Dabo Swinney started 2014 on a high. Will it continue on national signing day?
CLEMSON, S.C. — With just over four weeks left in the 2014 recruiting cycle, Clemson’s hay is mostly in the proverbial barn.
A very small departing senior class (11 scholarship players) and a young roster means Dabo Swinney and his staff have had to be very judicious and careful with their scholarship offers.
Currently, Clemson has 18 verbal commitments expected to sign with the Tigers on the first Wednesday in February, and five of those players are already enrolled and will go through spring practice with their new teammates.
Even after three juniors (wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Sammy Watkins and cornerback Bashaud Breeland) declared for the NFL draft, Swinney said Saturday that he doesn’t expect more than a handful of additions to the class.
“We’ve got two or three guys we’re working hard on,” he said. “We’ll see what happens but if not we’re in good shape.”
The Class of 2014 is already well-regarded: 247 Sports ranks the class 16th-best nationally, third in the ACC behind Florida State and Miami.
There is plenty to talk about with the newest crop of Tigers. Let’s take a look, shall we?
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.
Trevion Thompson would be an excellent addition to Clemson's Class of 2014.
WR Trevion Thompson
Thompson is a 6’3”, 188-pound wide receiver from Durham, N.C., rated as a 4-star prospect and the nation’s No. 22 wide receiver by 247Sports. He is considering Clemson as one of his four finalists along with N.C. State, Ohio State and West Virginia, with the Wolfpack, Mountaineers and Tigers considered the leaders of that pack.
He has excellent size and runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. While Clemson has three early enrollees at wide receiver, the losses of Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake’s recovery from a torn ACL would give Thompson a chance to contribute early if he signs with Dabo Swinney and Co.
DE Andrew Williams
Williams is a 6’4”, 247-pound defensive end from McDonough, Ga. He is considering Clemson as well as SEC schools Auburn and Ole Miss. Williams is a 4-star prospect and is rated by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 12 weak-side defensive end prospect. He has good size and excellent speed and does well at the point of attack with good hands. He would be an excellent addition to Clemson’s recruiting class with junior Vic Beasley mulling an NFL jump and fellow junior starter Corey Crawford entering his senior season.
DE Cory Thomas
Thomas is a 6’6”, 270-pound defensive end from McCalla, Ala. He is committed to Tennessee but still plans to visit Clemson and Mississippi State along with UT. He is a 3-star prospect and rated as the nation’s No. 24 strong-side defensive end prospect, according to 247Sports. Thomas has solid size, athleticism and quickness and, like Williams, would be a solid addition to the Tigers defensive line if he signs.
Linebacker commitment Korie Rogers was a U.S. Army All-America selection.
RB Adam Choice , 5’9”, 206 pounds, Thomas County Central HS, Thomasville, Ga.
OT Justin Falcinelli, 6’3”, 290 pounds, Middletown H.S., Middletown, Md.
CB C.J. Fuller, 5’10”, 200 pounds, Easley H.S., Easley, S.C.
S Jeff Gibson, 6’4”, 190 pounds, Grays Creek H.S., Hope Mills, N.C.
OT Taylor Hearn, 6’5”, 305 pounds, Williston-Elko H.S., Williston, S.C.
LB Kendall Joseph, 6’1”, 225 pounds, Belton-Honea Path H.S., Belton, S.C.
WR Demarre Kitt, 6’1”, 182 pounds, Sandy Creek H.S., Tyrone, Ga.
RB Jae'lon Oglesby, 6’0”, 175 pounds, D.W. Daniel HS, Central, S.C.
WR Kyrin Priester, 6’2”, 185 pounds, Fork Union Military Academy, Fork Union, Va.
LB Chris Register, 6’4”, 235 pounds, Dudley H.S., Greensboro, N.C.
TE Milan Richard, 6’2”, 232 pounds, Calvary Day School, Savannah, Ga.
DT Jabril Robinson , 6'3", 265 pounds, North Brunswick H.S., Leland, N.C.
LB Korie Rogers 6’1”, 210 pounds, Buford H.S., Buford, Ga.
K Alex Spence, 6’2”, 190 lbs, West Florence H.S., Florence, S.C.
WR Artavis Scott, 5’10”, 175 pounds, East Lake H.S., Tarpon Springs, Fla.
OT Cannon Smith, 6’5”, 235 pounds, Hammond School, Columbia, S.C.
QB DeShaun Watson, 6’3”, 200 pounds, Gainesville HS, Gainesville, Ga.
LB Jalen Williams, 5’11, 220 pounds, Blythewood H.S., Blythewood, S.C.
Clemson has a high-powered offense, but the Tigers have a number of holes to fill in Chad Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle system next fall. Quarterback Tajh Boyd (No. 1 in touchdowns and No. 2 in passing yards in ACC history) is gone. So are junior wideouts Sammy Watkins (the program’s all-time leader in receptions, reception yardage and receiving touchdowns) and Martavis Bryant, as well as senior tailback Rod McDowell, a 1,000-yard rusher.
Who can take advantage of the opportunity? Start with DeShaun Watson, who Swinney said Saturday is as highly regarded a quarterback as Clemson has ever signed. He is already enrolled and will compete with rising senior Cole Stoudt and rising sophomore Chad Kelly in spring practice for Boyd’s old role.
At tailback, Adam Choice and Jae’Lon Oglesby figure to have opportunity. Rising senior D.J. Howard has been inconsistent and a career backup, and rising junior Zac Brooks was also hampered by injuries this season. Former walk-on C.J. Davidson also provides depth, and Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye were redshirted this fall. Dye is recovering from back surgery and will not be full-go until preseason practice. If Choice or Oglesby are consistent, they could avoid a redshirt.
At wide receiver, mid-year enrollees Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester and Artavis Scott could all potentially contribute. Rising senior Adam Humphries returns, as does junior Charone Peake, who redshirted after suffering a torn ACL. Dabo Swinney called Mike Williams “a very special player” Saturday, but there are openings alongside rising sophomores Williams, Germone Hopper and T.J. Green. Going through spring practice will give the early enrollees a leg up on early playing time.
At linebacker, graduating seniors Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian leave starting roles open. Rising sophomore T.J. Burrell and redshirted freshman Dorian O’Daniel have the edge, and former Oklahoma transfer Kellen Jones and former five-star recruit Tony Steward provide veteran presence. But mid-year enrollee Chris Register, as well as Korie Rogers, could have a say in playing early.
Defensive end Andrew Williams is a major target of Clemson.
Can Clemson add another wide receiver?
Even with the early enrollees, the Tigers remain in the market for a wide receiver. Trevion Thompson would fit the bill. Thompson is considering Clemson, West Virginia, Ohio State and N.C. State.
He has already visited Ohio State and N.C. State, and will visit Clemson this weekend and West Virginia Jan. 24. If Thompson commits, it would be an excellent addition to the class of 2014.
Can the Tigers beat the SEC for a defensive end?
A year ago, Clemson had three highly touted defensive ends committed who wound up signing with SEC programs. Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson both played for Auburn this season, and Robert Nkemdiche (considered the top overall recruit in the class of 2013) started at Ole Miss. This year, Clemson is again in the final group for a pair of ends with SEC interest.
Andrew Williams of McDonough, Ga., is expected to pick between Auburn, Clemson and Ole Miss. And Cory Thomas of McCalla, Ala., is committed to Tennessee but is also considering Clemson and Mississippi State.
Defensive end is a position of need for the Tigers; they also finished second to Florida State for end Lorenzo Featherston. If they can pull another end away from the SEC, it’d be a very positive finish for this class.
Milan Richard's uncle is former Georgia Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
Tight end Cannon Smith is a major Clemson legacy. His father, Bill Smith, was a member of the Clemson’s 1981 national championship team (the only national title in program history) and is a member of Clemson’s Board of Trustees. Let’s say it wasn’t a surprise when Cannon committed.
Tight end Milan Richard has a huge SEC legacy in his family. His uncle is Georgia tailback and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
Wide receiver Demarre Kitt is from Sandy Creek (Ga.) High School. He has a major legacy of his own to live up to: Sandy Creek is the alma mater of Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, one of the NFL’s top receivers.
Safety Jeff Gibson was committed to N.C. State but surprised Dabo Swinney after reopening his recruiting and committing to the Tigers following September’s 38-35 season-opening win over Georgia. It was quite a night for Swinney.
Offensive line commitment Justin Falcinelli is from Middletown, Md. Clemson does not exactly have a strong recruiting presence in the soon-to-be-former ACC state. When Falcinelli signs, he’ll be Clemson’s first Maryland native since Jeff Fortner in 1991.
Tailback Adam Choice has ACC in his bloodlines. His cousin is former Georgia Tech star tailback Tashard Choice.
*Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace