National Signing Day 2011: Top Recruits Don't Lead to Success In The ACC
The ACC changed for the better in 2004.
That's when Virginia Tech and Miami jumped ship from the Big East, and Boston College came over a year later in 2005. Since then, the conference has been dominated by Virginia Tech--on the football field that is.
The recruiting trail has been a different story.
The three schools that have brought in the best recruits since 2004, including the 2011 signing class are Florida State, Miami and Clemson. The Hokies didn't even crack the top three, but they have four ACC titles in that time span.
How did the top three recruiting winners fair? Only one ACC title combined, and three ACC championship game appearances between the three, two from Florida State and one from Clemson.
National Signing Day has become a huge event that largely puts 17 and 18-year-old teenagers on a pedestal before they've proven they can play at a high level.
That's fine, and often the schools competing for a national title take home the best classes on an annual basis--but not in the ACC. The ACC hasn't been a dominate conference since 2004, fielding zero great teams, with just one really good, consistent program in Virginia Tech.
This list is a power ranking of sorts. It ranks the best teams in the ACC since 2004 by wins, and then looks at how they ranked in conference recruiting over that same time span.
All recruiting rankings are courtesy of Rivals.
Avg. Wins/Season: 2.2
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 2.38 (12-out-of-12)
The Duke Blue Devils have been the worst team on the football field and the recruiting trail over the last eight years in the ACC.
The good news is, they have as many wins in the last two seasons combined (8) as they did in their previous five seasons. Their recruiting numbers are up as well.
The next step is for the Blue Devils to finally make it to a bowl under head coach David Cutcliffe.
11) North Carolina State
Avg. Wins/Season: 5.7
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 2.78 (T-8th)
The Wolfpack have been better on the recruiting trail than on the football field.
They're tied for 8th in conference recruiting with Georgia Tech since 2004.
However, they've averaged only 5.7 the last seven seasons, but had their best season during that time span in 2010 with nine wins.
The big question is whether that will continue with the potential absence of Russell Wilson.
Avg. Wins/Season: 5.8
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 2.83 (7th)
Virginia spent much of the past eight seasons under Al Groh, but the Mike London era officially began in 2010. And with him came their best recruiting class in recent history.
On top of that, the Cavaliers out recruited their biggest rival, Virginia Tech, in the state of Virginia, as well as overall.
That being said, London and his staff have to prove that they know how to scout talented players and coach up their young ones. All signs point to a brighter future for the Wahoos, but patience will likely be needed.
9) North Carolina
Avg. Wins/Season: 6
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 2.99 (6th)
The Tar Heels ranking here looks bad, but they're skyrocketing up this list.
After firing John Bunting after the 2006 season, North Carolina has done nothing but flourish under Butch Davis. Davis won four games in 2007 and then won eight games in each of the last three seasons.
What's more impressive is Davis won eight games with a depleted squad because of speculation surrounding the program.
Since Davis arrived, the recruit ranking hasn't dropped below a 3-star average, and with a number of holes to fill in 2011 we'll see how good those top recruits actually are.
T-7th) Wake Forest
Avg. Wins/Season: 6.28
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 2.45 (11th)
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons had three really good seasons between 2006-08. The program was on the rise with the arrival of Riley Skinner, their good, young quarterback.
Many were questioning how long it would last, and the Demon Deacons seem to be falling back to mediocrity.
Jim Grobe did win an ACC title in 2006 against Georgia Tech, which shocked many across the nation. However, they haven't maintained that success. Grobe did put together a solid recruiting class in 2011, with an average recruit ranking of 2.79 after a disappointing season.
Avg. Wins/Season: 6.2
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 3.00 (T-4th)
Maryland has had an interesting run, to say the least, in the last seven years. The Terrapins won nine games in 2006, eight in 2008, and 10 in 2010--their highest total. They had no more than six in every other season and had a low of two in 2009.
This is Randy Edsall's first class since taking over the reigns in College Park, and his average recruit ranking is a solid 2.8, which was good for a top-50 class according to Rivals.
The good news for Edsall is he has Danny O'Brien taking snaps under center.
Avg. Wins/Season: 7.5
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 3.21 (3rd)
Now here's where it gets interesting.
Clemson fired Tommy Bowden mid-way through the 2008 season, and Dabo Swinney has been the coach since.
Really, there's not much of a change on the gridiron, but Swinney has proven to be a very good recruiter (can somebody say Ron Zook?). He did lead Clemson to an ACC Championship appearance in 2009 when the Tigers had nine wins, but they lost.
Bowden wasn't a bad recruiter either, but Swinney has proven to be just a little bit better. He also brought in one of the top-10 classes for 2011, but the question is whether he'll be around to see it pay dividends.
If Clemson underachieves this year (why wouldn't they, they're Clemson?) then you can expect to see a new coach in Death Valley, and it probably won't be much of a surprise as to who it is. His nickname is Rich Rod and he used to be offensive coordinator for the Tigers.
Avg. Wins/Season: 7.5
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 3.35 (2nd)
The Hurricanes are now on coach number three since 2004.
They fired Larry Coker after the 2006 season, hired Randy Shannon in 2007 and fired him after the 2010 season. Now Al Golden takes over at Miami.
The good news about Golden is he won at Temple, which not many people do. Also, according to the recruiting ranking, he was left with top-notch talent as well. Either there are a lot of Ron Zook like coaches in the ACC or these recruits were highly overrated.
Golden did his best to scramble for the 2011 signing class, but only signed 16 guys with an average rating of 3.06, which is solid.
Golden probably has three years before he's expected to have this program turned around and competing for national titles. The problem is, the once abysmal ACC looks to be on the rise with Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech leading the way.
4) Georgia Tech
Avg. Wins/Season: 8
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 2.91 (T-8th)
The Yellow Jackets are on their second coach since 2004.
They fired Chan Gailey after the 2007 season and brought Paul Johnson and his triple-option offense to Atlanta. Georgia Tech won an ACC title in 2009 against Clemson, and have been the biggest threat to Virginia Tech in the ACC since 2008.
The question with Georgia Tech now is will the gimmick offense last in a so-called "power" BCS conference. Johnson had a solid recruiting class in 2011 with an average recruit ranking of 2.91, but the ACC is getting better and coaches are becoming more familiar with his gimmick offense.
3) Florida State
Avg. Wins/Season: 8.1
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 3.53 (1st)
The Seminoles have absolutely dominated the recruiting trail, and that includes 2011.
Florida State had the number two rated class according to Rivals and the number one according to Scout Inc. Either way you look at it, Jimbo Fisher did work.
And having Fisher as the actual head coach should only help Florida State begin realizing their potential. They have massively underachieved with the talent they've had in the last seven years. They did beat Virginia Tech for the ACC Championship title, but didn't return to the game until 2010 where the Hokies beat them.
We may see this matchup in the ACC Championship game on a more regular basis if Fisher can help his players realize their talent.
2) Boston College
Avg. Wins/Season: 9
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 2.77 (10th)
No, the Eagles were not forgotten about.
Yes, they weren't in the ACC in 2004, and their win total was not counted or averaged in this equation, but it likely wouldn't have mattered. Much of their success came with Matt Ryan under center.
The Eagles won nine games in 2005, 10 in '06, 11 in '07 and nine in '08. Pretty good, but they have no ACC titles to show for it thanks to Virginia Tech. They made it to the title game in back-to-back years in 2007-08, but lost to the Hokies each time.
The Eagles seem to be falling from this position as other, more traditional powers seem to be on the rise.
1) Virginia Tech
Avg. Wins/Season: 10.4
Avg. Recruit Ranking: 3.00 (T-4th)
The Hokies continue to win even though they're consistently out recruited in the ACC.
And they continue to win a lot.
Seven straight seasons with at least 10 wins, 18 consecutive bowl appearances, four ACC titles since joining the conference in 2004 and one of the most consistent, stable programs in the nation.
The problem is that the Hokies are stagnate. It seems to be the same thing every single year. A lot of wins, but a couple of losses that prevent them from filling that vacant national championship trophy case. Something has to change for Virginia Tech on the recruiting trail.
Yes, the Hokies coaching staff has some of the best scouts and coaching in the country, but top-notch talent counts for something too, and it's something the Hokies are usually left without when facing the best programs in the nation.