Even though the importance of the transfer portal has continued to increase, most college coaches still believe the foundation to winning long-term starts and ends with the talent you bring in from the high school ranks.

In the ACC, Clemson has long been the best at it. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have had a top-10 recruiting class every cycle since 2018, which explains why the program won the ACC title again in December. That, of course, didn’t necessarily equate to Clemson signing the best recruiting class for 2023. Miami and Mario Cristobal shot up to No. 4 in the 247Sports Composite through the early signing period, the Hurricanes’ highest ranking since their 2008 class finished No. 1 overall.

Florida State, the fastest-rising program in the ACC, reeled in the third-best recruiting class in the league (20th overall).

So, what’s working for Miami on the trail? Is it simply LifeWallet’s NIL deals? Which recruiters at ACC schools are doing the best job? Who is doing their homework? Where are they getting beat and why? How much of an advantage do the SEC and Big Ten have in certain states or recruiting grounds?

Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina remained the most fertile recruiting states for all 14 ACC schools in 2023. But nobody is just staying in-state to find players.

Clemson’s push in the state of Alabama continued. Louisville took four recruits from California. Pittsburgh signed seven players out of Florida. Wake Forest didn’t sign a single in-state player and instead went hard in Florida and Georgia, with nine of its 19 signees coming from those two states.

To gather intel on what is happening across the ACC recruiting footprint, we reached out to high school coaches and recruiting coordinators. In Part I, the focus is on programs and coaches. In Part II, which will be published Tuesday, the coaches discuss NIL and how it has influenced recruiting at their schools.

We talked to three coaches from South Florida, a recruiting coordinator from Central Florida, a coach and recruiting coordinator from Georgia, two coaches from North Carolina and one coach from South Carolina, Virginia and New England. They were granted anonymity in exchange for their candor.