I said last week in the comments section and on Twitter that WR Deon Cain (6'1 190) from Tampa, FL was trending towards the Tigers. Well that trending has officially stopped--it has arrived. Cain will announce on Friday which team he will be committing to.
***This turned into a rant, if you just want recruiting news on Cain, skip down. Since I have been accused of being a 'cut and paste' guy on the T-nets, this one time, I am going to respond. No I don't read what other people write and copy and paste it here for the STS folks. Do I have all the information out there? No, never claimed to and I don't do this for a living so I'm never going to have all of it. However, Dr. B and I have some very credible contacts that give us really good information at times. When I have that information, I give it to you but usually in very vague terms so you can read between the lines and we don't burn our contacts (and since I don't have a ton of them, I always err on the side of caution). I try to make it clear when I have inside info and when I do not.
In fact, I think our track record here speaks for itself--when we say that we feel really good about a player committing barring something drastic changing--I don't think we have ever been wrong (I put an asterisk next to that because when we said that about Mont Adams he was a silent commit but later we learned that he might have been a silent to multiple schools and, of course, dollar dollar bills). Nkemdiche, Lawson, Bud Robinson, etc. were all times we had inside information. We also don't put things out there that might really hurt Clemson just for more hits (we ain't Korncoot), such as knowing that Auburn was heavily pursuing Korie Rogers and trying to flip him last cycle, despite no one else knowing or reporting on it.***end rant
So this one time I am laying a few cards on the table for you doubters. Last week I got a tip that Cain's recruitment was heating up and that he was thinking of committing. Florida State and Florida have long been considered the favorites but Tony Elliott and, especially Jeff Scott (Jeff Scott is absolutely owning it for us this cycle in Florida, by the way, Jeff Scott is about the best recruiter at mining Florida talent outside the state of Florida), have kept Clemson close and in the thick of it. The big drop though was that Cain really had become set on leaving the state. He wanted to get out of Tampa and Florida, which pointed toward Clemson. LSU tried to enter the race late by offering him as a QB but Cain is a smart kid who knows his path to the NFL is at WR and not as a running QB sharing time with someone else. Florida also didn't do itself any favors by offering Cain very late in the process and he felt a bit slighted by the coaching staff--just enough to allow Clemson to crack open the door and then burst it down. Clemson evaluated him as an impact WR early in the process, offered early, and have been consistently on him.
Sammy Watkins being taken so high in the draft also paid dividends here. Sammy is now a card that Clemson can play and SEC teams can't just write us off as a gimmick offense that doesn't produce NFL draft picks like they once could. That started with Nuk but has been cemented with Sammy--a guy out of Florida. The atmosphere of faith and family also is helping us.
Cain is going to commit and be a Tiger on Friday (again with the caveat that this is recruiting and crazy things can happen but this isn't going to be one of those times).
Deon Cain makes me excited about this class. I have a post soon on our lack of DE recruiting, which is the most glaring need in the class and unfortunately I don't have a ton of positive things to say about LaSamuel Davis right now (its the skinny legs) but that is for another day. We should all be ecstatic about Cain joining this class. He is criminally underrated (last time I said that about a prospect they jumped to number 26 overall in the Rivals rankings) at number #151 for Rivals. At the Orlando camp where Ray Ray McCloud and Deon Cain both participated, McCloud (#26 overall and my first official man crush of the recruiting season) was just a hair better than Cain.
Cain plays QB in high school so you would think that he would just be an athlete trying to play WR but he stepped on the field and was dominant. He has great hands--shoestring catches off the ground, adjusting to bad passes, and catching the ball at its highest point away from his body. He can elevate and has a great vertical leap, again, high points the ball. He has true 4.4 speed--it shows up on tape as a running QB and also translates into these camp settings. He is very strong and built like a running QB, so strength and getting off of press coverage isn't a problem. I think he is the closest thing this class has to an impact WR in the mold of Sammy Watkins (yep, I'm getting crazy). A freshman ready contributor who can play immediately at a high level.
The only critique of his game right now that I would have is that he doesn't get as much separation as you would like to see from this elite caliber of prospect but he still gets it and this will come as he plays more at the position. He will need to continue to grow as a WR but for a guy who plays QB he runs pretty good routes (he understands defenses and what they are trying to do because of his time playing QB, so he also knows how to run some routes to get open). In the camp settings it wasn't just running straight line, fly route down the field--he knows how to play the WR position. He also has great change of direction in short spaces, so he has the agility and footwork to make the full-time transition from athlete to WR. This comes from playing WR in 7-on-7's during the offseason, an increasingly important space for these raw athletes to hone in skills at different positions. Ray Ray McCloud is not just a RB but a CB and WR because of his play in 7-on-7's. Something to watch for in the future of recruiting.
I bring up my man Ray Ray McCloud because Deon and Ray Ray are real good friends--like real good. Before this commitment I would have put us on the outside looking in for McCloud. Florida is thought to have the commanding position (we would have needed more hot seat talk to jump ahead of them is what I was thinking), but Clemson is now trending and we are in the thick of it with Cain as our ace, trump card. I think his recruitment comes to a head possibly as soon as this summer. BBQ anyone?
We also know that newly appointed President Clements is all about recruiting. This is beyond regular support--he has talked on the phone with key recruits, including Cain, and even taken many of them on special tours of the presidents facilities and met with families. This level of attention is unheard of and should be appreciated. This is also the first really big coup for Tony Elliott and makes me feel much better about his ability as a recruiter going forward but my hat is off to Jeff Scott. Bravo sir, bravo!
You can read an SBNation profile on Cain here. Good stuff from Bud Elliott who has seen him in person. He makes a good point about Cain not having actually played the position with pads but as a running QB who doesn't shy from contact, I don't think it will be that difficult of a transition. However, I'm less suspect of WR's in camp setting than I am of lineman, for example.