By Dave Glenn, ACCSports.com
August 23, 2004 Although a large majority of the prospects on the ACC Sports Journal's list of the area's preseason All-Americans remain available, commitments continue to pour in from Class of 2005 recruits at a hectic pace.
Led by unusually large figures at Virginia (20, excluding 2004 holdovers) and Maryland (16), members of the rising senior class are announcing early commitments in what may be record numbers. One year ago at this time, only one ACC program had more than eight early pledges. This year, eight of the league's 12 programs (counting Boston College) have eight or more early commitments. The trend seems to be taking hold nationally as well, with more than 450 seniors making their decisions for Division I-A programs prior to the end of August.
I don't know about everyone else, but we haven't had a big change in the number of early scholarship offers, Virginia coach Al Groh said. We've obviously had a big change in the number of players who are saying yes this early in the process.
Of those on this year's Fabulous 50 list (see chart), which consists exclusively of elite high school seniors from the ACC's current Maryland-through-Florida geography, 15 announced early commitments by late August. Of that group, 11 are preseason prep All-Americans who have chosen to play in the ACC: Columbus (GA) Pacelli RB Matt Dunham (Florida State), Indian Head (MD) Lackey RB Morgan Green (Maryland), Roanoke (VA) Fleming LB Darryl Gresham (Virginia), Gretna (VA) High QB Vic Hall (Virginia), Owings Mills (MD) McDonogh WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland), Danville (VA) Washington DB Cameron Martin (Virginia Tech), Manning (SC) High LB Josh Miller (Clemson), Clifton (VA) Centreville OL Pat Sheil (Boston College), Virginia Beach (VA) Landstown LB Deveon Simmons (Virginia Tech), Bennettsville (SC) Marlboro County WR Rendrick Taylor (Clemson) and Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha DB Anthony Wiseman (Maryland). Outside the conference, Georgia (two), Oklahoma and Tennessee received early pledges from members of the Fabulous 50.
We have to be the most powerful media league in the country, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. We're taking Boston, we're probably going to end up pulling part of New York and Philadelphia. You get Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami. That's pretty powerful. You want exposure as a recruit? As time goes on, the media coverage is going to get better. Eventually, every kid this side of the Mississippi is going to want to play in the ACC.
Here are detailed capsules on the most prominent Class of 2005 prospects who announced for ACC schools this summer but were not profiled in previous editions of the Sports Journal:
Heyward-Bey, rated one of the top 25 receivers in the nation, committed to Maryland over Alabama and North Carolina. He also had offers from Boston College, Duke, Marshall, Michigan State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Virginia Tech. An all-conference selection, he had 38 receptions for 798 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior, while playing in a spread offense. He had three more TDs on returns and was chosen to the Super 22 Team by the Baltimore Touchdown Club. Also a track star, Heyward-Bey ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds at the Nike camp in Charlottesville this summer, and he has run the 100 meters in 10.5 seconds in a competitive setting. He reportedly has compiled solid academic credentials at McDonogh, a prestigious private school located in the Baltimore suburbs. His main recruiter with the Terps is running backs coach Bill O'Brien.
I really liked a lot of the schools that recruited me, but I felt most comfortable with the coaches and players at Maryland, Heyward-Bey said. I wanted to go to a place where we have a chance to win a national championship. I also wanted a good school. If I could find all that close to home, that's even better, and I found all those things at Maryland. By making my decision (in mid-August), I can enjoy my senior year.
Martin, rated one of the top 10 seniors in Virginia, opted for childhood favorite Virginia Tech over Boston College, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. He also had offers from UNC, NCSU and Wake Forest. A co-defensive player of the year in his conference as a junior, he had 72 tackles and five interceptions last fall for a 5-5 team, while playing eight games with a small cast on one of his hands. He also played quarterback on offense, in an option scheme. Martin benches 230 pounds, squats 325 and runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. A team captain, he has a 4.0 GPA and a 990 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Hokies is quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers.
For as long as I've been old enough to watch college football, I've watched Virginia Tech, Martin said. Tech was the first team to offer, and after I went to campus for the spring game I had a very good feeling about everything. They wanted to sign a free safety this year, and that's definitely where I want to play. Everything seemed to work out, and I really trust Coach (Frank) Beamer and the other coaches at Tech and what they're telling me, so I went ahead and made my decision.
Miller, rated one of the top 10 seniors in South Carolina, chose Clemson over FSU. He also had offers from UNC, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. His cousin, Travis Pugh, is a safety for the Tigers. An all-area selection, Miller played mostly tailback as a junior, rushing for 1,160 yards and 10 touchdowns. He benches 280 pounds, squats 350 and runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. Miller, who plans to study engineering at Clemson, has a 3.2 GPA and a qualifying ACT score. His main recruiter with the Tigers is running backs coach Burton Burns.
My heart was with Clemson all along, Miller said. That's where (Pugh) plays, and (former Clemson star) Brian Mance went to my high school, so Clemson has been on my mind from the beginning. The more I looked at them and learned about them, I just knew that's where I was going to be. When I got (a hand-written note signed by all 10 Clemson coaches) in the mail, I thought the time was right.
Sheil, rated one of the top 10 seniors in Virginia, picked Boston College over long-time favorite Virginia and Virginia Tech. He also had offers from Army, Clemson, Florida, Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Syracuse and Wake Forest. A second-team all-district selection, he had 55 tackles and four sacks on defense as a junior, when he did not play on offense. A projected blocker in college, he benches 330 pounds, squats 400 and runs the 40 in 5.2 seconds. He has a 2.8 GPA and a 960 SAT score.
There's nothing not to like about Boston College, Sheil said. My dad is from upstate New York, and he's always been a big BC fan. My visit (in July) just blew me away. I like the coaching staff up there, and they definitely became a better option when they joined the ACC. It's obviously a great school, and they've sent a lot of offensive linemen into the NFL. It just seemed like the perfect combination for me.
Simmons, rated one of the top 25 linebackers in the nation, selected Virginia Tech over Florida, Georgia, Nebraska and N.C. State. He also had offers from Maryland, Michigan State, UNC, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia and West Virginia. His former teammate at Landstown, receiver Jeremy Gilchrist, signed with the Hokies in February. A Class 3A all-state selection and the area defensive player of the year, Simmons had 91 tackles (36 for loss) and six sacks as a junior for a 13-1 team. He benches 280 pounds, squats 400 and runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. He has a 2.0 GPA and must improve his academic credentials to qualify. His main recruiter with the Hokies is offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring.
Nobody recruited me harder than Virginia Tech, Simmons said. Coach (Frank) Beamer was the only head coach who came to see me (during the May evaluation period), and the whole staff is great. Some schools were recruiting me as a safety, but in Tech's defense they're going to try me at either outside linebacker or rover, which is kind of a combination of a linebacker and a safety. I like that a lot.
Taylor, rated one of the top 25 athletes in the nation, committed to Clemson over FSU, Georgia Tech, UNC and Stanford. He also had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Duke, Kansas State, Maryland, Michigan, NCSU, South Carolina and Tennessee. As a junior, he had 28 receptions for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns on offense, with 55 tackles and three interceptions on defense. He benches 300 pounds, squats 350 and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He has a 3.5 GPA and an 880 SAT score, and he hopes to enroll at Clemson in January. His main recruiter with the Tigers is receivers coach Dabo Swinney.
Clemson was the first school to offer (in March), and they've been my No. 1 team (since then), Taylor said. I like their offense and the way they throw the football. I got to see the team work out a lot, and I always watched the receivers, and I loved what they did with Charlie Whitehurst. He can flat-out throw the football, and I'm glad I'll be able to play one year with him. I also really liked Coach Bowden, Coach Swinney and all the coaches. They made me feel special from the first time I met them, and that feeling kind of stuck with me all summer.
Dave Glenn, the editor and lead football recruiting analyst of the ACC Sports Journal, has covered the recruiting scene for more than 18 years.