To reiterate, this is a list of Clemson's top ten most wanted right now (5 on defense and 5 on offense). It just includes our main targets and players Clemson is actively pursuing. For example: Nate Craig-Myers is the number one overall WR who recently de-committed from Auburn but he won't be on this list because unless Clemson can get him on campus, we aren't legitimately in the running (unfortunately FSU is the prohibitive favorite right now). This list is pretty straightforward because there are less open slots on offense. QB (Cooper), RB (Feaster), and TE (Chalk -- who has been rising up recruiting rankings boards) are all full. We have one more spot at WR and 3-4 more at offensive line after Pollard (most likely 3 though).
1. OL Clark Yarbrough (6'5, 270) Woodberry Forest, VA
The plan is for Clark to commit on May 21st at the end of his Spring practice. He lists a top five of Clemson, Duke, Florida, Stanford, and Virginia, but this has been a Stanford and Clemson battle for some time. Miami and Florida coming in with offers piqued his interest, but it seemed to be too little, too late. Academics are really important to the family and carry weight in the recruitment.
Yarbrough is a legitimate Tackle prospect, which is important because a lot of the guys Clemson is in on are Tweeners who are ideally suited at Guard but could get away with playing Tackle. Yarbrough is a tackle. He is also not a raw physical specimen but someone who understands the nuances of the position (the way Hyatt and Fruh stepped in knowing technique, not like Battle or Gore who needed to be totally taught the position). Clark has put on about 20 pounds of muscle in the past year and maintained his agility and foot speed -- no reason to think he can't fill out that frame and carry a lean 290-300 pounds without too much difficulty. Plays with good technique -- moves his feet well in run blocking, hand placement, but doesn't lack toughness.
Clemson solidified its position when Clark visited for the junior day and spent the weekend with Pollard and other O-line recruits like Simpson and Boudreaux. The coaching staff did a great job of making him feel like he was a serious priority. Clemson led after the visit, but Stanford scored a visit and left an equally favorable impression. Stanford led after their more recent visit.
Either Yarbrough visited Stanford and made his decision or the allure of the visit has slowly worn away. I don't think distance is a factor but going all the way across the country is a serious commitment. Clemson also had coaches visit about two weeks ago that was another positive. Many believe Stanford has a considerable lead, but I think Clemson has the slight edge here based on a piece of intel. Now I am not saying he is definitely coming to Clemson because I think he is legitimately torn, but leaning Clemson right now. Would be a big pick-up -- consensus 4* player and in the top 150ish range of player when all the rankings are done in my opinion.
2. OL John Simpson (6'4, 290) Fort Dorchester, SC
One of the increasingly rare in-state battles for a player. Last year we lost Zach Bailey, which was our sole blemish on the recruiting trail against USCjr. A large part of USCjr's rise to prominence involved winning in-state recruiting battles, especially with offensive lineman. They beat us out for players like AJ Cann and Brandon Shell (Gilmore and Holloman really started their momentum). But we don't compete all that much with USCjr these days for players other than a few battles every cycle. They got Bailey but we ultimately landed Mark Fields.
All of that is to say that Simpson is the kind of player we were missing on a couple of years ago. Mississippi State tried to get in the mix here with a visit and other schools are trying to get him on campus like LSU and Alabama but this remains an in-state battle. Florida got a recent visit but I don't see them having staying power.
Clemson now has a near commanding lead in this one though. It isn't over by any stretch but Clemson is the lead dog here, which is a remarkable feat. The pattern for Simpson's visits are that he will have Clemson as a public number one, visit somewhere else and back off that and say everyone is even -- only to visit Clemson again and name them the top school. Simpson knows Clemson doesn't want more visits or de-commits so he is taking his time checking out other places. There is the chance that another school is ability to dethrone Clemson, but, again, we are in the driver's seat.
Tony Elliott deserves a lot of credit. He has really built on his connections in the area and elevated Clemson's status. Simpson also got along well with other Offensive line recruits.
Simpson is more of a raw prospect than a player like Yarbrough, but he has a really high ceiling. Huge wingspan and increased athleticism after he cut weight after his Sophomore year. Needs work on technique, especially in pass protection and plays a bit high at times but he pulls well and shows good effort. Ideally suited to play Guard but could also play Tackle with his longer arms down the road in a pinch. I see a lot of Brandon Thomas potential in Simpson.
3. WR Diondre Overton (6'5, 195) Greensboro, NC
Overton is much simpler. Last WR spot available. It is us versus Tennessee (Michigan just offered but we will see if that visit materializes). We covet his height at the position. There might be some better overall prospects on the board but Overton fills our need for elite height at the position. Not a burner but has good ball skills and performs well in camp settings one-on-one with route running and getting decent separation.
Clemson had been trending slightly downward after leading initially, but his latest visit to campus has us near the lead spot, if not in the lead spot. We have sold him on being the next Mike Williams in our scheme--coming in and having an impact early. Definitely would be a great red-zone scoring threat. The only problem is time--no idea when he is going to wrap up his recruitment so while we lead for now--that could change with more visits. We will definitely wait on his decision.
4. Will Fries (6'6, 265) Cranford, NJ
This is where it gets difficult. You have one more offensive line slot to fill and group of potential offensive lineman that Clemson is trying to secure. The list includes Fries, Parker Boudreaux, Luke Elder, Jack DeFoor, and Bryce Mathews (EJ Price if he ever de-commits again from Georgia and possibly Landon Dickerson but right now we are on the outside looking in on that one).
Since I haven't talked much about Fries I'll take the chance here although he is one of the least likely to drop for us. Most of the above targets are all ranked about the same as 4* prospects around the top 200-250 range. Fries visited Clemson at the beginning of April and has family in the upstate so there is a connection coming from New Jersey.
However, Will has an affinity for Big 10 schools and Penn State has long been rumored to be the leading candidate. Scoring the visit was huge for Clemson though and positioned us as the darkhorse in the race. Clemson sent Venables to visit with him (the Southern boss of Northeastern recruiting) at the start of the spring recruiting period. Clemson needs to get him back on campus if it is going to have staying power.
Unfortunately, Michigan has entered the race and could hold the cards depending on how his upcoming visit goes. This is why Penn State has been pushing for an early commitment from Will.
Fries is another legitimate tackle prospect who will need to add a good 25 pounds for college but has the frame to easily do that. He will decide before the start of his senior season.
5. Luke Elder (listed as 6'3 and 6'5, 285) La Grange, GA
Tough to pick just one but I'll go with Elder since he is someone who I initially had written off. He just doesn't look like a high profile prospect but the kid can flat out play. He went to the Rivals Atlanta camp and had a really good day in one-on-one's against 4 and 5 star prospects. He showed he can use his long arms to hold up in pass protection, which is an area he struggles in on tape because he comes from a run oriented offense.
Hard to describe his play because he isn't the most athletic guy but he is technically sound and kind of savvy (like that guy who has no business being awesome in a pick up game but just keeps scoring and embarrassing everyone). That is too harsh a comparison though because Elder is still growing into his body and shedding baby fat. He moves his feet really well for someone not as athletically gifted as a guy like EJ Price, for example.
On tape you see a road grader. He can definitely run block at the next level and profiles as a hard nosed guard. Seems to love contact. He publicly listed Clemson as his top school a month or so ago but then switched to a top three of Clemson, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. With more offers and visits he has now backed away from that as well. He recently visited GT (I would hate for him to go there, he would be perfect for PJ and that offense).
Boudreaux is going to keep going with the recruiting game until the end so we just have to wait and see how that shakes out and DeFoor is still accumulating more offers and seeing how things shake out before making a real firm decision.
Final Note: Denzel Johnson got the ACT score he was hoping for and just needs to get the grades he is expecting and he will join the Clemson 2015 class--I'll have more critical comments later.
Also, Thad Turnipseed spoke at an event the other day (if you ever get a chance to listen to him go and do it, he is very rah rah -- that is his job -- but also extremely insightful). The only thing I'll repeat is he said that he spends 30 minutes a day on Clemson websites--Tigernet, Rivals, and Scout were mentioned I think. But Thad must venture to the dark side on occasion right? So Thad, if you are reading we love the work you are doing (would love to interview you but the AD won't let me). Please feel free to sign up and comment below--you could use a pseudonym like Thad Turnitup-seed (I'm sure other posters will have better suggestions in the comments).