As we count down the mere days left until the biggest day of the offseason for college football, coaches are wrapping up their recruiting for the 2012 class. Now, it's ultimately up to the recruits to fulfill the commitments they have made to their school. But, it's also up to many of those undecided recruits to finally make their long-awaited decision.
Clemson is just one of these many schools that are awaiting their heralded 2012 class, while also hoping to snag a few extras that they have had their eyes on all year long. As the Tigers prepare for the usual hustle of national signing day, there are some things that head coach Dabo Swinney and the rest of the coaching staff hope falls their way on February 1st.
Despite commitments, there are many cases on signing day where many of these young men have a change of heart, despite the commitments they may have made or held, whether it was for a coaching change or a better opportunity to get on the field sooner.
The Tigers are putting together what looks to be a top-10 class this year, and Dabo Swinney and the coaching staff have done a fine job recruiting both in and out of state. Now, it's up to the recruits and the coaching staff to make sure they give their signatures to the Clemson University football program.
One of the interesting facts about national signing day is that anything goes, and that commitments can be decommitted until that player signs on the dotted line. It's almost like a game in and of itself, where the player is ultimately in charge of his own fate. He is not bound by any one team, no matter what his commitment may be.
Clemson, despite their great signing class, would not snub a surprise player or two to add to their class of 20. The Tigers are getting dangerously thin at running back, and if Clemson could nail another running back, it would do the offense a whole lot of good. After all, tight end Dwayne Allen was a Georgia commit before making a signing-day decision to become a Clemson Tiger. Now he is on a path to the NFL.
One of the targets left for Clemson is defensive tackle DJ Reader, who could provide some much-needed depth and competition along a parched and questionable defensive line that loses three of its four starters from 2011. Reader is also looking to play baseball as well, which could play in Clemson's favor, given their well-known baseball program.
But, since anything goes on signing day, it would give Clemson some new blood who could push for playing time as a true freshman.
While the Tigers already have Travis Blanks, it wouldn't hut to have a talented defensive back like Ronald Darby, who is known for his speed, something the Clemson secondary lacked in 2011.
Darby also brings better ball skills than the Tiger secondary exhibited in 2011, and could bring some much-needed competition and depth to a growing Clemson secondary. Clemson is still in the hunt for Darby, and Darby would possibly be the biggest splash for Clemson on the defensive side come signing day.
Coming into 2012, the Tigers will be missing something that they haven't really had to address too much in the past few seasons: a proven, marquee pass-rusher to worry opposing quarterbacks. With the departure of Andre Branch, the coaching staff will be looking for that next marquee pass-rusher to step into that role.
With Malliciah Goodman less of a pass-rushing threat, it's a possibility that the next in line could emerge from this class. The Tigers are expected to sign Shaq Lawson and Martin Aiken as the main defensive ends that could step up and compete for rotation at Branch's open spot. Dan Brooks and Marion Hobby will have to take some decent looks at these high-motor guys to see if they have what it takes to pressure opposing quarterbacks like they did in high school.
This year along the offensive line, offensive tackle Philip Price was one of the best offensive linemen and got his first chance to start as a converted tight end walk-on, and he didn't disappoint. He protected Tajh Boyd's blind side well all season, and he was clearly missed after his knee injury near the end of the season. But, Price departs, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris wants more offensive linemen like Price.
And in this class, the Tigers will have plenty of linemen to choose from. With three open spots along the offensive line, we could very well see a true freshman playing at one of those spots, even as the all-important left tackle position. The biggest names include Javarius Leamon, a 4-star in-state lineman who has been committed to the Tigers; fellow commitments Patrick Destafano and Jay Guillermo are also names to keep an eye on.
If the Tigers want to continue their 2011success on offense, they must win the battle in the trenches, and be the tough, gritty Philip Price that the offense could rely on in both the running game and pass protection.
Clemson's secondary saw a big drop-off after the departure of several key seniors, and this unit suffered the most next to the linebacker position. The secondary failed to tackle properly, and lacked any kind of ball skills or ability to force any turnovers or interceptions of any kind.
In this class, the main help will come in the form of defensive back Travis Blanks, who could land at either safety or cornerback with his 6'1" 195-pound frame, but should get his first look at the corner position. Blanks has been known for his physicality in man-to-man defense, and his ball skills could help aid a secondary looking for results in 2012 from a few players that showed inconsistency all 2011 season.
Clemson hopes Blanks, who has enrolled early, will give the defense the kind of boost that Sammy Watkins gave to the offense in 2011.