Recruiting In The ACC Footprint

Recruiting is the basis of any success in college football. Teams cannot win championships — or even more than a handful of games — without recruiting at a high level.

It’s what the SEC does best. Teams like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Florida load up on five- and four-star prospects in each class, and it’s no surprise when they’re consistently ranked in the top 10 in national polls.

To achieve recruiting success, there are two general principles that programs must follow. One, you have to own your state in recruiting; rarely do teams find immense success without grabbing the majority of their top in-state talents. Two, you have to mine the powerhouse states for blue-chip recruits; more top-100 recruits reside in the south than the north, so a team like Boston College can’t rely solely on Massachusetts prospects.

This means that ACC programs are constantly in turf wars for the top recruits in their region. For instance, the SEC and ACC schools that co-populate the southern-most states go to war every recruiting cycle, and the teams that win those battles are positioned for better success in the future. Similarly, the northern-most ACC teams share a region with the Big Ten, so schools from both of those conferences are trying to build fences around the Northeast states.

We wanted to see how recruiting is broken down by state within the ACC footprint. Which programs recruit certain states the best? What conferences do a better job owning their regions?

We pulled data on the top recruits in each state from 2010-14 and analyzed where they ended up playing college ball. The number of players used for each state varied depending on how prestigious high school football is there. We counted the top 40 recruits in Florida, the top 30 recruits in states like Georgia and North Carolina and the top five recruits in states such as New York and Massachusetts.

First, we looked at which states are owned by which conferences.


Teams from the SEC pull more recruits from the Southeast than ACC teams do. If you want to point to one reason why the SEC is a more dominant football conference, that’s where you want to start looking. Florida and Georgia are, perhaps, the top talent mines within the ACC footprint, and those are SEC strongholds.

The ACC performs well in the mid-Atlantic region and Northeast, meaning that it generally recruits better than the Big Ten in states where there’s crossover in footprints. Nearly every ACC team pulls recruits from North Carolina, Virginia and the Northeast, and it’s essential to the conference’s future prosperity that those states remain ACC holdings.

Next, we looked at which schools own which states.


The most prominent in-state programs generally dominate their states. But ACC teams in the chief battle states don’t do a good enough job protecting fertile territory. Despite Florida State’s rise under Jimbo Fisher, Florida still grabs more top in-state prospects than the Seminoles. Georgia dominates Georgia Tech in recruiting, and Clemson splits South Carolina’s top prospects with the Gamecocks. Looking further north, Rutgers owns New Jersey, which is one of the rare Northeast states that produces a good amount of blue-chip talent.

When looking solely at which ACC team is the most dominant in each state, it’s clear that certain programs own broader regions. South Carolina owns the land between Florida and North Carolina. Boston College grabs the bulk of the talent from Northeast schools. Pitt and the Virginia schools are also well-represented in the middle states.

Finally, we looked at what percentage of a state’s top recruits choose ACC schools.


As expected, North Carolina and Virginia — which lie squarely in the ACC footprint but just outside those of the SEC and Big Ten — send more top prospects to the ACC than anywhere else. Florida — with both Florida State and Miami in-state — sends nearly as many recruits to the ACC as it does the SEC. The 34 percent rate is a good one for the ACC, and the conference would be happy to keep it near there. Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, all of which are prime battle states between opposing footprints, are areas where the ACC needs to pull more prospects.

Overall, we can deduce that the ACC does a good job of protecting its borders. Where there’s no or little in-state competition from other major programs, teams in the ACC lock down the majority of the top talent. But if the ACC wants to grow into a true power conference, every team must start doing a better job of luring elite recruits from every state within the ACC footprint — even the ones that have belonged to the most prominent college football programs for decades.

It won’t be easy, but it’s necessary.

Read more about each individual state here: