I have been down with wicked food poisoning after my sister's wedding and then got stranded by United Airlines for five days so my apologies for the absence and this disjointed post full of things from two weeks ago (Yep, even some Shrine Bowl stuff from last year). Feel free to ask me anything in the comments so we can catch up!!
The Shrine Bowl has come and gone and with it comes the opportunity to view Carolina commits head to head and start to gauge how good a job our coaches have done with their evaluations. Before the Army and Under Armor all-star spectaculars came to fruition, the Shrine Bowl meant a lot more. These days players have all the camps and chances at exposure and don't need the Shrine Bowl to become visible in the way they once did. Doesn't mean that the occasional Spencer Shuey doesn't show up but it is increasingly rare.
So what did we learn about Clemson commits and prospects?
OL Taylor Hearn (6'5 300) was up and down. He came in as a back-up and the first day played like one but got more comfortable and played decent in the game. I still don't understand not taking another lineman in this class.
NC LB Chris Register (6'4 250??) played very well. He hits hard, loves to play and did well diagnosing plays. Kid is just thick and it sounds like a brick wall when he really hits someone. He will struggle in space and can't turn his hips like a McMillan which keeps him from being regarded as an elite prospect for evaluators. I think you can pencil him in as a DE at Clemson (perhaps playing a kind of hybrid position) because he is clearly not 240 pounds. I think he could be at 260 without too much time or effort. He still needs to develop his lower body just a bit and may need a redshirt year but how his body matures will decide where he ends up. The coaches have told him he can be a LB though so it will depend on how he responds to our S&C.
NC DT Jabril Robinson (6'2 250) was solid but not spectacular. He isn't a 2* scrub but he isn't a 4* gem either. My questions are still the same with him, he isn't a college DE (if he is then we are stupid for spurning a 6'3 legacy out of GA in Andrew Butcher but that is an entirely different hornets nest) and we do not know how he will play with an additional forty pounds added to his frame. With all the available DT's that we could have pursued I still scratch my head on this one. I will give Coach Brooks the benefit of the doubt but Robinson is certainly a project.
Daniel HS RB Jae'lon Oglesby (5'10 175) impressed me. I sure hope he can get his grades situated and at least get into prep school. He is an elite athlete who would be more highly rated if he went to camps and didn't commit so early. He still needs to add 20 pounds of muscle but on a bad knee he is still elusive and electric. He is also a natural receiver out of the backfield and would be a weapon in the offense.
NC WR Trevion Thompson (6'2 190) had a good week of practice and showed that he could play in the all-star game setting. He also played well in the Semper Fidelis all-star game but will Clemson ultimately push for his commitment. He now lists Ohio State, Clemson, West Virginia, UNC and N.C. State as his top five. Ohio State is full right now and probably won't take him. NC State thought they had him committed about a month ago but he didn't pull the trigger and wanted to wait until signing day (love that Hillside High independent streak). West Virginia is an interesting visit he has planned on January 24th--feels like a solid back-up plan if Clemson doesn't come through but he will visit Clemson on the 17th. We keep talking to Trey Quinn but it will most likely be Thompson or no one at WR.
NC DE Lorenzo Featherston (6'7 235) was a scratch and so the player that everyone wanted to see the most wasn't available. We still have no exact idea on what you get out of Featherston. He has been hampered this season and lately with an undisclosed injury (presumably some kind of groin or sports hernia but nothing has been confirmed). He has the potential to be a ravenous beast that rips down players with his wing span, quickness and fierce play. The ceiling is very high but so is the bust potential because you hear a lot of work ethic questions and he definitely will need lots of time in the weight room.
Featherston didn't play in the Under Armor All-Star Bowl so we will not get to see how big of a project he really is. I personally like Featherston as a prospect. If you are going to reach--then reach for a guy who has an elite ceiling and be prepared if he just can't stay healthy or gain any weight. If we had a better track record with our S&C program then I would love this potential pick-up. But Featherston pulled a fast one that left everyone pretty shocked (including the FSU coaching staff). Clemson was told as recently as last week that they were in the lead, with FSU second and Florida trying to make a run.
We just never really knew completely with Featherston but the relationship with Chris Register seemed to put Clemson at the top along with his visits and relationship with the Clemson coaching staff. Disappointing DE recruiting this year, especially with the emergence of Vic Beastly.
Also hearing it is essentially a three team race for GA DE Andrew Williams (6'4 245) with Auburn leading, followed by Clemson and then Ole Miss the dark horse. Auburn folks seem to think they have the strong inside track here and the coaching staff needs to watch out or they will lose this one. He will take his official visit to Clemson or Auburn on the 17th or the 31st. As you know the 17th is the big recruiting weekend for Clemson but it also is a big weekend for Auburn as well. The school he picks that weekend might show who has an inside track on Williams (and he picks the 17th for Auburn and the 31st for Clemson, which means that he will be around all of the Auburn recruits that weekend and hardly anyone at Clemson but Clemson gets the final say). Auburn has the advantage right now and hard to pick against them lately. Garner is recruiting him hard.
If Clemson whiffs on both defensive end prospects then I think you will see us ramp up our efforts to turn FL LB/DE Richard Yeargin III, especially being so close by the bowl in South Florida. Not much traction right now as Yeargin personally wants to be at Notre Dame but family wanting him a bit closer to home. We need to add another DE to this class--even if Vic Beasley decides to stay (no reason to think that he will not ultimately jump but I thought he would have announced already so I am enjoying the small possibility he stays). Let me quickly put in a plug for the S&C staff to monitor the weight of Shaq Lawson day and night--we can't afford him to 'develop' into a 3-tech--he must stay under 280-285 and play the strongside DE.
Current Tennessee commit DE Cory Thomas (6'6 265) from AL is visiting January 17th and might be looking for a new home with the size of Tennessee's current class. Mississippi State is also getting a visit on January 24th and I would put them ahead of us if we miss on Andrew Williams. I have seen calls to grab Poona Ford since he recently de-committed and has told USCjr that he is not going there but DT is probably the deepest position on the team currently. I'm alright with passing on the DT's this year because I think Scott Pagano can be a starter and Watson should get the redshirt year (although is you give me the choice between Jabril Robinson and Poona I take Poona every time (not just for the name)--I don't buy the he is too short argument because he has an insane wingspan) but that again puts pressure on 2015 to land one elite prospect like Shy Tuttle or Albert Huggins. 2015 needs to be a top 10 class for Clemson.
The departure of Bashaud Breeland hurts our chances to be special next year. He was clearly the best defensive back by far and with his departure the staff is re-thinking taking a DB. I hear that the GA Safety DJ Smith (6'0 190) ship has pretty much sailed but a name to keep an eye on is JC Jackson from Immokalee FL who is friends with Mackensie Alexander. Jackson was on campus for the Citadel game and I have been hearing for about a month now that we have been trying to get him on campus but primarily to play WR. Now it is either WR or DB but FSU is the clear favorite here because he is related to FSU commit Ermon Lane.
Now FSU is also after 5* AL DB Marlon Humphrey who we have tried to attract with no luck to this point.
We tried to get another big name WR from FL to give us a visit but that didn't materialize.
I like Blythewood SC LB Jalen Williams a lot, in fact I love him as a grayshirt but don't want to see this open scholarship given to him. That would represent a failure of the coaching staff to manage effectively the roster and plan for attrition.
***Also hearing about a potential crack in this year's currently committed recruiting class. Right now this is just a good class, top 20, couple more guys and you get near top 15 range, which is where you want Clemson consistently. If you lose any guys from the committed core then you have to consider this class a disappointment. Swinney and the staff have had ample time to build long lasting relationships with recruits but have come up short for some of the elite talent that would get us to the next level. We can't get a two deep of 5* guys with a sprinkling of high 4*'s but we can field 11 near elite players.
I am beginning to transition into the camp that sees all of these second place finishes as alarming. It is one thing to finish second for a national top 50 recruit like McMillan or Malone but this year it extends to Trey Quinn, Rick Leonard, and Featherston among others. We need to be careful we aren't being complacent. This class puts a lot of pressure on 2015 to be excellent (and it can be) but we need to improve our recruiting staff and stop giving out freebies if we want to compete for national championships.
Florida State had complete turnover in their staff last year but they brought in the right people and only got better. Tennessee was always a sleeping giant on the recruiting trail and had a good crop of in-state talent this year but they hired ace recruiter Thigpen to their staff and they are reaping the dividends. We stupidly turned away really great talent last year because there was no room in the inn and some of our recruiting staff (RB and TE coaches in particular) aren't pulling in top talent yet.
We don't need to reinvent the wheel this offseason but we could stand to have an oil change and tune-up. Without that we may find ourselves fighting harder and harder to ever crack the top ten in recruiting.