You have probably noticed I have been a bit quiet on the recruiting front. Well that is because despite what some are saying not a lot has changed. In fact, things have been about the same for some time now. This is Clemson's biggest recruiting weekend and not just for 2014 but also for setting up for 2015.
All of the coaches are going to be engaged all weekend long and the staff is dialed in--Jeff Scott deserves credit for having the foresight to set this up now and not the FSU weekend. We should be #5 overall tomorrow--not a bad spot to be during official visit weekend.
What do we know:
Let me lay out in as plain of language (as I am permitted) what is up with GA LB Raekwon McMillan (6'2, 245). His recruitment started with Clemson getting in early and sticking with him during the entire duration of the process. We have been steady. Dabo promised McMillan a couple of years ago that Clemson would rise to national prominence and unlike every other coach who promises some 'rebuilding and rebirth' of the program *cough* Tennessee, *cough* North Carolina, Clemson has delivered. That has stuck with McMillan.
We were the outright leaders at one point this summer and have always been near, if not on top of, the lead group. McMillan whittled down his other suitors to a list of about five but Georgia was late and didn't handle the recruitment of some of their top in-state guys very well, especially DeShaun Watson. A group of these Georgia recruits went together to some camps and competitions and formed a bond. Watson and Milan Richard are relationships that are working in our favor. After the implosion of Florida this year that really took them out of any dark horse staying power.
It has been Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson for awhile (again Georgia has never really been in this one). Ohio State really did a great job of impressing McMillan and Meyer sold him on playing away from home. After the trips though Ohio State would start to fade somewhat because McMillan really does want to be close enough to his family and brothers to be able to see them play their high school games as well. He can do that at Clemson or Bama. After that initial spike in interest, Ohio State has been playing catch-up. This level of interest in Ohio State shocked me, however, so I have been very cautious in calling this recruitment (for those of you who followed last year we learned from the Montravious Adams recruitment). What I am hearing is that this is a two team race with Alabama and Clemson.
Alabama has been a strong contender because of their pitch that they can get McMillan to the NFL. When Bama calls you listen--championships talk. They also were successful in putting it into Raekwon's head that Clemson's defense just wasn't at an elite level and that Clemson was all about Morris and flashy offense--go there if you want to be an offensive player but not defensive. Coach Venables defense this year has helped change that perception. The Georgia game was a good start but McMillan has seen Venables make progress and play at an elite level at times. His relationship with Coach V is also a positive in our direction.
The prestige of Alabama works in their favor along with the NFL but the early playing time is something that McMillan also values. Bama will tell him he can play but they will stick with all the process talk and losing Shuey, Christian and possibly Anthony make our depth chart very attractive right now.
McMillan will visit Clemson for his last real official visit (he might still go to Florida) and this visit will either solidify his position with Clemson or open the door for another team to slide in.
Josh Malone WR (6'2 190, TN) is choosing between Tennessee, FSU, Clemson and to a lesser degree Georgia. Tennessee has been the leader here for some time. Malone likes our scheme, early playing time, and some of the guys he has met. You might shake your head at Tennessee but they have a great set of recruiting coaches that are selling rebuilding, being close to home, and an emerging relationship with freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs who Malone bonded with during his official visit.
FSU is also rumored to be in the hunt and certainly there seems to be a Tennessee/FSU lead over Clemson right now. Malone will give Clemson a fair shot this weekend and I would expect that Sammy Watkins will play a role in his official visit but right now it seems that the closeness with Tennessee will be too much to overcome. There was a report that Malone only signed the rest of the financial aid agreements with all the remaining schools because it got leaked (presumably by FSU) that he signed the aid letter with Tennessee first. Remember that he will enroll early so we will know pretty soon, probably the first week in December. If Malone opts for Tenn then Clemson will ramp up its recruitment of Trevion Thompson and a couple of other receivers we continue to talk to.
Update*** Hearing that the Winston scandal has really hurt FSU and they aren't in the top tier anymore.
Notre Dame commit Richard Yeargin III (6'3 220) from Florida is supposed to be coming to Clemson but Notre Dame is trying to put a stop to this--we will see but the interest is certainly there for both parties. If he did come I could see him flipping because of his connection with Coach Venables and that family atmosphere--he is friends with Adrian Baker (comes from the same school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida). Yearby is being recruited as a defensive end and Clemson will take one or two of Yearby, Williams, and Featherston. Will update with confirmation that he indeed made it to campus because he missed an earlier flight to Clemson.
Clemson now seems to be the leader for Eagle's Landing, GA DE Andrew Williams (6'4 245) over Auburn. Williams has a great relationship with Coach Hobby but we pushed him to commit early and he wanted to continue to look around. Auburn coaches do not know where they stand with Williams right now and this is key. As of this writing I would put Clemson as the slight favorite but it is important to temper expectations and understand that Williams plays against weak competition in Georgia and isn't some slam dunk starter in year one like a Lawson or Adams last year. He is physically more ready than Featherston but will need to learn a lot of technique as he plays against better competition.
Lorenzo Featherston (6'7 235, NC) is status quo, which means we don't know all that much because he is such an enigma. Clemson has lead for awhile but Florida is also in on this recruitment. I see Florida trying to make a push if we add someone else before Lorenzo but Featherston is in for his official which might solidify our position on the top (this recruitment feels a lot like Alexander last year). Losing to Georgia Southern couldn't have helped you would think but you never know. We also lead (and have led) for DB D.J. Smith (6'0 195, Walton, GA) slightly over Tennessee and South Carolina.
The guys to watch for the 2015 visitors are NC S/LB Tanner Muse (6'4 210) who was a Clemson lean early in the process but now has UNC high on the list and OL Mason Veal (6'5 295, Charlotte, NC).
2015 WR Shadell Bell (6'3 200) from Decatur, GA committed to Clemson in the locker room after the game. He is an early 4* rank from Rivals and ESPN (although that is entirely too early) and I need to break down his film more to have something more substantive to say (my feeling is you really need junior film to really evaluate a player). Big body and target with good speed and strength--will have more on he and Noah Green and Van Smith, the other 2015 commits after we play South Carolina.
Demarcus Robinson was recently suspended by Florida for the rest of the season. Muschump said something about him needing to mature. This is absolutely true and there were serious red flags throughout his recruitment. You remember I was telling a Florida fan that I thought that Clemson was much better equipped to help Bud overcome these problems and that this was the primary reason his coach was in favor of his going to Clemson. Well that wasn't really believed by the UF people but now seems to really be true. At least we are certain that UF has been inadequate--could Clemson have suffered the same fate had he signed? Possibly, but it would have been a much better situation for Bud. Just another cautionary tale of listening to handlers and favoring the economic side of recruiting.
Now we play the waiting game...
(updates to follow in the comments..)