ACC teams pulled in an impressive haul on National Signing Day last month, but with so many conference schools located in states/general regions that overlap with (current and future) Big Ten and SEC schools’ territories, it can be a real uphill slog to lock down local recruits. For some schools like Georgia Tech (14th ranked class out of 15 in the ACC), the overriding opinion is that their own home state, Georgia, may be lost for good to the likes of rival Georgia, and perhaps Georgia State in the future, so why not “go national?”
As a key football brand, there’s not doubt the ‘Wreck will ultimately find success leaving the state of Georgia. But for other schools, they can’t afford a bad recruiting class to tell them now is the time to alter course. This year in particular, several schools actually went on the offensive, grabbing some of their best players from bordering states (and in turn, rival institutions from other conferences).
To help frame the conversation, I’ve enlisted our own Hokie Mark (who runs his own ACCFootballRx site along with the work he helps with here) to parse through his immense collection of recruiting data, and give us a starting point. From Mark’s companion piece on ACC schools losing in-state recruits, here’s how we’ll be classifying states:
ACC-Exclusive States: Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, Virginia
Battleground States: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina
Border States: Alabama, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee
In “Border States,” there were a total of 68 players who received a four- or five-star rating from Rivals.com (we’ll be using this for consistency, and because that’s where Mark’s data is from). Of those 68, here’s how the recruits were broken down (by conference):
Big 12: 2
Notre Dame: 2
As you can see, the ACC did well enough to grab players from rival areas, but overall, three of those were from a state still technically part of the league’s footprint (Maryland), and three more were from New Jersey, which regularly serves as recruiting grounds for Syracuse. Beyond that, not a whole lot of success, right? At a win-rate of just 13 percent, it’s tough to make that case. And that appears even worse when looking at the league’s lack of retention for its own in-state stars (just 29 of 116 four- and five-star players, which equals out to around 25 percent). A quick visual, to see just how sparse these “steals” were for ACC schools:
So what can the ACC do to combat this? First and foremost, do a better job of keeping its own players within its borders. If conference schools can hold onto half of their in-state recruits, then grabbing just 13 percent from border states matters a whole lot less. Second, keep hitting these rival schools and conferences right in the mouth. If you’re Pittsburgh, create stronger pipelines to nearby Ohio — hell, start going after Cincinnati‘s targets, since they’ll have less to sell them coming from a depleted “Big East.” If you’re Syracuse or Boston College, the same goes for Connecticut; the door is open in that state, and the rest of the New England area. For a school like Louisville, your location and institutional growth are selling points, and positioning yourself to be in the ACC soon, there’s a real conversation to be had in Tennessee and Indiana.
Obviously, all of this is easier said than done, but the conversation around it all is at least a decent first step. For SEC schools, this isn’t an issue. They retain in-state prospects, and then go out and get whomever they want from bordering states. The ACC can’t just jump to that sort of conversion rate overnight, so it needs to figure out new methods. The more wins on the field though, the more wins in the recruiting game. ACC schools need to up their game in both right now.
Interested in where the ACC lost recruits? Check out Mark’s post over at ACCFootballRx!