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February 2, 2012

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the ACC

MORE: Top 25 teams | Signing Day Central

More Conferences: Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell ranks the ACC recruiting classes coming out of National Signing Day.

Boston College | Clemson | Duke | Florida State | Georgia Tech | Maryland
Miami | North Carolina | N.C. State | Virginia | Va. Tech | Wake Forest

ACC Blitz
1. Florida State

Commit List
Warchant.com
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Headliner: It's tough to believe Eddie Goldman isn't the top rated prospect in the Seminoles' class but that honor belongs to Mario Edwards, the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle and No. 3 overall prospect. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound lineman from Denton (Tex.) Ryan is big, quick and explosive and should get on the field very early in his career.
Sleeper: Quarterback Sean Maguire has been overlooked, and he's not one of the most highly-ranked prospects in this haul. But Jimbo Fisher's staff really likes him, and Maguire impressed at events leading up to his commitment over the summer. Don't be shocked if he works his way up the depth chart during his college years.
Overview: This class has an overwhelming amount of talent on the defensive line, headlined by Edwards and Goldman, the top two defensive tackles in the nation. Throw in Justin Shanks and Dalvon Stuckey, who almost any other school would have been thrilled to land, and four-star end Chris Casher, and the future looks stellar for Florida State's defensive line. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Colin Blake are two of the nation's best at their position, and safety P.J. Williams adds even more star power to the secondary. It was a national effort with the Seminoles going as far west as California and into southern states ranging from Alabama to Texas. If Florida State can hold onto five-star QB Jameis Winston, this class gets a huge boost.
2. Miami

Commit List
CaneSport.com
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Headliner: The late addition of five-star cornerback Tracy Howard gave Miami incredible momentum heading toward Signing Day and with good reason. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound defensive back is the top corner in the nation. He's a lockdown corner ,and Miami will feel comfortable with him blanketing the opposition's top receiver. His ability to break on the ball sets him apart from the other corners in this class.
Sleeper: Dequan Ivery was committed to Louisville and the Cardinals are going to miss him. The 6-foot-1, 310-pound defensive tackle is a bull up front. He bench presses more than 400 pounds and could be the surprise of the class.
Overview: The Canes loaded up in the secondary so Howard will be pushed by plenty of young talent. Cornerbacks Antonio Crawford, Vernon Davis, Larry Hope and Nate Dortch are Floridians with plenty of upside while junior college transfer Ladarius Gunter could make an early impact. Safeties Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins add even more punch to the back four, while athlete Angelo Jean-Louis could contribute at any position. Wide receivers Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart will make for great targets on the outside, while running back Randy Johnson is a five-star and the best all-purpose back in the nation. Defensive ends Jelani Hamilton and Tyriq McCord and linebacker Raphael Kirby ensure there will be talent on the front seven.
3. Clemson

Commit List
TigerIllustrated.com
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Headliner: Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian cornerback Travis Blanks is one of the nation's top defensive backs and could also play safety in college. He's got all the tools to develop into a big-time player .
Sleeper: Jay Jay McCullough doesn't fit the mold of someone you would typically label an athlete but the 6-foot-5, 232-pound in-state prospect could play any number of positions on the offensive side of the ball. Once he puts it all together, the sky is the limit.
Overview: Florida State isn't the only ACC school with some defensive tackle talent on the way. Carlos Watkins and Kevin Dodd are big bodies up front who should provide immediate depth. There isn't any one offensive lineman that's a headliner but Clemson signed five who all have good potential. Shaq Lawson and Martin Aiken, both of the Palmetto State, are impressive defensive ends. Athlete Zac Brooks was the top prospect in Arkansas. Clemson hit its home state hard, but they've carved out an impressive footprint in the Southeast and once again fared well in North Carolina, with the schools in that state struggling to keep the top talent at home.
4. Virginia Tech

Commit List
HokieHaven.com
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Headliner: Joel Caleb waited until Signing Day to make his choice and ended up with the Hokies, as many expected he would. The Midlothian (Va.) Clover Hill athlete was once ranked as the top prospect in Virginia, and he has that kind of talent. He could play wide receiver or safety in Blacksburg and will start off on offense.
Sleeper: Wide receiver Thomas Smith didn't get much hype in Virginia as a senior, but he's one of the top pass catchers in the region. At 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds he's a load but isn't a burner. He should be a red zone threat and is a guy that Tech will look to for catches in traffic.
Overview: The Hokies fared well in their home state signing many of Virginia's top prospects, including Caleb and linebacker Ken Ekanem on Wednesday. Running back was another position of emphasis, and J.C. Coleman, Drew Harris and Chris Mangus were all among the top runners on the East Coast. Trey Edmunds and Deon Clarke, both four-stars, were two more of the top linebackers in the state and the region. Tech may have wanted to do a little better on the offensive line, but that's a minor criticism when you look at the class as a whole.
5. Virginia

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CavsCorner.com
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Headliner: Eli Harold ended the season as the top-ranked prospect in Virginia, and the 6-foot-4, 215-pound defensive end from Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes could develop into a terror off the edge. He will want to put on a lot of weight before he's ready to make a huge impact, but in terms of his explosiveness, drive and speed, Harold will be a matchup problem.
Sleeper: Virginia's coaches took an early interest in cornerback Kelvin Rainey because there aren't many players at a legit 6-foot-1 who have the skills necessary to play the position. Rainey is one of the more impressive but underappreciated cornerbacks in the class and it won't be a shock if he exceeds expectations.
Overview: Between Harold, Michael Moore and Courtnye Wynn, UVa did a great job of restocking the defensive end position. What Harold lacks in size, Moore and Wynn more than make up for. Virginia Tech fared well with in-state linebackers, but the Wahoos did very well in their own right with Kwontie Moore and Mark Hall from Virginia and Demeitre Brim of Florida. Kye Morgan developed into one of New Jersey's top seniors and Rutgers may come to think of him as the one who got away. Mike London's program did a good job addressing a need at wide receiver with guys like Canaan Severin and Mario Nixon, while quarterback Greyson Lambert was a pleasant surprise.
6. North Carolina

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TarHeelIllustrated.com
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Headliner: Reeling in Quinshad Davis on Signing Day was a huge late boost for the Tar Heels. The Gaffney, S.C. receiver was the No. 2 prospect in the Palmetto State, and UNC had to fend off Tennessee and Wake Forest. Davis had 109 receptions for 2,009 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior.
Sleeper: Fullbacks are often underappreciated, but Nathan Staub is the kind of player that catches your eye. Staub committed before Larry Fedora was hired, but the new coach was able to hang onto him. There's a chance Staub could end up at linebacker for the Heels.
Overview: Fedora had the unenviable task of closing on short notice but he did an admirable job holding onto guys and bringing prospects on board late. Convincing four-star quarterback James Summers to flip from N.C. State late was big. He could be a dual-threat in the new spread offense in Chapel Hill or move to receiver. North Carolina has recruited plenty of big-time offensive linemen in recent years and with guys like J.J. Patterson, Caleb Peterson and Jon Heck they have continued that trend. There's also plenty of depth at linebacker with four quality players there. The Tar Heels signed seven Floridians and four from Georgia.
7. Maryland

Commit List
TerrapinTimes.com
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Headliner: Of course, Maryland is still holding out hope they can land five-star receiver Stefon Diggs, but for now running back Wes Brown is the headliner. Convincing him to stay close to home was huge because Brown is the kind of all-around, do-it-all back that can carry a big load at the next level.
Sleeper: Baltimore (Md.) Gilman School running back Kenneth Goins may be overshadowed by Brown, but he's a powerful, explosive player in his own right. At 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, Goins was a defensive end in high school and that alone says something about his ability. People will question his size but whether Goins is a running back or a linebacker, he's a football player with power and a motor.
Overview: Linebacker is the position with the most depth in the Terps' haul. Abner Logan was one of Massachusetts' top prospects while Brock Dean of Pennsylvania and Stefan Houston of Maryland are also impressive prospects. Between Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe the Terrapins may have found a quarterback of the future if one pans out. Good Counsel's Mike Madaras was one of the region's top linemen and he was committed to Randy Edsall's program throughout the process. As usual, Maryland hit its home region hard and that's where the Terps found most of their success.
8. Duke

Commit List
DevilsIllustrated.com
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Headliner: The Blue Devils do a good job of getting the ball to their play makers, and that was appealing to Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman all-purpose back Shaquille Powell, a four-star prospect and one of the best skill position threats out West. Powell can get it done on the ground or when he's out in the flat catching the ball so expect him to see the field early and often.
Sleeper: Duke's 4-2-5 defense is appealing to safeties because three of them get on the field at a time. Michael Westray appears to be a good fit at 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds. Though listed as a corner, Westray will play safety at Duke, and he got some experience at the position as a senior in high school. He has an attacking mentality and could prove to be one of the most productive players from this class.
Overview: Duke is still trying to get over the hump on the field but David Cutcliffe and his staff continue to impress when it comes to bringing in talent. The commitment of Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek running back Jela Duncan on Signing Day means the Blue Devils absolutely loaded up in the backfield when you couple him with Powell. Leland (N.C.) North Brunswick linebacker Keilin Rayner was another huge late addition. Quarterback Thomas Sirk has only been behind center for one year, and Duke took his commitment before he became his school's starting signal caller. But he had a huge senior season and was one of Florida's most productive players. He could develop some nice chemistry with Daniel Beilinson, a proven pass-catching threat at tight end.
9. North Carolina State

Commit List
TheWolfpacker.com
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Headliner: There isn't really one guy who stands out far and above the others, but Kenderius Whitehead was one of the top defensive linemen in Georgia. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds he will want to continue to add weight before he gets on the field, but he has the pass-rushing skills the coaching staff was looking for.
Sleeper: Newark, Del., tight end David Grinnage has a huge upside in large part because his size makes him a difficult matchup for opposing linebackers. What's most impressive about Grinnage, however, are his hands. He catches nearly everything thrown his way, and at a lean 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, that's a tough combination to stop.
Overview: Losing Summers to archrival UNC late was tough to swallow, but there's still plenty of reason to be optimistic. This is a deep group with a lot of quality players, especially on the defensive line. Whitehead will be joined by Tyler Knox, South Carolina's No. 7 overall prospect, at defensive end. While Desmond Owino may not have the highest ranking in this class, he may have the highest ceiling. This was his first year playing football as an immigrant from Africa, and the former rugby player can be as good as he wants to be. At defensive tackle, K'Hadree Hooker and Deylan Buntyn are impressive players. Bryce Kennedy is the Pack's best incoming offensive lineman while Shadrach Thornton was one of the Southeast's top running backs.
10. Georgia Tech

Commit List
JacketsOnLine.com
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Headliner: Justin Thomas is the top prospect in Georgia Tech's class, and the nation's No. 19 athlete was a huge contributor to a state championship run at Prattville, Ala. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound prospect is a member of the Rivals250 and found the Jackets appealing because they're giving him a shot to run their option offense as a quarterback.
Sleeper: Travin Henry flew under the radar for most of the recruiting process, and that's exactly how the Yellow Jackets wanted it to be. The 6-foot-4 receiver should be a fine fit as a big play threat on the outside in an offense that likes to hit teams deep when they creep up to stop the run.
Overview: With only 17 commitments, it wasn't a huge haul for the Jackets. Francis Kallon hasn't been playing football long, but he burst on the scene this year at Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett and became recognized as one of the top defensive ends in the region. Some schools wanted Marcus Allen as a safety, but Tech will plug him in as a running back. Defensive tackle Pat Gamble was one of the most hotly pursued prospects in the Peach State, as was D.J. White, the No. 34 cornerback in the nation. Paul Johnson and his staff reached into Alabama and found a pair of quality linebackers in Beau Hankins and Tyler Stargel.
11. Boston College

Commit List
EagleAction.com
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Headliner: Linebacker Steven Daniels is a four-star prospect, but he may not qualify to play next year. So offensive tackle Win Homer fills this spot. The four-star big man was the top offensive lineman in Virginia and earned a spot in the Rivals250. He's undersized, but give him a couple of years and the Eagles will have a player.
Sleeper: David Dudeck was a late addition who was somewhat overshadowed by the commitment of former Rutgers' verbal Michael Giacone. Dudeck will play free safety for the Eagles, and he plays the game with an undeniable intensity. He's not a burner, but he's a football player.
Overview: Boston College had a rough year, losing quality commitments like Sam Grant, Akeel Lynch and Jaxon Hood, but not all is lost. Giacone fills the void at tight end left by Grant, and it's not as though Homer is the only quality lineman. Jim Cashman and Frank Taylor should help BC continue its tradition of producing fine offensive linemen. Mike Strizak was one of New Jersey's top prospects, while Tim Joy and Bobby Wolford are add more depth to the linebacker position.
12. Wake Forest

Commit List
DeaconsIllustrated.com
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Headliner: Tyler Cameron is a true dual-threat quarterback who looks like an outstanding fit in Wake Forest's offense. He was in the No. 10 dual-threat in the nation and the No. 51 prospect in the talent-rich Sunshine State. He had previously been committed to South Florida, but the left-handeder felt Wake would better utilize his skills.
Sleeper: Apex (N.C.) Middle Creek defensive end Josh Banks is a load at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds. He registered 100 tackles and 12 sacks as a senior for one of the state's top teams, and his work ethic and build should make him a candidate to contribute earlier than most other prospects in this class.
Overview: The Deacons ranking last in the ACC might be a bit deceiving as Wake Forest is eighth in average star ranking. As usual, Jim Grobe and his staff spent a lot of time in Florida, and those efforts paid off. Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central linebacker Dominique Gibson was the state's No. 68 player. Ryan Janvion and Kevis Jones are a pair of solid athletes who are also from Florida. Cornerback LaRonji Vason stood out on a stacked Prattville, Ala., team. Cameron isn't the only quarterback, as three-star Steve Donatell is another dual-threat to watch.

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