(Photo Courtesy of Duke Athletics)
*Note: All rankings mention in this article are via Inside Lacrosse. Links to those full team and player rankings exist throughout the article.*
Wednesday marks National Signing Day for the class of 2021, and as usual, the rich will get richer.
It is not too much of a surprise which programs top the class rankings, per Inside Lacrosse. North Carolina sits at No. 1, followed by Penn, Maryland, Notre Dame, and Penn State to round out the top five. Duke, Virginia, Yale, Michigan, and Princeton round out the top 10.
With the exception of Michigan, all of those schools have had very successful seasons as of recent or are traditional powers. Penn, Maryland, Penn State, Duke, Virginia, and Yale all made it NCAA Quarterfinal appearances in 2019, and Penn State, Duke, Virginia, and Yale made up the Final Four that year, with Virginia winning the national title and Yale being the runner-up.
Top Storylines of The 2021 Cycle
Duke Keeps Winning
Since John Danowski’s arrival in Durham, the Duke Blue Devils have seemingly done nothing but consistently win on the recruiting trail. And this 2021 class is no different, as they are set to sign both the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the class, according to Inside Lacrosse. St. Anthony’s, N.Y., attackman Andrew McAdorey is the second player in as many years from his high school to be ranked No. 1 in the class and head to Duke, following last year’s top prospect and projected freshman sensation Brennan O’Neill. Yorktown, N.Y., defenseman Keith Boyer is ranked as the No. 2 player in the class and will also be heading to Duke. The two highlight the sixth-ranked class in the nation, which includes a total of five Top 50 players.
North Carolina, Maryland Pull Big Flips
In early July the North Carolina Tar Heels flipped the top-ranked faceoff man in the nation, Chase Mullins, from Maryland. Ranked as the No. 7 overall player in the class, Mullins had been a Maryland verbal since September of 2019. A possible day one impact player for the Tar Heels, Mullins highlights a class that ranks No. 1 overall and includes five top-20 ranked players.
Maryland was able to flip St. Mary’s, Md., defenseman Colin Burlace from Yale back in mid-April. The son of the 1992 Schmeisser Award winner Brian “Bubba” Burlace, Colin’s flip came just days after his older brother, BJ, entered the Transfer Portal and ultimately transferred from Yale to Maryland after his freshman season.
Virginia Dips Into Texas, Again
Lars Tiffany and the Virginia Cavaliers have poked their head into the Lone Star State in recent years and landed some real gems. In 2018 they landed defenseman Cade Saustad and in 2019 they got defenseman Scott Bower. But in 2021 they picked up one of the best players in the state on both ends of the field, The Highland Park, Texas, attackman Thomas Mencke flipped his commitment from Harvard, where his older brother played, just two weeks ago. He is the third attackmen in the class, joining Deerfield’s Griffin Schultz and Taft’s Tucker Mullen. They Cavaliers also landed The Woodlands, Texas goalie Matthew Nunes in this class. He is ranked as the top goalie and No. 3 overall player.
Michigan’s Continued Rise
The Michigan Wolverines currently hold the No. 9 ranked class, per Inside Lacrosse. It is the third consecutive cycle that Michigan as brought in a top-15 class. They ranked No. 13 in 2019 and No. 3 in 2020. This jump in recruiting under Kevin Conry hasn’t quite translated into wins just yet, but it is almost inevitable that it will. Their 2021 class is highlighted by Manhasset, N.Y., midfielder Aidan Mulholland. The No. 15 player in the class, Mulholland originally committed to the Wolverines way back in April of 2017 before early recruiting was curbed by the rule changes.
How First-Year Head Coaches Have Fared
Three programs, Johns Hopkins, VMI, Mercer, and Hampton hired new head coaches this offseason. Cornell appointed assistant coach Connor Buzcek their interim head coach for the upcoming season.
Peter Milliman going from Cornell to Johns Hopkins was the biggest story of the summer. And while Milliman inherits the No. 3 class in the 2020 cycle, the Blue Jays are bit lower in the rankings as far as the 2021 class is concerned, sitting at No. 31. Since his hiring, Milliman has added eight guys to the class, which includes St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla., defenseman Sam Whitaker who reclassified from 2020 to 2021 earlier this fall.
Four of the eight players that Milliman has gotten in this class since his hiring include four flips. Trinity-Pawling, N.Y., midfielder Stuart Phillips flipped from Vermont in July and Christian Brothers, N.Y., LSM Brackton Bowler flipped from Binghamton in June. Blue Ridge School, Va., attackman Jack Charboneau, who is originally from British Columbia, and Salesianum, Del., defenseman Chris Wong were originally committed to Milliman at Cornell and flipped to Johns Hopkins two months after his hiring.
At VMI, the majority of the Keydets’ commits in this class came after the hiring of James Purpura in early July. They Keydets have done a good job finding some “hidden gems” in the South, with five of their current commits in the class hailing from below the region, including St. Christopher’s, Va., defenseman Alex Baber, Star’s Mill, Ga., attackman Luke Rusterucci, Montgomery Bell, Tenn., midfielder Luke Mryncza, Lake Norman, N.C., midfielder Tyler Palehonki, and The Woodlands, Texas, defenseman Jack Manning, and American Heritage Plantation, Fla., goalie Jake Marek.
Chad Surman was named the interim head coach at Mercer on August 6th, only to have that tag lifted and be names the Bears’ full head coach on October 27th. The Bears have a smaller 2021 class at the moment, but one of the more interesting things about this class is that it features two players from the Heart of Dixie. Hoover, Ala., attackman/midfielder Jackson Hirschy and Briarwood Christian, Ala., midfielder Jackson Hand have both verbaled to Mercer.
The Hampton Pirates currently have four players committed in the 2021 class, according to Inside Lacrosse. They haven’t received any new commitments since Chazz Woodson took over this summer.
Cornell, who currently holds the No. 16 class, is being led by Connor Buczek on an interim basis for a full year. While they had a good chunk of their class already in place prior to Buczek taking over, the Big Red have received five commitments since he took over. The two biggest of those five commitments for the Big Red came from a pair of IL top-100 guys in Smithtown West, N.Y., attackman Danny Caddigan and Smithtown East, N.Y., faceoff man Christopher Cappelmann. Caddigan flipped from Colgate and Cappelman decommitted from Navy back in February. Both commitments were received in July.
Most Impressive Mid-Major Haul
When speaking about mid-major programs in lacrosse, that usually means teams not in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, or the Ivy League.
The most impressive mid-major program on the recruiting trail thus cycle has been the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Currently holding the No. 21 class, Lehigh has put together one of the most impressive hauls this cycle of any mid-major program in the nation. Their 2021 class is highlighted by Christ School, N.C., Sean Dow and Belmont Hill, Mass., defenseman Grant Litchfield, who decommitted from Johns Hopkins in early June.
Colgate is a very close second. The Raiders hold the 13th-ranked class, which is highlighted by Ridge, N.J., attackman Jake Turner, who is ranked as the No. 89 player in the class.
Other Names To Know
Outside of the names previously mentioned in this article, here are some other names to know in this 2021 class.
Chris Kavanagh, A, Taft, Conn. – Notre Dame
The second youngest of five siblings, Chris is following in the footsteps of two of his brothers, Matt and Pat, who is at Notre Dame now, heading to South Bend to play for Kevin Corrigan and the Fighting Irish. The Long Island native has been absolutely shredding defenses his entire high school career with his ever-deadly shooting and innate ability to get to the rack. He is ranked as the No. 4 player by Inside Lacrosse.
Dante Trader, M, McDonogh, Md. – Maryland
A dual-sport athlete, Trader is committed to play lacrosse for John Tillman and football for Mike Locksley at Maryland. On the lacrosse field, Trader is a speedy dodger that can break through a defense and get to the cage from multiple spots on the field, a deadly offensive threat as both a feeder and a shooter, and displays excellent vision and a high lacrosse IQ. He is ranked as the No. 5 player by Inside Lacrosse and is a three-star football prospect, according to 247Sports.
Leo Johnson, A, Avon Old Farms, Conn. – Yale
Ranked as the No. 6 player by Inside Lacrosse, Johnson is a beast of an attackman. The Grennwich, Conn., native causes havoc as a shooter and a passer, but he also has some twitch to him that comes out in his dodging game. All-Around great player that should fit well with what Yale does offensively.
Tyler Schwarz, LSM, Shoreham Wading River, N.Y. – North Carolina
Heading to Chapel Hill alongside his twin brother, Schwarz is the kind of LSM who always seems to have his motor going. Not only can he be a caused turnover machine, but he is great off the ground and runs the field very well. He is ranked as the No. 11 player by Inside Lacrosse.