The highest-ranked signee ever for each ACC program
Highly ranked recruits are a big deal for any fan base, so we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the highest-ranked high school signee for each Power Five school in Rivals.com history and see how they panned out. Today, we look at the ACC.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
BOSTON COLLEGE: BRIAN TOAL
The skinny: Toal took official visits to Boston College, Tennessee, Rutgers, Penn State and Miami before committing to the Eagles on National Signing Day. He enjoyed a promising true freshman season, but injuries, including one to the neck, derailed his progress during his career. After going undrafted in 2009 he had a short stint with the New York Jets, but never made an active roster in the NFL.
Farrell’s take: Toal was a star in high school at both running back and linebacker and was on his way to a great career at BC before injuries derailed him. He’s still one of the best two-way players I’ve ever seen out of New Jersey and remains the lone five-star for the Eagles.
CLEMSON: TREVOR LAWRENCE
The skinny: Despite elite offers from coast-to-coast, Lawrence decided to end his process early with a commitment to Clemson during his junior season. He never wavered off of that pledge. After beating out Kelly Bryant for the starting job in Death Valley, Lawrence had a magical true freshman season that culminated in a national championship victory over Alabama. Being mentioned as one of the elite college quarterbacks in recent history, he is one of the clear favorites for the Heisman Trophy leading into the 2019 season.
Farrell’s take: The best quarterback I have ever scouted, hands down. It was Josh Rosen before him but Lawrence took things to the next level. He was a can't-miss No 1 recruit overall and could do everything you wanted a quarterback to do. His mobility is his most underrated trait.
DUKE: SCOTT BRACEY
The skinny: Bracey committed to Duke during the summer leading up to his junior season and stuck with the Blue Devils over offers from programs like Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State. After redshirting in 2016, Bracey’s two collegiate seasons have been plagued by hamstring injuries and general ineffectiveness. Totaling only 11 receptions for 100 yards to this point, Bracey will have his opportunity to shine this fall as the Blue Devils receiving corps has undergone an overhaul since last season.
Farrell’s take: I can’t believe Bracey hasn’t broken out yet, as he was so dynamic in high school, especially as a junior. To me, he has all the skills to be great, but the question is: Does he have the “want to?” That’s yet to be determined, but this was a huge commitment for Duke at the time.
FLORIDA STATE: ERNIE SIMS
The skinny: Sims committed to Florida State over Georgia and Auburn. Many thought that Georgia would snatch Sims away from the Seminoles, but in the end the Tigers proved to be the strongest completion. After a productive three seasons in Tallahassee, he was selected with the ninth overall pick in 2006 by Detroit. Playing nine seasons with the Lions, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Dallas and Arizona, Sims finished his NFL career with 623 tackles.
Farrell’s take: Sims, like Toal, was a great two-way player as a running back and linebacker, and he could have played either in college. Sims had a very good college career and went on to a nice NFL career as well. He was a sure tackle and covered a ton of ground in high school despite not being the longest linebacker out there. It was quite a debate between Sims and Reggie Bush for No 1 in 2003.
GEORGIA TECH: CALVIN JOHNSON
The skinny: This came down to an in-state battle between Georgia Tech and Georgia, but soon after an official visit to Athens, Johnson committed to the Yellow Jackets in early January. He was a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech and then the second overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. In the NFL he was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and currently holds almost every Detroit Lions franchise receiving record. He also holds the NFL record for receiving yards in a single season with 1,964 in 2012. He surprised many by suddenly retiring from the league after the 2015 season.
Farrell’s take: Megatron was a huge receiver coming out of high school and was in the five-star discussion because of his freakish ability. He was still a bit raw as a route-runner and wasn’t as explosive as he was in the NFL, but he was super-talented. His career at Georgia Tech was excellent, and he’s one of the best wide receivers the NFL has ever seen.
LOUISVILLE: MICHAEL BUSH
The skinny: Bush took official visits to Louisville, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio State before committing to the hometown Cardinals on National Signing Day. Bush had an impressive junior season before breaking his tibia during the first game of his senior season. Seeing his draft position slide, he was selected in the fourth round by Oakland in 2007, where he had four productive seasons. Finishing up his playing career with Chicago, Bush totaled 3,250 yards and 29 touchdowns during his six seasons.
Farrell’s take: Bush was a jumbo athlete way back in 2003 who could have played many positions. He ended up as a big running back with exceptional feet and sneaky quickness. He’s one of the most versatile players out of Kentucky I’ve seen over the years.
MIAMI: SEANTREL HENDERSON
The skinny: After taking official visits to USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Florida, Henderson committed to the Trojans. However, after the NCAA ruled in the Reggie Bush case, Henderson was granted his release and decided to attend Miami. In Coral Gables Henderson had an unspectacular career, which led to him being drafted in the seventh round by Buffalo in 2014.
He spent four seasons with the Bills before signing with Houston in 2018 as a free agent. He then signed a one-year extension with the Texans earlier this year.
Farrell’s take: Henderson was an absolutely massive offensive tackle and a great athlete who also played basketball and could have gone that route if he chose. His career at Miami was a disappointment of sorts but he’s made it in the NFL with all the skill and athleticism we saw out of high school. He was our No. 1 recruit at one point in the 2010 class.
NORTH CAROLINA: MARVIN AUSTIN
The skinny: Austin took official visits to North Carolina, Florida State, Tennessee, Illinois and USC before committing to the Tar Heels. Many assumed that Florida State was the favorite leading into his decision on National Signing Day. He was a freshman all-American and later an All-ACC selection, however, following his junior year, Austin was one of multiple players suspended from the team for receiving improper benefits. He was still selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He then saw time with Miami and Dallas before seeing his career come to an end in 2014 with Denver. He only totaled 22 tackles during his four seasons.
Farrell’s take: Many felt this was going to be FSU in the end, so UNC was a surprise pick and this was a huge pickup for the Heels. Had he finished his college career he would have been an All American and first-rounder. Injuries derailed his NFL career. As a high school player he was a dynamic athlete who dominated against the run and could rush the passer like an end.
NC STATE: DEMARIO PRESSLEY
The skinny: Pressley took official visits to NC State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida State and Virginia before committing to the Wolfpack on National Signing Day. NC State was long thought to be his favorite. He showed potential and promise at NC State, but injuries slowed his collegiate career. Selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by New Orleans, he played four six different teams in four years before seeing his playing days come to an end prior to the start of the 2012 season.
Farrell’s take: Pressley was an athletic defensive tackle and a huge in-state keep for NC State back in the day. Injuries hurt his college career, but when he was healthy he was excellent and won a Super Bowl in the NFL. He was a taller defensive tackle back in 2004 and ahead of his time as that’s the norm now.
PITTSBURGH: JONATHAN BALDWIN
The skinny: With plenty of options on the table, Baldwin committed to Pittsburgh in December during his official visit. The proximity of the school to his family played a big factor in his decision. In three seasons with the Panthers, Baldwin had 128 receptions for 2,337 yards and 18 touchdowns. Selected late in the first round by Kansas City in 2011, Baldwin only had 44 receptions for 607 yards and two touchdowns while with the Chiefs and San Francisco. His professional career lasted only three seasons.
Farrell’s take: Baldwin was a monster wide receiver with great size and sneaky downfield speed. He snatched the ball out of the air and attacked the football and was a mismatch for any cornerback. He had a very good career at Pitt and was a first-rounder, but he never made it as a pro. He’s one of the better jumbo receivers I’ve covered, a kid who should have been a tight end but was just too athletic.
SYRACUSE: LEE KPOGBA
The skinny: Kpogba was initially committed to West Virginia, but re-opened his process during his senior season. Tennessee and Florida State were both seen as likely destinations at different times, but it was Syracuse that swooped in with the commitment. Kpogba has been on campus since January, and with depth issues at the linebacker position early playing time is expected.
Farrell’s take: Its surprising that the highest-ranked recruit in Rivals history for Syracuse just signed last year. The former West Virginia pledge isn’t the longest linebacker in the world but he’s a hard hitter and can cover a lot of ground. He’s also excellent in coverage.
VIRGINIA: EUGENE MONROE
The skinny: Monroe committed to Virginia shortly after a summer visit to Charlottesville. Maryland was also seriously considered at the time of his decision. At Virginia, Monroe started his final 23 games at left tackle, earning All-ACC honors after both seasons. He was then selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by Jacksonville, where he had a successful five-year run until he was traded to Baltimore. With the Ravens he struggled with injuries, which ultimately led to his retirement from the NFL in 2016.
Farrell’s take: Monroe was a can’t-miss lineman out of New Jersey who had a nasty streak and simply dominated the competition. He had a very good career at Virginia and showed he could play inside or outside and became a first-rounder, so he was a hit all around. He reshaped his body completely from high school to the pros as he was much bigger and heavier in high school. He was an amazing athlete for his size.
VIRGINIA TECH: MARCUS VICK
The skinny: While most assumed Virginia Tech would be the heavy favorite due to his brother’s amazing collegiate career, the younger Vick did not even consider the Hokies until later in his process. He took official visits to Blacksburg, Miami, Tennessee and Virginia before committing to the Hokies on National Signing Day. However, Vick’s career never came close to reach the successes of his brother, as suspensions and on-field incidents led to his dismissal in early 2006. Making himself eligible for the NFL Draft, Vick went undrafted and was signed as a free agent by the Miami Dolphins. He only played in one game for the Dolphins in 2006. Legal issues have continued to follow Vick since that point, including DUI’s, probation violations and drug possession.
Farrell’s take: Vick was a dynamic talent out of high school and lived up to the hype despite being the younger brother of Michael Vick. Some schools wanted him as a wide receiver, a testament to his athleticism, but he was dominant at quarterback and would have had a great career had it not been for off-field issues. He flashed some of his amazing abilities in college.
WAKE FOREST: SHAMAR MCCOLLUM
The skinny: McCollum was focusing on Wake Forest, Clemson, Oregon, Tennessee and East Carolina when he committed to the Demon Deacons in June. He said his relationship with the coaching staff was a major factor in his decision. Arriving in Winstom-Salem in January, his experience during the spring has given McCollum a legitimate opportunity to be an early contributor this fall.
Farrell’s take: McCollum was a huge pickup for Wake last year as a skinny pass rusher with great athleticism and he should have a very good career in college and perhaps beyond. His motor never stops and he’s a hard worker, so barring injuries I can’t see him failing.