Alex Collins is among the top remaining uncommitted prospects in the country. Can Miami land him?
With national signing day (Feb. 6) two weeks away, here’s a look at five storylines to keep an eye on from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Will the changeover in Tallahassee help or hurt?
The Seminoles have had a ton of turnover on the coaching staff, as five new faces have joined the program. Whenever that happens, some prospects are lost while others are gained. For Florida State, the change at running backs coach seems to have damaged the Seminoles' chances with five-star back Alex Collins (Plantation, Fla./South Plantation). On the flip side, the addition of Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt as new defensive coordinator was instrumental in Florida State landing top-50 national prospect DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood), a defensive lineman that at one time was an Alabama commit. Pruitt's hiring also opened the door with four-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy), a Southern California commit that recently visited the Seminoles. Outside linebacker Matthew Thomas (see above) is a possible pickup, and FSU appears to be doing well with four-star defensive tackle Keith Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic). Despite the turnover in Tallahassee, another top-10 finish seems likely.
How will Clemson's wild ride end?
Has any college program had the ups and downs Clemson has dealt with on the recruiting trail during this cycle? For awhile, the Tigers had No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) on board. Then, in November he de-committed. At one time, five-star defensive end Elijah Daniel (Avon, Ind./Avon) also was on the commit list. But he was dropped largely over academic concerns. Recently, Clemson lost two receiver commits -- Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County) and Ryan Jenkins (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) -- on the same day in early January. On the bright side, the Tigers got a flip of their own (from N.C. State) last weekend when three-star receiver Kyrin Priester (Snellville, Ga./Brookwood) pledged to Dabo Swinney's program. Entering the home stretch, Clemson has 16 verbals and would like to land at least 20. The most highly rated prospect they're still in the running for is five-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams (Vienna, Ga./Dooly County), but that battle with programs such as Georgia won't end until he announces on signing day, meaning Tiger fans have some restless nights ahead.
Can Miami finish strong again despite a lingering NCAA investigation?
Sometime soon, reports say, the Hurricanes are expected to receive their notice of allegations from the NCAA after a lengthy investigation that certainly has placed a cloud over the program's recruiting efforts. Despite that, Miami finished strong in 2012 and may be poised to do so again in this cycle. The Hurricanes are very much in the running for the Nos. 4 and 5 players in the Sunshine State -- outside linebacker Matthew Thomas (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) and all-purpose back Alex Collins (Plantation, Fla./South Plantation). Each holds a five-star rating. Miami also has a shot with four-star defensive end Jay-nard Bostwick (Port Saint Lucie, Fla./St. Lucie West Centennial) and four-star offensive guard Denver Kirkland (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington). You'll recall that a year ago, the Hurricanes snatched five-star cornerback Tracy Howard (Hollywood, Fla./Miramar) from Florida in the 11th hour, which keyed a No. 10 finish in the team rankings. Reaching the top 10 again won't be easy (Miami is currently at No. 23) but anything inside the top 20 would have to be deemed a success given the distractions of the investigation.
Will this be Beamer's best class in Blacksburg?
This very well could go down as the most highly ranked class of the modern era of recruiting coverage at Virginia Tech, and the Hokies are doing this despite coming off their worst season (7-6) in a generation. The headliners are five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller (Olney, Md./Good Counsel) and four-star safety Holland Fisher (Midlothian, Va./Manchester). What's impressive is how Virginia Tech, currently No. 15 in the team rankings, has done it. The class was pretty much complete before the 2012 season even started. That was significant for several reasons, perhaps most notably because it has given the Hokies a chance to get an early start on a 2014 in-state class that is extremely loaded at the top. Virginia Tech's best recruiter arguably is assistant Shane Beamer, son of head coach Frank Beamer. He has been a beast on the recruiting trail since joining the program before the 2011 season.
How big will the Tar Heels' imprint in North Carolina be?
North Carolina began the day with the No. 24 class in the country, and much of its success has come in state. At last check, six of the top-16 prospects in the Tar Heel state were UNC commits -- headlined by four-star all-purpose back T.J. Logan (Greensboro, N.C./Northern Guilford). That is significant because in recent years the program's in-state recruiting had slipped some. One big fish still remains -- four-star receiver MarQuez North (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek). North apparently is down to the Tar Heels and Tennessee, and has visited each this month. UNC is cautiously optimistic it can reel in North, which would put the finishing touches on a class that is solid although it hasn't received much fanfare.
Keith Niebuhr is a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Niebuhr247