This time of year everyone has a top ten list and they are lame. My only justification for producing this one is that it is an easy way to introduce the community to some of our main targets and give a general summary of where I would rank them. Also I turned it into a 'dandy dozen'. I am working on a larger position by position analysis of targets, so this is a one time deal. Right now Clemson is planning on only taking a very small class. Publicly they are saying (and telling prospects) that it will be in the 15 range, probably 15-17. I think the 15 number is partly to try and entice players to jump on spots and that is a fine strategy but the numbers will be tight. I am hoping we decide to go closer to 18-20 if the right talent is available but right now it sounds like we will be lucky to reach 17.
Unfortunately we didn't run this by the state of South Carolina, which decided to have a good year for in-state talent, especially for DT's. USCjr will also be having a relatively small class as well (but I think they still will push it close to 20 when it is all said and done). The state of South Carolina will not have a great year in 2015 with only a handful of top prospects, 2-3 top 250 guys, and Clemson isn't positioned all that well with many of them right not. All of these players in the top 12 have substantive interest in Clemson (most have us in the lead group--guys like Lorenzo Carter or Kentavious Street would be on the list if I thought there was a good enough chance to land them). Remember this is a subjective list and based on no real substantive metrics.
1. QB DeShaun Watson (6'4 190, Gainesville, GA) DeShaun is the real deal and absolutely worth putting all of our QB eggs in his basket. He has the quick release, arm strength that will only continue to improve, athleticism and intangibles to be the future at the QB position for the Tigers. His skill set is made for this offense. He is one of the top three QB's in the nation (arguably the best), with offers from everyone in the nation. He is also connected to lots of the major talent in Georgia. Kitt, Glass, McMillan, Milan Richards, etc. National Championship caliber quarterback and might be the most talented QB to step foot on the Clemson campus as a commit.
2. DT Andrew Brown (6'4 285, Chesapeake, VA) Brown is arguably the top DT in the country. He is a rare blend of size and athleticism at the position. Slimmed down from his Sophomore to Junior year and has frame to add another 15 lbs of muscle. He is explosive getting off the ball and can either rush the passer or control the line against the run. Elite pass rushing ability. Plays with good leverage and pad level for a player with his size. He uses his hands very well and is disruptive, pushing lineman back. Smart kid as well who knows how to read tendencies this early in his playing career.
3. RB Dalvin Cook (5'11 195, Miami Central, FL) Cook is the closest thing I have seen to CJ Spiller. Last year I couldn't believe that Joseph Yearby, his teammate, was ranked higher than Cook. Cook has an amazing burst and is threat to score any time he touches the ball. This includes kickoffs and punt returns as well. But what makes him elite is that he is not just a speed guy--he is compact and can make yards after the catch as well. Also can catch the ball out of the backfield so not much not to like here. His high school coach just got a job as the RB coach for USF, however. Yearby recently flipped from FSU to Miami so this recruitment is a long way from being over and will go until the fax comes in. Clemson is being smart here though and keeping feelers out for other RB/ATH's in case Cook jumps ship. We are only taking 2 RB's again this coming year.
4. RB/ATH Elijah Hood (6'0 215, Charlotte NC) More elite talent from Charlotte!! He is a bruising runner who never goes down with the first contact. Amazing balance and a fun RB to watch play the game. He has good to great speed and lacks that elite top gear but he will absolutely run you over and does not shy away from contact. He could play RB or LB at the next level. At one point Clemson was recruiting him as a LB where he had slight preference to play but that has changed and he will be a RB at the next level. Was surprised to see Rivals rank him #12 overall. I have loved watching his highlights so I can see how analysts can just fall in love with him as a prospect. Notre Dame is said to have the big inside lead followed by UNC but Clemson has positioned itself well and will be in it down the stretch. I have Cook slightly ahead because of what he brings as an all-around back, Hood still needs to work on catching the ball out of the backfield, but really this is 3a and 3b.
5. WDE Andrew Williams (6'4 245, McDonough, GA) Clemson is very big on Williams and he is at the top of the board. Coach Hobby has done a nice job here building a long-term relationship. We have been in on Williams for a long time and we are near the top of his list although he will release an official top 5 at the end of this month. He is more of a high upside prospect at this point. Great frame and length with explosiveness and some quickness off the edge. Needs to add weight and maintain the same speed though. He is probably a bit too high on the list right now but we aren't well positioned for the more elite DE talents in this class yet. That could quickly change though.
6. LB Raekwon McMillan (6'3 235, Hinesville, GA) McMillan is an impressive physical specimen. He can play inside or potentially outside as well. He has a great burst so he can both fill the lane effectively and blitz/rush the QB. He is not afraid to make contact and run over opposing RB's. He is possibly the most physically college ready LB prospect in the country. Still needs to work on playing in space and change of direction. Everyone is after him but he has Clemson and Ohio State at the top. Ohio State once had a lead over us but we are both now sitting firmly at the top for him. Another of the prospects from GA that are friends with Kitt, Watson, etc.
7. WR Demarre Kitt (6'1 195, Tyrone/Sandy Creek, GA) Kitt has been a big name prospect for a long time now. He is a natural receiver and by that I mean that he catches the ball away from his body in a relaxed manner, has good body control and positioning, and is smart on the field. He knows how to get open against zones and use his body to shield defenders. He is more quick than fast (runs a 4.59 40 right now) but he reminds me of DeAndre Hopkins because he is deceptively quick on the field. He high points the ball and makes catches in traffic/over the middle. If he had a bit more breakaway speed he would be a top 10-15 player. He would fit in very well with Clemson's offense where he can productively play inside, whereas with other schools he might be stuck outside and not be as effective. He has a top 15 of all the big names but has said that Ohio State and Clemson stick out at the top right now.
8. CB Jalen Tabor (6'1 180, Friendship Academy, Washington DC) Tabor is a tall corner who has great ball skills. One of the elite corners this year and top 25-50 overall. He has great hands and for years has performed well against upper class receivers at 7-7's and camps around the country. What separates him is his size and speed at the position along with his instincts and break on the ball. It is a bit of a stretch to include him because we aren't firmly in contention but are listed in his top 8 along with schools like Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio State, LSU recently, Michigan, FSU and even Maryland where many of his teammates are going.
9. DT Dexter Wideman (6'4 280, Saluda SC) Wideman is aggressive and tough. He plays with a good motor and is quick off the ball. Has the height and frame to carry more good weight and maintain his ability to disrupt and make quick penetration. He loves his swim move but he also needs to learn to play with a bit of a better pad level because he can pop up too much at times. At times he looks more like a DE than a DT but he has the strength and frame to stay inside. Clemson and South Carolina are said to be on top. National 150 player.
10. WR Trevion Thompson (6'3 180, Hillside, Durham NC) Thompson is tall and lanky. He needs to add more muscle for the next level but he still plays physical. I'm actually conflicted with Thompson because at times I see a top 25 player who has great hands, leaping ability, separation, and route running. Makes good cuts out of breaks. Other times I see a top 150 type player who is good to great but not exactly elite. I will be interested in combines and senior year tape (or more junior tape) to see if he has straight line speed to play outside. Right now he may be more quick than fast and sometimes I question his burst. I absolutely think he is a great prospect, however, and he shows great potential. Clemson, Florida, and Ohio State stand out.
11. TE Jeb Blazevich (6'5 230, Charlotte NC) What is there not to like about Jeb?? I will be extremely sad if he chooses another school because he has become easily one of my favorite recruits to follow. Jeb is a really good pass catching TE prospect who has experience working on the line and flexing out (perfect for the versatility of The Chad's offense). Advanced as a route runner, he is smooth for a guy his size with elite hands. He has good enough bend, flexibility, and power as an evolving run blocker on the line. He may not have the straight line speed of other athletes at the position but he is fast enough to be a threat down the seam. Can break tackles after the catch as well. Number 11 is probably too low for Jeb but I am already a fan so I wanted to try to maintain some semblance of critical distance. Jeb is also a high character kid and carries himself publicly very well. Really feels like a Dabo Clemson type of character recruit (and I mean that in a good way). Here he is on RecruitingNation--hard not to root for him already. We are a part of a top six schools that he is going to visit. A decision (that I believe will be a final decision that is stuck to) will come at the end of the spring and certainly before school starts.
12. OT Mason Cole (6'5 280, Tarpon Springs, FL) Clemson seemed to have the inside edge with Mason but then he visited Michigan and pulled the trigger on a commitment to the Wolverines. I keep him on the end of the list because we aren't taking many OL again this cycle and I know the staff deems Cole oversign worthy (here meaning the staff will sign over their own positional player allotments--we have 19 Olineman right now and they ideally want 18 with only one coming off the board) so just like Crowder this cycle we want to land Cole. Top 100 player who has the size and long arms you want at tackle. He is athletic enough to play tackle but could also play guard as a kind of swing player. He would be top 5 if he were still in play.
DB Todd Kelly Jr--Would be higher and on the list if Tennessee didn't seem like they had the inside edge. Top 100 player who has listed Clemson is a way too early top 10. Getting a lot of attention, good size and physicality in the secondary.
DB Wesley Green--I like the film of this kid out of GA. One to keep an eye on if higher targets fall. He performed well at the recent All-American Combine and has listed Clemson as a player in his recruitment.
OG Donnell Stanley--I wish we were in a better position with this Latta SC standout. I loved him at Clemson's junior camp last year. Top lineman in the state and a top 50 player. South Carolina has a huge lead here (the reason he isn't on the list) and we can't seem to get him on campus enough. Another big O-line loss to the coots if he falls to them. They have another good O-line class with Spain, Stanley and others possibly committing.
DE Lorenzo Featherston--From Greensboro NC, he is high on Clemson and he is also just very tall. Standing 6-7 215 he is an intriguing prospect. He is receiving a lot more national attention and was very productive as a junior with 12 sacks and 24 tfl in only 8 games. We are seriously considering only taking 1 DE in this class so getting the best player is very important.