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Class Of 2008 Stories: One From Every List Of Acc Football Signees

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

By Dave Glenn and Staff
February 26, 2008

More than 250 football players, most of them high school seniors, signed with ACC programs in February.

Many of their stories have been told at ACCSports.com or in the Galaxy of Prep Stars section of the ACC Sports Journal. Here are 12 more profiles — one for each school in the conference — from the league's impressive Class of 2008.

Tommy Streeter, Miami;

E.J. Manuel, Florida State;

DaQuan Bowers, Clemson;

Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech;

Codi Boek, Boston College;

Quinton Coples, North Carolina;

Kenny Tate, Maryland;

Nick McRae, Georgia Tech;

Joe Looney, Wake Forest;

Riko Smalls, Virginia;

Sean Renfree, Duke



TOMMY STREETER, MIAMI

CORAL GABLES — Tommy Streeter nearly frowned upon hearing the question. When asked about the rumors that he may switch from wide receiver to tight end, Streeter simply shook his head.

"I'm not playing tight end," said Streeter, a receiver at Miami Northwestern who signed with the Hurricanes. "That's not in the plan. We already talked about that with the coaches."

At 6-5 and 190 pounds, Streeter had some observers projecting him as the next Kellen Winslow Jr. A receiver in high school, Winslow became an All-American and a first-round NFL pick as a tight end. But Streeter said he won't be making a similar transition.

"He's fine with where he is," said his father Tommy Streeter Sr., who played defensive back at Colorado. "You see big receivers today. They can go up and get the football."

Streeter, who caught 36 passes for 676 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior, was a surprising late addition to the Hurricanes' recruiting class. Expected to sign with Oregon, Boston College or South Carolina, he had a late change of heart because he wasn't ready to leave home.

"It was hard," said Streeter, who played on the nation's No. 1 high school team. "I sat down and looked at all the schools I was considering. Each of them had a lot to offer. There was nothing wrong with the (other) schools, but my support is here. I looked at the intangibles. When I need something, my family is here. I just feel comfortable here."

— Shandel Richardson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

E.J. MANUEL, FLORIDA STATE

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher knows he one day will succeed Bobby Bowden. Now he may have the quarterback to help lead that transition.

Fisher expects his signature signee, Virginia Beach Bayside quarterback E.J. Manuel, to solidify a position that has been a problem spot for the Seminoles since Chris Weinke left after the 2000 season with the Heisman Trophy in tow.

Regarded by many as the nation's No. 2 quarterback prospect, behind Terrelle Pryor, Manuel was identified early as the player Fisher wanted to lead the Seminoles.

"I can't figure out what he doesn't do," Fisher said. "All the other quarterbacks all have great attributes. What I liked about him, a lot of guys can do part of what he can do — part of what he can do — but he can do what all of them can do. He's a pocket guy that can throw. He has size. He has intelligence, he has toughness. Then he has the mobility and the ability to run and create plays with his legs, if you want to do that."

Manuel, who committed early and was instrumental in FSU landing a consensus top-10 recruiting class, has the resume to back it up. He accounted for nearly 7,400 total yards and 68 touchdowns in his career. At 6-4 and 215 pounds, he's been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40.

Scouts Inc. called him a "smaller version of JaMarcus Russell." That should resonate well with Fisher, who groomed Russell not long ago as his quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at LSU.

"He has all aspects of a quarterback, not just one aspect of a quarterback," Fisher said. "He has all the tools. Then on top of that, he's twice the kid he is a player. His character, who he is, his parents, his work ethic, study habits, his intelligence."

Fisher, who has Drew Weatherford returning as a senior this fall, backed by redshirt sophomore Christian Ponder, isn't going to put a timetable on Manuel's development.

"Of course, if he's the best, he plays," Fisher said. "That's the way you want to do it. But also you can ruin a quarterback before you can make a quarterback if you play him too early. ...

"The one thing you have to understand is he's a very aggressive, go-getter kid. He's not going to sit back and wait. That's his mentality."

— Bob Thomas, Florida Times-Union

DAQUAN BOWERS, CLEMSON

CLEMSON — DaQuan Bowers stood 6-3 and 280 pounds in eighth grade, but it took more than a look in the mirror to convince him that this football thing actually might work out for him.

Bowers said he didn't consider himself college football material until Clemson assistant coach Ron West extended an unofficial scholarship offer the summer before his ninth-grade year at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High in Bamberg, S.C.

"It was just something I did because I was big and I was good at it," said Bowers, who committed to Clemson as a junior and chose the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and Oklahoma.

Now it's probably safe to say that Bowers has a future on the gridiron. The jewel of Clemson's 2008 recruiting class, already considered a unanimous five-star prospect, he was named the nation's top player by ESPN.com last month.

Now 6-5 and 270 pounds, Bowers appears as close to a sure thing as you can get. Having enrolled early in January, along with five other 2008 Clemson signees, he's already working hard to make an instant impact come fall.

"I just want to compete, compete, compete," he said. "And maybe I'll earn myself a starting spot. I know it's going to be competitive."

Bowers could help fill the large void left by defensive end Phillip Merling, who's now considered a potential first-round NFL draft pick after turning pro early. Bowers is penciled in at Merling's position on the strong side, and a familiar face toils on the other end.

Bandit end Ricky Sapp, a five-star signee two years ago, is Bowers' cousin. They attended the same high school, and Bowers calls Sapp his "big brother."

Sapp might be looking up to Bowers before long.

— Larry Williams, Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier

RYAN WILLIAMS, VIRGINIA TECH

BLACKSBURG — It didn't take long for Virginia Tech signee Ryan Williams to become a wanted man.

On the morning after he ran for more than 200 yards in the first game of his freshman season at Stonewall Jackson High, the 14-year-old Williams froze for a few seconds when he saw the front page of the Washington Post. There was his name on the front page. It was just the start of it all.

He was already a local star when coaches from Connecticut went to Manassas, Va., midway through Williams' freshman season to talk to Stonewall Jackson coach Loren Johnson about Williams. The 175-pound running back already was starting and on his way to a combined 1,100 yards rushing and receiving. It wouldn't take long for Williams, who eventually chose Tech over Boston College, to become a national star in recruiting circles.

"It didn't really bother me at all," said Williams, who is now 5-10 and 200 pounds. "It wasn't anything big because I was comfortable with the recognition and notoriety. It was just me being recognized for my contributions to our success."

Williams, who carries a 3.0 GPA, has never lost that attitude. That's no small chore, considering that he was among the nation's top five high school running backs as a senior. He gained more than 3,500 rushing yards in his career, highlighted by 1,572 yards and 21 touchdowns on only 167 carries (9.4 yards per carry) during his junior season.

"Those are the things that make him the person he is," said Johnson, who played defensive back at Tech from 1995-98. "It's somebody that's well-rounded for all the right reasons."

R.J. MATTES, N.C. STATE

RALEIGH — Sometimes in recruiting, it's not just what you say to a recruit. It's when you say it to him.

That was the case with N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien and prize offensive tackle recruit R.J. Mattes, of Robinson High in Concord, N.C. The weekend when O'Brien made his home visit with Mattes just happened to be the same weekend as the NFC and AFC divisional playoff games.

Among other things, O'Brien told Mattes this: Want to know what Wolfpack offensive line coach Don Horton and I can do for you? Just look at the former Boston College linemen playing today.

"Marc Colombo, who was in my first class, was starting at right tackle for the Dallas Cowboys," O'Brien said. "Chris Snee was starting at right guard for the Giants. Dan Koppen was starting at center for the Patriots. Three out of the four games, we had offensive linemen playing."

Plus, Colombo had been pulled out of obscurity by O'Brien when he went to BC. Imagine what O'Brien and Horton could do with a player of Mattes' credentials (Scout's No. 11 offensive tackle, No. 21 by Rivals).

There were other factors that also helped the Wolfpack beat out Clemson for Mattes. O'Brien has a relationship with Mattes' father, Ron, that goes back to the days when O'Brien coached Ron Mattes on the offensive line at Virginia. O'Brien's lengthy presentation during the in-home visit also left an impression. But being able to show the proof of his work on those televised NFL playoff games was invaluable.

"Those things become important, especially to the offensive line," O'Brien said. "It's a tradition we have to establish here."

O'Brien may have gotten that tradition off to a start by landing Mattes.

CODI BOEK, BOSTON COLLEGE

CHESTNUT HILL — Boston College is hoping that junior college quarterback lightning can strike twice in the same place.

If you know anything about the Eagles, you know that they haven't had many junior college players through the years. But it was not long ago when Paul Peterson, a quarterback who already had served a two-year Mormon mission in Nicaragua, sent out a videotape to attract suitors and wound up at BC, where he became a late star.

Now the Eagles' incoming class has another junior college transfer who sent out a tape. Codi Boek, who ended his stay at Idaho State (after he redshirted as a freshman) when his father was struck with cancer, arrived at BC in January with three years of eligibility remaining.

With Matt Ryan gone and Chris Crane the only holdover quarterback with any game experience, one would think that Boek will enter spring practice with a shot at the starting job.

"He brings a little more maturity," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said on signing day. The coach said the 6-3, 215-pound Boek "fits the classic mode of what comes to school here."

Boek played only three games at American River Junior College near his home in California before breaking his left arm. His dad's improved health made it possible for him to make the trip across the country to BC, the same way Peterson came East.

"The coach that had Paul said that (Boek) was better coming out at this time than Paul was," Jagodzinski said, "and Paul won a lot of football games here."

— Mike Shalin, ACCSports.com

QUINTON COPLES, NORTH CAROLINA

CHAPEL HILL — Julius Peppers and Mario Williams, two well-known North Carolinians who became first-round NFL draft picks after playing in the ACC, are rare but not unheard-of creatures.

One possible carrier of similar DNA is North Carolina signee Quinton Coples, who was listed at 6-6 and 245 pounds on signing day. He calls Kinston home and Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia school. He possesses what appear to be similar qualities to Peppers, a former UNC superstar, and Williams, a former N.C. State All-American.

"Quinton Coples, you don't see too many guys who are 6-6, 250-something pounds," UNC coach Butch Davis said on signing day. "I hate to put numbers on guys, but it's conceivable he's a guy who is going to run (the 40-yard dash) in the 4.6s."

Peppers ran the 40 in 4.7 seconds on NFL Day at Carolina during the spring in which he turned pro.

Coples backed himself into a corner academically in high school. So he is spending his senior year at Hargrave Military Academy, spit-shining his shoes and marching to a different drum while trying to meet the NCAA academic guidelines necessary to qualify to enter Division I-A football and play.

To his everlasting credit as a person, he is working very hard to do it.

"Quinton Coples is the kind of kid that I love coaching," Hargrave coach Robert Prunty said. "He's special. (He's got) leverage, height, aggressiveness, a mean streak. I will be very surprised if he doesn't become the next Julius Peppers at Carolina.

"You don't like comparing them with great players like that, but Coples has that tag on him, and he tries to live up to it. I'm excited to see where he ends up. He is special. When he got to the (U.S. Army All-American Bowl), he wasn't even ranked in the Top 250. Look where he is now. He still should jump higher than that. He was the only guy who had a sack at the All-American Bowl."

— Eddy Landreth, Chapel Hill (N.C.) News

KENNY TATE, MARYLAND

COLLEGE PARK — In four years of attending DeMatha Catholic, a strict private school in Hyattsville, Md., Kenny Tate never received a demerit.

"I can't ever remember Kenny getting into the slightest bit of trouble," long-time DeMatha coach Bill McGregor said.

When the Associated Press all-state photographs were taken at the Baltimore Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium in late January, Tate was surprisingly absent. It turned out he had skipped the ceremony in order to attend the funeral of DeMatha trainer Wendy Norris.

"I think that speaks volumes for the type of person Kenny is," McGregor said. "For so many of today's young athletes, it's all me, me, me. Kenny passed on the chance to get some accolades and recognition in order to be there for a friend."

Those examples and many more help explain why Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was so excited to land Tate, a consensus choice as one of the nation's best wide receivers. Tate played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and also was accorded All-American status by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Friedgen has known Tate was a great player since seeing the youngster star as a sophomore at DeMatha. However, Friedgen found out through the lengthy recruiting process that Tate also has the intangibles he's looking for in a player.

"Kenny Tate has great physical talent, but what impressed me the most was that he is a team player," Friedgen said. "He is an unbelievable competitor who has the ability to make the players around him better. He is unselfish and has fantastic character. He did not change during the recruiting process, even though he was very highly sought."

Tate, rated the No. 2 prospect in Maryland by Scout and No. 4 by Rivals, was one of the Terrapins' top targets from the outset. The 6-4, 215-pounder, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, was a rare four-year letterman and three-year starter at perennial prep powerhouse DeMatha.

"Kenny is, without question, one of the finest athletes that has ever come through our program, and that's really saying something," McGregor said. "He is a winner and a playmaker. He always stepped up in the big games."

Tate concluded his stellar prep career with 84 receptions for 1,665 yards and 16 touchdowns. He had more than 50 scholarship offers, from programs in all the major conferences. He chose Maryland over Illinois, after also listing Penn State and Florida as finalists.

— Bill Wagner, Annapolis (Md.) Capital

NICK MCRAE, GEORGIA TECH

ATLANTA — Nick McRae offered a pretty accurate snapshot of Georgia Tech's 2008 recruiting class.

The Dublin, Ga., offensive lineman was one of the many players who bought into then-coach Chan Gailey's family atmosphere when he committed to the Yellow Jackets last summer. Gailey and his staff sold that to his 2007 class, which was clearly the best of his tenure. He was on the way to landing another strong group before getting fired in November.

So McRae, like many other committed prospects, had to make a decision. Stick with the unknown or look elsewhere.

"He stayed committed to Georgia Tech the whole time, but he listened to what people had to say," Dublin coach Roger Holmes said of his 6-4, 290-pound center.

Maryland and N.C. State were the two schools that came closest to prying McRae away from Tech.

When Tech hired Navy coach Paul Johnson in December, one of McRae's biggest concerns was eased when recruiting coordinator Giff Smith was retained. But rival schools still tried to sway him.

Holmes said one opposing coach told McRae he couldn't make it to the NFL playing in Johnson's triple-option offense.

"But Coach Johnson came in and met with Nick, and Nick asked him about that," Holmes said. "(Johnson) said he had a franchise offensive lineman from Navy (Mike Wahle) who starts for the Carolina Panthers."

McRae, like many of his fellow Gailey-era commits, remained committed to Johnson after meeting the former Georgia Southern coach. And while Johnson closed with a group of his own pledges, it was recruits such as McRae who formed the backbone of the coach's first class with the Yellow Jackets.

— Jonathan Heeter, Macon (Ga.) Telegraph

JOE LOONEY, WAKE FOREST

WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest graduated three offensive linemen this year, and the Wake coaches planned to sign only three in the Class of 2008. That all changed when they heard from Joe Looney.

"It became more than apparent that Looney was very interested in us," recruiting coordinator Ray McCartney said. "So we bit the bullet and took Looney."

McCartney said it with a laugh, as Looney's interest was a coaching staff's dream. A 6-3, 315-pounder from Lake Worth, Fla., Looney was ranked the No. 21 tackle in the nation by Scout.com and the No. 26 guard by Rivals.com. He was the offensive line MVP at the All-American Bowl Game Classic.

In the end, his college choices narrowed from almost 30 scholarship offers to Wake, Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers. McCartney said he believes Wake's previous recruiting in southeast Florida made the difference.

"We have six kids from Palm Beach County, Florida," McCartney said. "He came here three times, and every time that Joe Looney came to this campus, those kids took him under their wing and he just felt so comfortable here. We mentioned to him that we had a few players from Florida — every day."

Wake also loved Looney's character.

"His high school coach told us this kid never missed a practice, was never late for a meeting, never missed a class," McCartney said.

Although Wake rarely plays true freshmen, its 2008 offensive line is full of question marks. Looney enrolled at Wake in January, so he'll have a chance to get prepared mentally. There's not much question he's ready physically.

"He's a road grader," McCartney said.

RIKO SMALLS, VIRGINIA

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Until the final month before signing day, Virginia wasn't going to take a quarterback in its 2008 recruiting class.

The Cavaliers had made an early push for highly rated in-state QB Mike Glennon, but Glennon could see that playing time might be limited, with Jameel Sewell and Peter Lalich already in the program.

Sewell had started 22 games and had two years of remaining eligibility. Lalich, who had played in parts of eight games and attempted 61 passes as a redshirt freshman, was the heir apparent. Long-time backup Scott Deke had decided not to return for a fifth year, but there was a third scholarship quarterback in the program, Marc Verica, as well as some intriguing walk-ons.

There was no need for Virginia to recruit a quarterback, but then it was announced that Sewell was not enrolled for the spring semester, essentially eliminating him from the 2008 picture. All of a sudden, Virginia was in the market for a quarterback, but there weren't many available.

The Cavs brought Tennessee Mr. Football honoree Brent Burnette to campus but surprisingly did not offer him. Their plans became clearer when it was revealed in the final week before signing day that 6-1, 190-pound Plano, Texas, QB Riko Smalls would be joining the Cavaliers.

Smalls committed before visiting Charlottesville because he "could see that a window of opportunity was opening for me." He had visited Wake Forest on the next-to-last weekend before the signing period, but the Demon Deacons already had a quarterback commitment and were looking at Smalls as a defensive back.

While Burnette is in the Lalich, drop-back mold, Smalls would enable the Cavaliers to keep the design option that was well-suited to Sewell. Smalls is a passer, having thrown for 2,989 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior, but he also has 4.4-second speed in the 40.

"We think we were very fortunate, at that late stage, that he was responsive to us," UVa coach Al Groh said. "He very easily could have been gone."

— Doug Doughty, Roanoke (Va.) Times

SEAN RENFREE, DUKE

DURHAM — Duke's first choice to replace Ted Roof as its football coach was Navy's Paul Johnson. But Johnson elected to take over the Georgia Tech program instead, forcing the Blue Devils to keep looking. The Duke search ended when Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe took the job just before Christmas.

By a very strange twist of fate, that coaching merry-go-round ended up helping Duke land the jewel of its 2008 recruiting class, Parade All-America quarterback Sean Renfree.

The 6-3, 210-pound Scottsdale, Ariz., product originally had committed to Georgia Tech. But when Johnson — noted for his triple-option offense — took over the Yellow Jackets, the pro-style quarterback re-opened his recruiting.

Both Arizona State and Boise State made strong bids for the strong-armed passer, but Cutcliffe's hire suddenly made Duke an attractive option. What quarterback wouldn't want to play for the coach who mentored Peyton and Eli Manning, the last two Super Bowl MVPs, during their college careers?

"We know something about developing quarterbacks," Cutcliffe said on signing day. "Sean knows that, too."

Renfree cited Cutcliffe's track record when he committed to the Blue Devils.

"Tennessee threw 500 times last season," the young QB told the Arizona Republic. "There's a great opportunity for me there in the long run."

Cutcliffe got to work with Renfree last summer at Tennessee's football camp.

"He's really smart, and he's really, really fast," the Duke coach said. "He's got a strong arm and a very quick release. I think one of the greatest things he displayed is the ability to think fast. He's got what I call ‘functional fast-twitch thinking.'"

— Al Featherston, ACCSports.com