It is time for some Dabo Swinney Camp magic!! While the staff had hoped to stretch out the commitments over the course of the first few weeks in June--when it rains it pours and we picked up four commits in a couple of days. All four star caliber talent and filling out a good portion of our current class. The actual first part of camp is more about 2015 than 2014 this year. The real fireworks will be this upcoming week. We will have somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 kids camping. I do expect that Clemson recruiting will land some major pieces for the 2014 class (probably in the next week or so) and most of the committed prospects will be on hand. Out of respect for the players and the build-up the staff desires we have decided against any spoilers (but if you have been reading the bread crumbs in comments, etc you should be able to figure it out).
Lets look at the 2014 numbers--things are getting tight already.
It is so tight it makes you wonder why we gave away a couple of scholarships at the end last year (but I am not going there in this post). We are now going to be taking 3-4 LBs in this class. That number seems one too many for my liking when we need to make sure we don't have huge gaps in our D-line recruiting. I would like to see 2 D-lineman taken (we need one elite DE) before I start celebrating too much for this class. Yes I have added in a Kicker...
Remember that we only have room for around 10 prospects and will plan for the rest of the spots to come from early NFL departures (Watkins and possibly Bryant the most likely), attrition and transfers. I think the last major hurdle for the staff, in terms of entering into consistent elite recruiting territory, is to shore up our roster management. That means pushing for a bit more attrition (again I am not advocating just running off players in their redshirt years but if you won't work this shouldn't be a free meal ticket for 4-5 years, there must be some reciprocity and good faith by both parties). If some dead weight comes off, we keep recruiting at an elite level, and we keep the current pieces in place (meaning retaining Chad Morris) there is no reason we can't compete for real championships. Looks like we are headed for a class in the 15-17 range.
The standout attendee was Donell Stanley. Clemson has been languishing behind South Carolina, Alabama, and UNC for this Latta. SC product. The Gamecocks have a huge lead right now and this is possibly our last opportunity to make a lasting impact on the prospect. He looks even better than he did last year when he was easily the best O-Lineman and possibly the best player at camp. He has toned his upper body and physically looks worthy of the top 50 rating. I know we want and need another WR and other skill positions but this guy, along with a quality DE, would be my top priority right now. We also have a bit of help in the situation so there is the possibility to climb back into contention. We will see after camp if anything changes. We showed him all the farms and how it is a country atmosphere but it seems USCjr is still in the lead.
The other two remaining possibilities that the staff might move on are Nolan Kelleher (6'6, 285/Mt. Pleasant/Wando, SC) and Justin Falcinelli (6'5, 300/Middletown Md.). Clemson wants to sign close to 5 Olineman next year but I think they would be better served pushing for one of these guys and signing 3-4 next year. Even out the numbers. Kelleher has seen his stock rise a lot recently. He lost some baby fat since last year and has really rounded into an impressive player. Just before we finally offered about a week ago Florida had also pulled the trigger on an offer. He visited Tennessee and was very impressed with their facilities. But he really wanted the Clemson offer all along and grew up liking Clemson. Hopefully we didn't wait too long on this one, although he is a bit of a late bloomer. I would rank him above of our current O-line commits.
Falcinelli is deciding between us and Maryland with Stanford also being a possibility to sneak in. He has maintained that he wants to make a summer decision and that Clemson and Maryland are on top. He is teammates with another of our targets Rick Leonard (6'7 250) who is a raw DE prospect with tremendous upside (I say raw just because he hasn't played football for very long). Leonard is also a late bloomer and his recruitment has really picked up steam. Florida State is probably on top as his 'dream' school but he really enjoyed his visit to Clemson a little over a month ago. Clemson is a solid second with Maryland and Tennessee also squarely in the mix. An Alabama offer could vault them into the lead. Leonard and Falcinelli are good friends but this isn't a package deal, however one could help to influence the other. Falcinelli might opt to stay closer to friends and family but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I don't anticipate Clemson taking both Falcinelli and Kelleher.
A couple 2015 names to remember from camp are OL Noah Green from Boiling Springs, SC and Mason Veal out of Charlotte, NC. Both were impressive in camp and have offers from Clemson. Green has Clemson slightly ahead of UNC and USCjr at this point. Mason Veal's parents are both Gamecock graduates but the door was left open for Clemson when USCjr did not offer early and seemed to be slow-playing him initially. They have since offered but now Veal has visited, worn orange, and is very interested in playing for Clemson.
Like I said before, we are going to sign a big Offensive Line class in 2015 (4-5) and it is time to talk about priority number one. Mitch Hyatt out of North Gwinnett, GA might be the number one overall offensive line prospect in the 2015 class. He is top ten overall kind of good. Just ask ol' Bob Nkemdiche who got handled in large part by Hyatt as a Sophomore. Hyatt is at the Rivals100 Challenge over the weekend where we will really be able to tell how good he has become and will camp at Clemson next week. His uncle played on the 81' Championship team and has a Super Bowl ring so there are some deep connections to Clemson. Mitch grew up a Clemson fan but he is by no means a Clemson lock. I am sure he is already sick of everyone telling him he is a lock to Clemson but we do have help here and he would be the most highly rated offensive lineman that Clemson has ever signed. Starting two deep (if not starting right away) type good. Can't let this one get away. Priority number one in 2015. Think about the best QB in 2014 paired with the best blind side protection in 2015.
With that segue, Deshaun Watson will remain a hot commodity until signing day. The latest I have is that Alabama and St. Saban (maybe he will like that better than Satan) himself are enamored with Watson. With Bama making Watson a priority this will not end until Watson is on campus. He is at the Rivals100 where he continues to recruit for us and hang out with future teammates. Milan Richard is quickly becoming a very important part of this class. His personality and passion for Clemson are part of the glue that is binding all of these guys together. Watson will get a chance to really spend time with the entire class this upcoming week which should be key for developing a deeper connection to Clemson. They will continue to bond with Stanley Williams and Raekwon McMillan in particular. Last year we surrounded Nkemdiche with Grayson teammates. This year we are surrounding Watson with the best in the state of GA.
At camp there are some interesting future prospects at QB. 2015 QB Tyler Queen out of North Cobb, GA continued to tear up the camp circuit. Last week he camped at Alabama and earned an offer and did the same at Clemson. Bobby Bentley's son Jake Bentley from Byrnes, SC of the 2017 class was also on hand. Jake is already 6'4ish and 200 lbs--throws a nice ball for a freshman.
Yes the K for kicker rears its ugly head. Sounds like we are going to be devoting a scholarship to a kicker this year. I keep hearing the name of Alex Spence out of West Florence as the most likely candidate to land the position. I'm always hesitant about devoting scholarships to special teams players out of high school (especially long snappers). When you have the numbers then it isn't as big a deal but when you so tight it is a tough decision. Not saying it is the wrong decision but if K Ammon Lakip is indeed returning to the team then I would personally go the preferred walk-on (telling players they could be the next Catman) route this year and sign someone next year when you have more flexibility.
Speaking of using the 2015 flexibility--congratulations to Jeff Davis' twins for receiving grayshirts in the 2015 class. The Judge has done more for Clemson as an ambassador for the University than just about any other player. I am going to refrain from making any statements/judgements about the twins until I have seen them play a full season as starters. They didn't start last year so it is a bit premature to jump all over this kind of offer--give them the chance to prove themselves. I am always in favor of preferred walk-ons in these situations since the 2 grayshirts count against the 85 cap. But again, lets give them a chance to actually start. The judge himself was a bit of a late bloomer if I remember correctly.
Also Andrew Brown listed Clemson in his top 5, going so far as to say they would receive an official visit. I have heard that we are all but out of it and that Virginia has a commanding lead. An official visit opens up the possibility though. Some other big names like WR's Josh Malone and WR Malachi Dupre talked about visiting Clemson in the near future which is also positive. It will be hard to grab either one from their in-state schools, Tenn and LSU respectively.