TigerSource breaks down the starters, the depth, the newcomers and the recruiting board at cornerback
Justin Miller burst upon the college football scene with a phenomenal true freshman season. His eight interceptions that season sent a message to opposing offensive coordinators. His physical nature was showcased on the Maryland running back when his hit made Sports Center's Top Ten Plays. His kick returns amazed Clemson faithful and his confidence showed on every play. Miller had a very good season as a sophomore but did not live up to his lofty expectations. Georgia and N.C. State showed little respect and Miller's performance dropped slightly. With that said, we look for big year from Miller this year. A huge year could land him as an early entry in the NFL draft. We think Miller has something to prove in 2004.
Tye Hill's move to corner could not have played out any better in 2004. The former running back adapted well and is now considered an NFL prospect. His speed is unbelievable but Hill made the other adjustments also. He played better in big games against Virginia, FSU and Tennessee. In all he was counted on for 678 plays as a sophomore and should continue to improve with experience. Hill and Miller give the Tigers two excellent corners and this entire secondary could be considered among the best in school history.
C.J. Gaddis is another Tiger who moved over from offense. Coaches continue to rave about his athletic ability and had to find a place on the field for his skill level. Gaddis will get a long look at corner and should stay there but if that is not the case then other positions could suit. This is one of the top five athletes on the Clemson campus. We asked his coaches about his potential and they gave an incredible answer. The football coaches say if he gave up baseball, he could be a first round draft pick in football in a few years. The baseball coaches say if he gave up football he could be a first round pick in baseball in a few years. How many athletes can say that. His development will be as interesting as some of his electrifying kick returns from this past spring.
Sergio Gilliam surprised the staff in August with his flexibility and athleticism. Some thought Gilliam might grow into a safety but his change of direction and cover skills allowed him to stay at corner. Most Tiger fans were surprised when the Tar Heels entered the Valley and Gilliam's red-shirt was taken off. For the year he played 26 snaps in six games. Look for his time to increase this season especially in the nickel and dime packages. Toure Francis has graduated and the Tiger staff is still looking for the nickel back to get more consistent.
Robert Reese did red-shirt last year but got a lot of reps in the spring with Tye Hill running track. Reese looked good and only lacks more experience. He will be in the mix for the back-up role and should be a major special teams player this season.
Brandon Croley committed to the Tigers early in the process and stuck with his commitment. He is a physical player that the staff would like to red-shirt this season.
Chris Clemens was recruited by some schools on offense but could play corner in Clemson. Brad Scott offered Clemens early and the Tigers beat a couple of Big Ten schools for his signature.
The Recruiting Board
On Tuesday, July 14th the Tigers picked up their first defensive commitment when Hadrian Lewis (6-1, 175) of Stratford High School in Goose Creek, SC called his recruiter Burton Burns and told him the good news. Lewis actually received an offer from the staff after last year's camp. Burns and company stayed in contact throughout the year and Lewis camped at Clemson again this season. He impressed the coaching staff again and the Tigers reaffirmed their offer and Lewis has accepted. This is a cornerback prospect with good height and good cover skills. He is considered one of the top two corners in South Carolina this season.
Ramon McElrathbey (6-0, 185) of Mays High School in Atlanta, GA committed to Clemson after his summer camp in Tigertown but has re-opened his recruiting since. He put on a show at the Clemson camp and other schools have since offered. Ray Ray has been raised in foster homes because of a bad environment. But one coach close to him says, "sometimes kids that have as much stacked against him like Ray Ray get very bitter. But this is a unique kid. He just says this is what life has dealt him and he moves on. This is a great kid. He has moved to different families depending on which season it is and each family is touched by him. Ray Ray is a terrific kid." Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Georgia Tech could be four of his official visits.
Jamie Robinson (6-3, 185) of Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, SC plays for one of the best programs in South Carolina and in one of the state's toughest regions. He has 15 interceptions against that competition over the past two seasons. It was this kind of production that has coaches raving about his skills. "I had nine interceptions, 50 tackles and 20 passes broken up last season," says Robinson. "I love playing corner. I love the thrill of being on an island. So far Clemson and South Carolina have offered," Robinson said. "I think other will offer soon. I also like FSU, Florida and Michigan but I am wide open to all schools. I will not commit too early. I want to take my time."
Brandon Ghee (5-11, 175) of Britt High School in Fayetteville, NC has offers from North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Clemson, Duke and Tennessee.
Jordan Hemby (5-11, 170) of Freedom High School in Morganton, NC has interest in Wake Forest, North Carolina, Clemson and N.C. State.
We think Clemson will sign two corners in the upcoming class.