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Clemson Recruiting Update: What’s Next on Defense?

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What’s left on the board after all of the recent commitments?

NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

After a quick flurry of commitments over the past few weeks, Clemson will look to ride their recruiting momentum into the Summer. Now up to 11 verbal commits, the 2019 class still has a ways to go before it reaches the 25-30 number the coaches are shooting for. So what’s next? Below is a position-by-position breakdown of Clemson’s remaining Defensive targets:

Scouting Reports and Analysis on new commits from QT

Defensive Line

In terms of clarity (or lack thereof), the defensive line is pretty similar to that of the OL. The staff is in no rush to take defensive lineman as they can afford to sit and wait on their best targets. Zacch Pickens is naturally a guy we are recruiting hard due to his home being not even 30 minutes away from campus. There have been many different factors hurting Clemson in this recruitment, and while South Carolina has the lead many close to Pickens believe his recruitment will travel all the way until national signing day in February. I’m not so sure about this.

Justin Eboigbe recently named Clemson in his top 5. Eboigbe is a fantastic prospect that likely projects at 3 or 5 technique along the Defensive line. While Clemson does not lead at this time, the Tigers definitely have staying power in this recruitment. Eboigbe visited for one of the loaded Junior Days.

Derick Hunter, a defensive lineman from South Florida also recently visited Clemson. After developing a strong bond with Coach Todd Bates, it appears as though the Tigers are in the mix. While Hunter has shown a proclivity for the dramatic side of recruiting, I believe his interest in Clemson to be genuine. If the previous few months of his recruitment are an indication, there’s no telling how this one is going to end.

Some names to recently receive a Clemson offer include Ruke Ohorohoro, Etinosa Reuben, and David Ojabo. All 3 are currently rated as 3-star prospects, but I expect Ojabo to potentially earn that 4th star. Venables visited Ojabo’s school earlier this week in the hopes of earning a visit. At the same time, I’m almost certain Etinosa Reuben will become a blue chip prospect. Similar to recent Tiger signee Mario Goodrich, Reuben is from Missouri. Only playing one year of football, Reuben is all upside too.

Nolan Smith is every school in the country’s top DE/OLB target. Seriously, this dude is an absolute freak and is probably the best overall prospect in the country. As frustrating as Nolan’s recruitment has been for all fans, you MUST keep recruiting someone of this talent level. At the very least Nolan will give Clemson an official visit in the Fall, and that’s reason enough to continue recruiting him no matter how solid you believe his UGA pledge to be.

I believe not taking (or waiting) on Kevin Harris will prove to be a mistake for this staff, and I think it’s a mistake they’ve already realized. There were a few reasons for this, but ultimately in Harris’ own words the staff was not transparent enough. Other names to watch include Nathan Pickering, Jaquaze Sorrells, Jacob Lacey, Joshua Harris, and DeMarvin Leal among others. Clemson has been putting out many DL offers as recently but evaluations of the DL are still ongoing. It’s important to note that this year’s board includes many that could project both inside and outside. The plan right now is to take 4-5 DL regardless of where they project.

Linebackers

Clemson is in fantastic shape at the Linebacker position, and a massive load of that credit belongs to Brent Venables. With Constantin and now Maguire in tow, the total number of linebackers Clemson wants to sign remains a mystery. Yesterday, a Crystal Ball pick was put in for Alabama Linebacker Vonta Bentley to end up at Clemson. Bentley is rated as a low 4-star player, but would continue Clemson’s successful attempts to recruit the state of Alabama. Based on how hard Clemson is recruiting him, Bentley is someone the staff would take a commitment from immediately.

An under the radar name that is being recruited hard by the staff is Marcus Tillman Jr. The 3-star, FL Linebacker has a top 2 of Florida and Clemson, but don’t be shocked at all if he ends up in this class with a Summer decision expected. Other names to watch include Kalen DeLoach, Spencer Lytle, and Derek Boykins.

I mentioned Bryton Constantin a few paragraphs above, but it definitely came as a surprise to me when he was invited to the Opening Finals. While camp settings tend to showcase linebackers that cover well, Constantin still showed great flashes of his agility.

Unquestionably the top 2 linebacker targets Clemson are after include 2 5-star players in Quavaris Crouch and Brandon Smith. Crouch is best suited for the “WILL” position in Clemson’s scheme, and is also being recruited at Running back. That brings me to Brandon Smith, my #1 want at linebacker this cycle. Smith moves incredibly well despite his massive frame, and if he can maintain his mobility as he grows into his body, you could be looking at a Tremaine Edmunds-type prospect manning the MIKE position for Clemson. Ohio State and Penn State will be Clemson’s biggest competition going forward as it currently stands.

Defensive Backs

After seemingly struggling to land defensive backs at times during recent cycles, Clemson has positioned itself exceptionally well with multiple key targets. As of right now, safety commits Joseph Charleston and Lanndon Zanders as well as cornerback commit Sheridan Jones are already apart of the class. I have heard that the staff views Charleston as one of the best safeties in the class.

Going from here, Clemson will likely sign 2-3 more corners, and 1-2 more safeties. The corner everyone probably wants to know more about is Andrew Booth from Archer High in Georgia. Booth was recently bumped up to a 5-star recruit, and in terms of both want and need is probably the most important prospect on the board. Booth has visited Clemson close to 10 times, but other schools are starting to chip away. The Tigers have long been considered the leader, but as Booth has gained more notoriety, Clemson has had to fight off stiffer and stiffer competition (this recruitment is similar to KJ Henry’s in that regard). I still believe Booth will commit and sign with Clemson, but others have been working hard to change his mind.

At this time, the staff would take a commitment from another corner target in North Carolina’s Shyheim Battle. The 3-star prospect declared the Tigers his leader, although he does not intend on making a decision until late in the Fall.

At safety, Clemson is considered the current leader for Demarcco Hellams, a 4-star WR/S from Maryland. The staff also sits in great position for other Northeastern safety prospects Tyler Rudolph, and Cam’Ron Kelly. At the moment, these 2 prospects are currently more coveted than Hellams, though I’m sure every offer is committable. It should be noted that Kelly can also play corner, so it would be interesting to see how that would effect the number of takes at both defensive back positions. Other DBs Clemson is recruiting hard include Tyrique Stevenson

Recently, major DB target Tyrique Stevenson named a top 4 that didn’t include Clemson. Stevenson was a former teammate of current Clemson commit Frank Ladson, but in the last few months has transferred to a different program.

The highest-rated safety left on the board has to be Oklahoma product Daxton Hill (apologies ahead of time for fanboying). I have long been an adamant supporter of Daxton Hill, and was not in the least surprised when he blew everyone away at the Opening Regional last weekend. Hill is probably the best true safety prospect in the last 2 recruiting cycles, and the type of freaky prospect that ends up going on the first night of the NFL Draft. While Oklahoma, Michigan, and maybe also Bama are considered the frontrunners at this time, last week Hill stated he will visit every school in his top 6. Can Brent Venables work some of his old Midwest recruiting magic to pull off a massive upset? It will no doubt be difficult, but if Clemson can get him on campus, it could mean game on.