We now shift to the defensive side of the ball. The numbers are extremely thin here so the coaches are being extra selective. Here are the projected offensive and defensive numbers by position for 2014.
DB 2 (probably one Safety and one CB)
Magic number at position: 15 (for both DE and DT combined--just like it was 15 for the OL, 7-8 each position)
Current number on scholarship: 8
Takes this cycle: 2 (previously thought it would be one but looking more and more like a solid 2)
I think the number is more likely going to be one DE rather than two (we have no seniors graduating at the position this year). After whiffing on Nkemdiche and Lawson last year, this class of DE's prospects who like/favor Clemson doesn't compare. We aren't in the running for the truly elite guys like Da'Shawn Hand at this time. It makes missing out on those guys last year even harder--there just isn't the elite talent in the Southeast at the DE position this year compared to past years in the region. Our highest rated, plausible targets are 5*'s Kentavious Street and Lorenzo Carter.
Street (6'4 260, Greenville NC) listed Clemson in his top 2 very early in the process with VT but we have since dropped. He recently cancelled a scheduled visit and unless we get him on campus again, I don't think we are a serious contender going forward. He is originally from Georgia and also a legacy with FSU--both of those schools have a commanding lead. Street is a bit overrated at this point in my opinion. He is certainly a top 100 player, I could be convinced of top 50 based on projected talent but Rivals has him #14 overall. He has a long wingspan and is still growing into his frame.
Lorenzo Carter (6'5 225, Norcross GA) is currently focused on his basketball team but will soon switch full-time to focusing on recruiting and football. He probably has Alabama and Georgia at the top of his list with Clemson, FSU, and Florida rounding out his top teams (although the gap between us and the top two teams is a grand chasm). He is also rumored to have grown up a Miami fan. He is friends with Alvin Kamara (the elite back who signed with Alabama that Clemson didn't have room for in 2013 despite his wanting to commit), which helps Alabama considerably. Norcross GA is always pretty talented so it would have been nice to have a strong connection to the school. He visited last year during the South Carolina game which I don't think particularly helped us with going against these top SEC schools.
(*Complete tangent but recently heard that Dye still has a little bit of work to do to qualify--yes, too early to comment on this and probably irresponsible of me. But if we let Kamara go elsewhere, only to pick a kid who ends up not qualifying then I will be very disappointed/ballistic. Let me also say that Dye should be fine, no need to panic just yet but you never like to hear that it could potentially be close...)
Right now Carter is all about his athleticism and quickness off the edge. He is just very powerful and explosive--a raw athlete who will need to add weight and more pass rush moves. We are after him very hard with Hobby and Venables reaching out consistently but we are currently not getting much traction compared to Bama and the Dawgs. If we could pull him in this cycle it would be a monumental achievement by the staff. I just don't see it happening right now.
The guy sitting at the top of our board is Andrew Williams (6'4 240). Coach Hobby really wants him and has built a solid relationship with Williams since he camped with Clemson last year and was a standout performer. He is a long 6'4, 240 lbs athlete with a huge wingspan who totaled 18 sacks as a junior. He has publicly said that relationships with coaching staffs will be a big deal and his top two are probably Notre Dame and Clemson right now. His brother plays at Georgia Tech but is not expected to factor into his recruitment at all.
Williams had Clemson out in the lead earlier in his recruitment but has since opened things up and is enjoying the process. He has received an eye-popping 44 total scholarship offers. He still wants to visit a number of schools this summer (he just visited South Bend) which will most likely include Clemson, Tennessee, Ohio State, Auburn (where he is being recruited by my fave Rodney Gardner), and Georgia among others. He hopes to have a top ten by the end of the summer. Hobby has been trying to gently push him toward an early commit but I don't see that happening.
The good news is that Clemson and Notre Dame are the two schools he consistently/always says will make the cut. We are in the lead group here and positioned well to land this top 100 player.
Next on the board in probably the freakishly long Lorenzo Featherston (6'7-8, 215) from Greensboro, N.C. Page. He reminds me a bit of Devin Taylor because of his length but at this point is still growing into his body (which he may continue to do for a very long time). I was surprised though by how powerful and violent he is on tape at that height and weight, however. He is certainly a projection but he has been pretty productive with 24 tfl and 12 sacks last season. He needs to obviously get stronger but he moves well and has enough flexibility to play the position despite his size.
I have only seen limited film on him right now and will be interested to see how he progresses in his senior year. He would be a solid 2nd DE pick-up in my opinion, a guy who would come in and redshirt certainly (we would then be relying on S&C to put on that needed 30+ pounds of muscle which is a tall order). I would be nervous about him being our only DE take this year though. Featherston is hovering in the 100-150 national player range. He visited Clemson in early February and had a good visit. He has verbals from NC State, UNC, and Tennessee who are after him hard (Jay Graham again making his presence felt in North Carolina). He wants an Alabama offer and is waiting to see what other schools end up offering at this point.
High on the staff's list is Jesse Aniebonam (6'4 230) of Olney, Our Lady of Good Counsel (MD) who was scheduled to visit on April 13th but had to cancel. He has strong connections to many of his former teammates like our Dorian O'Daniel and VT's Kendall Fuller. He has yet to narrow down his choices significantly but has said that he would like to make a decision by the end of the summer. He has a lot of offers (upwards of 15) and is a top 150-200 player but some of the schools standing out are Maryland, VT, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, WV and UNC. He has also visited Notre Dame and apart from the Terps, I would consider them our main competition at this point.
Maryland is a big player here, partly because they have strategically tried to make it a pipeline school for them. They are trying to capitalize on landing major recruit WR Stephon Diggs a couple of years back, along with adding a bunch of other Good Counsel players. They didn't get Fuller or O'Daniel last year as top targets but they do have Mike Locksley (a very good recruiter) as his lead recruiter right now. Aniebonam has good quickness and improving technique. He plays hard and his motor never stops running. Another high character kid from that Olney team.
Goose Creek's Kalan Ritchie (6'5 225) was also an option because last year it seemed like he wanted to jump from TE to DE. He has South Carolina on top over Clemson and we want him as a DE so that looks less and less likely. I keep hearing the name Corey Thomas (6'5 275) as well. He is out of McCalla, Alabama (I honestly know nothing of the football in this region right now) and his tape has been making the rounds and he is gaining some interest from bigger programs like FSU and Miami. He has Mississippi State above us and Memphis but that is because they offered early and he visited there. He was supposed to make a trip recently and will be in during the summer sometime. I think the staff sees this kid as an undervalued diamond in the rough type, one that they can hopefully keep under wraps a bit and stowed in the back pocket if the higher targets fizzle. Good strategy.
Also keep an eye on recently offered Peyton Newell of Hiawatha KS. He was offered by Brent Venables (not sure if there is any inside connection here), Newell has been racking up the offers lately despite being a high 3* type. Early Boston College commit Harold Landry (6'4 230) from Pine Forest. N.C. is another one to watch. Clemson and South Carolina recently offered but for the moment he is saying that he is staying committed to the Eagles.