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Clemson Football Recruiting: Amir Trapp and 5 Heart Dabos (Part 1)

Warning: this post contains negative thoughts about the current recruiting class. Yes, I am critiquing a top 5 recruiting class--you may not like it but I think it is important that someone says it.

Dabo of the 5 Hearters.
Dabo of the 5 Hearters.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

As I've said before recruiting can be broken into two parts--actual talent acquisition and player/roster management. I would say that Clemson is becoming a top 5-10 program in talent acquisition or straight recruiting. Alabama is better. FSU is better and probably Georgia but after that you can argue about Ohio State, LSU, USCsr., Tennessee after a down period, UF entering one and Clemson belonging in the conversation. I don't think that Clemson is as good a team in terms of roster management--probably a top 15-25 program (of course this is frivolous conjecture but I point it out because getting the best talent isn't everything to recruiting--it is a huge and essential part of it but not the complete picture).

This is not a post for those of you who don't want to hear negative things about Clemson. Usually I like to have a balanced approach to evaluating Clemson recruiting and try not to be too negative when Clemson just had a fourth 10 win season. But I think that this site does serve an important function by calling out things that other sites just will not touch. You may not like this function but I would argue it is always important to have some voice that can spur critical reflection from time to time.

So positive caveats:

  • I fully acknowledge that this is arguably the greatest extended period of recruiting in Clemson's history. Certainly it is the best in the past two decades.
  • The class of 2016 is already shaping up to be a fantastic class and the staff is in place to continue this momentum.

So why am I upset about wasted scholarships?

Every scholarship is important to the sustained success of your football program. This years national champions Ohio State epitomizes the need for quality depth at every position. They go three deep at the QB position and don't skip a beat (if not improve). Depth along the offensive line and defensive line. Oregon also sustained crippling injuries and was able to make the championship game (depth at WR may have done them in with the two dropped 3rd down passes that hit players on the numbers or the hands). NCAA handed USCsr the stiffest modern day recruiting penalties ever by taking away 10 scholarships a year for 3 years, crippling the juggernaut. Miami, despite its incredible run of cheating, got a 9 scholarship reduction or 3 a year for three years.

"5 heart Dabos" have effectively put us on probation and every one of those scholarships is essential to competing for a national championship.

The counterargument to this from staunch Dabo supporters (with my responses)?

He is the head coach--he can do what he wants. (He certainly can with his contract but if 'best is the standard' then that shouldn't fly)

He is creating a culture of family and needs to bring in his guys to cultivate that atmosphere to get other recruits. (This is another flawed argument. Yes, the genuine family atmosphere is extremely important and something we have been able to sustain as a recruiting pitch and selling point to families. However, this is achieved through a lot of different ways from the branding, admin, coaching staff and families, and coaches drilling it into players--this is what Dabo is really really good at. You can't tell me that 5-6 recruits make or break that atmosphere. If so, it is not as strong as we think. The other flaw in that reasoning is that we already bring in high character recruits and generally sacrifice red flag players. No Emmons or Alvin Kamara for example. Our guys are good enough in the locker room already to cultivate that feeling of family. Also just having these favorite/nepotism players, especially if they complain about something like playing time, can be its own kind of cancer.)

Amir Trapp

Straight facts: His height is 5'7. Not 5'8 or 5'9--5'7. Weight is 155. 6 interceptions and 4 punt returns during Senior year at Daniel High School. Invited to the Shrine Bowl.


NFL pedigree from father.

Actually invited to the Shrine Bowl as opposed to other players. Coaches have good things to say about cover skills.

Reviewing film he does have fluid hips and change of direction to run with high school athletes. Understands corner concepts and 'sits in the pocket' of opposing players. Has the needed agility and quickness in short spaces. He doesn't have great hands but understands body positioning that is advanced for the high school level and bats down a lot of balls. Doesn't bite on double moves often and does well on fade routes with positioning despite his size.

Can return punt for touchdowns in high school.


Height. Very, very hard, if not impossible to excel at corner in the ACC or at Clemson at that height. No corner in the NFL is under 5'8 (talking only about cornerbacks). You are a liability any time you step on to the field. If you are that height, you better be able to jump out of the gym with an insane vertical that Trapp does not have. For this reason alone he shouldn't see meaningful time on the field at Clemson, especially when Clemson is in contention for 4* and 5* CB's regularly (we have had a legitimate shot at this caliber of player in each of the past 4 recruiting classes).

Look, I hope he proves me wrong and is a first round NFL pick, but I am trying to objectively match him up against other corners that are potential takes in 2015 and 2016. I would have pursued Kareem Orr harder or even Duke Shelley, Smitherman, or Mook Reynolds. For 2016 we had Levonta Taylor in camp last year and Saivion Smith will be coming this year--both arguably the overall number one CB recruit in the country (but we filled that slot with Trapp so guys like Mullen, Valdez--NC State commit, or Clay--no thanks, filled up). We need those roster spots.

Speed. If you are short then you need to have blazing speed. Not good speed but track start speed. Trapp's father had world-class speed that helped him land in the NFL. Amir does not have the same speed. He has a laser timed (the only 40 time I will listen to these days) 4.7 40. Not fast enough for an ACC corner with no height or bulk.

Bulk. Should follow the same trajectory as Adrian Baker to develop adequate bulk. Very skinny right now. Will need grayshirt year, at least, and may never carry more than 180 pounds. Doesn't have the strength to play on the line and jam players or be physical in run support or coverage.

While being a punt returner at the high school level is fine, people need to stop treating this scholarship like it is some kind of specialist take. Half of the players on their high school rosters could return kicks and punts for touchdowns. Trapp isn't a burner so we would be looking at a slower, smaller player, without the hands, of Humphries. When you have the best punt return prospect in the country in Ray Ray McCloud coming in--this isn't a need and Trapp shouldn't see the field as a punt returner.

Offers from Furman and Coastal Carolina. Some schools had said they could be interested but he doesn't have the offer sheet to support any kind of three star rating.

My take:

This take has serious consequences for our depth and talent at CB. We will only bring in one CB next year that will be paired with Trapp after the grayshirt. We easily could have taken another high 3*/4* player this year if we had actively pursued and there are a lot of top tier corners and DBs knocking down our door next year. Right now we could have a class as small as 16 players if more room or attrition doesn't happen (it most definitely will but still a travesty to have such a small class). There is a price to pay for these kind of takes that would/should have been happy to be preferred walk-ons.

He is better than other 5 hearters but that isn't saying much. He can cover and should be applauded for his Shrine Bowl invitation. If he were 5'9 or even 5'8 1/2 I could stomach this but you just can't play major D-1 football at his height at the corner position. If he were a burner with 4.3 speed I could see the take but he just doesn't have that. If he were a stronger kid who could physically jam you at the line and tackle in run support, I could try to get behind a scrappy underdog who would be a demon on special teams but he isn't that.

This is an offer that Dabo offered in the summer of last year--the same way he did with Greenlee to lock it in at the beginning. He didn't need to see his senior year or whether he would progress in his talent or grow--he offered because he wanted him on the team. So lets not quibble about talent because our defensive staff didn't actively pursue him or want him (just like Venables didn't want the Davis twins and Reed didn't want to keep Ryan Carter), Dabo wanted his guy and you can't separate that from his father being the team's "life coach"--you just can't.

Ultimately these guys could have been given preferred walk-on status and then forced to make a decision. Trapp doesn't have the offers and most likely would have come to Clemson. Lets put it on the players to show they want to be here (the parents of all of these guys sans Ryan Carter could afford it).

If you want to compete for a playoff spot year in and year out then this kind of practice needs to stop or at least be curtailed. We are bringing in at least one a year and are looking at two a year (Hint** part 2 is about the second one for this year--Brian Dawkins Jr.).