Troy McClure...err...QuackingTiger. You may remember me from recruiting posts of yesteryear!
Yes, I have been missing in action, but in my defense, I was getting tenure at my job and also there wasn’t much going on with Clemson and recruiting. Dabo and the coaches didn’t want to deviate from the recruiting script that has worked so well for them. With camps being allowed once again, lots of eggs are in this basket for the 2022 class (or for the younger generation—Clemson has decided on a loot box in recruiting, which could pay off bigly or turn out to be a bunch of sus Pokemon cards). Coaches needed to hit their stride...and so far—yep, stride accomplished.
Clemson continues to push not having any transfers—this has become a major recruiting pitch and differentiating point for the coaches (and if you are going to be the only team in P5 cfb to not have transfers, then yeah—sell that thing to the moon...). Clemson also continues to not have Summer official visits. Dabo wants players to come to camp, get an in-person evaluation (which is all the more important with limited seasons and less recruiting eyeballs on prospects), and then get rewarded with Clemson chasing them once they show some buy-in. Clemson wants to position itself as a luxury brand in recruiting and it has the hardware to back it up.
So let's get to it, shall we...
Right now, I might be inclined to say that the 2023 class is shaping up even nicer than the 2022 class.
It doesn’t hurt when you have 5* Arch Manning (6’4, 200) throwing to 5* WR Brandon Inniss (6’1, 188) and 4* Matayo Uiagalelei (who worked out effectively at both DE and TE). Obviously, there is the Uiagalelei connection, but Clemson will need to work some to beat Bama for Matayo. Inniss is the real deal and legit #WRU material (man crush territory), potentially the top WR in the class. Both were offered. Everyone has seen this clip (my fav part is the boss move FB spin after the pump):
My understanding and read on the recruitment, now that the dust has settled, is that Clemson is in an ideal position. If we could pause for a minute, landing Manning would be an unbelievable run of QB talent at Clemson. Watson, Trevor Lawrence, DJU, now Cade Klubnik (who as I predicted is now knocking on 5* status), and potentially Manning?? That is Dabo statue-level recruiting worthy.
I was suspect of the Manning hype after watching some games where I felt like the arm talent was a tiny notch below the expectations. I am also a big fan of 2023 Cali prospect and fellow 5* talent Malachi Nelson—who can absolutely sling it. But I am now a firm believer in Arch who I think will likely be the top overall player in the 2023 class when all is said and done. Manning’s talent has caught up with the arm. He can now make all the throws.
Clemson has always had Manning as THE QB prospect they were targeting and that strategy is already paying off. Holding off on offering other QBs and offensive players made the offer to Manning extra special. Clemson coaches have planted these seeds way back to having Clem prospects in Manning camps and representing the brand well with the family. Dabo and Streeter both have a good relationship with the family.
The ‘fit’ is there and this is one of those moments where culture resonates. The Manning’s aren’t into the glamor of recruiting and protect Arch from too much coaching exposure. Over-recruiting is not something Clemson does and the steady, consistent approach works here. The family understands who the fake coaches are won’t be persuaded by gimmicks and negative recruiting pitches. Clemson provides a nice blend of Southern rural living, without the big city, which also seems to fit Archie’s personality and preference. No transfer QBs. Dabo’s emphasis on faith/belief also works.
I don’t see Ole Miss being a match with Kiffin. I also don’t see LSU happening or Tennessee with their turmoil. To me, Bama is going to be the biggest competition. That visit will be important. Clemson is well positioned. The recruitment will likely last through game visits in the Fall but probably not much further than the Spring. Arch will want to help recruit for his class.
2023 Mount Pleasant, SC Offensive Tackle prospect Monroe Freeling was also offered. Freeling performed well in camp and this was a no brainer offer for an in-state prospect at a position of need. Freeling profiles as a high 4* prospect.
Oh yeah—this article was supposed to be about 2022 (I know of at least two commitments at the time of this writing—things are heating up).
First, commits Adam Randall, Cade Klubnik, Blake Miller, and Collin Sadler are all on campus. Cade is a charismatic, high-energy kind of leader. Blake Miller looks completely different from the player he was when he committed. He has not only started the reshaping process that Olineman need to go through to be ready for college, but is well on his way. Moves better, looks better. I’m very happy. Sadler still needs polish and work but he is a legit 4* prospect.
Kicker Robert Gunn from Pinellas Park, FL spent two days in Clemson and got Dabo level golfcart treatment, complete with Swinney house trip after camp. Texas offered and this is who Clemson has circled as their priority kicker for 2022. I’ll let you read between the lines (not many kickers leave the Swinney household without being Dabo’d). He can kickoff (easily), punt (needs some work here but he has the distance on kicks), and definitely kick FGs. Ball jumps off his foot:
Next up is Safety prospect Sherrod Covil (6’0, 190) from Chesapeake, VA. Covil is rated the composite 198th overall player in the country. But you can see why Clemson, in particular, loves his film and play. He plays Safety in high school and loves to come downhill and hit. Clean hits, but powerful hits. No fear or hesitation to fill rushing lanes. Also has a good feel for attacking the line of scrimmage. Check out this beautiful example:
Missile Runnin the Alley Boom pic.twitter.com/un9zW6PGBx— Sherrod Covil Jr (@rodZilla03) March 21, 2021
The knock on his play is that he likes to try and jam everyone at the line of scrimmage and isn’t the best in man coverage. I think that is a legit concern and why I would have him in the 150 range for now, but he plays sideline to sideline, has lots of tools to work with, and has the frame to get to 200-210 easily. Clemson is the offer he wanted and although trips to UNC and ND are on the schedule, I have a hard time seeing those actually happen. Getting another defensive back from VA is a developing talent pipeline (*bonus: Covil is also friends with WR target Andre Greene).
Another name to really know is CB Toriano Pride (5’11, 180) from St. Louis, MO. I think the Clemson coaches looked at their Corner needs and looked across the country for one of the best, if not the best pure cover corner. Someone you could stick in the slot who won’t get abused and could also play the boundary position.
Pride is that player. He ranks as the composite 187th overall player, but that is too high in my book and the 247 rank of 71st overall is about where I would have him. Certainly a top 100 player. Pride has great hips, sinks into coverage, fluid change of direction. He is just going to have to learn to play against better, more physical competition. Pride visited Ohio State at the beginning of June and that is the only team challenging Clemson at this point. Clemson is going to avoid making losing to Ohio State a regular thing.
Yet another name to potentially know soon is DJ Wesolak (6’3.5, 240) from Boonville, MO. Although other names would be higher on my DE board, Wesolak is the kind of bird in hand prospect that is really hard to not take. Landing a solid player at this point also allows you to shoot for the moon with the second take. Shemar Stewart is on the top of my list, right there with Jeremiah Alexander. First round talents. After that, it gets a bit murky with Wesolak, Cyrus Moss, Jihaad Campbell, and probably Kenyatta Jackson. Moss needs to visit and probably favors Oregon and there is work to do with Jackson too. Campbell did visit and it is more of a decision on whether you want to push for the IMG Academy player at this point since he is a bit of a tweener, but still a very good player.
Don’t get me wrong—Wesolak is the 179th overall player and a very good prospect. He moves well for his size and tracks down RBs sideline to sideline (would need to maintain speed at 250-260 but he has the frame to add that weight, although a bit sawed off). Plays on the line of scrimmage, so he wouldn’t need to learn to put a hand in the dirt. Just needs polish on his pass rush moves and adjusting to better Oline play. He just uses his athleticism and length in high school right now. I see some Justin Mascoll in his film with some long arms and explosive play who will need to adjust and put it all together in college (which isn’t a cutdown, I think I correctly pegged Mascoll as a 100-150 player rather than a top 50 player and got pummeled for it, but I would put Wesolak on a two year then contributing trajectory).
Speaking of Alexander—game on. He was once committed to Bama but de-committed. Still can’t count them out for a prospect from Alabaster, AL, but the door is cracked open. UGA is the other school that is a strong contender, if not the outright leader going into these visits. Alexander loved his time at Clemson and we are the favorite right now, but it is going to take some sustained attention and return visits—and even then this might go down to the wire. But the juice is definitely worth the investment here. Stewart has yet to visit and is even harder to read or get on campus, but you still need to try.
- The most important visit today is probably DT Travis Shaw. He is 6’5, 310 yet moves like Christian Wilkins and is from Greensboro, NC. UNC and UGA were leading before this visit. He is a must get for this class. Clemson has made up ground here but plenty of ballgame that needs to be played. This was a good first step for the number 9 overall prospect, however.
- TE Oscar Delp is Clemson’s top target. I still think he is UGA bound but Clemson gave him something to think about with his visit. Delp has size at 6’4 to 6’5 and is already 220. He ran a 4.6 at 212 pounds and started out as a wide receiver. Plenty to like but I think he is still a Dawg. The longer his recruitment goes, the better for Clemson.
- Next up is local Greer product Jaleel Skinner (6’4, 210) who is actually the composite top TE in the country. He is a jumbo WR at this point who will need to learn how to be a physical blocker—super slender build right now. He has the athletic traits to be a plus athlete, especially at tight end with fluid motion and decent speed. My question is his hands and more specifically being able to play like an alpha target—attacking the ball and dominating football games, which I haven’t seen enough of for the number one overall TE in the class. Skinner has gone through the recruiting process and has Florida and Florida State making a big push for him. Bama also on the periphery. If Clemson misses on both they will likely pocket the scholarship.
- Clemson finally has CB Jaeden Lukus of Mauldin, SC on campus. He is the number 37 overall player right from Clemson’s backyard. UNC has made this interesting and thinks they have the lead in the recruitment. It would be a huge coup for them, but Corner is a position of need and Clemson during the Dabo era has done a great job of shutting down the state when they have wanted that to be the case. Lukus is the target for the other CB take—two safeties and two corners (although I hope 5 DBs are the total take at the end of the day).
- Keon Sabb (6’2, 200) from IMG Academy is the other Safety that Clemson is targeting. One of the more polarizing evals in the class since some think he has a bit of the IMG hyper associated with him (one service has him 7th overall in the class but all have him in the top 50). I want to see how his speed translates at IMG and if he can be a bit more of a ballhawk/refine footwork and technique. Sabb, Pride, Covil, and Everette have a good bit of chemistry brewing.
- Daylen Everette (6’1, 185) of IMG academy is the other DB prospect who I hope Clemson pursues heavily. He is the composite number 40 overall player (that might be a bit high, but he is still a quality player). What I like about Daylen is his ball skills and ability to come down with interceptions. He does a good job of playing physically and using his long wingspan to attack the ball. I want to see his straight line speed improve and there is a question of whether he profiles more as a Safety (where he would need to be more physical) or a corner, but I see a good bit of Mullen in his game. There are a few question marks but I think he is a solid take and will return for the cookout event. Ryan Turner committed to Ohio State so that leaves Xavier Nwankpa (all Ohio State right now unfortunately), Zion Branch (Vegas just seems far away for Clemson coaches who aren’t giving officials), and Azareyeh Thomas (I actually like his game a good bit...) as other potentials.
- RB Branson Robinson did not make it in. Unfortunate, since he is likely UGA bound and is made of nothing but muscle with a bit of skin on top, but Trevor Etienne, brother of Travis, did make the event. Trevor worked out and had slimmed down a bit. He showed good hands and more explosiveness in workouts than in the past. Hard to pass on the Etienne name and legacy, but there are some intriguing RB prospects still out there on the board. Not sure the ultimate direction has been decided here for an already crowded RB room.
- LB is the same deal—just how many can Venables get for this class? Tolan is the inside prospect, Kanak is the outside LB prospect who can fly but really isn’t a Safety take, and then you have Caldwell who is the local, in-state diamond in the rough from Mauldin (and Venables has a good record of maximizing this kind of 3* talent).
- And WR Andre Greene (6’3, 180) from Richmond, VA? He came to camp, worked out, and got the offer. Like so many of the players in this class—he needed last year to really showcase his talents. He is down at #155 overall in the composite, but high points the ball like a WRU talent. He can jump. His speed is much better than you expect for a taller prospect and he uses his basketball skills to shield defenders. Mike Williams is my comparison if he can add the needed weight and strength for the next level. Clemson now leads here. Antonio Williams is the other name to watch. He came to campus but didn’t work out because of a hamstring so didn’t get the offer—yet. I am still holding out hope for Tetairoa McMillan who I know wants a Clemson offer (but the Greene offer probably ends this hope since they are similar style players) and Brenen Thompson is still an option.
Are you not entertained Clemson fans?!?