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January 17th Recruiting Update: Clemson looks to close 2018 Class

These next few weeks should be fun

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Alabama vs Clemson Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Since the college football season ended on January 8th, Clemson’s recruiting board has expanded, developed, and now shrank back down again. At the most, there are only 5 spots available, however, I don’t think 5 more will end up in the class.

Clemson’s unrealistic remaining targets going into the month of January included prospects such as Patrick Surtain, Tyson Campbell, Nick Petit-Frere, and Leon O’Neal. Petit-Frere recently named the schools that would be receiving official visits, and Clemson was not one of them, narrowing the OL Board down even further.

Surtain still looks LSU bound, despite Bama trying to make things interesting, while Campbell seems to be headed to UGA barring a Miami or Alabama intervention. At this time, I doubt Clemson receives an official visit from any of Surtain, Campbell, or O’Neal, although the latter would be the most likely.

With 34 of the above names mentioned being DBs, the staff realized they were slipping with the majority of its targets in the secondary, and sent out 3 offers over the next few days.

Olaijah Griffin, 4-star Corner and son of Warren G, was the first to receive a Clemson offer following the conclusion of the Tiger’s season. Clemson is late to the party here, and unless something unexpected happens, it looks like Clemson will not receive an official from this talented prospect.

DJ Brown, a 3-star Corner from D.C. was the next one to receive an offer. This courtship was short-lived, however, as Brown was told a few days later that is spot was filled when Mark Fields announced his decision to return to school.

Taiyon Palmer, from Archer High School (same HS as 2019 Clemson target Andrew Booth), is the most recent offer at Corner that Clemson dished out.

Given Clemson’s current standing with Palmer’s teammate Andrew Booth, and its proximity to home, if the Tigers push for the 4-star Corner, they will have a great shot. Florida just offered, while Notre Dame is pushing for an Official as well, complicating things a little bit.

Remaining Targets on the Board

As the beginning of the update discussed, a lot of targets are now off the board. But, there are some very talented prospects Clemson is still looking to add. Breaking down the numbers at each position, the realistic remaining targets and needs of the class look something close to this:

QB - 0

RB - 0

WR - 0-1 (Justyn Ross)

TE - 0

OL - 0-1 (Richard Gouraige)

DL - 0

LB - 0-1 (Dax Hollifield)

DB - 1-2 (Matthew Hill, Taiyon Palmer, Olaijah Griffin, Leon O’Neal)

You’ll notice at WR, OL, and LB that the numbers say 0-1. This is because Clemson has narrowed in on one guy at each position, and will not try to take anyone else at the position if they miss on that prospect.

At WR, Clemson wants 4-star Justyn Ross. The Alabama native has had Clemson as his leader for months. Bama is trying to make a late push, but the loss of Derrick Ansley is a huge potential factor in this recruitment. Both Ross and his Mom prefer Clemson, but some in his camp prefer he stay home. Clemson will have to survive both local schools getting visits, but the loss of Ansley really hurts Bama’s momentum in this recruitment, and because of that I think Ross chooses Clemson when all is said and done. Jeff Scott does not miss on many WRs, and Clemson can still use its in-home visit.

There were only 2 OL targets on the board at the start of Janaury, and with Petit-Frere not including Clemson on his list of visits, all focus has turned to Tampa for 4-star OT Richard Gouraige. The talented Florida commit is rated by many services as a top 100 player nationally, and is no lower than 139th by any site.

Gouraige committed to Florida over Clemson a few months ago after naming Clemson his leader just days before the announcement. It’s safe to say that this announcement was really just to drum up suspense. However, things have changed now. While the staff probably hates being burned by a recruit in that manner, when Florida’s coaching staff was fired in November, a new window of opportunity was opened.

Despite his commitment to Florida, many in the recruiting industry believe Auburn led for the prospect following their thrilling Iron Bowl win that he attended. Following his visit to Clemson this past weekend, those same recruitniks were now under the impression Clemson led for his services (for real this time). Yesterday, Herb Hand’s departure to Texas significantly hurt Auburn’s chances, as he was a lead recruiter for Gouraige’s services. Clemson made a big move here.

That brings us to the only LB target, 4-star Dax Hollifield. Dax is a top 150 talent who would be a great fit at either WILL, or MIKE LB in Brent Venables system. Of the realistic targets Clemson has, this recruitment is the hardest to get a feel for.

For some background, Dax originally had Clemson as way-too-early leader. But recruiting is fluid, and when Clemson received early commitments from Jake Venables and Mike Jones, they simply no longer had any space for another LB. This was taken personally by Hollifield, and he even burned a Clemson jersey before the 2016 ACC Championship to show support for his then-leader Virginia Tech.

So how in the world is Clemson back in it for Dax? In December during the Shrine Bowl, Dax roomed with Clemson commit KJ Henry. KJ has seemingly rekindled a tentative relationship between the 2 parties. Stanford is currently viewed as the heavy favorite, but there’s a chance Clemson will also receive a visit this coming weekend.

Naturally, there’s a real hesitancy to go to school all the way across the country. There are people close to Dax that feel if he gets back on Clemson’s campus he will end up a Tiger again. There’s still a lot of work to do here, but the fact that he is not already committed to Stanford is a very positive sign for Clemson.

The only realistic member on Clemson’s board that I’ve yet to mention is Matthew Hill, a top-100 prospect. Auburn wants him at WR (his preferred position), while Clemson wants him at Safety (a huge position of need). Hill did not sign early almost solely because of his interest in Clemson.

Hill took his Official visit to Auburn this past weekend, and according to many accounts shored up his commitment. Both schools feel confident in their chances, and Hill will visit Clemson last. The young Safety could end up being the most important potential commit in the class with Van Smith going pro.

The return of the entire DL complicates the numbers a little bit. Barring transfers Clemson will have 16 spots available as is. I expect 2-3 to attrition, and 18-19 in the class. If you see the staff start to take more and more kids, it’s a sign that they know players will be transferring.

January 20th

This Saturday Clemson’s campus and athletic programs will be buzzing. While Zion Williamson’s announcement has stolen the spotlight for the day, the Clemson campus will have a multitude of other things going. Apart from a big home game vs. Notre Dame in Basketball, Clemson will also be hosting its 2019 Junior Day.

As the 2018 class nears completion, the 2019 class is about to kick into overdrive. Clemson will be hosting a lot of highly-rated prospects on the 20th. A few of the important ones in attendance include 5-star LB Owen Pappoe, 5-star RB/LB Quavaris Crouch, 4-star Guard Keiondre Jones, 4-star DE/LB Brandon Smith, 4-star CB Andrew Booth, 4-star DE/LB Kevin Harris, 4-star QB Sam Howell, 4-star CB Sheridan Jones and many more.

Howell, and Sheridan Jones are among the more recently offered. Howell looks to be the guy Clemson wants at QB with Bo Nix now being off the board. Jones is a little more interesting though. Previously the number 1 CB 2020 recruit, Jones reclassified to 2019, and was immediately invited to Clemson’s Junior day and offered. There’s a lot of mutual interest here, as Jones grew up a fan of the Tigers. Don’t expect either recruitment to be easy...

This weekend is a big opportunity for Clemson to seize back momentum with some prospects, further relationships with some, and introduce themselves to others.

As previously mentioned, Basketball Super-recruit Zion Williamson will decide on January 20th at 8pm. Williamson is rated as the number 3 overall player in the 2018 graduating class, and is maybe the most well known prospect in the entire country. Clemson has been in the best position for a long time, and so I expect Zion to pick Clemson.