MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers watches his players warm up against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
As Spring winds to an end it is time to take a look at where Clemson stands in terms of numbers and what is the overall state of this years class. I’ve had to write this post a couple of times now because we keep ‘expanding the board,’ which never sounds good to fans. I’m going to try to keep things as upbeat and positive as I can (in the wake of losing yet again to the Cocks), but this class is decidedly trending downwards, especially when put in relation to what the expectations were for this class coming into the year. Remember that Swinney and staff have been in place cultivating these relationships for years, no excuses*. When your board is expanding rapidly it never elicits much confidence but it's better this happen now than in late November. What is particularly troubling is that the majority of the expanding is going on along the defensive and offensive lines, which of course are the areas of our most urgent need.
It seems to me that recruiting can be broken down into two general categories. On the one hand you have the interpersonal part of recruiting that Clemson generally excels at. This includes many things like the contact with recruits, the visits, and the relationships with coaches. Swinney has always been an excellent in-home recruiter and the staff is generally regarded as good recruiters--nothing new here. However, an equally important component to recruiting is management. The recruiting coordinator and the head coach are basically given the responsibility for maintaining the numbers and this includes carrying a full roster, and handing out the appropriate scholarships for recruits every year.
(*a quick note on the Big 12 expansion rumors hurting recruiting. I seriously don’t want to hear Swinney use this as an excuse for a down year in recruiting. Just like anything is recruiting, expansion is part of the battleground and it can either work against you or you can make it work for you. It isn’t hurting recruiting from other schools involved, like FSU, and if you simply tell a recruit that we are a package deal with FSU to start the Big 12 East then all of Mom and Dad’s worries are gone. Some in the Clemson Internet tubes have made a big deal about travel distance as a defense against Big 12 expansion so if you want to blame someone for hurting recruiting, you can blame those Clemson PR apologists)
This management game is very difficult. Billy Napier was very successful in his short time as recruiting coordinator but it’s my feeling that Coach Scott and Dabo still have room for improvement in this area. Again, I’m not questioning their ability as recruiters but as recruiting managers. Dabo almost got Clowney and turned 5* recruits like Steward, Spiller and Anthony so I don’t ever count out a Clemson class but you don’t want to rely on that magic year in and year out. Also it is important to note that managing recruits is a lot easier when you essentially cut players and don’t renew scholarships and you habitually oversign. I’m not going to get into the ethics of these practices right now (although I think it is a debate to have) except to say that when you refrain from these types of practices it makes the numbers that much harder to manage. So how is the class shaping up…
These numbers are the early prediction from this site (the stellar work of redbricktiger), which put our class at about 20. With the departure of Mike Bellamy I think these predictions were spot on (still waiting on a few grades and ACT scores as well from the last class) and I would say that the remainder of the class needs shake out like this:
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
With regards to our current commits I wouldn’t worry about expansion impacting their commitments, to my knowledge everyone is pretty solid except for McDonald. I don’t expect Gallman to take any other visits and Isaac McDonald just got dropped from the commit list yesterday due to taking other visits. Dabo sees commits taking visits as a break-up or kind of divorce. Right now he is not factoring into my class calculations.
We aren’t taking any in this class and have a commitment from 2014 QB DeShaun Watson who is extremely talented. If we were like Spurrier we would probably run off a player like Tony McNeal after his injury and take a QB in this class but we don’t play those games. Watson did take a recent visit to Auburn and they have now offered. I think we should feel secure with his commitment as long as Chad Morris at the helm but he has committed way early (2 years is a long time) and the Auburn visit gave him something to think about. Clemson has essentially decided he is the QB of the future so a lot of very important golden eggs are in that basket. Another important point is that Watson’s high school coaches, to their credit, want to make sure that Watson has done his due diligence and checked out multiple schools. Clemson is absolutely his choice at this point, however.
I recently posted on the RB situation so I will give you some brief updates here. Commit Wayne Gallman has had some extra thoughts supposedly because of Big 12 expansion. I think this is more about Gallman and less about the Big 12. It has got to be very hard to have good friends Kamara and Nkemdiche getting all this insane attention and then being left out because of your commit. He is also seeing a constant stream of high profile coaches coming his way. I think patience is important here and Dabo has reached out personally to Gallman.
We have one slot left and the top running backs on the board are still Derrick Green and Tyshon Dye. Derrick Green, who recently received a 5* ranking, is status quo and won’t rush his decision. His good friend, also from Hermitage VA, was 2010 Ohio State 5* recruit Curtis Grant. Following Grant’s advice Green won’t be pushed into anything. Clemson is still right in there with Ohio State, Alabama, VT, Oregon, and Wisconsin among others. Again, this kid does his homework and knows for example that Meyer’s offense may not be the best fit for him. Definitely a player worthy of oversigning. I don’t see the other Green, Ryan Green of St. Petersburg (Fla.), getting away from FSU but we are still in his top 6-8 teams.
Tyshon Dye has a younger brother named Marquice Dye who is a DB. Marquice really likes Clemson and would like to play with his brother Tyshon in college. Lucky for Clemson, Marquice has the speed of his brother, clocking in the 4.3-4.4 range with 56 tackles and 3 int’s, taking two back for TD’s. He is a legit recruit who was just offered by Tennessee. This is factoring into Tyshon Dye’s recruiting and his short list includes Clemson, Auburn, Tennessee, and the fake USC. He still wants to wait until after his football season to commit but things look good in our RB recruiting. Other quick hitters: we are still in the running for TJ Logan but are probably at the bottom of his top 4 and another RB to keep your eyes on if we miss out on both Green and Dye is Peyton Barber of Milton High School in Alpharetta Ga. because at 220 lbs he is the big back mold that Morris is looking for.
With Jordan Leggett we are done at TE unless 4* Josh McNeil decides on the Tigers. He has many suitors for his elite services but visited Clemson on Tuesday. Clemson seems to have made a positive impression but this is still a tough battle with Bama, Georgia, and Florida.
Right now I have us taking three WR’s but that could change if all the elite recruits keep coming off the board like they have been recently. The only good thing about Uriah LeMay and Reggie Davis both committing to Georgia is that they should be done at WR. You will remember that Georgia also has Tramell Terry of Goose Creek committed. Marquez North, a top 25 prospect in the nation, is at the top of our board and he has repeatedly put Clemson towards the top of his list with North Carolina, NC St. and Georgia. His is not a big talker though so I am hesitant to say Clemson has a solid lead but things are looking positive. North should be one of the main cornerstones of this class and losing him would hurt after missing on so many other big name recruits this year such as Fulwood. Ryan Jenkins has consistently said he wants to commit this summer. He will soon camp at Alabama and will find out if they want to offer him. If they don’t then I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenkins commits to Clemson shortly thereafter. Another top WR is Demarcus Robinson who has us in his top 5. Florida and Notre Dame are his leaders but he has said he wants to visit and has kept us in his lead pack although we haven’t been on him as hard as other WR recruits this cycle. Mike Williams of Santee, SC is another option. He is beginning to look around at his options out of state, however, and refrains from naming Clemson and South Carolina as his co-favorites. Bama has yet to offer and Georgia has filled up so we are in a good position. We also recently made the cut for all-purpose athlete/WR Alvin Bailey’s top 13 and the top 10 for Richard Benjamin.
Now for the position we have all been waiting for…Brandon Kublanow finished (ha!) his recruiting by committing to the Dawgs over Clemson this past month. The staff must have really thought we had a good shot at him because we really put a lot of stock into getting him. We missed on Cam Dillard earlier to Florida so our top two targets now are Tyrone Crowder and Austin Droogsma. We lost to South Carolina on DJ Park and Bryce King from Dillon, SC and parted ways with early commit RJ Prince who went to North Carolina. Pocic to LSU and Outlaw to Florida. It’s been kind of a train wreck. Take, for example, Na’Ty Rodgers. A top 250 player with a 4* ranking from Maryland, who could play OT, didn’t get an offer from Clemson until the beginning of the spring evaluation period. He is still open in his recruiting but probably won’t take Clemson as seriously because we are so late in our recruiting.
So who are our main targets? Well Austin Droogsma has FSU and Clemson on top but his father was an athlete at FSU in track and field. He did/threw shot put and Austin has grown up with a garnet and gold covered room. What we have working in our favor is that he has had that FSU offer for some time now but has yet to pull the trigger. He just recently visited Auburn. He also says he won’t be a silent commit to anywhere and he really enjoyed his Clemson visit. I would be pleasantly surprised. Tyrone Crowder is the only remaining big fish for us and is an absolute must get recruit for the future of the OLine. If you want to play for championships you have to recruit well in the trenches because we don’t seem to be excelling in the development department. Crowder is also not very vocal and taking his time in the recruiting game but from what I can gather his top five will probably be Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. He has yet to cut his list down but will be doing that in the next week or so. Clemson is recruiting him the hardest though and is in a good position.
The staff will bring in a lot of these lineman to camp to get a better evaluation in the coming weeks. I am sure the new recruit will be an undervalued, underrated gem. Some possibilities to be given that title include Maverick Morris, Brandon Smith (ECU commit who actually is somewhat undervalued), and Jesse Karnezis. Taylor Chambers of Irmo, SC is also a legit prospect and has only been playing football for two years. He has the height at 6'7" and is working on becoming stronger. As you can tell I am disappointed that we put so much of an emphasis on getting Kublanow. Defense to follow in part 2...