With the commitment of Etienne, Clemson is fully focusing their efforts on the 2018 class. This is one of the reasons that Clemson is successful in recruiting every year. Clemson targets a limited number of targets every year and invests more time and energy on those recruits rather than having a really large board, throwing out a bunch of offers to see if they might stick.
The focus of the Junior day will be the unveiling of the new Clemson football facility complete with bells and whistles like a slide, bowling alley, nap room, movie theater, babershop, replica hill, new lockers/locker room, giant cold tub, steam room, huge weight room, virtual reality, golf simulator/giant video game screen, outdoor whiffle ball, basketball court, putt-putt golf, BBQ/grilling area, Nike gear area, and the ‘Paw Journey’ (a center for career/leadership and selling the Clemson family). A few facilities might be a bit more jazzy aesthetically (Oregon, for example comes off a bit elitist and not very friendly), but this facility sells the Clemson family vibe.
I am really impressed with the graphics and the attention to detail. Those things have not always happened at Clemson. Thad Turnipseed and his staff, along with many others, deserve a lot of credit. Dabo also deserves a ton of credit for not saying that the West Zone was enough (or not allowing others to make that choice for him). Combine a National Championship with a new facility and elite recruiting staff and you have a recipe for a top class.
With recruiting, you always want to offer the recruit something more to add to their experience. One of the problems schools are having with getting kids on campus earlier and earlier is they run out of things to show the recruits. The new facility gives all of these recruits, even the ones who have previously been to campus, something impressive to engage with and it has enough ‘bells and whistles’ to keep them intrigued and wanting to come back.
But this Junior day, it is something else. I know I say every year that it seems like this will be the best class ever and the best collection of talent. Well, this might be the last time I get to say that...I’m going to break it down by position group.
QB1. As in #1 overall. Trevor Lawrence.
It is a thing of beauty when you have the number one overall player committed at arguably the most important position on a football team. Lawrence is easily the top QB prospect of the past 5 years. Winston was ranked #15 overall in 2012. One day I will do a post on the top rated QBs from the past 10 years, it is not pretty. Trevor Lawrence is projected to be a generational talent. As recruits say these days—real recognize real.
That certainly helps jump start your recruiting. TL won’t be a flashy recruiter for Clemson like Mike Jones Jr., but he is an active low-key force and everyone knows him and wants to play with him. He has also built some bonds with other top players like Xavier Thomas and Zamir White. That net will continue to expand after this event.
Well Clemson got DK committed. Check.
We will take one more WR in the class and Jeff Scott has targeted Jordyn Adams. Adams recently transferred from Blythewood, SC to Green Hope High School in Cary, NC. His father is Deke Adams who was recently hired by UNC after a stint at East Carolina and is the defensive line coach. It is unclear how much pressure Jordyn will have to follow his father to UNC, but Clemson is going to make him turn down the Tigers before giving him up to the Tar Heels. Before the hiring and his move to North Carolina, Clemson was in the lead position by a wide margin. Clemson has certainly slipped and many believe UNC leads, but this visit served to improve Clemson’s chances. The other possibility with Adams is going the baseball route. Adams needs to have a strong year offensively swinging the bat to get drafted high, so we need to wait and see how this plays out.
If we miss on Adams then I hope we move on to someone like 4* Jacob Copeland of Pensacola, FL (as I’ve been saying Hightower is overrated and Copeland wants to visit). I also would be in favor of taking one WR if guys are panning out in the Spring/Fall and using the remaining slot on another OL, DL, or DB.
What an amazing collection of talent. Trevor Lawrence was wisely in the middle of the big bodies.
OT Nana Asiedu (6’6 270) from Stafford, VA is long and oozing with potential at the Tackle position. He ranks number 105 overall because of his high ceiling and potential. Nana needs to grow into his frame and develop more strength, especially in his lower body, but he has great feet and length and just needs to grow into that massive frame. Nana visited for the Louisville game and named Clemson his leader. This trip has continued Clemson’s positioning at the top. I was actually surprised that Nana didn’t commit, but I know the coaching staff wanted him to take all his visits and be completely sure before committing.
Richard Gouriage (6’5 275) was the other OT on campus and he is the number 34 overall composite player. Just getting Gouriage on campus from Tampa was a major coup. Coaches visited while the team was in Tampa winning some hardware. Gouriage plays on both the offensive and defensive lines, but he will make some money at OT. Elite prospect who just needs more upper body strength. He would be one of the better Tackle prospects Clemson has ever signed. Florida State might have an early lead, but things aren’t solid at the top for Gouriage yet. Clemson looks to be in the top group.
Next come the two top offensive guards in the 2018 class. Jamaree Salyer (6’3 325) from Pace HS in Atlanta GA is the number ten overall player in the country and everyone wants this guy. Everyone thinks he is a can’t miss guard prospect. Right behind him is Trey Hill (6’3 325) from Warner Robins, GA. Before the visit I would have said that both were a pipe dream. Salyer was all Dawg and will still be a tough pull from Georgia (and everyone else, Bama sees him as their top Guard prospect), but Clemson is in legit contention right now. Salyer and Hill bonded on the trip and their families enjoyed the time together and with the Clemson coaching staff. Hill is also a heavy Dawg lean, but Clemson gained serious traction.
The one area where Clemson hasn’t consistently recruited elite talent is the offensive line (and it is the hardest to evaluate and land) and that could be changing with this class. Upcoming visits for all of these players will test Clemson’s positioning and it is always hard to beat Georgia for homegrown talent, but I wouldn’t underestimate the new facility, the natty, and GA native Trevor Lawrence helping to keep Clemson in the lead group with all of these players.
LB/S commit Mike Jones Jr. is already a great recruiter. The man loves Clemson, but he also has a vivacious, infectious personality about him. Clemson gained ground with all of the IMG players.
Lets start with the #1 overall DE in the class Xavier Thomas (ESPN has him as #1 overall). Clemson has been trending with Thomas all season. Once upon a time (last summer) Clemson had a little better than a punchers chance at landing Thomas. His ties to the instate school and the amount of attention he was receiving must have been suffocating. Muschamp wanted it to be that way. Thomas almost went to IMG for his junior year, but was convinced to stay home. His move to IMG, however, has made Clemson a real player here.
South Carolina was selling Thomas on being the savior, the local boy who would restore Jr. to greatness and be the next Clowney. Sure they had a bad season, but look at the young talent they said—look at the 2017 recruiting class and all the local talent. Well, the recruiting class lost some key pieces (holding Jamyest Williams will be really important for this narrative, so Clemson fans definitely want JW to go to UGA) and the 2018 class is looking good for Clemson, especially instate with DK and Josh Belk coming to Clemson. Thomas wants to play with good players and friends so those additions and top rated guys like Lawrence and White help Clemson immensely.
Being at IMG also gives Thomas time to breath and other voices breaking up the Gamecock messages. IMG coaches will be straight with Thomas and teammates like Jones and Wynn help to continue to push Clemson. Oh and winning the Natty is the ultimate validation (even if USC coaches try to minimize the accomplishment and say it only happened with Deshaun Watson, etc. etc.). All of that gives you some background as to why Clemson has been trending upward with Thomas.
Hobby leaving was one of those developments that put a bump in the road, but as I told you at the time, could be easily smoothed over with the right hire and time to build a relationship. I also stated that it might be a positive. Well, Coach Bates got his first real recruiting test this weekend and by all accounts hit it out of the park. Bates is a motivational speaker for a reason and has some social media chops—he will help Clemson with recruiting all of these Dlineman. Clemson leads for Xavier Thomas.
Folks are sleeping on Stephen Wynn (6’4 265). Wynn is a Clemson legacy and grew up a Clemson, which is why many schools haven’t pursued him as much, but he is going to IMG for a reason. The TL Hanna, Anderson, SC product ideally projects as a 3-tech DT but he moves better than people give him credit and I really like how he uses his hands at this early stage in his career. Wynn is ranked #82 overall in the composite, but I could see him moving up about 20 more spots when it is all said and done. Wynn definitely helps Clemson with Thomas—those guys just had a good time together.
If you told me Clemson had any chance with DT Taron Vincent (6’2 290) four months ago I would have said all Buckeye, don’t waste your time. I thought Vincent was a bit overrated after watching his sophomore film, but he took off this past year at IMG. He is ranked #9 overall in the composite and is a definite 5* oversign type player. Clemson is now in the conversation, but will need to ultimately beat out Ohio State for his commitment, which remains a tall task. Florida State and Alabama will be there too. Vincent’s father played in the NFL for the Eagles, the next step is to get their family on campus.
Clemson will take one TE with this class and it is basically a first come, first serve approach. Clemson has three guys they have targeted for the spot (all with ‘M’ last names).
Mustapha Muhammad (6’5 230) is my top target and number 89 overall in the composite. He most resembles Jordan Leggett as a guy who can flex out, high point the ball, and be a real receiving threat while still being able to block on the line. He is silky smooth in the open field and already can run routes like a wideout. He also is from Missouri City, TX and is being courted by Texas and Texas A&M heavily. It will be tough to pull him out of the state any time soon. Clemson definitely made up some ground with the visit, however, and will be a part of his lead group. The question is how long can or will Clemson wait on Muhammad. The distance won’t be a factor, but the instate schools will do everything to keep him close to home.
The other TE visiting was 4* James Mitchell (6’4 210) from Big Stone Gap, VA, ranked the number 217 overall in the composite. Right now Mitchell looks like a big bodied WR who needs to learn to play close to the line of scrimmage. He will need to gain about twenty pounds of muscle to hold up on the line, but he has the frame to handle it. Lots of upside, however, and Virginia Tech and Virginia are hot on the trail. Clemson wants a pass catcher for this TE take and Mitchell checks all the boxes.
Mitchell really likes Clemson and visited for the Louisville game, but there is a serious instate tug and challenge from Virginia Tech. Clemson had him in camp but waited to offer until about two weeks ago, which led to getting him on campus for the visit.
Clemson is in no rush at DB this year to lock down a commitment (seems like this is the case every year). The number of corner and safety takes has not been locked down. I think 2 DBs is a possibility, but there really isn’t much room. Surtain is the big fish they will want to wait on, but the staff will need to decide if they want to push for an early commit from any of the other quality players who aren’t ranked as high.
Patrick Surtain Jr. (6’2 180) is the best CB in the class of 2018. From Fourt Lauderdale, FL, the 5* Surtain is the number six overall player in the composite rankings. He is big, long, athletic and can play the pass and the run. He dominated in the Rivals Future 50 event, where he played with good body positioning and technique. He also is really good at returning kicks and punts. Surtain is supposed to be an LSU lock because of his relationship with the coaching staff, but Clemson and Alabama shouldn’t be counted out of contention just yet. All of the Florida schools will make a run at Surtain.
His teammate Tyson Campbell (6’2 175) also came to visit and is a player in his own right. Campbell doesn’t get the attention that Surtain gets, but he is number 94 overall in the composite rankings and shows some nice burst and toughness on film. Good change of direction. The DBs are really well coached at Ft. Lauderdale. Campbell isn’t as big as Surtain, but he still packs a punch and plays on special teams. Campbell also had an explosion of offers last year with Miami, Florida, Michigan and even Alabama reportedly offering. Clemson has a better shot with Campbell than Surtain, but LSU looms along with local schools like Miami.
Clemson made up the most ground with composite 5* Derrik Allen (6’1 205) from Lassiter HS in GA. Allen is the number 23 overall composite player and there are questions about whether he can stick at corner or whether he will grow into a Safety or even a hybrid LB/S. Allen has made it known he will be a DB and has shown he can play at either CB, S, or Nickel. Clemson will battle Georgia and Ohio State, with Notre Dame also in contention. Clemson made a big move this weekend, but we need to wait to see if this is some recency bias or if Clemson is solidly at the top. Clemson’s academic presentation was important to Allen’s family.
Last you have Kyler McMicheal (6’1 185) who is the number 194 overall player from Norcross, GA. This will be a battle with UF if the Tigers push for a commitment. I almost feel bad that McMicheal is at the bottom of this list because if anyone has watched his team, he is both a RB and CB. Dynamic athlete. Clemson will be in the top group here along with Georgia if they make a move.
Basically we need as many slots in the 2018 class as possible.