**UPDATE: Shaq Smith did indeed find a Clemson hat under the table and Venables lands another blue chip recruit. While the class will be limited in size, this is an impressive group the coaches are putting together. Now time to grab some DE's and continue the OLine pursuit. Let us rejoice...
I'm writing a dissertation with a looming deadline so I'm afraid this is going to have to be quick. Big news cropped up yesterday, the timing is a little out of left field but very much worthy of the STS readership's attention. Rahshaun Smith (yes, that's with two ‘h's there) or Shaq as he is commonly known as, is set to announce tomorrow close to his home in Baltimore. This should be streamed live on an ESPN channel, the time hasn't been set as far as I know but should be between 5:30-7:00 pm. You may recall we have been tracking his recruiting since before last summer—he was probably the top rising junior performer at camp last summer in Clemson. Venables went so far as to call it the best camp performance he's ever seen as a coach, which has justifiably been treated like praise from Caesar by local media. You may also remember him as my official man-crush prospect of the cycle.
A quick overview to get everyone up to speed: Smith is listed at 6'2'', 226 lbs, he's a 5-star by Rivals (#11 player in the country) and a high 4-star at all other services. He has offers from the usual SEC suspects (Alabama, etc.), major BIG10 players (Ohio St., Penn St., etc.) and FSU. He's been pursued by most programs as a strong-side DE, one of those coveted pass rushing prospects. Clemson has pursued him a bit differently, Venables wants him as a Linebacker who could have the versatility to put his hand on the ground and rush on passing downs. This approach really resonated with Smith and helped us to maintain traction. He had been playing his prep school at St. Frances outside of Baltimore which is where Venables (lead Clemson recruiter) established contact but announced over the winter, rather suddenly, that he would be transferring to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year. This led to a lot of speculation about the sway of the Florida schools; IMG has traditionally been viewed as something of an FSU pipeline, although IMG kids do go to other schools. However, it also puts him at a school with Clemson 2016 commit T.J. Chase and Saivion Smith (who as of this moment we will get an official visit from despite the LSU commitment).
So, where is he heading? Some conflicting information out there, but let me do my best to read the tea leaves for everyone. I can tell you, despite the sudden decision to announce, the Clemson coaches feel pretty darn good going into tomorrow. While the industry has been a bit slow to catch Smith's interest in Clemson, this has been building for some time. First, Venables has been worth his weight in gold on the recruiting trail, and from what I understand it was his involvement (and the respect he commands in the coaching community) that got him down to camp. From there, Clemson made a very positive impression. That impression was solidified after he visited over the Syracuse game weekend. Then he left Clemson's elite junior day at the end of January raving about Clemson. Clemson is clearly in good standing. For the recruiting-ologists out there, a few more important points to note: 1) his only college trip since Clemson's junior day was a stop at Miami in late February. 2) The 247 predictions, laughably low as late as two weeks ago, have been creeping up in Clemson's favor since the announcement timing was made. Basically, lots of indicators pointing in the direction of Clemson.
On the other hand, today Smith spoke to a couple of reporters and said that 4 hats will be on the table, two from the SEC, one from the Big12, and one from the Big10. This leaves us with two possibilities: 1) all of the above has been washed suddenly away and there's a school about to be very pleasantly surprised tomorrow evening or 2) Smith is throwing up some smoke and mirrors to heighten suspense and he's got a hat under the table; or better yet, next thing you know he's riding a live tiger out of the room. I personally think it will be a Clemson shirt and no hat necessary. Again, based on what I'm hearing, I am quietly confident and not backing off anything I have posted. I can't completely rule out a Raekwon McMillan 2.0, but it feels much more like a Ray Ray McCloud III 2.0. I'm sleeping easy tonight.
If Clemson does pull Smith tomorrow, two quick thoughts: 1) Just as with last cycle, Clemson will have gone up against all of the big boys and pulled away an extremely coveted prospect. 2) I can't emphasize how much I like this kid. It's not just the elite ability, he has the versatility that's a dream come true for a Venables defense. His ceiling projects to be the kind of game-changing defensive talent that force opposing coordinators to scheme around him. Yes we need DE talent more than anything but if you can't get excited about Smith then you are being spoiled by Clemson recruiting. Venables may be the best recruiting DC in the country right now.