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August 30, 2012

Mid-Atlantic mailbag: Heel of a surprise

MORE: Midwest mailbag | Southeast mailbag

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell answers readers' questions regarding the Mid-Atlantic region.

What ACC team has surprised you the most in recruiting to start this year? -- Josh from Charlotte (via email)

It's no surprise to see Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech holding down the top three spots in the league's recruiting rankings. Miami has to be expected to move up before long, so it would either be Virginia or North Carolina for me. The Cavs, who are currently No. 4 in the ACC, have impressed because it looked like this could be a bridge year, so to speak. With everyone looking ahead to an in-state bumper crop in 2014, it seemed like many of the state's top players were looking out of state. Still, they've managed to keep plenty of talent in the DMV and five-star running back Taquan Mizzell's commitment is huge in so many ways. However, the loss of Wyatt Teller to Virginia Tech was a big blow. Had they landed Teller, they'd be sitting at No. 3 in conference instead of the Hokies.

But while UVa has been a surprise to me, I'll go with North Carolina (No. 4 in the ACC) simply because the Heels have had so many distractions in recent years. They're recruiting against sanctions and they're still recruiting against bad press, yet they've taken some really good steps to become relevant in their home state again.

That was their first priority and they've done a good job with commitments from guys such as Brian Walker, R.J. Prince and T.J. Logan. The most important commitments came when defensive tackle Greg Webb flipped from Penn State and his teammate Dajaun Drennon, who is a good fit for that Bandit spot in their 4-2-5, joined him. The defensive line, especially defensive tackle, was a huge area of need, and by getting the teammates on board they have really helped address that area. For UNC to be a top 20 recruiting program right now ahead of the likes of Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Miami and others is impressive.

What's the latest on Ebenezer Ogundeko and does Syracuse really have a chance against schools like Florida and Notre Dame? -- Hank from Darien, Conn. (via Twitter)

Ogundeko's recruiting process has been hectic from the start, which also makes it difficult to project. After originally committing to Connecticut early in his process, he saw a flood of new offers come his way in the following weeks. A de-commitment from the Huskies soon happened, which led to a series of visits, potential and changed announcement dates and plenty of rumors.

So where does his recruiting process currently stand?

Well, it seems as though he is set to make his final decision at the Under Armour All-American Game, which is scheduled for Jan. 5. It's possible that this will change, but for now that is the date. The final three continue to be Florida, Notre Dame and Syracuse. The Gators and Irish were considered favorites at one time or another and then there were strong rumors that he was going to select Syracuse, but Ogundeko has gone rather quiet over the last month. This could go in any direction, but from how everything has gone up to now, the Orange should still be considered a big player in this chase. Ogundeko's recruiting process has taken on a very similar path to that of Wayne Morgan, who ended up signing with Syracuse this February.

What are your thoughts on Rutgers recruiting efforts under new head coach Kyle Flood after the best recruiting year ever last year? -- Gordon from New Rochelle, N.Y. (via email)

The departure of Greg Schiano to the NFL came as a shock to the school, fans and also recruits. As a result it was hard to realistically expect the same type of recruiting success in this class as Schiano managed to have with the Class of 2012. The hiring of Coach Flood was the necessary move to keep the Class of 2012 intact, and with his deep connections and friendships in New Jersey, recruiting has the potential to rebound quickly.

To this point, Coach Flood and his staff have done an admirable job putting this class together. However, they have definitely missed out on some of their top in-state targets such as Brendan Mahon, Garrett Sickles, Tashawn Bower, Corey Clement and Brandon Bell. Keep in mind that three of the these players are still committed to Penn State, so Rutgers will definitely be one of the schools looking to take full advantage of the Nittany Lions' misfortunes in the coming months.

Aside from looking to grab a couple of these Penn State commits, the success of this class may ride on Rutgers' ability to add four-star Nadir Barnwell. The Scarlet Knights are definitely in the lead at this point and it is very important that the coaching staff finishes the job with the local star. Adding in-state offensive lineman Dorian Miller would be another nice get, plus look for the staff to dive back into Florida to plug any remaining holes as we head toward National Signing Day.

Which player do you think is the most underrated at this point in Virginia ? -- Kirk from Charlottesville, Va. (via Twitter)

This is always a tough question to answer because if we felt a player was underrated, we would rate him higher, right? But a player such as Oren Burks comes to mind. He's got a really rangy frame that's going to allow him to get a lot bigger and everyone that's seen him thinks he's a really impressive athlete. He was a little overshadowed by guys such as E.J. Levenberry Jr. and Doug Randolph and Matt Rolin at his position in the state, but Vanderbilt got a good one.

One reason he may well be underrated is that he didn't hit the camp or combine circuit hard this spring or summer. So people just haven't seen him in action nearly as much as some of the other guys from the state. And guys such as Mizzell, Teller, Fisher and Quin Blanding showed us there is plenty of benefit to being active and competing at those events.



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