Monday Recruiting Update: It Just Keeps Getting Better
Thomas (right) hopes to lure Thomas (left) to Clemson

Monday Recruiting Update: It Just Keeps Getting Better

by - Senior Writer -

Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does.

Clemson began the month fresh off a win over Ohio St. in the Fiesta Bowl, toppled Alabama a week later in Tampa to win the National Championship and returned to campus to begin moving into the new football operations center.

The coaching and support staffs spent the last week moving everything from the WestZone across the road to the new facility, and ended the week with a commitment from 2017 running back Travis Etienne out of Louisiana and picked up verbal commitments this past weekend from the top two players in the state of South Carolina for the 2018 recruiting cycle – defensive tackle Josh Belk and athlete Derion Kendrick.

That’s quite a month, and we’ll begin February with National Signing Day as Clemson shows off the new operations center to the nation via ESPN. We don’t expect any surprises from the 2017 class Wednesday, but the coaches are pleased with the small class, and they feel like they’ve addressed their needs.

Picking up Etienne was huge – it gives Clemson four scholarship running backs heading into the 2017 season. We’ve heard good things about walk-on Darien Rencher out of T.L. Hanna, and we’ll know more about Rencher following spring practice. For now, however, the coaches have to feel good that they have enough backs to survive the rigors of a college football season.

*As for Kendrick – a lot of people are confused about where he will wind up position-wise on the collegiate level. He played quarterback last season and led his team to the 4A state championship. At head coach Dabo Swinney’s camp last summer, Kendrick started out with the defensive backs but moved to wide receiver at the prodding of wide receivers coach Jeff Scott.

He was one of the best I watched that day, and there is no doubt he could play either the 5-man or 2-man spot in Clemson’s offense, and I’m sure Scott would love to add him to the stable of talent he has already accumulated.

But his high school coach, Strait Herron, thinks Kendrick wants to play cornerback at Clemson.

“He’s got the speed and the jumping ability; he’s just different,” Herron said. “He’s going to be big, over 6-4 200. He’s very competitive, loves the competition and doesn’t back down. He started out being recruited as a slot receiver but he wants to be a defensive back. He wants to play corner.”

Herron said Clemson initially wanted Kendrick as a receiver.

“Clemson said they wanted to put him in the same spot as (DeAndre) Hopkins. He went to camp and went with the DBs, and there were too many of them, and he went over with the receivers. Coach (Jeff) Scott said we’ve got to have that guy. Jeff came in and talked about him being a slot receiver, and word got out that he wanted to be a DB. About a week later Coach (Brent) Venables showed up and said if he wants to play defense we want hm. Clemson handles that stuff well.”

*The addition of defensive line coach Todd Bates has already paid dividends. He was already drawing rave reviews after being out on the road recruiting last week – he traveled with Swinney and Venables being introduced to Clemson’s prospects – but he hit it off with Belk this past weekend, and it helped land Belk for the Tigers.

“I've never connected with a coach like him on the first day, that's what I told him. That had a big part in it, too,” Belk told TigerNet. “Throughout the trip, he was walking with me and making me feel comfortable and just talking like he has been recruiting me for years. When we went into his office, he told me he was a motivational speaker and gave us a little speech that just clicked with me and I knew then that he's the coach I want to be coached by.”

*Clemson played host to the number one ranked player nationally at four different positions this past weekend, and the returns are that everybody had a great time on the visit.

That goes for the group that came up from Bradenton’s (FL) IMG Academy. Led by Clemson commit Mike Jones, Jr., the group included five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas and five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent, 4-star defensive lineman Stephon Wynn and 3-star T.K. Chimedza.

With Jones doing everything he can to recruit the IMG players to join him at Clemson, the 2018 recruiting class could get even better.

*Each recruit had a different answer when it came to their favorite part of the new operations center, but tight end prospect Mustapha Muhammad (4-star out of Missouri City (TX) Ridge Point was my favorite. He said the nap room was his favorite thing (a man after my own heart).

We will have more on Muhammad later today, but it’s safe to say that he is one of the top targets for the coaching staff. The Tigers have had a good run of tight ends – from Dwayne Allen to Brandon Ford to Jordan Leggett – and I’m not sure there is anyone on the roster that fits that mold. That’s one of the reasons the coaches moved wide receiver Shadell Bell out there last season, to get more of a receiving threat at the position.

Muhammad more than fits the bill, but he told me Sunday that he wants to wait until National Signing Day next year to make a decision. His recruitment will be fun to watch.

*Linebacker commit Jake Venables told me Saturday night that “they had to make me take the uniform off” after pictures, but he also said that he got to see a part of Clemson he hadn’t seen before – Vickery Hall.

The coaches do an excellent job of selling the academic side of life at Clemson, and it seems to resonate with recruits and their families. Belk mentioned it to us, as did Venables and a few others. It also doesn’t hurt when they can say that four of the juniors that declared for the NFL Draft this month already have their degrees in hand.

*The new facility was obviously a hit, and I’ve purposely waited until everybody got moved and they’ve hosted a weekend of recruits to take my tour, which I will do Tuesday. We’ve all seen the pictures and videos, and I plan to post my thoughts after my Tuesday look-see. I’m sure Swinney won’t let me use the nap room, but maybe the slide is still in play…..

*We’ll have more responses from the 2018 guys that visited this weekend as the week progresses.

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