Apparently this was the weekend of preferred walk-ons and borderline recruits. I know that the staff really tried hard to get some top flight talent on campus but it just wasn't to be. I've waited to say anything (knowing that Green and Edmond would undoubtedly commit), biting my tongue and trying to give a reasoned response.
On the one hand we have been adamant about getting as close as possible to the 85 scholarship limit as possible but you never want to just add anybody, especially when you don't normally strong arm kids off the team and don't bring in JUCO's. Its not fair to these recruits to put them up against a Vernon Hargreaves II or Kendall Fuller but it has to sting that we have finished second in the running for potentially three of the nations top CB's (if we miss on Alexander). This means that for multiple cycles we have missed on landing elite talent for the DE and CB position (landing Alexander or Lawson would reverse this, of course). We obviously have the need at CB right now for anyone to come in and get quality playing time as a true freshman. These takes show just how much Venables is not fond of our current group of defensive backs. He and Reed want new blood and more depth.
Last week I said that the people we go after these next two weeks will give us an indication of how confident we feel closing on some of our bigger names. We haven't seen any scrambling for a DE, for example. Very good news. We may not feel as confident about Mackensie Alexander or Korrin Wiggins (who I think we should just consider a UNC pledge).
Carl Lawson didn't visit UNC this week. We will see if he and Adams visit Auburn together this weekend. I think this is a Tennessee/Clemson battle and we had the edge after our official but Tennessee is a very likely destination as well. He had a great official visit so the in-home visits will be crucial and probably what tips the scales in one direction or the other. We like to think of Dabo as a great closer (last year we didn't land any big late targets, however) and hopefully he can come through here.
Mackensie Alexander went on an official visit to Auburn this week. I think Clemson was a lot closer to securing him during the season than many people thought (he will always be a wildcard until the ink dries/fax is signed) because of his relation with Coach Cheese. He visited Auburn because of Cheese and during interviews at the Army game he hinted that a team was leading but he didn't know at that time because a change had happened. Yes, he says a lot of misleading things at times but the official visits do the talking. Ultimately Rutgers was a fascination and flirtation but I don't think he wants to stray too far away from the South. Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Clemson and Auburn have received officials and are in the thick of it. Florida has backed away because they feel they can land another top CB, Jalen Ramsey.
If Cheese had stayed at Clemson I think we would be in the lead position. We still could be but there is absolutely no way to tell. He has said that he might take a visit to a Big 12 school for his last visit and West Virginia is the only other school that I have heard his name associated with that makes any sense. Kentucky would be the other school to look out for. Auburn will make a late run but we are still in this. I just don't think that Alexander has given the staff any reason to feel comfortable about his decision and no one we take would challenge him for playing time.
As far as I can tell we are not in it with Mackenroe, the twin brother of Mackensie. He gives great (brutally honest with no filter) interviews like his brother and doesn't like people talking about his grades, a prime reason for his low ranking and lack of offers (same reason Andre Branch was lowly rated). This ship never set sail for Clemson. For the record, I think he will be a productive player at some school. He was playing out of position last year in a kind of LB hybrid and amasses 150 tackles. He certainly could have played in the nickel position for us.
James Clark (WR 4* 5'11, New Smyrna Beach, FL) also got a cookie cake from Ohio State. Take that cookie cake haters...the weather was also bad. I have thought this was another Clemson/UF battle with Ohio State on the outside looking in. Seems to me that continues to be the case. This one again going down to in-home battles with MuscleChamp who seems to be kicking out tails in closing on recruits this year (his SEC label doesn't hurt either). FYI, we think Clemson got into the game too late to be able to land this one.
But what of our commits...
Marcus Edmond is a take all day, in my opinion. Another pluck from NC State courtesy of Coach Reed on the staff. Edmond always wanted a Clemson offer though, grew up liking us, but we only came through now. He has legit speed at 4.4-4.5 and won the state 400 meter as a junior with time of 47 seconds flat. Good height at a shade under 6'1 and 170 pounds. He is lanky with a long wingspan and obviously needs to gain 20 pounds for college. Certainly a redshirt year is coming. He also has some cover skills and can play the CB position--he isn't just an athlete who will have to learn everything from square one. Also a bright kid with close to a 3.9 GPA, which is always a pleasant bonus.
This is where I will never understand Cheese and his philosophy. Recruiting taller CB's is fine but they have to start out being able to play that position and then you can move them to Safety if needs be and they are more likely to help out in Nickel and Dime packages. I wouldn't even consider Priester and Edmond really 'fall-back' players. Sure they aren't as high on your board but there is an imaginary dotted line between quality players and stretching it.
I am really trying to get behind the offer of T.J. Green, who flipped from UAB. We welcome him to the Clemson family regardless and hope he has a long and rewarding career. Part of my trepidation is that we don't know a whole lot about him. He comes from a tiny school Sylacauga High School, Alabama and there just isn't that much tape to go off of right now (so I reserve the right to amend my evaluation when more information is available). Certainly the positives are his size at 6'4 and 202 lbs. He is supposedly very fast but the film I have seen is against seriously inferior opponents so it is tough to tell. Auburn also offered, which is a positive but its unknown whether this was Cheese making a play for Clemson's diamond in the rough.
Yes, many will say trust the coaches and let them do their job and they get paid millions how could they get it wrong and shouldn't you just love any commit who chooses Clemson. My response would be that I already love TJ Green the person but I want the best possible situation for him and I am not sure he will be productive at Clemson. That and....Alabama. Any recruit at the last hour from Alabama scares me, just ask Coach Koenning (low blow I know). We just don't have a good track record recruiting the area and I would like to see us shift away from a state like Bama and focus more on spot recruiting a place like Virginia. I won't name players, it is an embarrassing list.
Green will play FS most likely. I don't see him as a CB or as a WR (maybe another TE project), which is what Auburn offered him as. Swinney talked to him about special teams and being a kickoff returner. His production in high school wasn't as eye popping as you would expect playing against lesser competition on the defensive side of the ball. All four of the interceptions he caught as a junior were on horribly thrown wobblers from opposing QB's. I like the size and the speed for his size but ultimately this isn't an offer I would have gone ahead and made.
As a group we do not all agree on the takes of Green and Edmond. More will be said on this after signing day.
Ryan Carter still doesn't merit an offer to me. A 5'8" safety doesn't get it done; he's not a corner at this level. He does hit hard but I don't see the size, package deal, or overall talent level to merit the outright offer. Preferred walk-on--absolutely, grayshirt--let me think about it some more.
Zach Riggs a legacy recruit and son of Clemson legend Jim Riggs who had a long NFL career. We love Riggs as a preferred walk-on. He was recruited as a TE, but he's going to end up at OT. Rivals is reporting this as a grayshirt offer which I can't get behind because it counts against our 85 limit next year. Good kid who could grow into a decent OT prospect down the road. Generally as a group we will take the Legacy commit if he can play at all. This one isn't ready yet but if he can earn the scholarship we'll take. We also got Rex Ryan's son Seth to accept a preferred walk-on spot, Eric MacLain's brother Sean MacLain and local product D.W. Daniel WE/DB Adrien Dunn. If Dunn were a couple inches taller he would probably have an offer.