Clemson’s football team headed up I-85 this past weekend to battle Pittsburgh and claimed their 4th consecutive ACC title. This article is to highlight the other, lesser reported battles happening everyday behind the scenes for recruiting titles.
Clemson currently boasts 24 commitments in their 2019 recruiting class. This class is unlike the most recent 2017 and 2018 classes because it isn’t littered with blue chip talent top to bottom. Not to say there aren’t blue chippers in there – in fact there are PLENTY – but this large class will serve as a building block of the competitive depth that Coach Dabo Swinney relentlessly preaches about.
The early signing period for the 2019 recruiting class is officially less than 3(!) weeks away. I expect this class to grow to somewhere between 28-30 players. Today, I’d like to summarize who is committed, who Clemson is targeting, and my general take on the group for the offensive side of the ball.
**All Rankings are per the 247Sports Composite ®**
Status: Need 1, 1 Committed
Committed: Taisun Phommachanh (#3 DT QB, #170 Overall, 4 Star)
Targets to Know: None
TDC’s Take: Phommachanh (pronounced Ty-Sun Puma-Con, but will surely be called Puma in the long run) is the lone quarterback take in this class and will need to hone his passing accuracy before he is ready to take the field. He does possess a great 6-3 200lb build and athletic tools that make him a constant threat in the running game. His recruiting ranking took a significant hit following a disappointing passing performance in a spring showcase. If you’re thinking Kelly Bryant, you’re not far off. He’s a great take in a weak QB crop and a year after landing Trevor Lawrence.
Status: Need 2, 1 committed
Committed: Chez Mellusi (#11 RB, #210 Overall, 4 Star)
Targets to Know: Jerrion Ealy (#3 RB, #48 Overall, 4 Star, Ole Miss Commit), Tyrion Davis (#8 RB, #165 Overall, 4 Star, LSU Commit), Jamious Griffin (#33 RB, 556 Overall, 3 Star, NSCU Commit), Michel Dukes (#66 RB, 1097 Overall, 3 Star)
TDC’s Take: Chez Mellusi is the type of back Tony Elliot has had success recruiting in the past. He comes from an option-based high school team that doesn’t play against premier competition. This allows him to put up absolutely gaudy rushing statistics. Put on the tape and your jaw will drop. This may remind you of the what we heard about Travis Etienne prior to his commitment – and it should! Given the success Elliot has had finding diamonds in the running back rough, you have to feel excited about Mellusi.
Ealy and Davis are both prospects that Clemson has remained in contact with even after their commitments to Ole Miss and LSU, respectively. Ealy, who may be a top-10 pick in the MLB draft, is currently the top RB target on Clemson’s board. He has visited Clemson unofficially many times including this season for the Louisville game. Many see Clemson’s biggest competition for Ealy not being Ole Miss, but the MLB draft. If he elects to play college football I feel very good about Clemson’s chances at landing this game changing RB. Unfortunately, Ealy won’t be signing until the traditional NSD in 2019.
John Emery’s recent commitment to LSU helped Clemson’s potential chance to flip Davis. Currently, it is tough to tell how receptive Davis would be to flipping given that he is not the staff’s current top target.
Dukes is an in-state prospect Clemson has yet to offer while the recruitment of Ealy and Davis develop. Griffin committed to NCSU in May but has interest from programs such as Clemson, Virginia Tech, and recently Georgia. Either back won’t generate a ton of buzz on the recruiting message boards, however, each could serve as great depth in our backfield’s future.
Status: Need 3, 3 Committed
Commits: Frank Ladson (#4 WR, #26 Overall, 5 Star), Joe Ngata (#9 WR, #53 Overall, 4 Star), Brannon Spector (#76 WR, #595 Overall, 3 Star)
Targets to Know: None
TDC’s Take: Jeff Scott gets who Jeff Scott wants. Scott followed up last year’s stellar class of 5 stars Justyn Ross and Derion Kendrick with two more potential 5 stars plus an underrated slot receiver. Ladson is the lengthy, high pointing, and speedy wide receiver we’ve all come to expect in Clemson’s stable of 9-man freakshows. Scott recruited Ngata all the way from California due to his unbelievable athletic ability, full grown man body, and ability to play any WR position at Clemson. Expect him to play early and often. Spector, brother of Braylon, projects to the slot. The 3-star wideout is the least heralded recruit of the three, however, during the Opening Regional in Atlanta earlier this year, Spector tested second best among all recruits in attendance in the Nike’s SPARQ athleticism rating. He finished just behind 5-star DE Nolan Smith and well ahead of 5-stars Jadon Haselwood and Dominik Blaylock. WRU is alive and well.
Status: Need 2, 2 Committed
Commits: Jaelyn Lay (#10 TE, #275 Overall, 4 Star), Davis Allen (#38 TE, #900 Overall, 3 Star)
Targets to Know: None
TDC’s Take: Clemson’s tight end play has been underwhelming ever since the departure of Jordan Leggett following the 2016 National Championship victory. Freshman Braden Galloway has shown flashes of athleticism and pass catching ability that signal a bright future and he should welcome more talented competition next year in commit Jaelyn Lay.
Lay has a 6-6 220lb frame that oozes potential at every turn. Initially underrecruited, Clemson’s staff did a great job of identifying and locking up his commitment early. Lay has shown out at the camp circuit since then and is widely regarded as an athletic freak. The concern with Lay is his hands and it must be addressed early in his time at Clemson. Allen is a needed depth take here. He is still developing but has a large frame that should be great for blocking and has been mentioned as a rising prospect due to his senior year film. The tight end position is undoubtedly trending up for the Tigers.
Status: Need 4 (or more), 1 Committed
Commits: Hunter Rayburn (#25 OG, #462 Overall, 3 Star)
Targets to Know: Clay Webb (#1 C, 19 Overall, 5 Star), Will Putnam (#4 OG, 73 Overall, 4 Star), Cooper Dawson (#106 OT, 1390 Overall, 3 Star), Luke Griffin (#41 OT, 565 Overall, 3 Star), Avery Reece (#39 C, 3035 Overall, 2 Star), Wanya Morris (#1 OT, 9 Overall, 5 Star, Tennessee Commit), Jakai Moore (#26 OG, 497 Overall, 3 Star)
TDC’s Take: To date, Clemson’s offensive line recruiting for 2019 has been very disappointing. Despite being the early leader for multiple blue-chip prospects such as Harry Miller, Pierce Quick, and Wanya Morris, Clemson has only managed to secure a commitment from Hunter Rayburn. Rayburn projects to guard, held offers multiple high end P5 programs, and should be a solid contributor in due time.
The concerns here are real. First, the staff has hinted that they may only take 1-2 more commits across the whole line a year after receiving only 2 commitments (this is too insane for me to actually believe). A lack of bodies to play the position is becoming a not so distant reality. It has been stated plenty of times before, but it bears repeating here, Clemson should be taking 5 OL commits every class.
Second, the quality of the targets mentioned above varies widely and it is fair to say that Clemson is the clear-cut leader in none of their recruitments. One can point to the staff’s ability to close with prospects like Jackson Carman last year as a reason to remain calm, but how many rabbits can Dabo and co. pull out of their hat?
The most important target remaining in the class, regardless of position, is Clay Webb. Webb is a center hailing from Alabama and a top 20 prospect overall. He projects as a day 1 starter for our offensive line. Clemson is currently locked in an all-out clash for his services with fellow powerhouses Alabama and Georgia. He is expected to commit on December 10th and has played his recruitment very close to the vest. Alabama owns 56% of the Crystals Balls, Clemson has 19%, and Georgia has 19% - including the most coveted Steve Wiltfong’s. Clemson is trending up here and is very likely to send Dabo for an in-home visit next week. Mama’s love Dabo. No one knows for sure where Webb will choose – a rarity in today’s recruiting world – so pay close attention come December 10th.
Putnam also projects to the inside of the line at either guard or center. Long seen as a Florida State lean, this recruitment can currently be described as a toss-up. His heart wants to go to Florida State circa 2014, however, his brain recently witnessed the 59-10 massacre at Doak Campbell firsthand and it will play into his ultimate decision. Putnam is a legitimate 4-star prospect the OL class desperately needs. Putnam recently received an in-home visit from Coach Caldwell and will also receive a visit from Dabo next week. He will announce on approximately December 20th.
Dawson, Griffin, and Reece are all targets further down Clemson’s board than those mentioned above. Dawson and Reece reportedly have greyshirt offers they are mulling over and would be developmental takes. In fact, Dawson tore his ACL at Clemson’s camp this summer and has never played a snap on the offensive line before. Griffin is a former UGA commit who was processed by Kirby Smart after he tore both his ACLs in 2017. Clemson has yet to offer but is monitoring him this year to evaluate how he has recovered from his knee injury.
Morris and Moore are listed here strictly as longshots. Morris is a 5-star stud who would immediately enter the two deep if he stepped on Clemson’s campus. Morris, who plays for nearby Grayson, was once considered a Clemson lean but a true connection with the staff never materialized. He is committed to Tennessee but has begun looking around since the Volunteers have faltered. He recently visited Clemson’s campus, however, the feedback following the visit was not encouraging. Moore, a high 3-star prospect, is a Penn State lean who has also visited SCAR’s campus this year. Clemson has tried to gain traction multiple times but failed. He has scheduled numerous visits to campus and never shown up. Don’t hold your breath here or you’ll probably pass out.
Offensive line recruiting is the most important position group to monitor as signing day approaches. Clemson will have elite playmakers on the team for the foreseeable future but, as any fan who has watched Florida State this year can tell you, a deep and talented offensive line is the foundation of an elite football team. And please, for the love of all that is holy…PROTECT TREVOR LAWRENCE!
Part 2 next week…