The offensive side of the ball is mostly done at this point, apart from wide receiver. The unfortunate surprise departure of Justin Parker has opened another spot in the 2014 class but it is unclear just where that scholarship be allocated at this point. My hope is that it will go to another defensive end or offensive lineman. We are already in the 'hold on to what you got' mode on the offensive side of the ball. Holding on to Cook and Watson are the top priorities for the offensive side of the class, along with landing some top WR's since Sammy will be all but gone after this season.
I will once again repeat the need to see this to the finish line and not overreact if/when a player de-commits. We have many fans who are so devoted to the Swinney 'All-in' policy that they take it as a personal offense when a player looks elsewhere. That doesn't help Clemson. I get that any de-commitment is tough on the player and the fanbase but we need to keep building that needed thick skin. I just read an article about Dylan Sumner-Gardner, the talented Texas safety/cb who rode a bus 20 hours to get a Clemson offer. He recently committed to Texas A&M and someone close to him essentially said that he was torn up about the reactions he got when he de-committed from Clemson fans. He de-committed out of respect for Dabo and the policy but still got some unwarranted crap from fans. He could have easily been brought back to campus for an official, talked to his favorite player Brian Dawkins during banquet week, and been brought back into the fold. It is possible that the bridge might be too badly burned, which would be a shame. Something to think about if Cook or Watson wobble (obviously a minority of stupid fans will always be stupid fans).
I am going to include for the first time those magic numbers at each position that I have been compiling. I actually got a couple of the numbers slightly off before. We actually only want 15 OLineman at any one time--I had thought it was at 16. I have a problem when these 'magic' numbers become too rigid but you need to have some benchmarks and system for evaluation. The only weakness to the current offensive class--yep, you guessed it--offensive line...
Current number: 3 (plus walk-on Schuessler)
Magic position number: 5
2014 projection: 1
DeShaun Watson is arguably the number one QB in the class and as I said last week absolutely worth the risk. The only real concern I have (and this is being much too harsh of a critic) is a slight hitch in his delivery that he will need to work out eventually and increased core and arm strength so that he can maintain his accuracy on some of his deep balls when he wants to put more velocity on passes. I think this will just come with further development as he adds more muscle to his 6'4 frame. He has great touch on his passes, knows how to read defenses at this early stage, and is a smart effective runner.
Current number: 5
Magic position number: 5
2014 projection: 2
We already have two backs committed for the 2014 class, Dalvin Cook and Jae'lon Oglesby. The past two cycles have seen us go after bigger backs and this year we have two smaller speed, scat backs committed. No doubt in my mind Dalvin Cook is the most explosive RB in the 2014 class. Someone like Charlotte RB Elijah Hood (who we have slipped with--he is big on Notre Dame with Ohio State and Michigan his top 3, thanks Pearman) is a bruiser with great balance but if you want a guy with blazing speed who can catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks then Cook is the guy.
This is shaping up to be a long struggle. The main competition is Miami followed by FSU and South Florida. Cook is publicly saying that he is solidly committed to the Tigers but he was just at a Florida NIKE camp and once again impressed a lot of people. It is not that he isn't committed but he is being pulled in a lot of directions and getting considerable pressure to go to Miami. His brother is going to play basketball at the U and now his teammate Joseph Yearby is committed there as well. Yearby is after him a lot to join him at Miami. He has said that he talks to the Miami coaches almost daily so this just feels like we are barely holding on, especially given the distance.
I am not as sold on Oglesby as much as others are. I am just not sure how his game will translate to the college level just yet. As a 4* recruit in your backyard at Daniel he is an absolute take at the position. I am not saying that at all. But I am looking for strength and top speed gains as he enters his senior year. Right now he relies on his elusiveness and ability to make quick cuts but I think he will need to make the weight and strength gains of a Hot Rod to be effective at the college level.
We are not holding still in the RB/athlete department however and this is a positive sign. We have offers out to Easley RB/ATH CJ Fuller (could also play WR in the slot or DB) and RB Elijah Hood. We are still after Georgia commitment RB Stanley Williams and option QB/RB Adam Choice (Thomasville, GA) who is cousins with former GT RB Tashard Choice. Williams has said that he is not completely set in his commitment to GA. Jonathan Vickers out of Tallahassee is another name I have heard we are still recruiting.
Current number: 8
Magic Position Number: 10
2014 projection: 3-4
We have cast a wide net for our WR's this cycle and are trying to once again reel in some big talent. We will miss Hopkins this year and we will certainly miss Sammy Watkins next year. We are looking to take 3 WR's but will also take an athlete who could play in the slot and RB so that is the reason for the 3-4. We are being so selective that we are taking a wait and see approach with Jacob McCrary as he recovers from a knee injury last year.
Sitting on the top of our board is Sandy Creek, GA, WR Demarre Kitt (sure I could say KD Cannon, a lightning quick receiver out of TX, but I don't see him leaving the longhorn state) who I maintain we have the slightest of leads with. Certainly this is because of his relationship with DeShaun Watson but Ohio State is like a 1b. Oregon is the other school I am most worried about. He is going to enjoy the process and take all his official visits so don't look for a commitment anytime soon.
Trevion Thompson (Durham, NC) is the other guy I profiled last week. It has to help our chances that we landed his teammate Korrin Wiggins. We led early but have slipped back into a pack with UNC, Ohio State, Florida and ND.
A couple of top 150 players to keep an eye on are Moral Stephens (6'3 200, Perry, FL) and Artavis Scott (5'11 180, Tarpon Springs, FL). Stephens is a bigger body who likes FSU and Clemson while Scott has some of that Florida speed in the slot and has Clemson in a large lead group. We recently offered Braxton Berrios who I continue to hear is a big Gamecock lean. I am glad we seem to have backed away from instate WR Woodruff's Blake Bone who has ideal height but lacks enough speed for the next level. We finally offered Gaffney's talented WR Shaq Davidson but this will be another one who gets away as he seems destined for USCjr. Lots of prospects Clemson is still in the mix for here like GA's Myles Autry, Louisiana's Malachi Dupre, and Homestead, FL's Ermon Lane.
Current number: 5
Magic position number: 5
2014 projection: 1-2
We have an early commitment from legacy(6'5 240) but he may eventually grow into a Tackle prospect (hence the reason for the 1-2). Interestingly Alabama has moved in on Smith and want him to visit. Right now he is 'all in' but this is something to keep an eye on. Clemson is kind of in a first come first serve mode with the remaining spot. Jeb Blazevich has whittled his list down to Clemson, ND, Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State. He will decide after visiting every program during the spring. He will most likely decide before the summer. I would give Clemson the slight advantage at this point.
Milan Richard, nephew of former Georgia great Herschel Walker, also has Clemson in his lead group and may favorite the Tigers over Georgia right now. This is largely because he has a friendship with DeShaun Watson and is one of the many prospects connected to the 5* signal caller. South Carolina is also a player here.
Lastly is Kevin Crosby. The Bamberg pipeline has been slightly clogged recently and it is tough to say where Crosby will end up. His top school has long been rumored to be South Carolina but he was expected to have already committed. Our feathered friends are not feeling particularly confident right now. I have heard that Alabama was once in the lead and more recently that Florida has stepped into the picture. Clemson is in the mix but not thought to be at the top.
Current number: 19
Magic position number: 15 (which I think is too low personally)
2014 projection: 2-3 (remember C. Smith is likely a Tackle)
We are over numbers here but rather than hurt ourselves with thin classes now, it would probably be better to cut some of the literal fat in upper classes rather than sacrifice the future. It is dangerous to have two consecutive classes of only taking two Olineman. If you do this they better be top tier talent.
We have a commitment from Taylor Hearn who is a 3* prospect and probably a top 25-30 player in South Carolina but not much higher than #25 in my opinion. Not a high level offensive line prospect but it is hardest to project lineman. The prize this year is Donell Stanley of Latta who I drooled over when he was at camp last summer. We can't seem to get him on campus and he appears likely headed to South Carolina (an all too common occurrence for top Olineman in the state since Coach Elliott showed up at USCjr) or North Carolina. The guy I really like (and of course TI had to put on their front-page today) is Justin Falcinelli from Middleton, MD. There are questions about the level of competition up there but he absolutely runs people over on film. He is an absolute beast as a run blocker but will have to continue to develop into a pass blocker. We are at the top with Maryland. Mason Cole did favor us before committing to Michigan and Sam Mustipher of Good Counsel, MD (2013 commit Dorian O'Daniel teammate) who still needs to visit but is interested.
With Bentley Spain, the top Carolina OT, leaning to the Coots along with Stanley--they are doing a much better job at recruiting the offensive line. I still am shaking my head about slow playing Cam Dillard, one of the toughest road graders from the Midwest last year who was a Clemson fan but signed with Florida. I hope to see our numbers decrease at the position after we do some serious pushing this off-season. The offensive line can't just be where players not good enough for other positions end up (this does not in any way mean Eric MacLain).
As always, lets discuss in the comments. Feel free to ask about any other offensive prospects you want to know more about.