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Clemson & Ohio State, Xavier McKinney Recruiting

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Delving into Clemson and Ohio State recruiting battles and where things stand with Xavier McKinney

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl Preview
Clemson is enjoying being back in the Playoff.
The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson and Ohio State coaches often joke with each other about the frequency with which they cross paths. Urban Meyer, like all good college coaches, is constantly trying to copy what works with other teams. This includes specific plays, running a program, and extends to recruiting. Tebow said in a recent interview that Meyer is always learning. Well, yes, but in reality, Urban is always copying. Meyer has a tremendous amount of respect for Clemson coaches as recruiters and evaluators of talent and before Ohio State won its most recent national championship it seemed that OSU was offering every player Clemson offered. Certainly a gross exaggeration, but it seemed like that on the Clemson side of things.

Who did Ohio State land over Clemson?

The first and most obvious is 5* LB Raekwon McMillan. During the summer before his senior season, Clemson actually had a silent commitment from McMillan, but couldn’t fend off Meyer down the home stretch. Clemson coaches still felt like they had a legitimate shot all the way down to his commitment, despite what recruiting analysts and the recruit himself might have said. Jeff Scott invested a lot of time in his recruitment and it was a rare miss for Scott. McMillan has anchored OSU’s defense for years now and was a Butkus finalist this year.

DT Michael Hill from down the road in Pendleton, SC. Hill never gave Clemson a chance and was set on going out of state. Nothing Clemson could have done.

WR James Clark was another late battle. Clark was a speedster out of New Smyrna Beach, FL who took a visit to Clemson and had Clemson in the lead until a final visit to Ohio State swung things to the Buckeyes.

Clemson offered and pursued DE Tyquan Lewis, but couldn’t gain any real traction. Same with DE Jalyn Smith who only visited for camp, but was all OSU.

Clemson beat OSU for Christian Wilkins and landed K’von Wallace on signing day as OSU waffled a bit before pushing late.

Oh and Clemson landed Deshaun Watson. The one who got away for OSU.

Xavier McKinney

What is the latest with McKinney? The buzz amongst recruiting gurus heading into the Under Armour All-American game is that Alabama and Clemson are the finalists. Many analysts believe Clemson will be the ultimate decision but folks at Alabama feel like they have a legit shot. The Alabama Rivals site felt like the decision was a 50/50 coin toss, others followed suit with questions about Clemson’s standing.

Here is what I know. Clemson coaches have never felt any semblance of panic or thinking that this was a 50/50 decision. Saban took his in home visit and helped move the needle a bit for Bama, but there are a lot of things working for Clemson. Dabo Swinney has not used his in-home visit and is saving it because McKinney will not enroll early. Clemson has established a great relationship with high school coaches in the state of Georgia, especially at Roswell. Tre Lamar was the first and then this extended to LeAnthony Williams. Remember that LeAnthony Williams, AJ Terrell, and Xavier McKinney all train together. It would be an epic upset if McKinney went to Bama.

After losing the commitment of RB Richardson, Clemson is seriously considering taking Darrian Felix of Fort Myers, FL. Felix is a composite three star back who stands 5’ 10 and 190ish pounds. He isn’t a bad player, but I think Clemson needs a bigger bruising back in this class. Felix is a smaller all-purpose athlete, instead of an interior runner.

My Underrated Keys to the Game

Here are a few things to think about that may influence the outcome of the Fiesta Bowl.

  1. Setting the Edge: Clemson should hold up along the interior of the defensive line, especially with Pagano returning, which will limit Barrett’s bread and butter power A gap running. OSU will try to test the edge and get Samuel out in space. I think Samuel becomes the main problem for the Clemson defense. DE’s must set the edge and CBs need to be physical in run support because OSU WRs are good blockers.
  2. Dorian O’Daniel: With a bigger running QB, I think Venables will use O’Daniel as the primary Nickel/SAM player. Barrett isn’t a burner, but is more like VT’s Evans. O’Daniel could have a big game as a physical presence. He was playing very well against VT until a targeting penalty took him out of the game.
  3. Jordan Leggett: If you use your Safety to bracket Mike Williams, you need to put a LB/Nickel/S on Leggett. He is a matchup nightmare and opens up the middle of the field. Yes, we know Clemson has to run the ball and Mike Williams needs to be a factor but Leggett really makes the offense hum.

Stop Samuel, limit Barrett running the ball and don’t turn the ball over on offense. That is the simple recipe to beating OSU. The problem is that OSU has had time to devise a bunch of plays that will try to take advantage of Clemson’s aggressive defense, little wrinkles that will give OSU some explosive plays. Clemson will have to weather those storms.

Couldn’t Heisman voters have waited until after the bowl games?? Seriously. Heisman voters are going to be saying the same thing as last year if Watson has a great game.