No, not USCjr's Big Splash Pool Party or the Alabama Champions Cookout--this is the original All-In Cookout and one the more successful recruiting events in recent Clemson recruiting history.
This year was not the immediate recruiting coup that it has been in years past, but pump the brakes--the list of participants was solid and Clemson left a good impression on all of them (as you will soon see).
First some noteworthy absences. First you have OG Big John Simpson (6'4, 290) from Fort Dorchester who took his first visit to Tennessee and unfortunately enjoyed the visit a lot. Simpson has almost committed to Clemson multiple times but keeps prolonging the process and stretching it out. You never want that to happen. He definitely has people in his ear, telling him to take more visits and keep things open. With regards to Tennessee specifically, it is not clear that they would take Simpson's commitment right now because they have guys higher on their board like Landon Dickerson, among others. Simpson isn't going to make a decision until sometime during the football season. Clemson will have to remain patient and hope that SEC suitors don't swoop in and steal him.
John could play Tackle he is best suited to be a pulling guard--he pulls well from the Guard position already in high school, which is why he fits so well in Clemson's offensive scheme. Although Simpson did put out a top 7--I still see this as highly favorable to Clemson. USCjr and Tennessee could still get back into it, though. Simpson does want to stay relatively close to home, which should continue to work in our favor.
The other big target who was absent was WR Diondre Overton (6'5, 190). He visited and worked out at Tennessee with their WR coach Azzanni. Up until this point, Overton just didn't want to end the process and say no to Tennessee folks. I think he is becoming more open to other suitors and isn't the lock that he previously was to Clemson. He also will extend the process into the football season and go to some games at different schools (one definitely being Tennessee).
So who was there??
First the Cookout always goes a long way with maintaining the commitments of current recruits. The Cookout has become a huge event with former players, current players, coaches, and all the families coming together. This helps reinforce all of the early commitments as we head into the season.
The name everyone keeps freaking out about is Rahshaun Smith. He went to Georgia and Auburn with a group of hometown kids with his former coach, trainer, and mentor Cory Robinson who recently was hired by Maryland as the Director of Player Personnel (otherwise known as the job where you try to keep local kids in Maryland). Of course, he is going to try to persuade Smith to play at Maryland--so that is where any trepidation should be located. He didn't even work out at Auburn or Georgia.
Yes, I did see where another site had said that Smith is now very interested in Auburn, blah, blah, clicks. Nothing to see here at the moment.
What's Understood Doesn't Have To Be Explained ❗️ pic.twitter.com/u1oAyPQATA— Humble & Hungry 〽️ (@Nextlevel_shaq) July 22, 2015
Bryce Matthews (6'6, 275) was the big OL recruit at the Cookout. This was only Matthews second visit to campus, he visited once before in the Spring. Matthews has narrowed things down to Clemson, Tennessee, and Ole Miss, but no one quite knows the pecking order. After the cookout, he did say that things were narrowed down to two of those schools, but no one really knows if it is Tennessee or Ole Miss.
Those at Tennessee feel good about their position. Bryce is from Brentwood, Tennessee and has friends who are going to UT. Tennessee has been seen as the front-runner for his services for awhile now. Ole Miss, however, also likes their position. Bryce is attracted to a religious atmosphere and he really thinks Coach Freeze runs a Christian program (I would definitely beg to differ, but I'm not doing the recruiting and deciding). That atmosphere has been a major selling point for both Ole Miss and Clemson. Matthews really enjoyed Coach Caldwell and his style, along with the undeniable family vibe.
Matthews is set to announce his decision before the weekend. I'm talking this Friday. I honestly don't have a good beat on this recruitment or what direction he is leaning. All three schools feel like they are in it. The difficult question is whether or not in just two visits Clemson made up enough ground. If Matthews was taking more time to make his decision then it would look like Clemson could continue to make up ground. Matthews is playing this close to the vest so at this point in time no team knows his ultimate destination.
Tennessee seems the likely destination based on what their coaches feel and the hometown connection but Clemson is definitely in this and has a legitimate chance to land him. He likes the Christian appeal and Dabo Swinney as a person.
Xavier Kelly (6'4, 260) from Wichita, Kansas is going to be our future at DE. He can play the Strongside or the Weakside and will be a serious pass rushing threat in the future. He will be announcing on Friday at 2pm and this is a huge addition to Clemson's class. I have long said that this class wouldn't be complete without a really good DE and Coach Venables once again got his guy.
Kelly visited for the Cookout and stayed all the way through Saturday until he gave Georgia their second visit on Dawg Night. He liked everything about Clemson, especially Coach Swinney's dance moves (I'll have more with the commitment post on Friday). We will beat out the others in his top eight--Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, TCU, Kansas State and Oregon for his commitment. We, once again, swam with the big boys and came out on top.
Antonneous Clayton (6'4, 220) a highly touted DE from Vienna, GA (cousin to Mont Adams) also was in attendance for the cookout. Although Clemson has said that they want one DE for this class, Antonneous is definitely oversign material (both positionally and in total numbers). After the Dabo Swinney Camp Clayton said Clemson had emerged as slight leaders over Auburn, but it was far too early to put much weight in that statement. The fact that he made another appearance was really big. Florida State and Auburn seem to pose the biggest threats (definitely Auburn in the equation makes you feel like this could be a repeat of Adams situation).
Clemson now has staying power and Clayton will play out his recruitment all the way to signing day.
The last 2016 visitor to emphasize right now is DT Nyles Pinckney (6'3, 288) from Whale Branch, South Carolina. I have long stated that I believe Pinckney will be a Clemson Tiger. Nyles spent a good bit of time Upstate and even visited the campus again on Wednesday. He will be attending USCjr's pool party splashy fun day as he returns home but I don't think USC can turn him. This is an in-state battle and although Spurrier is desperate to turn the tide against his "enemies" foriegn and domestic Clemson sank their teeth into this one early and has patiently waited. I'm not saying Nyles is a silent commit but I do think the staff is now set at DT other than trying to attract Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence.
The only pieces that remain are securing another Offensive Tackle or two, the above WR, and an elite CB and the class will be done.
When I said at the beginning of the recruiting season that this had the potential, not in terms of numbers but in terms of the quality of the commitments, to be one of the best classes in Clemson history this is what I meant. At the time we Saivion Smith set to commit to Clemson with R. Smith and Lamar being close to commitments. Simpson, Pinckney and Overton looked like a matter of time and we were in contention for a number of top O-lineman. O-line recruiting hasn't proceeded according to plan and CB recruiting has been suspect but other than those two areas (which is being extremely nitpicky) the staff has done a phenomenal job this year.
Clemson always has a point in the Summer where you want to start feeling like the sky is falling in recruiting (we forget we have the top RB and LB in the nation already committed with some really good WR's, etc.) and then Swinney once again dances his way into the hearts of top recruits and Clemson fans everywhere.
Lets all get weird and do some new dance, whip, neanae type dancy thing.