Time for more on the recruiting front as we head towards the most important game of the season.
I described in some detail the Juwuan Briscoe situation the past few weeks. Dabo made the call to move on and I think the final straw came when there were rumblings that Briscoe was going to not make his official visit. He was contemplating visiting other schools after the coaching staff communicated their displeasure with the Ohio State visit. Someone is getting a good player here but I worry about where Briscoe ends up--Ohio State might have filled up with higher guys and views him as a back-up. It will be a close decision on whether or not they take him. Georgia has made a charge but again as a back-up target.
Would he re-commit to Clemson? Only if he made one seriously persuasive apology to Dabo and the coaches, akin to Darius Robinson who begged his way back on to the commitment list during the end of his recruiting.
We have certainly moved on or more aptly put intensified pre-existing efforts. Coach Reed has kept a line in the water with DB Marcus Lewis (6'0 190) of Washington DC. If you remember we were the absolute first team to offer, even before small schools and regional schools. Coach Reed has a great relationship here with Lewis and mom.
Lewis committed early to Virginia Tech but felt like he committed too early (really surprised people) and later made another commitment to Florida. He saw that the ship was sinking and pulled off of that commitment too--like anyone would. He understands what commitment means to Clemson, so I wouldn't read too much into the de-commits. Comes in around the number 90 overall recruit on most lists.
Lewis has good length and is very physical at the point of attack. Many teams see him as a Safety prospect because he has the frame and bulk to continue to grow. Good speed and decent ability to cover smaller receivers while excelling at being physical with larger receivers and in the run game. Could be a FS or a physical boundary corner who steps in and contributes right away.
Cornelius, NC, CB Mark Fields (5'11 183) is the top prize to be had here in my opinion. It will be tough sledding with him though and my most recent information says that he is torn on de-committing from USCjr but that he will most likely explore other SEC teams before seriously entertaining Clemson. Georgia and LSU are teams that would be more likely and that is if he de-commits, which may not happen. USCjr has seen their class deteriorate in front of their eyes--going from one of the best in school history to trying to hold on. The latest blow is that their top JUCO talent and overall recruit Marquavius Lewis (I would put Fields as second overall) is being courted
bought by our good buddy Rodney Gardner at Auburn. That is going to be a serious bidding war...USCjr has 7 D-lineman committed.
Our uncertainty with the above targets is evidenced by our recent offering of VT (soft like a marshmallow) commitment Greensboro, NC, CB Mook Reynolds (6'0 175). I don't consider him to be of the same caliber as Lewis or Fields. He has good speed and would be a solid contributor in time but he isn't very physical at the point of attack from the film I have seen. Still a top 250 type of player but would lack that versatility defensive coordinators increasingly want.
The worst news is that Georgia has moved the needle in their direction with Albert Huggins. Bert liked what he saw from the visit and worst of all his mom has given him the permission to go to Georgia after Georgia's coaching staff got to make a favorable impression. Huggins knows that Georgia has a million guys committed in their class on the defensive line but this is all about the SEC label and growing up a dawg fan. Clemson has worked as the leader of the pack the entire way so this would be a crushing loss but that frontrunner status hasn't helped us either as opposing teams have chipped away.
He won't visit Florida but will give Clemson one last major visit this weekend for the Carolina game. Problem is he has seen it all before and the coaching staff has to find a way to rekindle that desire to go to Clemson. His dad seems to favor the SEC and Georgia right now too, which doesn't help matters. Not only is Huggins not a lock but I would have to give the slight advantage to Georgia right now.
Christian Wilkins (6'4 290) from Suffield, Connecticut visited for the Georgia State game. He is a big body DT who nobody has a beat on. Normal things said about his recruitment are that Ohio State has been on him the longest and that Penn State is a likely destination. Wilkins, however, has been content to just cruise along in his recruitment. He doesn't give many interviews and when he does they are like talking to a trained PR expert--giving away absolutely nothing. He will be one of those rare mysteries in today's recruiting.
We do know that he enjoyed his time on the trip and was joking around with fellow recruits. Guys like Chad Smith were playing recruiters and seemed to have a good rapport. There is serious interest from Wilkins in Clemson, which means a lot and Clemson will be in this to the end, although James Franklin is a great recruiter. I will be cheering against Penn State this weekend.
Losing to Georgia Tech was a serious gut punch but in the grand scheme of things pretty inconsequential. We weren't going to sneak into the ACC Championship or the National Championship conversation. The Orange Bowl would still be nice but doesn't mean as much anymore. Recruits for the most part understand that Deshaun Watson is the future and he got hurt and we can still win 10 games.
After losing to FSU this season was all about beating USCjr. Lose to them and we waste one of the best defenses at Clemson in at least over a decade. Beating USC will make this a successful season and will heap praise on Dabo but lose again and things should get awfully warm. While I hate losing to nerdy bees and their smug coach--and really hate that we can't seem to win in Bobby Dodd Stadium--I can tolerate it. With Watson in the game that thing is over by halftime. This season is all about beating the Coots and will be the barometer for a good and mediocre season--win we are looking at a bright future, but lose and we have our first Bowdenesque season in awhile (but without a win against USCjr and 6 straight losses).
Oh and Dabo Swinney would never go to UF or anywhere not Alabama but you can take it to the bank that he will use it for leverage in any contract negotiation.
What the recent string of injuries has shown is that Clemson needs to take a good hard look in the mirror this offseason. I'm very glad we are finally relieving ourselves of Spencer Region (who looks to have gained back some weight during the season) but he is endemic of a systemic problem. In our desire to graduate everyone and take care of all of our players, which is great for recruiting and graduation rates we, at times, allow players to stay on that have no business doing so. We cut Jerome Maybank and anyone seen as a cancer/problem player is run off but we keep far too many feel good stories and walk-on types too often.
The offensive line will play a true freshman next year. The defensive line and front will be a huge question mark along with LB. Simply put too many 5 heart Dabos and grayshirt players weakens the entire roster. Can't have both Davis Twins and then be considering adding a Trapp and Dawkins to the grayshirt pile--it eventually takes its toll on the health of the entire roster.
I hope this season has served as a reminder that just because Dabo is really excited about a position group--like RB this year, it does not mean that we will magically be good at the position. Just because Dabo thinks Ryan Carter is really good despite his size and limited skill set (subsequently giving him more second chances than he deserves), doesn't make it so.
Tigers--Go out and heal a wound 5 years in the making. They will come out looking to punch you in the mouth, be the more physical team, rub up against you with their crotches, and embarrass you on your home field.