A look at the ACC's top football programs, based up on the potential to attract talent.
On Wednesday JC Shurburtt, a national football recruiting analyst for 247sports.com, came out with an interesting article looking at the top 20 recruiting jobs in college football. It’s an intriguing piece in part because Shurburtt points out – correctly, I think – that the top recruiting jobs aren’t necessarily the same as the top jobs. Also, in the comments section below the article, Shurburtt stresses that this is a ranking of programs alone, not programs under their current staffs. In other words, if you were a coach and could pick any program in the country, which one would you choose based on the likelihood you could get it done in recruiting?
The most prominent example of the discrepancy? Alabama. The current kings of college football, Alabama, only rank as No. 8 on his list. Why? Because, as Shurburtt points out, “Bama isn’t set up from a geography standpoint like some of the other programs.” It’s in a state that produces a decent, but not overwhelming, amount of talent and it shares that state with a significant competitor in Auburn. Shurburtt argues that Bama’s current ability to reel in top classes (247Sports.com currently has the Crimson Tide’s 2014 class No. 1 in its composite rankings) is due in part to the recruiting prowess and his staff. Of course the facilities, the tradition and the talent still available within driving distance – but not necessarily the state lines – helps as well.
My interest, of course, was in where Shurburtt slotted the ACC programs on his list. Only three made the list: Florida State (7), Miami (13) and North Carolina (18).
Let’s address all three. And when I get to UNC, I’ll also delve into whether Clemson should have been on this list. (Spoiler alert: Yes.)
Florida State (No. 7)
No. 7 seems about right. The Noles have the tradition and they have the location. They’re not up with the other super powers when it comes to facilities (though they did finally get that indoor practice facility) and their rival Florida can cast a big shadow when things are going well in Gainesville (they’re not right now, in case you’re wondering). The Seminoles are actually recruiting on a higher level than this right now, but – as Shurburtt argued with Alabama – I’d say that’s a sign of how good Jimbo Fisher is at recruiting – and how good he is at putting together assistants who get it done on the trail.
Miami (No. 13)
I’m … I’m not sure here. And you can see by the comments section below that the Canes’ position engendered debate immediately. I’d probably have the Canes a little higher … but not much. Yes they sit on the deepest well of local talent in the country. But the stadium is usually half-full and the facilities are nothing to write home about. Miami’s alum network of players – and the tremendous amount of pride they feel in “The U” is a positive factor. But to keep that going, the Canes need to get back to become a relevant player nationally. Al Golden’s doing a phenomenal job, and if he keeps it up, he’ll likely lift the program’s recruiting profile back into the top-10. But for now, the 11-13 range seems about right.
North Carolina (No. 18)
I wouldn’t have UNC in the top 20 and I would have Clemson in there. So we just swap one out and other in and voila! Done!
I’m not knocking the Tar Heels. I’d probably rank UNC’s recruiting power down in the 20-25 range. There’s a reason why everyone keeps wanting to anoint the Tar Heels as a sleeping giant. And I also see where JC has reservations about Clemson – the state of South Carolina produces good talent per capita, but the overall population is small.
But there’s also a reason why the giant that is UNC is still sleeping. And recruits notice that slumber, as well as the empty seats at Kenan Stadium during noon games.
Meanwhile, though Clemson is surrounded by SEC recruiting rivals, the school also gives off perhaps the most SEC-like vibe of any ACC school. A recruit visiting during the Georgia game, for example, had to have been impressed.
Then there’s the matter of the whole "in-state" issue. Yes, it certainly is a factor. But I’d argue that driving distance is even bigger. Otherwise, Alabama wouldn’t be in the top 20 as a recruiting program. But it is in proximity to major talent beds in Louisiana, Georgia and Florida.
The same holds true for Clemson. The school is practically on the Georgia line. And it’s about a two-hour trip north up I-85 to get to Charlotte. The Atlanta and Charlotte metro areas have been good to Clemson in recent classes, yet neither qualifies as in-state for the Tigers.
On the flip side, “in-state” is an overrated term for North Carolina. By the strict definition, Charlotte and Asheville are in-state areas for the Tar Heels. But the former locale is actually closer to Clemson and South Carolina, while the latter is a shorter trip to Knoxville than it is to Chapel Hill.
And yes, Clemson has to deal with a budding SEC power in South Carolina, while – “Our State” billboards not withstanding – UNC’s brand carries the most weight among fellow in-state programs. But there are also three other ACC programs within the Tar Heel State to compete with in recruiting, as well as always feisty East Carolina.
So in this hypothetical in which you choose program based upon its recruiting power, I’d order the top of the ACC like this: FSU, Miami, Clemson, then UNC.
And beyond that? That’s another post for another day.