Ranking ACC, Notre Dame recruiting over the past decade
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
With the 2020 class wrapping up in February, we thought it would be interesting to see which programs in each Power Five conference have done the best job of recruiting over the last decade. We continue with the ACC and Notre Dame.
1. FLORIDA STATE
Average national ranking: 7.0
The skinny: The Seminoles have long established themselves as a national recruiting power, but they are also coming off their worst class of the decade (No. 18). Add to that their No. 10 finish in 2018 and their No. 14 average finish over the last two seasons is very uncharacteristic of Florida State. Despite these recent struggles, numerous top recruits developed into stars, such as Derwin James, Dalvin Cook, Jalen Ramsey, Eddie Goldman, Jameis Winston and DeVonta Freeman.
Farrell’s take: Recruiting has been down lately under Willie Taggart, but the Jimbo Fisher years were good and led to a national title. However, the recent struggles are unacceptable considering this national ranking on average, and player development has been an issue at the end of Fisher’s tenure and through Taggart’s first couple of years. The player development grade would be very low in recent years.
Average national ranking: 11.7
The skinny: Clemson has long been one of the top recruiting programs in the country, but in recent years the Tigers have taken it to the next level. With four of their last five classes finishing in the top nine, this looks to be a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. And the top recruits that are arriving in Death Valley are producing, such as Trevor Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and Deshaun Watson.
Farrell’s take: Clemson should finish No. 1 in 2020 and that will take this ranking even higher. There is no questioning Dabo Swinney’s ability to recruit, and Clemson could be creating a dynasty here. Two national titles and a ton of five-stars have been the result in recent years and it’s remarkable they are outside the national top 10, but that's mainly because of some smaller classes.
3. NOTRE DAME
Average national ranking: 12.0
The skinny: While Notre Dame isn’t a full member of the ACC, the Irish's relationship with the conference makes sense to include them on this listing. The Irish have been one of the more consistent recruiting programs in the nation, especially during the last six classes. During this time the Irish have finished at No. 11, 11, 13, 13, 11 and 14. This is the definition of consistency. And with this consistency has come production, as top recruits such as Quenton Nelson, William Fuller, Jaylon Smith, Manti Te’o and Stephon Tuitt produced in South Bend and beyond.
Farrell’s take: With academic restrictions, it’s impressive that Notre Dame has been so consistent in recruiting and has done so at such a high level. Brian Kelly has the program headed in the right direction and the Irish have had the on-field success (except for one season) in recent years that speaks to his recruiting ability. They’ve done a very good job developing players as well.
Average national ranking: 19.5
The skinny: Finishing with an average recruiting class in the top 20 is nothing to complain about for most programs, but for Miami a 19.5 average seems like a disappointment. This includes two finishes in the top 10, but also two finishes at No. 36. With this has come some disappointment on the field, which has been partially due to many top recruits not meeting expectations. A few who have during this decade include Anthony Chickillo, Shaquille Quarterman, Joseph Jackson and Artie Burns.
Farrell’s take: The Canes haven’t been very good on the field for the most part over the last decade - or at least you could say they’ve fallen short of expectations. And this national ranking doesn’t reflect what is expected of Miami on a recruiting level. The Hurricanes need to be closer to the top 10 every year and they have been inconsistent in their efforts year to year.
5. VIRGINIA TECH
Average national ranking: 27.4
The skinny: Aside from a No. 49 finish in 2016, the Hokies have been as consistent as one would expect. With eight of their remaining nine classes in the decade finishing between No. 22 and No. 28, it is easy to see why the Hokies annually field a winning team. And on these winning teams were several top recruits who produced, such as Tremaine Edmunds, Kendall Fuller, Trey Edmunds and Tim Settle.
Farrell’s take: The Hokies would be averaging a top 25 class over the decade had it not been for the 2016 class, and that’s about what is expected of them. They’ve never been a recruiting juggernaut because of location, and when Frank Beamer retired recruiting took a different turn in state. They need to keep more kids at home. That’s the key.
6. NORTH CAROLINA
Average national ranking: 28.5
The skinny: While the product on the field has been somewhat inconsistent over the decade, the Tar Heels still regularly bring in talented classes. Now it will be interesting to see what Mack Brown can do in Chapel Hill after finishing No. 31 with only a limited time on the job. Just as their recruiting was inconsistent, so was their development of top recruits. Giovani Bernard, T.J. Logan and James Hurst were a few who met expectations.
Farrell’s take: Brown and his staff are off to a very good start for 2020, so things appear to be trending up despite the play on the field still being very erratic. Brown is known as a very good recruiter, so this national average should increase and possibly hit the top 25 soon but this is a long rebuilding process.
Average national ranking: 41.6
The skinny: Considering the success of the football program throughout the decade, and an official move to the ACC in 2015, the Cardinals recruiting was somewhat disappointing. While there was some improvement since their conference move, that ended abruptly with a No. 77 finish in 2019 after undergoing a horrible 2018 season and then a coaching change. When it comes to developing top talent, while Heisman winner Lamar Jackson will immediately come to mind, most of the recruits who prospered were actually three-stars like Jaire Alexander.
Farrell’s take: Louisville hasn’t been great in recruiting and Jackson and some others have really saved the program over the last several years. Increased effort and national standing by Kentucky hasn’t helped, and many schools are coming into the state of Kentucky to try to steal recruits. Louisville did a good job in South Florida under Charlie Strong, but efforts haven’t been great lately.
Average national ranking: 43.5
The skinny: The team had its ups and downs throughout the decade on the field, and the Panthers’ recruiting followed a similar trend. With a top class of No. 29 in 2016 and a worst of No. 65 in 2015, Pittsburgh did finish with a surprisingly low class of No. 50 in 2019 despite playing in the ACC Championship Game at the end of last season. The Panthers did well with developing elite local talent, with players such as Tyler Boyd and Jordan Whitehead excelling at Pittsburgh and now in the NFL.
Farrell’s take: The talent in Western Pennsylvania is still there, although it has dropped in recent years, but many programs continue to come into the state and pull players out or Pitt loses out to Penn State for home bragging rights. This national ranking needs to increase and the Panthers need to do a better job in places like Florida to take things to the next level.
9. NC STATE
Average national ranking: 44.4
The skinny: While the front end of the decade had some recruiting disappointments, including a No. 86 disaster in 2011, the Wolfpack finished positively. Improving from No. 53 to 34 and then 28 during the last three classes, coach Dave Doeren seems to have the program heading in the right direction. Over the decade, a few of the top recruits who have excelled include Nyheim Hines, Kentavius Street and Justin Jones.
Farrell’s take: With Brown at UNC, things get tougher for NC State, but it continues to recruit pretty well in state and dip into other states for talent. However, player development has been very good, above the on paper recruiting level and that has helped. But winning will be key as UNC is hot on the recruiting trail.
Average national ranking: 45.8
The skinny: There are definitely a few recruiting inconsistencies during the decade, but now the Cavaliers seem to be on the upswing both on the field and with recruiting. However, as an example, between 2011 and 2013, the Cavs had an average class of 26.7, but then between 2016 and 2018 they dipped all the way down to 62.7. While the Cavs brought in several high-end recruits in the beginning of the decade, only a few, like Morgan Moses, Taquan Mizzell, Quin Blanding and Tim Harris produced.
Farrell’s take: Mike London did a good job recruiting in-state while winning battles for guys like Mizzell, Andrew Brown and Blanding, but the results did not show on the field. Enter Bronco Mendenhall and his staff, who had very few ties to the area, and you can see why recruiting dipped. But winning on the field is helping and Virginia has found a nice Louisiana connection to build on.
11. GEORGIA TECH
Average national ranking: 51.5
The skinny: The Yellow Jackets’ last three recruiting classes of the decade resulted in an average of 45.7, but a No. 67 finish in 2016 and disastrous No. 84 class in 2013 showcased the struggles. While many of the top-level recruits disappointed during the decade, more under-the-radar recruits like Adam Gotsis, Shaq Mason and Darren Waller prospered in Atlanta and now the NFL.
Farrell’s take: A big transition is occurring in recruiting for Georgia Tech, and if 2020 is any indication things are headed in the right direction. Geoff Collins is hitting the trail hard and trying to recruit a roster that is much different from the style of former coach Paul Johnson. While both coaches tried to find players that fit their system, Collins will be recruiting a more traditional class moving forward, and that should help.
Average national ranking: 57.9
The skinny: With improved success on the field, the Blue Devils have seen similar results with recruiting. While Duke will never compete with the conference's best, the Blue Devils' No. 50 average over the last four classes, including a decade-best No. 31 in 2016, gives the fan base more hope and optimism. When it comes to top-level recruits, the few that made their way to Durham did not reach expectations. However, lesser known recruits such as Daniel Jones, Matt Skura, Jamison Crowder and Laken Tomlinson continue to make progress in the NFL.
Farrell’s take: Academic restrictions are always a part of the story at Duke, and it’s more about player development than anything else at such a basketball school. David Cutcliffe is well known as a developer of talent, especially at quarterback and the results on the field have been much better than this average recruiting ranking.
13. BOSTON COLLEGE
Average national ranking: 60.2
The skinny: Despite six winning seasons in the decade, the Eagles failed to translate that into recruiting success. Included in the decade was a conference-worst No. 87 finish in 2013 and then a No. 83 finish in 2016. While high academic standards play a role in this, it is still surprising that the Eagles' best class of the decade was only No. 38. Because of this, the overall production of top-level recruits was minimal due to their lack in numbers. However, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Harold Landry are examples of two that have excelled.
Farrell’s take: BC has academic hurdles, much like Duke and some others, but the Eagles' geography really hurts them, as they need to recruit out of state and up and down the East Coast (as well as in the Midwest) to be successful. Tom O’Brien did a better job recruiting overall, but Steve Addazio is finding his dudes and has put together a pretty good team despite weak on-paper recruiting results.
14. WAKE FOREST
Average national ranking: 63.1
The skinny: On the field, the Demon Deacons finished the decade with their only three winning seasons, but with recruiting it has remained a struggle. Their best class came in 2015 (No. 50), while seven classes finished at No. 60 or worse. Continued success on the field should help with this, but for now it remains a work in progress. Proof of this is that Wake has only signed five four-star recruits during the decade, including two in 2019.
Farrell’s take: Wake is always up against it when it comes to facilities and academics and they are one of the bottom feeders in their own state, which gets raided often. Recruiting has improved a little bit, especially last year, but this will always be a program that has to coach players up a full star or so from their ranking.
Average national ranking: 63.3
The skinny: Since their move to the ACC from the Big East in 2013, the Orange have only put together two winning seasons. Even with this, it is surprising that a program with a winning tradition was not able to put together a better class than No. 51 during the decade. As with Wake Forest, this was proven by the numbers, as the Orange only reeled in four four-star players during the decade, including two in 2019.
Farrell’s take: Like BC, the Orange have a bit of a geographical disadvantage to overcome. However, New York state produces some good players, and they are bordering Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The lack of success in Florida, which used to be a staple of their recruiting efforts, has hurt.