The Next Wave: Final 2015 Signees Arrive

by - Senior Writer -
Austin Bryant could provide depth at defensive end
Austin Bryant could provide depth at defensive end

The next wave has arrived.

The talent surrounding head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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on the Clemson football team was evident during spring practice as the early enrollees joined with a talented crop of veterans. This past weekend, 10 more arrived on campus to begin the first phase of their Clemson careers, and it’s a group that features several players who will likely have an impact on the playing field in 2015.

The lone 2015 signee that won’t be on campus is defensive end LaSamuel Davis, who will have to take a summer course before enrolling in August. Otherwise, Swinney’s 2015 haul of talent is present and accounted for.

“I'm excited about the whole group that will be on board this summer,” Swinney said earlier this spring. “We've got a talented team returning - a good football team coming back, some really experienced players that have had a lot of success - and I think with this class it will give us the competitive depth that we really need to continue to take our program to another level. You have to have that year in and year out and I think this group brings that to the table.”

Included in that group are 5-star standouts in wide receiver Deon Cain and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Swinney said that he was scared Wilkins – who will provide depth at a thin tackle spot – was going to head elsewhere when he made his commitment call.

"Christian Wilkins - when he called me I thought he was going go break up with me and give me the, 'I love you but' speech. I asked when he knew he was coming to Clemson and he said, 'from the first moment when I stepped foot on that campus.' He knew all along where he was going to go,” Swinney said.

Cain is a burner who should provide depth at the wide receiver spot – the Tigers are more than likely too talented at all three spots (with Artavis Scott, Charone Peake and Mike Williams) for Cain to come in and have the early success of a Sammy Watkins, but expect him to get some snaps along the way.

"This guy is special," Swinney said. "The way I describe him to people is if you could take Sammy Watkins and Deandre Hopkins and kind of birth them together you get Deon Cain. I've always wanted to coach a Deon and now I get my chance with this guy. Clemson nation really has no idea what it is in store for the next several years with this young man."

Another offensive performer who will get a look on special teams and perhaps move around between running back, the slot and at receiver is Ray-Ray McCloud. McCloud is a special kind of talent with the kind of burst and top-end speed the Tigers have been looking for on special teams. His early production might come from punt and kickoff return while he settles into one offensive spot.

Swinney said Clemson is getting an elite playmaker in McCloud.

"He really is [special]," Swinney said. "This guy is dynamic. He's played a lot of running back. He's going to play wide out and running back and returner [at Clemson]. He is a great young man from a great family."

Another one that could gain some early playing time is on the defensive side of the ball – cornerback Mark Fields. Secondary coach Mike ReedMike Reed
Assist. Coach / Defensive Backs
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used veterans Cordrea Tankersley and Ryan Carter at the spot opposite Mackensie Alexander this past spring, but no one player really stood out and earned the position. Fields has great cover skills and he will challenge for playing time early.

Fields was originally committed to South Carolina but instead will don Clemson orange this fall.

"Mark reached out and said that he'd like to take another look at Clemson. We're really excited about him. He was the fastest guy out at Nike's The Opening,” Swinney said. “This guy is a special talent. He kind of handles himself like a pro already as far as his mentality - very focused young player, technically sound. I'm excited about adding Mark."

The depth at defensive end took a hit last month when Ebenezer Ogundeko was dismissed after a legal situation. In steps 6-5, 250-pound weakside defensive end prospect Austin Bryant. Bryant has the length and the upside and the athletic ability – his playing time will depend on how quickly he can learn Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Def. Coordinator / Linebackers
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’ system and is trusted enough to play. I expected Ogundeko to be a 15-snaps a game kind of guy – can Bryant earn those reps?

Another end moving in is Clelin Ferrell – the 6-5, 225-pounder might need to put on a little weight but should be in the mix early in fall camp, if he can prove he's 100-percent after suffering a torn ACL last August.

Greenwood (SC) Emerald defensive tackle Gage Cervenka is also on campus. The 6-3, 280-pounder - the reigning South Carolina heavy weight wrestling title holder - has the size and strength to compete for playing time right away.

Baseball and safety prospect Tanner Muse is enrolled after a spring playing baseball, but he has the kind of athletic ability that will get the coaches’ attention. Considering Clemson’s depth at the safety position he might be facing a redshirt, but it will be interesting to see how he fares in the camp scrimmages.

Trying to earn a spot anywhere on the field will be Denzel Johnson, who was a personal recruiting project of Swinney after the head coach saw Johnson in a state playoff game last fall. Johnson could play either offense or defense, even though a lot of the experts think he fits better in the secondary.

Back to the offense – tight end Garrett Williams comes in and faces an uphill battle on the depth chart with Jordan Leggett, Milan Richard, Stanton Seckinger (who could move to receiver), D.J. Greenlee and Cannon Smith all ahead on the early depth chart. However, Williams is a nice combo tight end who can block and catch the ball, so he could bypass a few guys to take playing time.

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