide receiver Jadon Haselwood

7. NORTH CAROLINA

The good: Offensive firepower is on the way with Mack Brown now at the helm and Rivals100 quarterback Sam Howell, Rivals250 wide receiver Khafre Brown, and four-star running back Josh Henderson all onboard. Three high-potential offensive linemen also signed with the Tar Heels.

The bad: North Carolina missed on defensive tackle Jaden McKenzie on the first day of the Early Signing Period and this class really needs help on the defensive side of the ball.

Top remaining target: Tennessee four-star S commit Anthony Harris

8. PITTSBURGH

The good: Regardless of what you think about Pittsburgh’s defense, get ready for the Panthers to be much stronger on the defensive line. Pat Narduzzi and his squad signed five more defensive linemen and most of them are edge players that can get after the quarterback.

The bad: The Panthers’ pass defense ranked outside the top 50 in the nation this past season and they only signed two defensive backs so far. Look for Pitt to try to remedy that situation in the last few weeks of this recruiting cycle.

Top remaining target: Four-star DB Marlin Devonshire

9. DUKE

The good: The Blue Devils addressed all three major areas of need: wide receiver (four signees), offensive line (four signees) and defensive line (six signees). Duke also signed a couple defensive backs that could be future stars in Isaiah Kemp and Rivals250 cornerback Tony Davis.

The bad: There are currently no linebackers in this recruiting class, signed or verbally committed. Expect the Blue Devils to look for at least one or two to add to the fold.

Top remaining target: ATH Ainias Smith

10. WAKE FOREST

The good: Rivals100 wide receiver Nolan Groulx and four-star receiver Donavon Greene are the crown jewels of this recruiting class and both should play from day one in Winston-Salem, especially with star Greg Dortch now heading to the NFL. Wake Forest also reloaded on the defensive line and in the secondary, signing four players at each position.

The bad: More bodies on the offensive line are curiously absent from this recruiting class. That could be an area Wake Forest looks to add to with the remaining time in this recruiting cycle.

Top remaining target: None

11. GEORGIA TECH

The good: Geoff Collins signed a few very good defensive backs and quarterbacks. Making sure Jordan Yates didn’t get away could be the best thing Collins has done with this recruiting class so far.

The bad: Georgia Tech didn’t sign one offensive lineman and only got one via transfer. There will certainly be a steep learning curve here as this offense moves away from the option attack.

Top remaining target: N.C. State four-star RB commit Jamious Griffin

12. BOSTON COLLEGE

The good: The future of Boston College’s offense is in good hands with the two quarterbacks they signed and four-star running back Patrick Garwo. Five defensive linemen should also help shore up that group.

The bad: Boston College lost offensive lineman Maurice Smith on the first day of the Early Signing Period to Florida State, so they will be in the market for help up front between now and Signing Day in February.

Top remaining target: OL Christian Mahogany

13. SYRACUSE

The good: Solidifying the defense was the focal point of this recruiting class for Syracuse and it certainly accomplished that goal. Of the 17 players currently committed to Dino Babers and his staff, 15 of them are defensive players. The linebackers are the stars of this recruiting class, featuring Rivals250 prospect Lee Kpogba and four-star Mikel Jones.

The bad: The offensive firepower in this recruiting class is underwhelming. Expect that to change over the next few weeks.

Top remaining target: Signing current DB commit Dorian Hewitt

14. LOUISVILLE

The good: The Cardinals managed to sign a few high school football players.

The bad: Let’s skip the tact and just call Louisville’s early signing period what it was: an unmitigated disaster. The Cardinals’ coaching change left the program with just four signed recruits, the fewest of any Power Five team. Louisville does not have a single four-star prospect in the fold and will be sent scrambling now that the player pool has thinned. It seems hard to imagine a way that Scott Satterfield can mold this class into anything resembling a recruiting victory. Hey, there’s always next year.

Top remaining target: Three-star offensive tackle Dawad Jones