This post is all about the positives. I have admittedly been pretty down because of the shift of Bud Robinson back to Florida. Still looks like he is going to end up picking Florida. That does not mean that we don't have some good things happening right now.
First I think the LSU win will have a bigger impact on this class than others think. I do agree that almost always one single game doesn't change that much with recruits committing in the same year, certainly not bowl games. But this game is a bit different because it gives the staff the ammunition to battle the SEC superiority claims that are beating us up on the race to the finish line of this class.
It helps those who are currently committed and thinking about committing to not feel embarrassed about going to the ACC. Top level recruits interact more than ever on Twitter and at all-star games and they watch the bowl week games together. LSU/Clemson was a prime-time slot and a game everyone was watching. A recruit could be proud of the ACC and more importantly Clemson after this game. Swinney also uses his face time/interview to make an emotional splash that attracts recruits and keeps Clemson relevant beyond the day of the game. The man has even embraced the 'We Too Deep' mantra of the players and said it on stage at the trophy acceptance. That resonates with recruits.
Lastly, we have a lot of top level talent on the fence and this staff has proven that they just need a little momentum to help finish strong. Dabo will get the maximum out of this win and I see it helping us land a few more recruits and solidify this class. Florida has been using the SEC card as well as Georgia. Adams will give Florida an official visit from Montravious Adams (5* DT) right after the Under Armor game and they will try to pull the SEC card again but I don't think it will resonate as much with Adams after this game. I still feel good about our chances of landing Adams. The recruiting coordinator for Georgia just moved to Auburn--we will see if that helps Auburn and really hurts Georgia. I think this is a Clemson, Georgia battle right now.
Adrian Baker (3* CB, FL) de-committed from FSU after Stoops left and is down to Oklahoma and Clemson. Clemson has the advantage here and judging by his reactions to the game on Twitter (he was definitely rooting for the Tigers) that was only helped by Clemson's win. He had a great visit to Clemson and has always cited Clemson as one of his favorites. Oklahoma has gotten in late and while Baker hasn't said distance is a factor, I don't see him really wanting to stray too far from Florida. Baker will be a solid addition to the CB stable. He has length and good enough hips to be a pure cover corner and not a hybrid player.
Mackensie Alexander (4/5* CB, FL) is at the USA Army All-American game is talking to more reporters than he probably has at any point in his recruitment. I am obviously not there and with Alexander you need to always to everything he says with a grain of salt but he seems to being saying between the lines that Clemson has been in a stronger position than even I thought.
If you have read my recruiting updates you know I have been more bullish on our chances of landing Alexander, especially with Stoops leaving FSU. The schools you are hearing now are Rutgers, Clemson, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Alabama and Florida.
Rutgers is late to the party and certainly a surprise. I think they are his latest flavor of the month but he likes their defensive scheme and they have produced some talented DB's lately. It also sounds like Rutgers will make this a package deal with his brother (who may or may not qualify but it sounds like he is getting closer). No one has ever been sure about how connected the two really are. Mackensie recently said that his mom really wants them to play together and that he wants to play with his brother but its unclear whether or not this is a deal-breaker. I am not too worried about Rutgers unless he takes an official visit there.
A&M seems to be fading slightly and Kentucky is back in there after Stoops got hired. Florida also popping up is a surprise with another 5* Vernon Hargreaves committed but I think this is about Joker Phillips at Florida (who is turning into a monster recruiter for them and an absolute steal of an addition to a staff as a WR coach) who had a relationship with Alexander when he was at Kentucky. Bama is always a threat.
Clemson has a lot of factors working in our favor. We have the childhood favorite factor and he enjoyed his official visit. He has also made friends with Clemson players like Sammy Watkins and some of our recruits. Jayron Kearse must be applauded for being 'All In' and really recruiting hard for us. He has been in the ear of Alexander and Baker and as a fellow Floridian is helping Clemson with both of these guys. Also saw that David Kamara was very happy that Clemson won along with multiple 2014 recruits like Demarre Kitt (I'll start rolling out 2014 coverage of potential recruits and commits soon).
Ebenezer Ogundeko and Tyrone Crowder remain Tiger leans. Ogundeko will decide between Syracuse and Clemson during the Under Armor game as well and then will enroll early. I will be very surprised if he goes with Cuse, especially with their coach Marrone potentially exiting to take an NFL head coaching position.
My personal positives from the LSU game
- Sticking with players. Dabo should be commended for sticking by Catman when his all-world practice performances weren't translating on the field. He has been absolute money in the bank this year, missing only one and he has also extended his range. As a previous commented stated--this isn't Jad Dean and Bowden. Quandon Christian misses an interception but then comes in and makes a great play for a sack. How many times in the past has he over-run the QB? Not tonight. Goodman was a man possessed and like I have been saying--I will never again mock the hands. Grady Jarrett and Goodman really got in the backfield and played at an elite level.
- Not giving up after mistakes. Mental Toughness. I know I personally was seeing shades of Alabama after Sammy got knocked out of the game. I thought we didn't have that mental toughness edge against South Carolina when we faced adversity. Boyd deserves credit for staying in shape all season and developing into a leader. I know I have been hard on him. He didn't get rattled and he didn't get down on the team. He has legit quickness against the best in the SEC. He didn't force it and throw an interception or cough up the ball and when AE fumbled he kept the players together.
- Chad stayed with the run and proved the HUNH can work against the best teams in college football. Hot Rod showed up this year and carried the load towards the end of the game. He was excellent in blocking, especially on the 4th and 16 play. He makes me less worried about the RB position going into next year. He doesn't dance anymore and hit the hole with authority against LSU (Derrick Green 4/5* RB recruit is still looking for a team and would have been a likely Clemson commit if we stayed with him but this is a positive post). AE also caught some nice balls and I saw Tajh throw the best swing pass to a back out in the flat that I have seen all season.
- The defense played its best game of the season. Hard nose practices and one on one's, best on best make a difference in tackling and toughness. It is true that we seem to play better against pro style offenses but I think players are finally jelling in Brent V's system. Venables also helped out with the DB's during the extended prep and it showed. I personally am a fan of what Venables is doing and I think we showed steady progress throughout the season. Travis Blanks had a great interception. It wasn't some ACC QB lob that was picked off or a serious QB error--this was a great read and step in front of a pass. I am excited about Blanks as a Safety next year.