Commentary: ACC, Akron, Indiana nab top recruits
The rich got richer and the nation's top progams continued to bring in some of the nation’s best young players during the NCAA's National Signing Day on Feb. 2.
And while the ACC may have endured something of an off year in 2010, the conference should be back as the dominant force it has been in the past thanks especially to the latest round of recruits.
Leading the charge are Duke and Virginia. The two programs, both of which suffered disappointing conclusions to the 2010 season, will welcome two very talented groups of players to their respective campuses in the fall.
The Blue Devils boast arguable the strongest class in the nation after bringing in US youth international Nick Palodichuk, along with three other top midfielders in Sean Davis, Nat Eggleston and Riley Wolfe (above left). All have spent time at various MLS academies.
Virginia’s class, meanwhile, is nearly as impressive. With only a few holes to fill – although a big one in goal with Diego Restrepo’s graduation – the Cavaliers grabbed two of Pennsylvania’s best in Chris Sommerville and Kyle McCord. They also brought in two of their own in Virginia’s 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year Ryan Zinkhan and Kyler Sullivan.
Maryland, North Carolina and Wake Forest all tried to keep pace with solid classes of their own. The Terrapins are in need of a replacement for Zac MacMath and will give New York Red Bulls Academy product Keith Cardona a chance at the No. 1 jersey. They'll also bring in Jordon Tatum, a local recruit.
Joining Cardona from the Red Bulls will be defenders Dan Metzger and Kyle Roach. But the prize of the class for Maryland is Alex Shinsky, a US youth team representative at the U-17 World Cup in 2009, and according to Top Drawer Soccer, the top-rated prospect in the country.
Trailing just behind the Terps are Wake Forest and North Carolina. While several of the blue chip prospects have drifted towards other schools, each of these Carolina-based programs scored impressive talent.
Because the Demon Deacons simply didn’t have many seniors this past season, they return a number of top players who will be augmented by Seattle Sounders prospect Sean Okoli – provided he doesn’t end up signing a deal with Sounders.
Over in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels now face a year of uncertainty with head coach Elmar Bolowich. Whoever takes over can count on a class boosted by transfers. Having lost six players from last year, there’s a lot of work to be done at UNC.
Forward Ryan Dodson and midfielder Jordan McCrary join former Butler defender Matt Hedges on campus in January, and they will continue to work and await word on a new coach.
Two of the best recruiting classes outside the ACC were Akron and Indiana. The Zips, fresh off the national championship win, already had a few replacements in mind when selecting this year’s recruits.
Heading the incoming class is midfielder Wil Trapp (above right), a US U-18 representative and one of the nation’s top young players coming to Akron from the Columbus Crew Academy. Other MLS academy products include forward Andy Chiu, and defenders Bryan Gallego and DeAndre Yedlin. All will compete for time to help Caleb Porter cope with the loss of seven starters.
The Hoosiers, once regarded as a prominent destination for college talent before hitting a lull, reloaded in impressive fashion. Before their recruiting class had been announced, the arrival of defender AJ Corrado on a transfer from Southern Methodist was a sign of things to come.
Joining Corrado in Bloomington this fall is a class that includes Jack Coleman (FC Dallas Academy) and Eriq Zavaleta (Chivas USA Academy). Having spent time with the US U-17 Residency program, Zavaleta is a well-known defensive prospect that will team with Corrado to help replace Columbus Crew defender Rich Balchan.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @travismclark.