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Clemson leads way in ACC football recruiting; UNC’s class ranks No. 14 in nation

By Hank Kurz Jr.

AP Sports Writer

Clemson’s most recent berth in the College Football Playoff was arguably its least successful, but a 49-28 semifinal loss to Ohio State didn’t appear to damage the Tigers’ appeal to recruits.

Six consecutive appearances in the game’s final four, with national championships in 2016 and 2018, are difficult to overlook.

The Tigers’ 2021 signing class was rated No. 5 nationally by 247Sports and the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Even better for coach Dabo Swinney and his staff, 12 of Clemson’s 19 incoming freshmen are already enrolled, led by five-star all-purpose back Will Shipley.

Shipley, from Matthews, North Carolina, is one of three five-stars the Tigers have signed from ACC competitor states. The other two — offensive lineman Tristan Leigh from Fairfax, Virginia, and outside linebacker Barrett Carter from Suwanee, Georgia — are among seven that will join the program after high school.

The league has two other schools — No. 12 Miami and No. 14 North Carolina — in the top 15 of the 247Sports composite rankings, with Florida State next at No. 22.

In what has become a growing trend, Mack Brown’s Tar Heels brought in 12 players for early enrollment last month, including five-star defensive lineman Keeshawn Silver and former Alabama commitment Drake Maye at quarterback.

Brown added a 19th recruit Wednesday: Dontae Balfour, a 6-foot-2 cornerback from Starke, Florida. He’s rated 17th among cornerbacks.

NOTHING DOING

Virginia Tech is not among the ACC leaders in recruiting rankings this year, with 247Sports listing the Hokies 45th overall and 10th among league schools, but coach Justin Fuente seemed content with a class that includes 10 early enrollees.

There were no additions to the 25 players the Hokies signed in December.

“It’s been over for a long time for us, you know what I mean? There’s always things out there that can happen on the second signing day, but the first signing day is becoming signing day,” Fuente said.

“You still handle some transfers and that sort of stuff but it doesn’t feel any different than any other day for me because we’ve been out of it and we’ve moved on for some time,” he said.

The Hokies have three transfers already on campus, including quarterback Connor Blumrick from Texas A&M, safety Tae Daley from Vanderbilt and defensive tackle Jordan Williams from Clemson. They expect offensive lineman Johnny Jordan, who is transferring from Maryland, to arrive after he concludes his spring semester.

IVY LEAGUE SOUTH

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Wednesday that the Cavaliers have added running back Devin Darrington from Harvard as a transfer, their third this offseason.

Darrington, from Forest Hill, Maryland, played in 22 games for Harvard and had 1,181 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He was expected to be among the top backs in the Ivy League last season before the league canceled the season because of the pandemic.

He has one season of eligibility remaining.

Virginia, which signed 24 high school players, also added tight end Jelani Woods from Oklahoma State and cornerback Anthony Johnson from ACC rival Louisville.

ACC RANKINGS

The rest of the ACC rankings: Pittsburgh, 26th; Virginia, 31st; North Carolina State, 34th; Boston College, 36th; Louisville, 38th; Georgia Tech, 47th; Syracuse, 57th; Duke, 58th; and Wake Forest, 66th.

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