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Signing Day Primer

Crest HS's Jonathan Bullard is a must-get for Clemson
Crest HS's Jonathan Bullard is a must-get for Clemson

The Clemson Tigers go into the third week of December with 20 verbal commitments for their 2012 recruiting class. The Tigers would like to close the class with at least 22 and possibly as many as 25, as things stand today. If we get any more commitments, there will need to be attrition on the current roster.

There is not a clear headliner of the commitments on the board so far, but there are three prospects with cases to be considered Clemson’s top commitment; Tallahassee, FL defensive back Travis Blanks, Forest City, NC defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, and Buffalo, NY quarterback Chad Kelly. Blanks is one of the elite defensive backs in the nation, and an early enrollee who projects to compete for immediate playing time in Clemson’s secondary next year, at corner, safety or nickel. Considering our depth issues at both positions, its unlikely he'd redshirt. Watkins is the best defensive tackle prospect to commit to the Tigers since Brandon Thompson, and he will compete for a spot on the 2-deep as soon as he steps on campus this summer. Kelly is not as highly regarded a prospect as either of the above two, however, he plays the most important position on the field and brings an excellent pedigree and tons of athletic ability to the program. He will certainly be one of Clemson’s most high profile players over the duration of his Tiger career.

Of the remaining commitments, several are very promising. Charlotte Berry wide receiver Germone Hopper is an excellent prospect. The 2012 recruiting class is not particularly strong in the state of South Carolina, but Clemson has taken quite a few instate commitments. Of the 11 prospects from South Carolina committed, the best of the bunch appear to be Daniel defensive end Shaq Lawson, Bamberg defensive lineman Martin Aiken, Silver Bluff defensive back Cordrea Tankersley and Allendale defensive back Ronald Geohaghan.

Clemson is not currently in serious jeopardy of losing any of its current commitments to another school via decommitment, however several kids, including South Aiken’s Josh Brown and Woodruff’s Javarius Leamon, are considered academic risks. It would not be surprising to see a defection from one of those two to a school like Marshall or ECU that could offer immediate enrollment regardless of whether or not they qualify under NCAA standards. Or they could sign with Clemson but end up at a prep school or junior college next fall. At the moment, we are very pessimistic about Leamon getting into Clemson next August unless we get an LD waiver. If he goes to JUCO, its unlikely he'll ever play a down at Clemson because of our academic restrictions.

The academic news is not all bad, however. Clemson should have 7 of their 20 commitments enrolled by the start of the spring semester. Blanks, T Oliver Jones, G Patrick Destefano, T Isaiah Battle and C Jay Guillermo, punter Brad Pinion and defensive lineman Kevin Dodd are all in position to enroll early. Blanks, Battle, Dodd and Pinion should all be in position to compete for positions as contributors on the 2012 team this spring. Destefano, Jones and Guillermo will probably all redshirt for the 2012 season, as most OL should.

For the remaining spots in this class, Clemson’s heaviest priorities are along the defensive line and at running back. Clemson’s top overall target remaining on the board is Shelby, NC defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard. Bullard has been hands down the best prospect on either team at the Shrine Bowl, and will play in the US Army All American All Star game in January. He will make his college decision next Wednesday, and right now Clemson is the team to beat over Florida. His recruitment has taken several twists and turns over the past 11 months, so it is certainly not a done deal, but if current trends hold and Bullard commits to Clemson, he would be expected to play from the two deep as soon as he steps on campus. Greensboro, NC defensive tackle DJ Reader has also drawn positive reviews at the Shrine Bowl. Reader is going to choose between Clemson, Maryland and North Carolina. With turmoil at UNC and UMD, Clemson has taken the lead in Reader’s recruitment. It will be interesting to see if UNC and its new coaching staff is able to pull Reader away from Clemson over the next month. Clemson is also recruiting defensive ends Kenderious Whitehead from Lithonia, GA and Dante Fowler from St. Petersburg, FL. Whitehead is a strong UGA lean and Fowler is a Florida State commitment. However, if they come on campus for official visits, Clemson could give them something to think about. We imagine that if Bullard goes to us, the recruitment of the others will end.

Clemson’s top priorities at running back are Tarboro, NC’s Todd Gurley and Stone Mountain, GA’s Mike Davis. With current starter Andre Ellington considering a jump to the NFL, and freshman backup Mike Bellamy on thin ice, the possibility of early playing time for a 2012 running back recruit has made itself available in a way that it was not over the majority of the recruiting cycle. As a result, Clemson has increased it’s emphasis on recruiting a running back, and several top regional backs have reciprocated that interest. Gurley, who checks in at 6’1 185 and has excellent track speed, is currently considering Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia, and NC State. Georgia and North Carolina have been the frontrunners for almost the entirety of the process, but Gurley has grown more and more interested in Clemson lately. Davis, the younger brother of former Clemson back James Davis, committed to Florida in the spring without receiving much interest from Clemson at all. After decommitting from Florida earlier this month, Davis got a Clemson offer. Family ties are strongly in Clemson’s favor here, but it will be interesting to see if Clemson’s coaches can build a rapport with Mike in time for signing day. His running style is very similar to his older brother’s.

Clemson is also recruiting several other prospects. Gaffney wideout Quinshad Davis has been on the radar for over a year, and would like to commit to Clemson. The only question is whether or not he has a spot. Clemson did offer him but when Hopper came on board, we cooled. Clemson stated at the time that they had no more room. Clemson coaches should make their decision on that before too long. We think it is a mistake not to take a guy with 100 catches for 2000 yards in his senior season in 4A Big 16 football, and over 4000 in his career. If Clemson does not take, expect him to go to Wake Forest or Tennessee. Offensive line is another place Clemson may try to oversign. Eden Prarie, MN’s Nick Davidson is the top candidate at the moment, but if questions persist about Leamon’s grades, Clemson may be forced to expand their search if they want another tackle. Davidson is currently a stretch because of Stanford's strong relationship, but Clemson has a good shot. His dad was a Panther's coach and he has many friends in Charlotte. Clemson is no longer pursuing former Miami and current Illinois-commit LB Keith Brown, since it appears Illinois offered his brother and will stand by the offer. We are not chasing another LB in the class, and we project Burrell is going to play more SS than WLB.

A dead period will begin Saturday at midnight through Jan 3rd. The only contact in this period is with early enrollees.