First let us talk about the offense and recruiting with some impressions from The Opening.
Trevor Lawrence (6’6, 200, Cartersville, GA): I am sure that some recruiting service is going to put Justin Fields ahead of Trevor Lawrence. It is good for clicks and hits to have some controversy over the number one overall spot and commentators who were present at the event were rightfully wowed by Fields performance. But Clemson fans shouldn’t be worried at all and there is still no doubt that Lawrence is the number one overall player in the country.
Look, 7-on-7 is an effective measure for evaluating the talent of DB’s, WR’S, and QB’s but it is also a learned skill. Guys who play a lot of 7-on-7 generally perform better than their peers. Fields plays a good bit of 7’s. I don’t want to take anything away from Fields, he was excellent, but these games are played in shorts. If Fields deserves to be the number two QB in the country and if he continues to improve and puts up crazy numbers in Georgia, then we can have a debate (Fields is also just 6’3 and it is a different animal in shorts and with no Oline).
Lawrence didn’t perform poorly either. Based on many accounts he looked like the number one player before the 7’s portion of the festivities and he only really struggled against Fields team in the 7’s. Most of the QB’s at the event were just checking everything down and TL made some riskier throws into coverage because of the rules of 7’s. I stand by my belief that TL has the ability to be the best QB to ever play at Clemson. (Update: 24/7 just did it)
There were some impressive Olineman at The Opening. OG target Jamaree Salyer (6’4 340) from Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia was dominant. He won the MVP award, but what stood out to me watching his reps was the elite level of technique he showed. Not only is he strong and an absolute mammoth of a man who doesn’t get pushed around much, he shows good hand placement and technique. Despite his size, he still has good feet and short space quickness. He would land immediately on Clemson’s two deep, with a chance of starting. He is that good.
I have maintained that Clemson is in a favorable position here. UGA looms, but Clemson has the edge and has had the edge for some time. The Cookout visit will be big in this recruitment, but Clemson has laid a solid foundation. I do believe that Salyer wants to see how UGA’s season unfolds a bit. Normal years Salyer would be the offensive man crush of the 2018 class but there are so many to pick from this year (and I think the world of TL).
OT Jackson Carman (6’6, 340) from Fairfield, Ohio turned in another quality performance at The Opening. The state of Ohio doesn’t allow players to wear pads at these camps so he did his work without the protection some of the other players enjoyed. Carman has added some weight to his massive 6’6 frame since his junior season (not a bad thing, he is just a big powerful man), but he was still able to move his feet to keep up with smaller, faster DE’s and his punch is elite. Carman will be able to stick at Tackle at the college level and beyond.
Carman absolutely loved his trip to USCsr and California. He has the home state tug, but I think USC is just as big a threat—if not more. Clemson must get Carman to the Cookout to maintain their position in this recruitment. He needs to be relaxing on a boat on the lake with a belly full of BBQ.
Trey Hill (6’4, 330) from Warner Robins, Georgia was also impressive (see a pattern of big offensive lineman performing impressively!). His is a bit behind Salyer just because Salyer’s technique is so advanced, but he is a load to move and Hill and Salyer are my two top interior players in the country for the 2018 class. All three of these lineman are tough, wide bodied, and absolute rocks. They would be immediate upgrades to our offensive line.
Hill’s recruitment is a bit more open and Clemson has some work to do here to be the top pick. Auburn, Alabama, Florida State and in-state Georgia are all legitimate contenders. Many think Georgia will come out on top, with Auburn not far behind and Clemson the darkhorse. Hill should be attending the Cookout.
The two other names to in your back pocket are OT Nicholas Petit-Frere (6’6 270) from Tampa, FL who is a name on the board for the Tackle spot and Jovaughn Gwyn (6’3 290) from Charlotte, NC. Petit-Frere visited Clemson in June. Gwyn was at The Opening and I like him more and more every time I see him. He is still learning the position and is a developmental prospect, but he handled himself very well against the top competition in the country and got better every single day. Some of his first reps were a bit shaky, but he adjusted and won the majority of his reps. He is currently listed as a 3* prospect, which is way too low. He should be in the top 250-300 range in my opinion (with the chance to move up after a solid senior year). Clemson will take 2-3 Offensive lineman in this class. If the number is only two, then they need to be elite.
Richard Gouraige was also at The Opening, but he is all Florida at this point and has been for some time.
I’m not sure why some Clemson fans are questioning the coaching staff’s decision to continue to recruit Zamir White. Yes, about four months ago White could be seen visibly wearing UGA gear and his recruitment completely turned away from Clemson (total aside—at the time Clemson had the top QB, top RB, and top DE all wanting to come to Clemson and that DE wasn’t XT.).
This is not a great year for RB’s overall and White is clearly the best player in the nation at the position. Clemson didn’t hurt itself at all by playing the waiting game here and taking their time with the single RB take. I don’t think White is completely locked down with Georgia either. He should ultimately sign with UGA, but if UGA tanks this season then White will look around. Coaches could jump the Kirby ship. UNC and Bama were real players in his recruitment too. Clemson would have gained nothing by jumping from White’s recruitment to one of the many targets available. Clemson didn’t miss out on anyone.
Lets get this out of the way upfront. Clemson isn’t going to go after James Cook (RB who recently de-committed from FSU). Not going to happen. Coaches got burned by Dalvin (his older brother) and company once already and that won’t happen again. Clemson won’t touch this recruitment.
Clemson has options. Lyn-J Dixon (5’11, 185) of Butler, GA is a recent Tennessee commitment that Clemson has high interest in and offered after White’s recruitment ended. Did Clemson miss the boat by not offering earlier? Nope. We own Butch Jones these days. Master Teague (5’11, 205) of Murfreesboro, TN is the only player you could say we let get away when Ohio State offered and he committed shortly thereafter. Clemson is in communication with Asa Martin (6’0, 195) of Decatur, Alabama and will likely receive a visit. Recent Minnesota de-commitment Nolan Edmond (5’11, 205) of Alpharetta, GA has been in contact with coaches. USCsr commitment Mychale Salahuddin (5’10 193) of Washington DC is also a possibility. TJ Pledger (5’9, 175) of IMG Academy is an Oklahoma commit that Clemson could make a run at, but I think he is the longest shot on the list.
Again, Clemson has options and isn’t in a hurry to fill the lone running back take in the class. Clemson will definitely take a RB, but will take their time.
Jeff Scott showed why he is such a good evaluator of wide receiver talent this year. Jordan Adams was elite at The Opening and I believe he will see a huge boost in his ranking. He runs the best routes I’ve seen in the 2018 class and is silky smooth. He selected UNC over Clemson, but that was because of his father being on the UNC staff. Remember Adams is also a really good baseball player, but it will be interesting to see if Fedora jumps to a new job or if sanctions coming down on UNC (we would hope...) make any difference.
Justyn Ross (6’3, 190) is Clemson’s WR target and I maintain that Clemson has a slight advantage over Alabama and Auburn at this juncture. Ross visited with his Mom in June and Clemson was hoping to continue their momentum with a Cookout visit. That visit is in jeopardy because of a Bama event on the same day. Ross made a connection with Trevor Lawrence since he was on the same team as TL at The Opening. Ross dropped a few balls at the event, but you have to like his upside. He has a good combination of size, speed, and height. He should remain a top 50 player. Clemson has really focused in on Ross. That should tell you a lot about his recruitment—Jeff Scott doesn’t miss on many wide receivers. If Ross did decide on Bama then the net would grow wider with Brennan Eagles being the next likely target on the list. I’m not sure Clemson will get there.