[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As the recruiting cycle continues to swirl this offseason, it’s time to talk about ACC football. Many of the big-name ACC programs have been linked to expansion rumors recently, but this article will strictly be about current recruiting classes in the ACC and what they signify for the future. These 5 classes are underrated for one of two reasons, either the class is not getting enough recognition in the eyes of some media outlets/ranking sites, or how the class could signify a shift in the program.
Louisville’s Class of 2023 needs significantly more attention. While the state of Kentucky isn’t exactly overstocked with high school football talent, Louisville has recruited all over the country. Stretching from California to Florida to Indiana, Louisville currently does not have a single player committed in-state. Currently ranked the 18th class in the country (247sports), Coach Scott Satterfield has landed commitments from 12 players.
Louisville’s class is headlined by 5-star RB Rueben Owens. Owens is the sort of playmaker that can put fear in the hearts of ACC defenses. He is the 17th-ranked player in the country and the No. 1 RB in the Country (247). Louisville has landed a commitment from a trio of extremely talented teammates as well. WR DeAndre Moore Jr. is the 66th ranked player and the 11th ranked WR (247), who recently committed to play for the Cardinals. Moore Jr joins a pair of his teammates from St. John Bosco in California, 4-star prospects CB Aaron Williams and QB Pierce Clarkson. A pair of prospects coming out of Georgia also add some talent in the trenches for the Cardinals. 4-star IOL Madden Sanker from Douglasville, GA is the 95th nationally ranked player while ranked 3rd for Interior Offensive Lineman (247). 4-star EDGE Adonijah Green from Ellenwood, GA also adds talent to the defensive line.
Since 2010, Louisville has had one class rank inside the top 30 nationally (247). While the strength of Louisville’s recruiting philosophy has focused on finding hidden gems, Louisville has already assembled a class that would be their best in over a decade. With room to add to their class, it will be interesting to see if HC Scott Satterfield will be able to maintain this level of recruiting, especially with so many commitments outside the state of Kentucky.
The impact of new Head Coach Mario Cristobal has already been felt in Coral Gables. Cristobal has managed to assemble a class that would be one of the best in recent Miami history, and it’s not done. In recent years, the criticism of the Miami football program is the lack of effectiveness in the recruiting department. According to 247 Sports, from the Class of ’2013 until Cristobal took over this season, Miami has had one recruiting class rank inside the Top 10. South Florida is home to some of the best high school football talent in the country. With the number of high-level recruits coming out of their backyard, you assume a Top-10 nationally ranked class would be the minimum expectation for Hurricane fans. In comes Cristobal, whom many would say maximized his resources at Oregon. Since taking over, Cristobal and his staff have established that they are a serious destination for the nation’s top prospects.
OT Francis Mauigoa is the highest ranked player in the class, ranking No. 6 nationally and the No. 1 OT in the country. As a former Offensive Lineman at Miami himself, landing Mauigoa felt like a shift for Cristobal and Miami’s program. After Francis, 3 elite defensive players committed under new Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele. DE Jayden Wayne is the 43rd ranked player in the class and the 6th ranked edge rusher. Joining Wayne is a pair of 4-star linebackers Malik Bryant and Raul Aguirre. LB Malik Bryant is the 4th ranked Linebacker in the class and the 61st ranked player in the country, according to 247 sports. LB Raul Aguirre is also a high 4-star prospect and the 10th-ranked linebacker in the country. QB Jaden Rashada is the superstar Miami has been lacking for years. Rashada is the 17th-ranked player nationally (247), and for Offensive Coordinator, Josh Gattis landing a player like Rashada is the type of commitment that will impact Miami’s on-field success for years.
Cristobal and his staff have shown that they will emphasize recruiting at a high level. Currently ranked 9th nationally, a top-10 class in Cristobal’s first year could signify a shift of power not only in the ACC but nationally as well. For Cristobal, the Class of 2023 is a big first step on the road to making Miami a national title contender again.
Ever since legendary Head Coach Mack Brown came back to North Carolina, he has established a level of recruiting previous coaches have failed to do. In Brown’s first full year on the recruiting trail, UNC landed the 16th best class in the country in 2020, but Brown and his staff didn’t stop there. UNC put together the 14th-ranked Class of 2021 and the 11th-ranked Class of 2022. Brown and his staff are looking to keep that trend going.
North Carolina’s Class of 2023 is currently ranked 25th in the country and 4th in the ACC. The Tar Heels recruiting cycle is a pivotal moment in Brown’s second tenure at UNC. After a disappointing 2021 season, it’s time for UNC’s program to take the next step toward the ACC elite or to remain among the mediocre in the conference. 4-star EDGE rushers Jaybron Harvey and Rico Walker are both Top-200 players nationally. Both Harvey and Walker are the type of prospects that become difference makers at the next level. 4-star QB Tad Hudson is committed to the Tar Heels and should be happy about the weapons he’ll get to throw to. 4-star WRs Christian Hamilton and Chris Culliver are both in-state playmakers signing up to play for the Tar Heels.
The coming months will be crucial in Mack Brown’s tenure. If Brown and his staff can add depth to key areas, North Carolina could be contending for an ACC Title for years. If not, the Tar Heels could remain in the middle tier of ACC programs dreaming of a conference title.
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Calling the Class of 2022 for the Seminoles a disappointment might be the understatement of the year. After the No.1 player in the class, Travis Hunter flipped his commitment on deadline day, dark days loomed over the Florida State program for the coming months. In a talent-rich state like Florida, landing what ended in the 19th ranked class in the country is something many thought would cost HC Mike Norvell his job. But Norvell and his staff have a chance to bounce back with the class of ’23.
The class assembled by HC Mike Norvell at its current standing has quality, but its lack of quantity is noteworthy. This class is more underrated due to its current standing as 40th overall and 8th in the ACC. Commitments from top-100 players DL Keidric Faulk and OT Lucas Simmons have provided a huge boost in recent weeks. Joining Simmons along the Offensive Line is IOL Roderick Kearney, the 4th ranked IOL and a top-120 player nationally (247 composites). On the other side, Faulk will join 4-star DL Keith Franklin and 4-star EDGE Lamont Green Jr who committed in the spring.
However, this class could take a huge step forward if Florida State can land commitments from a few key playmakers. The Seminoles have been heavily linked to a pair of 5-star WRs Hykeem Williams and Shelton Sampson Jr. Norvell and his staff are also in the mix for a pair of top-120 players DL Rueben Bain and DL Jordan Hall. 4-star and Top-140 OT DJ Chester are also linked to the Seminoles. If Norvell and his staff can land a few of these difference makers, Florida State will make a huge leap in the recruiting team rankings, and the effect will be seen on the field in years to come.
Blacksburg is in the middle of a huge offseason. Blacksburg is a place that is accustomed to stability at the top of its program. After moving on from previous Head Coach Justin Fuente, new Head Coach Brent Pry becomes the second Head Coach of the post-Frank Beamer era for Virginia Tech. Pry, a Graduate Assistant under Beamer at Tech, returns to Blacksburg after serving as Defensive Coordinator under James Franklin at Penn State from 2016-2021.
Pry hasn’t even coached a game yet for the Hokies, but since taking over has already accumulated wins on the recruiting trail. Currently ranked as the 35th class in the country, the Hokies have landed commitments from 17 3-star prospects. One of the staples of Hokies football under Frank Beamer was keeping in-state prospects home. Keeping players like CB Cameron Fleming, OT Hannes Hammer, WR Marcell Baylor, and Safeties Braylon Johnson and Caleb Woodson in-state to play in Blacksburg is a good start for Pry and his staff. New Offensive Coordinator Tyler Bowen will be the leader of a unit that lost key playmakers in recent years. After landing former 4-star WR Jadan Blue from Temple and Marshall QB Grant Wells in the transfer portal, Bowen targeted the trenches. The highest-rated player in the class, IOL Layth Ghannam is the No.1 ranked player in the state of West Virginia. A pair of 3-star linemen OT Gabriel Arena and IOL Lance Williams has also committed to play for the Hokies, joining Ghannam and Hammer. Virginia Tech has developed offensive linemen well in recent years, these prospects hope to join a recent trend of Hokies being NFL draft picks.
Pry and his staff have done a great job at taking over in the middle of a chaotic recruiting cycle. It’s no secret that recruiting has a significant effect on success in the field. If the Hokies can keep high-level prospects in-state, Virginia Tech fans should expect improvement in the ACC over the coming years.