The commitments of Will Taylor and Andrew Mukuba last week brought Clemson’s 2021 class to 17 commitments. With so few remaining needs for the current class, it’s time to begin turning the page to the next cycle, an important and deep group of 2022 prospects. It could be another relatively small class for Clemson, so they can and will be choosy with who they add, especially early in the process.
Although the recent dead period has prevented 2022 prospects from visiting schools since early Spring, plenty of staffs around the country, including Clemson, have already laid impressive groundwork for their 2022 classes to be successful.
That groundwork starts at Quarterback, where Clemson’s top target is Ty Simpson out of Tennessee. Simpson is currently the 37th rated player overall on 24/7’s composite ranking, meaning he is bordering on 5-star status. He flashes very-high-level arm talent, and while he needs refinement, he possesses one of the highest ceilings in his class at the QB position. On top of having an incredibly strong arm, he is a high-level athlete for the QB position, and the son of a coach at UT-Martin. Clemson is in a strong position, but will have to hold off every other southern powerhouse for his commitment. Being that Simpson values faith, culture, relationships with coaches, and development highly, this is the type of recruitment Dabo and Clemson are perfectly suited to win. The next round of visits for Simpson might end up deciding his ultimate destination.
It is not the strongest QB class nationally, with few big fish available. The Tigers considered entering the race for the #1 overall prospect in the country Quinn Ewers, but the lifetime Longhorn fan committed to Texas a few weeks ago. Recent South Carolina commit and 5-star Gunner Stockton was another they considered offering but never did. As a result, the other potential targets are 4-stars Braden Davis from Florida, and Jacurri Brown out of Georgia. Many analysts are high on Brown’s potential at the position, but he must refine his accuracy significantly in order to reach it. I’d be surprised to see Davis end up in the class unless it is as a second QB take.
Clemson’s RB board is typically slow-developing, with coach Tony Elliot typically taking time to vet all potential offer candidates. The 2022 class is no exception, as just 2 offers have gone out at this point. That is also said with the caveat that one of those offers went to Trevor Etienne, the brother of a certain superstar already on campus. Trevor has great relationships with the school and staff already. However, Travis is going to cast a huge shadow when he leaves the school. What Trevor and Clemson choose to do may not be a match in the end and it should not come as a surprise either way.
The only other RB offer at this point has gone out to Emmanuel Henderson. Henderson is the highest-rated RB prospect in the class, holds 5-star status, and is an extremely talented young prospect. This will be an extremely difficult pull being that he hails from Alabama, and neither in-state program ever makes this type of recruitment easy. Rayshon Luke is another communicating with the staff, and is also a 5-star prospect. Although short in stature at 5’7”, the Californian reminds me of Rondale Moore, showing similar burst, versatility, and make-miss ability to the projected first round pick. If history tells us anything though, it’s very possible the RB that ends up in the class wasn’t even mentioned here.
Unquestionably, the top target at Receiver, and maybe my top overall want for the class is 5-star Caleb Burton. Tyler Grisham has done a good job in this one early, but Burton is one of the best WR prospects to emerge in the last few cycles, and so there will be massive competition for his signature. This recruitment got much more difficult to win when Ewers committed to Texas, and there’s no doubt he’ll make the Austin product think long and hard about joining the Longhorns’ class. Brian Hartline of Ohio State, a thorn in Clemson’s side over the last 2 cycles, also figures to be right in the center of the recruitment. However, Burton is a coach’s son so you’ll have to shoot him straight. This is a recruitment Clemson can win once it gets Caleb and his family on campus, but it will take an incredible effort to emerge victorious in the end.
The lone other Receiver to hold an offer is Myrtle Beach 4-star Adam Randall. Randall (6’3”) has a body-type similar to that of many recent other takes the Tigers have had at the position, but is surprisingly nimble for his size. Randall’s Junior season will be monitored closely, and the 4-star’s recruitment may end up being an in-state battle in which the Tigers would be favored should they elect to get more involved. Beyond Burton and Randall, Clemson is taking a strong look at 5-star CJ Williams, 4-stars Shazz Preston, Andre Greene Jr., Kojo Antwi, and others. Kevin Coleman, a 5-star speedster out of Missouri is another who could be recruited as well. The 2022 class has a big need at WR and hitting on at least one elite talent is critical.
The Tight End board has a clear #1 target as well in 4-star Jake Johnson, Brother of LSU QB Max. Jake is an LSU lean at this point in the process for obvious reasons, and could decide sooner than later. Clemson is lurking. If Johnson gets on campus for a visit before committing, watch out. In-state talent Jaleel Skinner is another prospect who could be “the guy” at TE, and he not only possesses a similar build to Clemson’s last few takes at TE, but he also prefers the WR position. This is not dissimilar to other prospects in the past, but it is not likely Skinner will end up in this class if he continues to pursue being recruited at the WR position. Clemson is the dream school of Skinner and would hold the cards should they offer.
Recruiting Offensive Lineman has typically been very difficult for Clemson over the last few cycles. The Tigers have missed on many top targets, with a handful being close to verbal commitments at various points. The 2022 class could make amends for any OL recruiting struggles in 2021 just a cycle later, as there are numerous targets with the potential to end up in the class. Targets #1 and #2 are 5-stars Gunner Givens and Zach Rice, a pair of Tackles both hailing from Virginia. Rice, despite being yet to earn an offer, is rated as the top Tackle early on. Clemson figures to be a player for his signature once they pull the trigger, but will have to beat out the Buckeyes, Fighting Irish, and likely many more if they want to land Rice. Rice’s best friend, Gunner Givens, is a much more likely option. Although Givens is rated as the #2 Offensive Tackle, his film on the Defensive side of the ball is equally impressive. He is an elite athlete at his size, and will excel on either side of the ball wherever he ends up. The Tigers were on top of this one early and have recruited Givens as long as anybody. It would be a surprise if Clemson did not lead for the massive 6’6” prospect, and their top competition might actually be Virginia Tech, with Ohio State lurking as a dark horse.
There are more reasons to be optimistic about the OL class, and one of them is the closeness in proximity a few targets are to campus. For what seems like the first time in a few years, the state of South Carolina is producing multiple blue chip talents. The lack of in-state talent has hindered the ceiling of some of Clemson’s recent classes, and their highest-rated classes under Dabo Swinney typically always have an in-state flavor to them to go along with elite prospects from around the country. This year is no exception, as in addition to the 2 South Carolinians mentioned earlier, Jaleel Skinner and Adam Randall, 4-star Offensive Tackle Collin Sadler is a national recruit as well. I can’t remember a time where a talented Offensive Line prospect lived so close to campus (Sadler attends High School in Greenville), and the hometown college is likely to be the beneficiary. Sadler will likely take visits to many other national powers, but Clemson has to like where they sit right now.
Addison Nichols, Julian Armella, and Blake Miller are the only other OL offers out (all blue chip recruits), but I don’t envision either of the first 2 in the class. Blake Miller, on the other hand, is a real possibility. Miller will look to continue the trend of Ohioan OL choosing the Tigers, but doing so won’t be easy with Ohio State and Michigan pursuing him equally hard.
You’ve probably noticed a theme at this point in Clemson’s top challenger for many targets. Don’t expect the budding rivalry with Ohio State to end on the field, with the Buckeyes recruiting remarkably well already on under Ryan Day, so naturally landing many of the targets at the top of the board must be done despite OSU’s pursuits. It is the same way on the Defensive side of the ball as you’ll see next week, and expect both to get their fair share in the long run.
In summary, Clemson has a good idea of who its top targets on Offense are for the next recruiting cycle. However, there is still a lot of fluidity with the board. With Junior seasons set to conclude this Fall, expect more targets to emerge, and more offers to be sent out. As I’ve indicated, Clemson is on track for yet another potentially elite recruiting class for the 2022 cycle, and the Tigers are just one visit away from making a huge statement in multiple recruitments. There are 5-stars in play at multiple positions of need, and another successful season would put the Tigers in a strong position to land many of them. Typically, an elite class begins at the QB position, and that’s true not just for play on the field, but also for the recruiting that your QB commit can do for your class. It would behoove Clemson to get Ty Simpson on board as quickly as they can, and after that the dominoes could begin falling more rapidly. The Dead period might have a stranglehold over recruits’ ability to go visit schools, but that won’t stop Clemson or any other school from pushing forward.