By Dave Glenn
January 24, 2007
Fans of most ACC football programs already have a very good idea of what their recruiting classes are going to look like on national signing day. Nine ACC teams, led by Virginia Tech (25 commitments, excluding 2006 holdovers), have completed 75-95 percent of their recruiting with high school seniors.
Florida State, Miami and North Carolina, on the other hand, still face plenty of work between now and Feb. 7. The Seminoles almost always end up with a lot of late decision-makers, while the Hurricanes and the Tar Heels have experienced some chaos as a result of their recent coaching changes.
Here are information capsules on numerous high school seniors who recently committed to ACC schools:
Fork Union (VA) Military DS Danny Aiken, formerly of Roanoke (VA) Cave Spring, committed to Virginia over several Division I-AA schools. A long-snapping specialist, he also played tight end in prep school. The Fork Union coaches have compared Aiken to former FUMA standout Zac Yarbrough, who snapped and played tight end in high school and prep school before bulking up and becoming a multi-year starter at center for Virginia. Aiken, a qualifier out of high school, has a 3.3 GPA and a 1,160 SAT score.
"Every college team needs someone like Danny. (Long snappers) don't get much attention until something goes wrong, and you'd better have a good one," Fork Union coach John Shuman said. "Danny gets it back there like they do it in the NFL. He's always under 1.39 seconds when we time him, and the standard most coaches will give you is 1.4. He's very, very reliable."
Ft. Valley (GA) Peach County DT Dion Armstrong, rated one of the top 75 seniors in Georgia, picked Maryland over Troy. He also had offers from several Division I-AA schools, plus interest from Clemson, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan State, but his only official visit was to College Park. A second-team all-area selection, Armstrong had 90 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior for a 14-1 team that won the Class 3A state championship. As a junior, he had 88 tackles and 10 sacks for a 12-3 team that won the state title. He benches 370 pounds, squats 560 and runs the 40 in 5.1 seconds. His main recruiter with the Terps is offensive line coach Tom Brattan.
"Dion fills a role that's hard to fill," Peach County coach Rance Gillespie said. "Most 300-pounders aren't very athletic. He's 300-plus, but he's pretty athletic and can get to the ball. He's not just taking up space out there."
College Park (GA) North Clayton DB Morgan Burnett, rated one of the top 25 defensive backs in the nation, chose Georgia Tech over Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. He also had early offers from Georgia (brother Cap played for the Bulldogs), Illinois, Mississippi, Mississippi State, UNC, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. His only official visit was Dec. 8-10 to the Yellow Jackets, but he said it's possible that he'll visit another school before signing day. A first-team Class 4A all-state selection, Burnett had 96 tackles and three interceptions as a safety last fall as a senior for a 6-4 team. As a junior, he had 101 tackles and five interceptions on defense, plus 950 rushing yards, 800 passing yards and 13 touchdowns as a quarterback for a 7-3 team. Burnett runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds, and he competes in the 100 meters (10.6 personal best), the triple jump, the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay for the North Clayton track team. He has a 3.3 GPA and a qualifying SAT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary.
"My visit kind of pushed (Tech) over the top," Burnett said. "I really like the coaches and the players, and I had some time to look at their defense. I like what they do with their defensive backs. It's a lot like what we run at my high school. It's like I'll have a head start, because I'm not learning something totally new, and that will give me an even better chance to play right away."
Chicago (IL) St. Rita DE Matt Conrath, rated one of the top 50 seniors in Illinois, opted for Virginia over Miami-Ohio and Stanford after taking official visits to all three schools. He also had offers from Duke, Purdue and Vanderbilt, plus interest from Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern. As a senior, Conrath had 118 tackles and 16 sacks for a 13-1 team that captured the Class 7A state championship, earning a conference defensive player of the year award and first-team all-state honors. As a junior, he had 59 tackles. Conrath benches 255 pounds, squats 375 and runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds. He has a 4.3 GPA on a five-point scale, along with a 29 ACT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is secondary coach Steve Bernstein.
"Virginia was the best combination of football and academics," Conrath said. "I really liked all three (finalists), but Virginia was the best combination. It's obviously a great university. It's in a great conference, and they've won a lot of games and sent a lot of players to the NFL. It's one of the best schools in the entire country when you combine (football and academics). They said they think I'm a good fit for defensive end in their (3-4) system."
Anderson (SC) Hanna TE Cameron Ford, rated one of the top 30 seniors in South Carolina, selected Wake Forest over N.C. State. He also had offers from Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Vanderbilt, plus interest from Clemson, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. He listed the Wolfpack as his leader until the dismissal of coach Chuck Amato. As a senior, Ford had 28 receptions for 626 yards and 10 touchdowns as a tight end, plus 83 tackles (10 for loss), five fumble recoveries and four TDs on defense, earning first-team all-state recognition and an invitation to the Shrine Bowl. As a junior, when he had 31 receptions for 820 yards, he played cornerback, receiver, running back, quarterback, linebacker, free safety and punter at various times. Ford runs the 40 in 4.65 seconds. He has a 3.5 GPA and a qualifying SAT score. His main recruiter with the Demon Deacons is defensive ends coach Keith Henry.
"I think a lot of people are going to regret not offering (Ford) a scholarship," Hanna coach Scott Parker said. "What he does best is make plays, over and over again, the kinds of big plays that make a difference. He also has a good work ethic, and he's willing to learn, so his best football is ahead of him."
Baltimore (MD) Gilman LB Sam Poggi, rated one of the top 30 seniors in the Maryland/D.C. area, picked Duke over Cincinnati. Iowa, UNC, Notre Dame, Penn State and Virginia also showed interest. His father, Gilman coach Biff Poggi, transferred to Duke from Pittsburgh many years ago to play football but never lettered for the Blue Devils. As a senior, Sam had 105 tackles (16 for loss) and five sacks, earning first-team all-city and second-team all-state (big schools) honors. He runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has a 3.4 GPA and a 1,200 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Blue Devils is offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.
Southwestern (CA) Junior College P Jeff Ruiz, a JC Gridwire junior college All-American, committed to N.C. State over Boise State and San Diego State. Florida State also showed interest. Also a first baseman in baseball, he plans to play both sports for the Wolfpack. An academic qualifier out of Chula Vista (CA) Otay Ranch, Ruiz averaged a school-record 43.3 yards on 63 punts as a freshman last fall, earning first-team all-conference honors. He had 15 punts of 50 yards or longer and 23 downed inside the 20-yard line. Ruiz will have three years of eligibility at N.C. State, starting in 2007. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is assistant head coach and special teams coach Jerry Petercuskie, who got an assist with Ruiz from former Boston College kicker John Matich.
"John told me about Jerry Petercuskie," Ruiz told the Winston-Salem Journal. "He said, This guy's going to get you where you want to be.' John knows what kind of punters Jerry Petercuskie likes. I'm athletic. I don't miss balls. I don't drop balls. My hands are really quick. That's one thing Petercuskie liked and one thing that made him attractive to me as a punter."
Nashua (NH) Bishop Guertin OL Mark Spinney, rated one of the top five seniors in New England, switched from Syracuse to Boston College after the hiring of new BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski. He also had offers from Akron, Connecticut, Duke, Northwestern, Rutgers and Temple, plus interest from Iowa and Michigan. Spinney's father, Steve, played football for the Orange. One of his grandfathers, Art Spinney, played for the Eagles and in the NFL, and another grandfather, Frank Dancewicz, played quarterback at Notre Dame and in the NFL. As a senior, Mark led Bishop Guertin to its third straight Division II football championship, posting 91 tackles and four sacks on defense and earning New Hampshire player of the year honors from Gatorade. He earned first-team all-state honors as a junior and senior. Spinney, who played at Oakdale (CT) St. Thomas More as a sophomore, projects as a center for BC. He benches 305 pounds, squats 505 and runs the 40 in 5.0 seconds. His main recruiter with the Eagles is new offensive line coach Jim Turner, who had recruited Spinney while at his last job, as the associate head coach at Delaware.
"Boston College was his first choice from the beginning, but Tom O'Brien and his staff didn't really recruit him. They like the bigger linemen, the 300-pounders," Bishop Guertin coach Tony Johnson said. "After the coaching change, Mark had a change of heart. He felt bad about what happened with Syracuse, but I think they understood the situation. This is his home school; it's only about 30 minutes away from his house. It's where he really wants to go."
Lackawanna (NY) High RB Curtis Underwood, rated one of the top 20 seniors in New York, opted for N.C. State over Buffalo and Temple. Maryland, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Rutgers and Syracuse also showed interest. A four-year starter, Underwood rushed 244 times for a school-record 2,124 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior for a team that captured the Section VI Class B state championship, earning first-team Class B all-state honors and the player of the year award in western New York. As a junior, he rushed for 1,344 yards and 13 TDs, earning second-team all-state honors. Underwood runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is running backs coach Jason Swepson.
"A lot of the big schools became very interested after our season ended, but Boston College and then N.C. State, after Coach (Tom) O'Brien left always showed the most interest," Lackawanna coach Bruce Lasko said. "(Underwood) is a power back with good speed, the kind of back they had at Boston College. He likes to throw a block, and he has good vision. He's very tough and likes to run inside, but he's also fast enough to turn the corner. In four years, I never saw him caught from behind."