So yesterday came and went, and thousands of office-dwelling adults everywhere fist-pumped enthusiastically or banged their heads against walls based on decisions made by 18-year-olds around the country. Having formerly worked part-time for a Rivals-affiliated site, let me say that the kind of reactions you get from National Signing Day are disturbingly intense - when you can name the favorite foods of each of the 5-star WRs your school is trying to go after, it’s gone a little too far.
Still, it’s worth noting that while the whole recruiting process has blown up into a monster whose appetite can never be satiated, recruiting does have a very real corrolation between the amount of talent you recruit and the number of wins your program accumulates. This is precisely why Butch Davis was brought to UNC; the man hasn’t proven himself to be a tactical genius, but a heck of a recruiter. Cutcliffe was expected to excite the fans in Durham because he was a mixture of the two: the offensive mind who had mentored both Manning brothers, with just enough name recogition to draw the interest of a few recruits the Devils might not have otherwise gotten. So how did each school do this year?
North Carolina seems to have been the big winner within the state, beefing up both the offensive and defensive line, particularly with some highly-touted recruits on the offensive side. Their class is ranked 31st nationally according to Scout.com, a few spots above Virginia Tech and behind only FSU, Miami and Clemson in the ACC. They also managed to nab two top 100 recruits, which is two more than the Canes, Tigers and Hokies combined. Interesting to note that Davis didn’t go after any QBs this year, saying they were happy with TJ Yates with the option of putting yet-untested but highly-touted backups Bryn Renner or Braden Hansen on the field if Yates isn’t getting the job done next year. I like that the Heels concentrated on the O-line, but wonder what the situation will be like for their running game next year since most OL players aren’t ready to contribute immediately. It’s also interesting to note that Davis seems to really have concentrated his recruiting efforts along the East Coast, as most of this signing class came from NC, VA and FL and not a single player west of the Mississippi River.
Duke, on the other hand, went a little more national, doing about as well as you could have hoped for given the Devils’ perpetual status as a running joke. Still, let it be said this team was one win away from bowl eligibility last year, and they are no longer league doormats. Their class finished ranked 69th, tied with Colorado and above a few halfway-notable programs such as UConn, Air Force, and Boise State. Most oftheir 3-star recruits were on offense (which isn’t surprising given Cutcliffe’s reputation): a QB from California, a running back from Georgia, a couple of wideouts and a couple of guards. Still, there isn’t too much to hang your hat on here, as the handful of three-star recruits the Devils were able to bring in are unlikely to offer much resistance when Alabama comes to town next year (Oh, you didn’t realize the current National Champs had a game AT Duke next season? Don’t worry, I doubt they’re aware of it, either).
Overall, not a lot of surprises but hopefully some progression for both teams in areas they wanted to improve. I think the UNC fan base remains a little bit eager for Butch to bring in a top-10 type of class they have ben hoping for since he landed in Chapel Hill, but the Heels may have to win just a little more before he can accomplish that. I honestly can’t speak for how Duke fans feel about the job that Cutcliffe has done but from an outsider’s perspective you have to feel like they should be greatful for what they’re getting and for the fact he chose not to bolt for Tennessee when he had the chance this offseason.