This is easily the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for Clemson. Notre Dame was going to be that date, but the rain kept many potential recruits at home. This weekend's challenge is going up against a strong slate of games, primarily keeping players away from the LSU versus Alabama match-up, but an abundance of talent will be in Death Valley.
Let me start with offering a bit of a cautionary take on the upcoming matchup. I don't want to sound like a wet blanket or a scared, fickle Clemson fan, but all the talk of 12 point victories leaves me a bit squeamish. Florida State is one of the most talented teams in the country and if they can put it together can beat anyone in the country on any given Saturday. That isn't coach speak, that is based on their recruiting.
For example, Derwin James is a 5* Safety and freak DB prospect. He is a turnover generating machine, but he is still learning the nuances of playing the position (and being in position). But he is an absolute difference maker who will now start because of injuries to the FSU secondary. Josh Sweat has made a remarkable recovery from an ACL injury and just continues to improve at DE. Jaques Patrick is the other 5* difference maker who will have the opportunity to vault the overall level of performance for this team.
I also think that the defense will look a whole lot better with a healthy Terrance Smith who helps solidify the middle of the defense and cover from end to end. Ramsey is a shutdown corner and they have a good number of athletes on the backend to go with an improving pass rush and stout interior line. If they can shore up the LB position then this defense looks much more formidable.
The only place that FSU hasn't recruited particularly well is the offensive line where they had two straight years of only taking two lineman (sound familiar??). Just like Clemson has experienced, this is a recipe for disaster if you have any injuries, which FSU has had this year. It is the match-up Clemson should exploit.
So the real question--who is coming to Clemson??
First, we will have most of our remaining 2016 prospects on campus for the game.
The two biggest names coming for visits are LB Rahshaun Smith and DT Dexter Lawrence. I know that ESPN has said CB Trayvon Mullen will be on campus for the game, but I will believe when I see it. Not clear that he will make the trip.
Rahshaun Smith coming to campus is big. LSU has moved into his top echelon of schools after he took an official visit with teammates to LSU in October. Maryland and Auburn have faded to a certain degree after their tumultuous seasons while LSU has positioned itself near the top (some folks at LSU would say the very top). You have to remember that Kevin Steele is now at LSU as the DC, along with the master recruiter Ed Orgeron, and they have a particular viewpoint about Clemson (I'll let you fill in the blanks there). Clemson will need to correct the trajectory of his recruitment with this unofficial visit and solidify that standing on an official visit. Mom is still in our corner.
Dexter Lawrence is coming for an official visit. No one knows anything about where Dexter Lawrence is leaning in his recruitment. You only have his visits as a rough guide in this one. N.C. State might be the favorite, but Clemson now has two weeks in a row to showcase their program. UNC is in the mix too with proximity to home. Florida got an official visit and remains a distant possibility. Ohio State is the latest suitor who is supposed to get an official visit in December because Lawrence will enroll early. We know Lawrence had a great time on his earlier unofficial visit and you have to like Clemson's position right now. I still think Clemson has the inside track, but the official visit will be key.
WR Diondre Overton, all 6'4/5 of him, will be in attendance. He plans to announce his decision at the Semper Fi game and it remains Clemson by a pretty wide margin at this point.
Next is OL Big John Simpson who has been really playing well in his senior year. Simpson is a must get for Clemson and is fending off some late overtures from bigger programs like LSU as they try to get in late, but the conventional wisdom is that Clemson's proximity to home will be too big of a pull to overcome. This weekend should solidify that direction. He might take a couple officials after this weekend (the LSU visit is scheduled for the 14th).
Continuing with quality offensive lineman Powder Springs, GA's Tremayne Anchrum (6'3 280) is going to making his second appearance in Clemson for an official visit. Anchrum was set on being a Georgia Bulldog but was told about a month ago when he was set to commit that they were full. His other main suitors to that point were Nebraska and Colorado. Clemson gained significant ground with his first visit, so much ground that he delayed a potential commitment (most likely to Colorado) in favor of taking an official to Clemson. I think Colorado is a legitimate player in his recruitment, but obviously Clemson has all the momentum. Anchrum is a solid, versatile prospect who will likely play inside, but has the arm length to stick at the Tackle position if needed. He is not a fall-back prospect and would be a welcome addition, if not underrated addition, to this class.
Local OL product Cade Stewart will also be on campus. We will let things develop with Anchrum before deciding on anything definitive with Stewart. It would be a real coup to grab him as a preferred walk-on.
The final corner position is still to be determined. The staff seems to be leaning toward a Safety prospect now with the versatility to play some Nickel or corner in a pinch. I have said all along that we need to take two DB prospects. What happens if we have Mack, Kearse, and Tank all decide they want to try the NFL? You will be starting Baker (who has made great strides this season but still isn't nearly physical enough to hold up over the course of the entire season) and Mark Fields, Carter, or Marcus Edmond? That is paper thin, especially if there is an injury. I'm not sold on Chalmers being able to stick at Corner either--he might be best suited for a Nickel role. We do have Wiggins returning next year so Baker and Tank will be a decent combination, but we need to plan for some attrition.
The two main 2016 DB targets who will attend are Vance, NC's Myles Dorn (6'2 190) and South Carolina commitment JJ Givens (6'1 175). Both are larger rangy targets that project to play safety. Both are mid 3* tier prospects--I'll have a post breaking down all of the CB possibilities soon, but I think Clemson should try and hold out for some other top tier targets if we are only taking one prospect. I am going off of old film though and haven't seen these prospects personally.
Lots of top 2017 talent will be on campus. Here are some standouts to pay attention to. All of our main WR targets will be present. Shi Smith of Union HS, SC, Wando's OrTre Smith, and Bradenton, FL's JJ Robinson. We currently lead for all three. Defensively some of the standouts are Crest, NC LB Justin Foster, Archer, GA CB Jamyest Williams, and Tennessee WR commitment Tee Higgins. Ask in the comments about any of the other 2017, 2018 prospects visiting.
Clemson also broke ground on the new facility. People question what Clemson is selling to recruits--well now you can see what every single recruit has been sold on. Mini-golf, BBQ pit, and a mini-hill to run down. Impressive stuff for recruits and their families.