Summer is approaching fast, and with it brings new evaluations, new prospects, new commitments, and the Opening Finals. This week hasn’t treated Clemson the best, as the program has experienced 2 transfers (including an elite player in Hunter Johnson), and also lost out on many of its big targets to Penn State.
Penn State beats Clemson out for multiple Mid-Atlantic prospects
Penn State is on an absolute tear on the recruiting trail right now, landing 5 prospects in the last week with a 6th not too far on the horizon. Among them was one of my favorite Linebackers in the class, 5-star Brandon Smith. While Clemson was able to get Smith on campus in January, they ultimately were unable to do so again after Smith moved his commitment date from September/October to mid-May.
Apart from Smith, Penn State landed Devyn Ford, a 4-star Running Back that Clemson wanted but has not been seriously involved with for months. Safety and Clemson target Tyler Rudolph also pulled the trigger, and likely caused Defensive Back Cam’Ron Kelly to move up his announcement date due to limited spots. These are losses that hurt, but are also certainly losses that Clemson can overcome.
With a loaded mid-Atlantic scene in 2020, Clemson will be hoping for a poor season from the Nittany Lions similar to how the Tigers hoped for a poor season from UGA this past year. Unlike UGA, Penn State plays in a difficult division and also has a lot to replace. While PSU will experience a drop-off this season, they still get 3⁄4 of their toughest games at home and has a fairly manageable schedule.
What to do after Josh Belk’s departure?
The transfer of Josh Belk came as a huge shock to most, and the fact that it potentially involves Belk transferring to South Carolina was equally shocking. Yes, Clemson will be extremely thin at the position heading into the 2019 season, but it was better to realize this now instead of in a year. Clemson’s DL recruiting stands to benefit. Belk may visit Tennessee, but I’d be very surprised if he did not end up at South Carolina.
Onto some good news. 5-star Defensive Tackle Faatui Tuitele named Clemson in his top 5 on Monday. This was a little bit of a surprise for me personally, as he opted to visit many schools this Spring, and none of said visits were Clemson (Tuitele visited last Summer). He is rated as the number 2 DT in the entire country per 24/7’s composite, and can be found all the way out in Hawaii. This prospect is a major need going forward due to Belk’s departure, and someone capable of playing as a Freshman.
Kudos to @CoachToddBates on the recruitment of Tuitele. He has helped put Clemson in serious contention, doing work. Clemson's message of family/faith resonated. Clemson needs to land an elite DT like in the 19 class.— QuackingTiger (@QuackingTiger) May 22, 2018
I’m also a huge fan of current DT commit Tayquon Johnson, and think that Clemson found a diamond in the rough. Other DT targets include Justin Eboigbe, DeMarvin Leal, Travon Walker, Tyler Davis, Zaach Pickens and a few others. Leal will visit Clemson at some point this season, and the Texas A&M commit will hopefully take-in the Tigers’ clash with the SEC program in early September. Pickens continues to be a South Carolina lean, but will now likely prolong his recruitment into the season. That can only be seen as good news if you’re Clemson.
Luke Deal Deciding Friday and a new 5-star target
Later today, Tight End Luke Deal will announce his commitment. The in-state 3-star is a hulking prospect that would be an ideal blocking TE. The top contenders include Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Auburn, and NC State. I expect the pick to be Notre Dame, though Auburn is also feeling optimistic. The Clemson Tigers got Deal and his family members back on campus twice in the last few weeks, but it looks as though it will not be enough to secure a commitment.
On Monday, there was a big visitor on campus as Nakobe Dean stopped by after his weekend visit to UGA. Clemson registered a strong impression, and likely has staying power due to the efforts of Brent Venables. Alabama, Stanford, and UGA are all still ahead in the pecking order, but if Clemson can get Dean back on campus you never know. Dean’s recent visit to Athens appeared to be a slam dunk with Dean and especially his mother.
Yesterday morning Clemson offered top-50 Corner (a 5-star per some services) Chris Steele.
Many would be surprised to see him not end up at Southern California, but there are others who think he just hasn’t been shown a good enough reason to head East. This is an offer Steele wanted, and is a game-changer in this recruitment. If Clemson gets him on campus, they could become legitimate contenders. The Tigers are really getting after California in this cycle, and could bare the fruits from their labor as early as June.