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(The Day After) Evaluating the Clemson Tigers 2021 Recruiting Class: Offense (Part One)

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NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Happy (day after) recruiting day!!

I first want to congratulate Tyler Clements and Jordan Sorrells for putting together a COVID class, as Dabo said “the Pandemic Posse,” despite the tumultuous year and impact on recruiting. Joe Robbins also deserves credit for his work in digital recruiting and graphics (the commitment graphics were especially good this class). This year we are going to break out these installments in a few more pieces, but the same deal—evaluating if needs are met for the roster. This is a bit different from gushing over every player and saying they will all be special and NFL players (other sites have you covered for the excessive hyperbole).

It is also difficult to gauge this year because we don’t know how the scholarships will ultimately unfold. Once upon a time you had a clear understanding before the early signing period (which is now THE signing period). This class was harder for coaching staffs and recruiting services to gauge with less opportunities for some players to even play a season or get recruits into camps. Overall, the talent is down in this class compared to last year, in my view, but tough to tell with the reduced data available.

Tight End

Clemson needed one TE and got one for the class in Jake Briningstool. Jake is the composite number one overall TE in the class and ranked #59 nationally. I also was a fan of Brock Bowers (who was #3 overall and went to UGA, but was very interested in Clemson), but Briningstool provides the pass catching TE that elevates a quality TE group. Pearman used a comparison of Brandon Ford, but I hope that is very wrong because as much as we love the memory of Ford, he was slow as molasses and didn’t get drafted. Jake should have a higher ceiling, but I get that he will start out primarily as a pass catchers.

JC Chalk leaves and Galloway, Davis Allen, Jaelyn Lay, and Sage Ennis step in. All of these are spaced out with one in each class (Galloway the senior on down—but it gets weird since everyone can potentially retain a year of eligibility), which is a good job of roster management. Jake Briningstool does fill the need of needing more of a pass catching TE who can flex out, run bang 8 routes, and be a mismatch. Chalk was just taking up snaps by his senior year and adding Jake makes the position group better. Jake is a good blend of size, speed, and ability to hands catch. He will need to develop as an in-line blocker but should see the field sooner rather than later. Watch for a Davis Allen type of progression.

Galloway isn’t likely to turn pro unless he has a monster post season. He needs to be more consistent, however, but should retain his starting position. Galloway has a few too many drops with his limited opportunities and still misses some blocking assignments. It is getting harder to keep Davis Allen off the field. I was a big fan of the Allen signing and part of team MOAR Allen. Jaelyn Lay has been a bit of a disappointment to this point. He has bulked up and lost some of his flexibility and mobility. This is a big off-season for him or he could be a transfer candidate in the future. Sage Ennis is still a bit unknown as he battled sickness and injury to start this season and training camp. Big body with decent athleticism.

Others at the position are Luke Price who is recovering from an ACL tear. We will see if he elects to come back (but has graduated). Clemson also landed AC Flora’s Banks Pope as a preferred walk-on from App State’s commitment list. Pope can play and this is the kind of ‘free’ player with talent you want as a PWO. With Dabo’s penchant for giving PWO’s scholarships, I would be all over this option if I was a player/parent.

Overall the TE room doesn’t have any major weaknesses at this point, especially with Jake providing more of a pass catching threat. Clemson will look to bring in one TE next year, with the outside possibility of two if there is any attrition. Needs definitely met.

Running Back

Clemson needed two RB’s and brought in two RB’s in this class.

Travis Etienne and Darien Rencher will move along. ETN’s departure leaves a giant gaping hole in the RB room and lots of opportunity. Rencher provided leadership for the team. They leave behind Lyn-J Dixon (potentially elevating to a Senior), Mellusi and Dukes as Jr’s, and Pace as a Soph. Bowman transferred out to Florida so Clemson will likely take one or two more RB’s in the next class (Shipley was technically an oversign and generally Clemson likes 5 RB’s).

Phil Mafah committed early to Clemson from Grayson HS. He is a bigger back who was injured his junior year, but came back to have a really strong senior campaign. Many questioned the early take, but Mafah proved them wrong with showing physicality, but also a burst of speed as his knee fully healed. I was alright with the Mafah take, although it was uncharacteristically early for Elliott, if there was an additional take in the class. Mafah was super committed and will be a positive force in the locker room.

Landing Shipley was big for the class overall and for Clemson as a program. Clemson’s offense has had one of the most explosive players in CFB in the backfield for three years. Losing a dynamic player like Bowman leaves a hole (I still wish coaches would have force fed a few more carries for him in meaningless games to start the year, but that isn’t how TE rolls and I get that). Shipley makes Clemson better (no one is replacing ETN but he is as close to reload as this class had to offer). Shipley is a composite 5* and the number one rated all-purpose back in the class. Just two RB’s are rated higher, TreVeyon Henderson is ranked number one and was interested in Clemson, but TE focused on Shipley and Henderson went to Ohio State. Shipley was a big coup for the class and pulled talent away from UNC and Notre Dame. Shipley can catch the ball out of the backfield, has enough speed to breakaway at the college level, and should be tough enough to run between the tackles. Mafah is your bigger back, change of pace, and Shipley your do everything starter.

Dixon showed something the VT game he hadn’t all season. Encouraging to see him take a step forward with an eye toward next season (he is still one to watch for potential attrition but hope he stays). Mellusi has put together a strong season and has enough experience for next season to contribute. Dukes has fallen down the depth chart and is another to watch. Kobe Pace has had a decent season and shown he can grind out yards but Gibbs at GT and Bowman transferring raises questions about that class for TE.

Clemson met needs with regards to numbers and with regards to talent if Shipley is able to contribute immediately. Lots of pressure on Ship and the need to stack talent in 2022, especially if further attrition hits.

Quarterback

Trevor Lawrence is leaving. (sad tears)

DJ Uiagalelei stepped in and threw for over 400 yards in two consecutive games with a bum shoulder. I feel much better about life after Trevor and that Dawg game, but the QB room after DJ isn’t great. Taisun Phommachanh is talented but overmatched at this point and doesn’t have the accuracy or decision-making to be a consistent passing threat yet. He would make the offense look more like the Kelly B year with the rushing attack featured. So there was a need to bring in a talented backup QB or two. The QB room is supposed to have 4-5 QB’s, but now is sitting at three. DJU cast a long shadow. Drake Maye is one who got away initially to Bama and then to UNC (really good pickup for Mack). I wanted the staff to pursue Ty Thompson more, but he was inclined to stay on the west coast and committed quickly to Oregon.

Bubba Chandler is a diamond in the rough find for the staff. He has a pitching and baseball background and can deliver the ball. He has size at 6’3 and decent athleticism. Lots to work on, however. He will be a developmental prospect and there is a need for more talent in the QB room going forward. He struggled early in his high school season but settled in and put up better numbers.

Apparently Dabo was saying that Will Taylor will start in the QB room, but that seems like a waste of his potential talent and he shouldn’t see the field for Clemson at QB. He does have the athleticism to play in the slot, however. If baseball takes him that will be two scholarships that could have been invested in recruits that went to Dabo offers that turned professional instead and left the roster numbers depleted.

You could score a dependable veteran on the transfer market but it would be hard to find a high caliber talent to come and sit behind DJ. Lots of pressure on the 2022 QB class (where only Ewers is really a 5* talent imo). Clemson is targeting high end talent in 2022 and needs to land a good one or two.

Clemson has the elite, championship talent at QB with DJ on the roster, but didn’t meet the needs with regards to numbers at the position and overall talent level.