This is the list of Clemson's top ten most wanted--right now. I'm splitting it into 5 on defense and 5 on offense. Obviously we could list all the most highly ranked guys but I am only including players that Clemson has a legitimate chance to land and players Clemson is actively pursuing. Tony Elliott recently said at an offseason event that Clemson would have a class of around 14 players. Just not happening. In fact, I will be so bold as to say that Clemson shouldn't take less than 18. 19 is the optimal number for this class. Here is the current breakdown:
1 QB (Cooper--done, although he has been taking visits with friends far too much for my liking, especially the Miss. St.)
1 RB (Feaster--done)
3 WR (2 currently committed with Powell and Chase)
1 TE (Chalk-done, climbing in recruiting rankings)
4 OL (1 currently committed with Pollard)
3 LB (2 currently committed in Skalski and Smith--1 spot remaining)
2 DE (none committed)
2 DT (none committed)
1 CB (none committed)
1 Grayshirt (B Dawkins Jr. probably taking a spot from one of the open slots above)
Including BDawk Jr. this number comes to 19 total. I know the staff seems to be wavering on taking 2 Defensive Ends in this class but it must happen. We have the numbers at the position but not the quality moving forward. I also think we need to plan like Lawson, Mack, and even Kearse could make the jump to the NFL. Figure on some attrition, bump some 5 hearters to walk-ons and you can easily take 19.
1. DT Rashan Gary (6'5, 290) Paramus, NJ
Land a 5* War Daddy DT in 2015? Why not pair him with another in 2016? Gary is just a physical beast. Quick off the line for a guy his size. He plays with the agility of a DE as a DT. Uses his hands well at this stage and destroys inferior competition in his region. Intelligent player, big body, continues to make strength gains--War Daddy. Would start in 2 deep immediately.
Clemson is one of a large list of potential suitors. Clemson has some staying power but this will be a massive undertaking. Gary is so good that many teams have him rated as the top overall defensive player in this class. Michigan and Ohio State are teams to watch. He will likely release a top five before the start of his senior season and will take all his official visits. We need to make that cut and get him back to campus. I think of all the southern teams he has visited so far (Georgia and USCjr) we are in the best position. But, he will see everyone. Next on his list is Auburn, Mississippi, and Alabama. Seeds planted, but they have to grow.
Luckily we have our ace recruiter Brent Venables on the case. Let me diverge here for a minute. Who would have thought when we hired Venables that he would prove to be such a boss recruiter?? When he sets his sites on you, man, he is good. He grabbed Yeargin III in 2014, Christian Wilkins in 2015, and has us in contention for some of the best defensive players in the country.
2. SDE Xavier Kelly (6'5, 250) Wichita, KS
Continuing the Venables theme, one of the hottest rising prospects is Xavier Kelly. He is being recruited by none other than Brent "The Hitman" Venables. Kelly hails from Wichita, which isn't really in our recruiting footprint, but Kelly's Dad lives in Savannah, GA. Kelly is one of the hotter recruiting properties right now. Recruiting services generally have him as a 3 star prospect but when you turn on the tape you can quickly see that this will rise. Classic lack of exposure. He was committed to Kansas State but de-committed with all the recent attention.
Clemson got in before the other big suitors like Georgia, LSU, and Florida State recently offered. This is definitely unfortunate because we weren't able to gain a foothold like we needed to but he will visit Clemson in June. That is a huge accomplishment. Still much too early and no way to know where we stand until after that visit.
3. Tre Lamar (6'3, 240) Roswell, GA
We once led big-time for Tre. Like mile-wide lead. That lead dissipated with Auburn coming in strong and selling their civil engineering program Auburn also used our acquisition of R. Smith to muddy the waters. Lamar has stated publicly a top five of Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, and Florida State, but this is really a Clemson, Alabama and Auburn battle.
Enter Brent Venables. Venables met with Lamar and quelled some of his fears and clarified how Lamar would fit in as our only MLB take in this class. Lamar would play as an aggressive run stopping, physical presence like Stephone Anthony. Grabbing Smith and Lamar would be a huge coup at the position. I think we are still in the lead position here as of this moment. The gap has tightened, however, and we need to hold on throughout the Summer. He will decide in the fall.
4. DT Dexter Lawrence (6'5, 330) Wake Forest, NC
Dexter is the enigma of this class. There may not be a more talented DT in this class (other than Gary) and there may not be another top ranked recruit with as little interest in the recruiting process as Lawrence. I say this to clarify that no one has any idea where he will end up. He could stick close to home at NC State or be drawn into the SEC trap. His recruitment just hasn't taken sufficient shape yet to really know. He doesn't cite Clemson much in the few interviews he conducts but I don't see that as a huge deal at this point.
Is he worth the wait? Oh yeah. He tore it up at a Charlotte Rivals event, whipping most of his competition easily. He also showed off a bevy (range) of different pass rush moves. Bull, rip, swim--impressive. The thing that gets me is how he plays with great leverage and angles for such a big player. I wouldn't call him smooth but not a lot of wasted movement and he is never off balance. Just a lot to like--I wasn't expecting he would be so talented (I expected he would be a bit overrated but that was not the case).
Where might we stand? Lawrence has plans to visit a lot of schools this Summer and the schools that actually get visits are the ones I would count as serious contenders. That said he could drop tomorrow or signing day--just a lot of unknowns.
5. Kareem Felder (5' 10, 170) Baltimore, Maryland
I add Felder at the end so I can talk about the CB situation. All signs point to Felder signing for Ohio State at this point with a slight outside chance he will commit to Clemson. Felder is friends with Smith but after Ohio State offered there wasn't much Clemson could do. He recently de-committed from Virginia Tech. Has the length we desire but will probably commit to Ohio State this week. If he lasts beyond this week, it is a good sign for Clemson, but I don't think that will happen.
Clemson is going to be very selective in who they take at CB. Again, this didn't have to be the case. We could have grabbed Robbie Robinson and then waited on the right player with more height but we decided to take a 5 hearter instead. Flogging the dead horse, I know, but needs to be said. We want height with this last CB take and we will wait to find the right player. We must hit on this CB spot with the imminent departure of Mackensie Alexander.
Next we jump to the offense.