The top recruiter in the Atlantic Coast Conference this offseason might have been Jameis Winston.
Coach Jimbo Fisher says recruits lined up for the chance to play with the Heisman Trophy winner.
That’s a big reason why the defending national champion Seminoles signed one of the nation’s best classes – a group that includes two five-star receivers and a four-star wideout.
Fisher said Wednesday, ”They want to play with him and know he can get them the ball.”
ACC coaches also used the league’s success as a pitch to recruits. Not every coach can say the Heisman winner and defending BCS champ are in their league this year.
The tactic worked. The league’s schools turned Florida State’s victory in the BCS title game into 14 individual wins on Signing Day.
According to recruiting service Scout.com, four ACC schools – No. 3 Florida State, No. 10 Miami, No. 26 North Carolina State and No. 28 Clemson – had top-30 classes, with North Carolina and Virginia Tech close behind.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said with the recruiting success on Wednesday, the national champion and the Heisman winner, the ”conference is stronger now than it’s ever been.”
The Seminoles, of course, benefited the most.
They added two highly touted receivers – Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph – along with running back Dalvin Cook, Florida’s 2013 Mr. Football, as the next wave of offensive skill players. Rudolph is ranked the No. 1 receiver by Rivals.com while Lane is rated a five-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout.
It helps to have Winston as a drawing card.
”He has a definite chance at winning a championship, any time you have a great quarterback,” Fisher said of Winston. ”It’s not only helped on offense, but I really think it’s helped on defense, too. Just our overall team.”
Louisville had an extra perk to offer recruits: Being part of the Cardinals’ first ACC recruiting class,
Scout had coach Bob Petrino’s class ranked 45th nationally while Rivals had the Cardinals at No. 46. Both services had Louisville in the middle of the pack in its new conference.
Now, the challenge for all ACC coaches is to keep the momentum going in 2014 and beyond. Here’s a look at how the conference did overall:
Best Class: Florida State. Scout.com ranked the Seminoles’ class No. 3 nationally while Rivals.com had Fisher’s haul at No. 4. No ACC school landed more five-star players than Florida State (three) and 13 other players received four stars – nearly twice as many as Clemson, which had eight.
Impact Player: Virginia won just six games in two years but coach Mike London picked up a pair of big victories on Signing Day with two five-star defensive players – safety Quin Blanding and defensive tackle Andrew Brown. Rivals.com rates Blanding as the nation’s top safety and No. 5 overall player while Brown is the top defensive tackle and No. 32 overall player.
Player to Watch: Keep an eye on North Carolina RB Elijah Hood. The state AP prep player of the year at Charlotte Catholic, who rushed for 3,690 yards and 53 touchdowns as a senior, was the only five-star player to sign with a school in the state. Hood enrolled early at UNC and doesn’t figure to be overwhelmed by the college experience because Fedora says he is ”at his best when he’s got about 8 million things going on.”
Biggest Surprise: Myles Autry – a three-star athlete from Norcross, Ga. – picked Georgia Tech over Florida State in a late-afternoon signing ceremony. The recruiting services had him as a receiver after he caught 30 passes for 336 yards but the Yellow Jackets list him as a running back – no surprise, because they run the triple option.
Biggest Dud: Perhaps Duke was expected to bring aboard a higher-profile class after winning a school-record 10 games, cracking the Top 25 and going toe-to-toe with Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Instead the Blue Devils’ class landed virtually exactly where it always does – in last place in the league. Both Rivals.com and Scout.com evaluated Duke’s class as the worst in the league although Cutcliffe says the full impact of his program’s 2013 success won’t be felt until 2015 and beyond.
AP Sports Writer Kareem Copeland in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap