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In ACC football recruiting, you are who you think you are

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NCAA Football: TaxSlayer Gator Bowl-Texas A&M vs North Carolina State Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Unless you are Clemson, your goal over the long term is to level up your program from your current standing, and the best way to achieve that is through improved recruiting. But actually the odds are that your school’s recruiting isn’t going to change in a substantial way over time.

That’s what ESPN’s David Hale found when he looked at a decade’s worth of recruiting outcomes in the ACC.

There are year-to-year deviations, but the overall trend lines are flat for most. NC State is one of the few that actually shows a decent upward trend, and that’s all thanks to the recruiting efforts of Dave Doeren’s staff.

But they’re also modest gains—NC State is bringing in more talent but it’s not like blue-chip players have become the rule here. The Wolfpack’s classes are still largely made up of three-star kids.

Which is okay—it’s not like this dooms your program to the same win total every year, as Hale points out. Not all three-stars are created equally, and there will always be advantages to be made by identifying talent and fit better than other coaches do. I think we’ve seen that Doeren’s staff does that well. You could argue that Doeren’s classes have been slightly underrated considering how he’s developed kids over the years.

Still, there’s that nagging baseline that’s difficult to escape. If anything it just makes clearer the gap we already face; Clemson, FSU, and Miami have always out-recruited the rest of the league—Miami does a fabulous job squandering its advantages—which ain’t gonna change. But that’s no death sentence, either. Well, as long as FSU and Miami don’t find a Dabo Swinney of their own, anyway.

NC State’s recipe for success is to keep doing what it has been doing, with steady-but-solid recruiting and above-average player development. Even a team without a load of blue-chip talent can have a big year every not and then with that sort of foundation.