Who is Clelin Ferrell (6'5 225) and why had he flown under the radar these past few months? Up until a week ago (really just a couple of days ago) none of the recruiting sites and writers had any inkling that this guy was going to drop for Clemson. We didn't have any idea and while plenty of sites are going to try and seem like they had the inside scoop--this one has been buried strategically by the staff.
In fact, with the amount of information floating around these days this is another really impressive job by the Clemson staff. Dare I say it, these guys are absolutely on fire!! The credit for this one goes to Brent Venables, who continues to impress as a recruiter on top of his defensive coordinator duties. He has led the charge into South Florida and the increasingly fertile Virginia area for the Tigers. Word is Ferrell made up his mind one-two months ago which team he would commit to after his visit to Clemson, Michigan, and Michigan State. Since that time the staff has kept his leanings completely silent. Remarkable.
Hobby definitely deserves some credit as well in the recruitment and he has done much better this year than last year where he struggled to close.
As Dr. B said Clelin has a great frame. Right now he plays a hybrid LB/DE role on his high school team and we have sold him on playing a similar role to former Clemson DE Andre Branch, also from the Virginia area. He will need to put on around 20 pounds of muscle to get up to the 245-260 range, but should maintain his explosiveness as a WDE. He was a basketball guy who recently converted to football. He will be a pass rusher off the edge with good length (probably from the 7) and reach. He needs more strength at the point of attack but that will develop. He does use his arms and reach well.
Rivals has him as the #77 player overall, high 4*, 5.9, which seems to be an appropriate level and on par with other recruiting services. He needs to refine his technique and work on his pad level but he has tremendous upside. This is the kind of defensive end take we should be landing every cycle. LSU had long been connected to Clelin, especially early on, but I think distance played a factor. Clelin was really impressed by the spiritual atmosphere and family vibe on his visit for the Spring game--this is where we pulled ahead. He made a positive connection with Richmond, VA native Andre Branch while at the Spring Game, so Thad Turnipseed needs some credit for pushing return players and promoting that game.
Clelin visited other schools and deliberated but knew for over a month that Clemson is where he wanted to ultimately attend. He is low maintenance and liked that the coaches didn't just promise him a starting gig. Everyone will be happy to know that the other out-of-state competition for his services came from the Chickens. USCjr targeted him early and had him as one of their top DE targets this cycle. They felt like they were in a good position--well, until this week--Dabo blindsided analysts and opposing coaching staffs on this one. This is a big win on the recruiting trail against the coots.
I have a post about 5 suggestions for the offseason that i do every year and one of those suggestions is to focus on NC and Virginia over other areas like Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. Our bread is buttered by placing a priority on Georgia, Florida, and in-state but with all that effort you then have to be strategic about the areas you hit so you don't stretch yourself too thin.
Sure you go where the recruits are and you need a national presence but the places that you put down roots and strategically mine are really important. My recruiting priorities and considerations are geographic proximity, recruit talent per capita (how many high level recruits emerge from the area on a consistent basis), level of competition (is it SEC territory), and to a lesser degree staff considerations (who might have natural inroads to an area, ex. Dabo to Alabama).
Using these criteria Virginia makes a lot more sense than a place like Alabama. It is close enough that you can maintain connections and relationships to high school coaches--put down sustainable roots. You have a surprising amount of talent from the area, high-end talent, which has flown a bit under the radar, especially if you include the Maryland/D.C metro area. This is exclusive ACC territory (the Big Ten should gain a bigger presence especially with James Franklin and Penn State being aggressive) with no SEC power owning the local scene (including the local boosters/bagmen). Virginia and Virginia Tech are both down. Going to Alabama or Louisiana, you generally play with the scraps.
We uncover a gem in LB Chad Smith from Sterling, Va. (who actually has been a fine recruiter for us--he is giving a ride to Tim Settle to the Opening and has been in his ear about coming down to camp) and then land one of the state's premier talents in Clelin Ferrell. Looks like we are on track to land a legit top ten class when the numbers even out (sorry it won't be a top three or top five class). Solid addition to this recruiting class--silent but deadly. Go Brent Venables!!
So what about the DE position?
We have 6 DLineman graduating after this year and the guys behind them don't have much meaningful experience at all. This is the number one position grouping need in this class. At DT you have a little more depth with Reader and Pagano but you have nothing at one of the premier positions in the game. No pass rush equals poorer secondary--we don't want to repeat of three years ago when everyone graduated along our two-deep. Shaq Lawson will be the returning star but you can't count on him being around much longer than next year.
The LaSamuel Davis commitment has already been discussed. I'm not wild about it because he is such a developmental player (fine last year but we need contributors in a hurry). I wanted to see some senior film and watch to see if he fills out any of that lower half of his body. Love the wingspan and the reach--the potential is there for a WDE coming off the edge but I don't have any faith in Batson and I don't see that butt that Coach Venables likes to rave about. The Sapp and Bowers comparisons are all coach speak (what do you expect a high school coach to say??). They aren't on the same level as prospects but i do like to hear that his motor is better. It will all be about S&C development for Davis.
He can run around people in high school but he needs more explosive, functional power to play in college. I have seen comparisons to Lorenzo Featherston last cycle, which I understand but don't completely agree with. He was a demon werewolf when he was healthy and had power and good use of his hands to go along with the freakish size and wingspan. Both are boom or bust prospects though but Featherston's ceiling is much higher in my opinion.
We are most likely taking 6 Dlineman in this cycle and only have a couple of spots remaining.
Albert Huggins remains at the top of the list but I refuse to consider him a DE right now. We still lead but out of state suitors are trying their best to pull him away. Georgia, in particular, poses a looming threat. Other SEC schools are trying to get in as well. The longer the recruitment goes the more likely another school end up on top. We still lead though.
Austin Bryant (6'4 250) from Thomasville, GA may be the next highest target on the board. He is going to be at the upcoming Dabo Swinney Camp for the full three days. If you are a rival recruiter those words mean DANGER. Dabo Swinney (with his good buddy Thad) is in his element when he has targets come in for multiple day. Bryant is teammates with incoming RB Adam Choice, which has kept us in the conversation. Right now we are a hot school and recruits know that we have limited spots. Clelin wasn't pushed but he was told straight up the spots remaining in the class. Bryant has a top ten, recently visited LSU while FSU is the rumored leader but FSU does not see him as a lock by any means.
Ricky DeBerry (6'2 240) from Richmond, VA is a LB that we see as being able to play a hybrid DE/LB role akin to Vic Beasley. Brent Venables is again on the case and you don't want to count us out. A lot of this recruitment, however, depends on what some other schools do. Oklahoma was the leader for awhile but then Ohio State surged and looked to secure their position on the top. Alabama is now the school that is making the biggest waves and Ricky will visit Bama next week. His recruitment is slowly beginning to come to a head and he will start cutting things down. I expect that Clemson will be in it but major work to do here.
Same can be said of the other major target Darian Roseboro (6'4 280) from Lincolnton, NC who has yet to really whittle down the list. He his re-shuffling his top ten and will wait to see how pecking lists shape up. He wants to commit before the start of his senior year. He is not connected to in-state schools all that much. He likes Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Ohio State, and Michigan--pretty much the wishlist. He wants to visit USCjr as well, although they weren't in the original top ten. Clemson will again be in it but Darian needs to go through the weeding process of finding out how serious some of these schools are. The SEC bug is definitely in his ear.
Guys like Josh Sweat and Byron Cowart are a pipedream and I'm not tracking them too much right now--just no substance. The next tier of DE's we would target would be in-state Aiken prospect Rasool Clemons (6'5 205), FL prospect Marques Ford (6'3 225) and Ridgeville/Woodland, SC's Michael Barnett (6'4 240) who continues to be all over the map in where he wants to go. Ford is the most likely of the group.