Spring Shakedown Part 2: Getting Defensive

CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 24: We must replace these guys! Teammates Kourtnei Brown (better known as Brandon Thompson) #90 (99) of the Clemson Tigers and Andre Branch #40 celebrate after a defensive stop during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Memorial Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

For Part 2 we are focusing on the defensive side of the ball. Very quickly I wanted to say that at this point it is much too early to say that the sky is falling or that we won't have a strong class. Its easy to get pessimistic when Florida seems to be grabbing all of our recruits and Georgia is having another nice class, finally coming off of a good season. We have some real, somewhat new competition that we are dealing with this recruiting cycle. Urban Meyer is bringing the Ohio State brand to the South with the help of Everett Withers. Will Muschamp is literally flexing his recruiting muscles as a head coach. Hugh Freeze with Ole Miss is a great recruiter. We have finished second or third for a lot of recruits. I don't see these as excuses really but as realities the staff is having to deal with and yet another possibility for slipping with a bunch of recruits.

We are by no means licked yet and although we have slipped and missed on a bunch of top flight recruits, a few big time commitments would change the entire complexion of this class. I am posting our numbers again here for easy reference.

0 QB
1-2 RB
2-3 WR
1-2 TE
2-3 OL
2-3 DE
1-2 DT
3-4 LB
3-4 DB

Those are the original numbers and here are the current predictions for slots remaining:

Quarterback - 0
Running Back - 1
Wide Receiver - 3
Tight End - 0
Offensive Line – 2 (I wish I could say 2-3 but all indications point to just 2 OL as of today)
Defensive Tackle – 1-2
Defensive End - 2-3
Linebacker - 0-1
Defensive Back – 2-3


Follow me across the jump...

I’m happy to say that Carlos Watkins got an ‘A’ in Spanish (Si se peude, ha!) and will definitely be qualifying and battling for playing time along the two-deep of the interior defensive line. I don’t want to make any other definitive statements about qualifying because not all of the test scores are in but it does look like Josh Brown will probably end up at Hargrave Military Academy where Crawford and Bryant attended. He still needs two-three classes to raise his core GPA depending upon ACT scores. I am leaving him off of my commit list for now. If this does indeed happen I think this will be great for his development and I believe he will be a contributor down the road. (Ultimately this may be the best thing for him as a player and it should be noted that he has worked hard to get to this point.)

DE

To any potential recruit out there this is the most favorable depth chart that we have had at DE at Clemson in probably the past 10 years. We lost fortuitously parted with the commitment of Isaac McDonald that I won't rehash here. DE should be the major point of emphasis for defensive recruiting this year. We are still in the running for the big Nkemdiche. This video is probably the best overview of his recruitment. Clemson is still there in the top 5 but not threatening for his commitment now. Dabo could still pull some magic and the visit will have to really impress him but I’m saying there is a chance (a slight chance but a chance with #1 nonetheless). We have been in on a bunch of DE’s this cycle but have missed out on Carl Lawson-Auburn, Isaac Rochell-Notre Dame, Frank Herron-LSU. We were thought to be the leaders for Rochell for a long time so losing him to Notre Dame hurts. To make matters worse, one of our top targets, Tyquan Lewis out of Tarboro NC, just attended Urban Meyer’s Ohio State camp this past weekend and loved it. He now says his performance at the camp has changed is non-committable offer to a committable one. He also likes LSU and Ole Miss. I thought we were in good position to land Lewis but now I think we have some ground to make up once again.

Remember that Clemson wants to take 3 DE in this class so we are whiffing big time in this department. I will judge this class in large part by the ability to fill this huge need for the team. The focus needs to be on securing at least one big name DE recruit because we can’t afford to settle for three project recruits. Dane Rogers of Crest is becoming a more significant recruit for the staff. It seems that he really wants a committable offer from Florida but doesn’t have it so Clemson is at the top along with North Carolina now. If we can’t beat out North Carolina at this point, then we are in trouble. Greg Gilmore is a possibility but we are at the bottom of his top 5. His top 5 in order are LSU, Florida, Southern Cal, Alabama and Clemson. We were hurt in our recruiting because of the loss of his recruiter Kevin Steele. We are still in the running for Demarcus Walker but he is considered a big Florida lean. One-time Ohio State commit Lewis Neal is still a remote possibility. A couple of weeks ago we offered high 4* Jordan Sherit of Tampa Fl, but this offer was about a year or two too late. 3* Tee Riles is emerging as another candidate and he has longed been a fan of Clemson. It might be time to reconsider recruiting Jaylen Miller of Gaffney, but he's an eventual 3-technique.

DB

Kendall Fuller is the type of recruit that could turn this class around. He is a top 5-10 player and would immediately challenge for playing time at CB. Since we missed out on Ronald Darby to FSU last year, it would be very nice to have a CB to pair with Travis Blanks or that would allow Blanks to play a Gilchrist type role. Fuller has Clemson and VT at the top but his brother plays for VT so his family understandably wants him to go play with his brother. Michigan is also said to be a player. This will be a battle but we have a very real chance of landing him, especially with the commitment of O’Daniel. If you want a reason to still be optimistic about this class look no further than Fuller.

We were once in the running for other top CB prospects like Vernon Hargreaves III and Mackensie Alexander but have pretty much slipped out of consideration. Hargreaves father is a coach at USF and Alexander, who has a 4* twin Mackenro, de-committed from the Vols but has been all over the map in his recruiting. David Kamara of the Grayson trio is a strong possibility for a commitment by the end of the summer. Ole Miss is probably our stiffest competition and LSU if they offer but I think other schools want to use David to get to Nkemdiche, dangling the possibility of an offer. Dabo is genuine about his offer and desire to have Kamara. NC commit Koran Wiggins is a soft commit to North Carolina right now and is seriously considering Clemson and South Carolina. We currently have Jadar Johnson committed who is a well coached prospect at Orangeburg Wilkinson, SC who has the size that Coach Cheese loves at 6’ 1" and 185 lbs. Very physical and an underrated prospect, I don’t have any problem with this offer.

DT

This is also an area of importance and we seemed secure with Montravius Adams favoring Clemson and Michael Hill in our backyard. They both blew up into national recruits and so we are struggling now with both. We are still in the lead pack with Adams but have lost considerable ground with Hill, possibly because our staff didn't have him on campus nearly as often as they should've for someone so close by, and his HS coach is a Cock.

I was really excited about Scott Pagano after watching his film and having friends in Hawaii tell me about him first hand. Apparently everyone else in the country has been interested in him as well. This shows you how subjective recruiting can be. Once his film made it to the right people he jumped up recruiting lists and now has offers from everyone. I mean everyone. He did have a short list of four schools that Clemson was on but that has ballooned. I have frankly been disappointed in our staff’s pursuit of Pagano. He has family in Clemson, which is the only reason he is visiting now. Texas is even going to fly him out for a visit. LSU’s Coach Miles has made a big impression and LSU is probably on the top. We are still getting a visit with Alabama and Ole Miss but I would have sent Venables on a flight to Honolulu. We need DLine recruits that bad.

We recently offered Jay Woods who has a cousin who played for Clemson in the late 80’s. We came late to the game here as well but have a real chance along with GT, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina. He did grow up as a Georgia fan, however, so again a lot of work here as well.

LB

We have Greenlee, Boulware, and Dorian O’Daniel already committed. Yes, that is half of our current class total of 6. Our perception of Greenlee has been stated repeatedly on this blog and Boulware is a tackling machine who needs to work on lateral quickness and sideline-to-sideline coverage but we beat Georgia for his commitment so that by itself is somewhat satisfying. O’Daniel from powerhouse high school Our Lady of Good Counsel is a legit high 4* recruit. He recently moved to the LB position after playing RB but has really impressed at camps with his ability to cover and play in space. He still needs to fill out but certainly has the frame to do so. He is a prospect to get excited about and he is also the teammate of top Clemson target Kendall Fuller.

We still might sign one more LB, however, (I have seen it suggested that somehow Greenlee could play as a safety but I’m just not seeing it) and the top prospect is Larenz Bryant. For a while he was saying that Clemson was his leader but that has changed recently. He now says that his top four of Virginia, South Carolina, Clemson and Florida are all even or that Virginia is his leader. Bryant is a smaller (weakside) LB at 6’1" 200 lbs. He originally favored Florida but they have been hesitant with him due to class size and already having some committed undersized LB’s. As of this moment I think he feels like Virginia is making a bigger push for him than Clemson. Peter Kalambayi is also a possibility. He attended our spring game and enjoyed himself but it’s hard to get a read on his top five schools. Michigan and Clemson have long been names associated with him but most recently I have seen North Carolina, Oregon, Stanford and Virginia. Academics are very important for him. I would like to see Pearman make a stronger push for him because he could potentially grow into a DE at 6’3" 220 right now. He would certainly fit into the big backer Venables mold.

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