Clemson recruiting update: Tigers firmly in the mix for 5-star defenders
|Tuesday, June 22, 2021, 8:00 AM-|
Clemson Paw has been doing an outstanding job on our board with recruiting updates over the last several weeks, and with that in mind, we decided to give him a larger platform for a weekly recruiting inside look.
In the conclusion of last Tuesday’s update I warned that the notion that Clemson’s recruiting powers were dwindling was vastly overstated. Clemson recruits differently and circumstances did not favor their recruiting style during the pandemic. When the NCAA announced that recruits were going to be allowed to visit schools for the first time in over 14 months, you could hear a collective sigh of relief and excitement from the college football world, maybe none as loud as that from the Tigers.
For a program where relationships are the foundation, you can see how the news of in-person visits would come as a relief. I said then that Clemson’s recruiting future would look much like that of its past. It all came full circle last weekend when Clemson held its inaugural Elite Retreat -- visits were back and that meant that Clemson recruiting was back. The week that followed also felt much more like a week we had all grown accustomed to, and it gave a glimpse into the future. In the not-so-distant past, Jeff Scott’s Twitter feed would have been full of his trademark “Great Day to be a Clemson Tiger” posts this past week, and last week is where this post begins:
-“Well, well, well, how the turntables…” to steal a line from the legendary Michael Scott. Not many would suspect that a quote from The Office would apply to a Clemson recruiting article; however, it is a very fitting description of the past few weeks for Clemson recruiting. Before last week, Clemson had been stuck on four commits since Cade Klubnik committed to the Tigers days after being offered in March. Quite a long time for a team of Clemson’s caliber, and predictably the chatter began. Enter last week where the Tigers had a tidal wave of commitments on the heels of the Elite Retreat consisting of 4-star cornerback Toriano Pride, 4-star safety Sherrod Covil, and the No. 2 overall kicker Robert Gunn. It served as a reminder that Clemson is here to stay.
-Some of these reports write themselves, and as I sat down to begin this one, two interconnected themes became apparent.
1. 5-star defensive linemen
2. Recruits moving up their decision dates.
Let’s get started…
Clemson is one of the few schools that have been able to go into the state of Alabama and pluck talent away from the in-state power with the examples of Justyn Ross and EJ Williams to name a few. On that note Alabama 5-star defensive end Jeremiah Alexander made news this past week while being interviewed by a local TV station, WBRC, where he expressed the intent to make a commitment prior to the start of his senior season. Alexander had previously stated that he was going to commit at the All American game in January. It is hard to imagine that this is anything but good news for Clemson if he sticks to the preseason timeline.
Remember that Alexander was one of the first recruits to step on campus once visits were allowed in June, by Clemson’s design, and he told David Hood of TigerNet this in his post-visit interview “I can’t say that Clemson isn’t at the top spot right now because they are. Me and my family loved it as well.” He has taken unofficial visits to Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson, while he has taken an official visit to UCF, which is a nod to Guz Malzahn who recruited him while he was at Auburn. Alexander was previously committed to Alabama before reopening his recruitment, and one reason he wanted to wait until later in the cycle was because he wanted his next commitment to be his last and make sure he made an informed decision. He understands that his next commitment will be his last. Another factor in Clemson’s favor is that Alexander is slated to return to Clemson for the All In Cookout in July. If Alexander holds to deciding before his senior season, that would give Clemson the chance to make the last impression. Whether he decides now or later, Clemson is squarely involved, and currently leading, for yet another 5-star in the state of Alabama it is now just about closing.
-Another prospect along the defensive line, who also appears to be rapidly advancing in the recruiting process, arguably has been one of Clemson's top targets throughout this cycle. That would be Grimsley N.C 5-star defensive tackle Travis Shaw. Shaw began his visits this June with a one-day stop at UNC, before heading to Clemson for the Elite Retreat, a recap of that visit can be found in last week’s Tuesday update. This past weekend he took his official visit to Georgia. At the end of the month, Shaw will now take an official to UNC. Recruits can only take one official visit to a particular school, and the decision to make these visits to UNC and UGA officials is an indication that his recruitment is ending much earlier than expected. He has yet to schedule a specific date, but I have reason to believe that July 8th is a date to keep in my mind and under serious consideration.
As far as where his recruitment stands, UGA made a very big impression this weekend, and the UNC visit is still on deck. I know that many readers like to look at prediction tools from other sites, but let me say this: any prediction to Clemson is premature in my estimation. Clemson could absolutely land Shaw, and I detailed those around Shaw who would help Clemson in last week’s update, but it is my opinion that UNC and UGA have an equally good chance to land Shaw. Remember that Georgia's Kirby Smart and UNC's Mack Brown are great salesmen; they have found a weakness in Clemson’s armor, a point I will elaborate on when the time is right, and hammered it into Shaw.
The best case scenario for Clemson is they are able to draw Shaw back to campus for the All In Cookout and late July. Do not read more into that than what I stated. It is like I have said through this process, Shaw’s recruitment is going to be a war and that still seems to be the case, a war that Clemson can absolutely win. June was once viewed as merely a battle in the larger war, but it quickly appears that may actually be the decisive swing in the recruitment.
-One 5-star defensive line recruit has been out of sight and out of mind in recent months. I have learned that 5-star DL Gabe Dindy has made plans to be at Clemson the last week in July, I have reason to think around July 24th is when he should make his way to Clemson. I have long been of the opinion that Clemson was in the top-3 along with Oklahoma, the school where his parents went, and Texas A&M. Dindy’s father is a pastor so the faith-based program at Clemson was very appealing to the family. However, Dindy’s father recently took a job at a seminary in College Station, Texas, where the campus of Texas A&M is located, a development that most involved were aware of for a couple of months. That is a very nice coincidence for Jimbo Fisher and staff. However, that also moves the family closer to Oklahoma as well. Between his parents being alumni at OU and the new move to A&M, Clemson has a lot working against them and will have to thoroughly impress him in the visit.
On the other hand, I have heard on multiple occasions that many could not see Dindy playing for A&M, while the move could change that. I still think that if a team is able to pass OU, they will most likely land Dindy. Besides the aforementioned schools, Ohio State gets a look (June 25th reportedly) along with Alabama, which should be an official in the fall. This visit will simply be to draw Dindy for an official in the fall. We have seen Clemson land kids that they had no business landing, this would fit in that category if Clemson is able to land Dindy.
-While he is not a 5-star DE, Jihaad Campbell has been one of the fastest rising prospects in the country over the past few months, jumping over 300 hundred spots and becoming a top-100 player according to the Top 247 on 247Sports.com. Clemson has been on him longer than any other team and sentiment has held that no team was better positioned than Clemson. I have stated on multiple occasions that a decision was likely in July simply based on how IMG generally operates.
That notion was confirmed in a recent interview with TigerNet’s David Hood where Campbell stated “All I’ve got to say is, I’m committing next month around July 11th.” What he told Hood about his recent visit to Clemson on June 8th was “It was a great experience. A championship team and it showed by how the coaches displayed themselves.” Campbell expressed that he was “likely” to return to Clemson for the All In Cookout. He took a visit this past weekend to UGA, the team that I have painted as running second with A&M and OSU also involved.
-A few notes on the ‘23 class before we end with a little tidbit of information on a prospect for the current class:
-Some may have noted that an offer for the class of ‘23 went out late on Sunday, and it is worthy of mention in this update. That offer went to speedy Florida WR Nathaniel Joseph. A name I have said would be one to remember in my patented “Big Recruiting Updates” on the board, I think my info was proven right considering Joseph is only the fourth player on the offensive side of the ball to hold an offer for the class of ‘23. Clemson has laid the groundwork prior to the offer to make inroads with Joseph before the likes of OSU and UGA offer -- merely a matter of time before they jump in. Speaking on that note, Clemson and FSU have separated themselves early, and both seem apt to draw visits in the fall for games. Grisham has identified Joseph as his top slot receiver target.
-Clemson is squarely in the mix for class of ‘23 5-star CB AJ Harris, who was covered in an article by TigerNet this past week and gave a glowing review, specifically for CB Mike Reed. Clemson and OSU are the two lead teams for the Alabama 5-star as things stand currently. Harris should release a top-5 or 6 in the coming weeks and make his way to Clemson for a game in the Fall.
-When Clemson began to dispense their offers for the class of ‘23 at the beginning of June, one of the first to receive one was 5-star safety Sonny Styles from Ohio. Styles has connections to teams across the Midwest as his father played for the in-state Buckeyes and his brother currently plays for Notre Dame. This month he will head to a number of Southern schools, but Clemson will draw Styles for a game visit in the fall.
-To conclude our class of ‘23 discussion, 5-star RB Richard Young is set to make his first appearance at Clemson on June 25th. Alabama gets a visit two days before and teams such as FSU, OSU, and UGA have already gotten looks this June.
-I generally try to end each of these updates with some tidbit of information, I like to end on a high note, and so you will read to the end (haha). On a lot of days anyone of the three defensive line updates could have garnered that spot. However, when I sat back and gave a moment of thought as to where we would end, one name came to mind. In last week’s review of the Elite Retreat, I stated “There was no specific group that was set for a bigger weekend, just in terms of the numbers that were present and the potential movement in their recruitment, than the DBs.” I think that statement was proven correct this past week with the commitments from safety Sherrod Covil and CB Toriano Pride. By my way of thinking that statement will be further cemented in the coming months.
Enter IMG 5-star safety Keon Sabb. Clemson has been on Sabb for quite some time and for a while it seemed that Alabama would project as Clemson’s stiffest competition, but they eventually faded and UGA and Penn State took their place. Sabb made his way to Clemson for the Elite Retreat just two weekends ago and told TigerNet this about where Clemson stood after that visit “They are pretty much like top one or two for me right now. I’ve still got to take other visits.” The all-important UGA official was this weekend, the team that I have said is running second for quite some time, there will be other visits to Michigan and Texas A&M (Hey, if I had the visits I would take them too), but the teams with a credible chance to catch Clemson have already had their shot. Once the visits are taken, Sabb will be able to sit down and I would expect that a preseason decision is on tap, again IMG prefers that their players are committed before their senior season. There is still work to be done to close with Sabb, but he would obviously be a tremendous pickup as he is tabbed as a 5-star and the No. 7 overall player in the country according to Top 247.
Have a great week Tigernation!