April 29, 2016

State of the Program: Defensive End

StateofProgramDE

’16 signee Xavier Kelly (Photo by Rivals.com) and starting SDE Austin Bryant (Photo by SI.com)

Over the last decade Clemson has established themselves as one of the premier producers of defensive end talent to the NFL and in less than a week there will be two more Marion Hobby coached players to add to an already impressive list. Both starters from last year, Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, stand a good chance of going in the first round on Thursday. If both players do hear their names called on Thursday evening it would mark the first time Clemson has ever had two defensive ends taken in round 1. Looking ahead to the 2016 season without those two certainly creates reason for concern. As you can see below, the Tigers only return 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks from last season. There also aren’t a lot of bodies available, which is part of the reason why defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been taking reps at end this Spring. Sophomore Austin Bryant appears to have the strongside spot locked down, but the weakside starting job is shaping up to be a battle worth watching between Richard Yeargin and Clelin Ferrell. The staff seems to feel pretty good about those first three guys, but behind them is anyone’s ballgame. Chris Register finally appears ready to contribute after switching positions from linebacker and Sterling Johnson greatly benefited from a physical standpoint during his redshirt season. There’s also an eagerness to see what signee Xavier Kelly looks like when he arrives to Clemson this Summer. Despite the question marks surrounding this group I’ve come to learn that Marion Hobby knows what he’s doing and to just sit back and enjoy the show.

Returners
RS SO-Chris Register: 1 game played & logged 4 snaps
RS SO-Richard Yeargin: 8 tackles 1.0 TFL 1 sack 2 QBH
SO-Austin Bryant: 23 tackles 2.0 TFL 1.5 sacks 1 FR
RS FR-Clelin Ferrell: Redshirted
RS FR-Sterling Johnson: Redshirted

Signees
Xavier Kelly
★★★★ 6-4 250lbs (Witchita, KS)
Pretty crazy that Clemson’s lone take for the 2016 class at DE came all the way from the great state of  Kansas. It’s not very common that you hear of big time athletic defensive ends like Kelly coming out of that part of the country, but this kid is going to step on campus this summer ready to contribute right away. Kelly chose Clemson over offers from nearly every perennial power across the country. He’s also a two-sport star with basketball being his second love. Coming out of the prep ranks Kelly already possesses the rare combination of speed and strength that is desired to play defensive end at this level. Oh, he also checks in at chiseled +250lbs, which is one less hurdle he’ll have to climb during his transition to the college game. I expect him to avoid a redshirt this Fall, and he’ll arrive to Clemson with a great opportunity to ease his way into a wide open depth chart. Kelly also has an infectious personality that will make him a fan favorite before too long.

LaSamuel Davis
★★★ 6-4 215lbs (Bamberg, SC)
Bamberg Ehrhardt has a pretty good track record of sending quality defensive ends to the Upstate (Ricky Sapp & DaQuan Bowers), and the Clemson coaching staff is hoping that trend continues with their most recent signee. Originally a 2015 commitment, Davis did not qualify so he took the Fall off to focus on school on his own instead of going the prep school route. His plan worked and he enrolled at Clemson in January to participate in Spring practice. The biggest concern for Davis is his lack of weight, but with a probable redshirt season ahead there figures to be plenty of time for him to add to his 6’4″ frame. Davis’ best asset is his speed and that was evident on his senior film where he spent time lining up on the offensive side of the ball at WR. The returns out of practices were more positive than expected, but he’s just got to develop more physically to be able to contribute on a consistent basis.

Commitments
None

Board Overview
Without any current commitments, Clemson is working around the clock to bring in a couple DEs in the 2017 class. Two names have emerged as top targets in Zach Carter (Tampa, FL) and Malik Herring (Forsyth, GA). Carter is thought to favor the in-state Gators, but he’s visited the Upstate numerous times and the Tigers appear to have some real staying power in his recruitment. Herring is also favoring an in-state school with Georgia, but he’s visited Clemson twice in the past month so maybe the lead is not as large as many predict. Some other names to keep tabs on if Clemson were to miss on one or both of the aforementioned targets are Jordan Williams (Virginia Beach, VA), Logan Rudolph (Rock Hill, SC), Brad Johnson (Pendleton, SC) and Markeviest Bryant (Cordele, GA). Rudolph is being recruited as an athlete and could fit in at linebacker depending on how the staff evaluates him. Johnson is the lone name listed above that does not currently hold an offer, but that could certainly change depending on how some of the other guys higher on the board fall. I don’t anticipate Clemson signing anymore than two edge rushers this cycle, and there’s a chance that they only take one if they feel good about their positioning with guys in the next cycle. Speaking of the 2018 class the Tigers are already in good shape with several elite prospects such as: Xavier Thomas (Florence, SC), Stephon Wynn Jr. (Anderson, SC), KJ Henry (Clemmons, NC), and Justin Mascoll (Snellville, GA). All four of those guys own consensus 4-star rankings with Thomas garnering 5-star stature from 247sports. Clemson is also in the top group for all four prospects and, as I said earlier, the staff may elect to only take one DE in the 2017 because of their positioning with this bunch.

Previous Articles:
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Tackle

**Make sure to check out the SUR message boards for further discussion about Clemson sports**

Yards Still Matter

If you spend any time on this site you know that one of my favorite college football metrics is also one of the most straightforward – total yards.  With the exception of yards per play, and it’s close, you’d be hard pressed to find a metric that correlates more to winning than total yardage differential between two teams.  Why?  Because yards = points.

Every time I hear someone say yards don’t matter – and provide an example of a game where a team with less yards won – my head wants to explode.  Yes, there are exceptions to the rule.  Just like there are exceptions to “You have to win the turnover battle” or “You have to run the ball to win”.  For every example you provide of a team winning despite having less total yards, I can provide more where a team won the turnover battle and lost.

If you made it through freshman stats then the graph below should tell you a story.  I’ve plotted every college football game from 2011 through 2015 (D1 vs. D1 only, 3,580 games and 7,160 data points) with yards and points.  Notice the slope of the line that goes through the data points.  It’s pointing up, as in more yards means more points.

Points and Yards Graph 2011-2015

This is significant for Clemson because one of the narratives of the offseason is that the Tigers defense lost a lot of talent and will have to “rebuild”. Fair enough.

In the period covered, teams that reached the magic 500 yard mark won 79% of the time, without regard to any other metric.  Clemson has reeled off 10 straight (and counting) 500 yard games.  Just by the fact that your offense is gaining 500 yards means you are highly likely to win.  

But it gets better.

The Clemson defense gave up 313.0 yards per game in 2015.  For arguments sake, lets say the Tigers 2016 defense regresses to “average”, which in NCAA terms in 2015 was 400 yards per game.  That’s an additional 87 yards per game given up (27.7% increase).

In our mythical game Clemson gets 500 (or more) yards and gives up 400 yards (regressed to average).  What are the chances the Tigers win?  Over the same time period (2011-2015) teams with this profile won 94% of the time (671-43).

Yards+Points Diff

To recap, the Clemson offense is likely going to be so good that the Tigers can absorb a defensive regression to “average” and still have a high probability of winning.

Obviously, there are no guarantees and every game is an independent data point on a graph such as the one above. The Tigers may reach 400 yards in one game (reducing the odds of winning) and 600 (very high probability of winning) in the next.

The point is an offense that’s likely to reach 500 yards in any given game and give up an “average” amount in the same game is still likely to win and is also why our early win probabilities have the Tigers favored in all 12 games.

As we saw in the championship game 500 yards of offense a game is not a 100% guarantee of a win, but 500 yards of offense combined with holding your opponent to 400 or less is about as close as it gets.

Recruiting Rewind

I ran this feature nearly a year ago, and after registering another top 10 recruiting class it only makes sense to revisit the accumulation of talent under Dabo Swinney’s reign. And with several weeks before Spring football gets underway hopefully this feature will serve to appease you football nuts looking for a small fix.

Clemson fans have been awfully spoiled with the abundance of talent acquisitions since Swinney was named head coach back in 2008. Numerous facility upgrades, an emphasis on social media, the implementation of “Clemson Google”, a relentless effort from the staff, and on the field production have all combined to put Clemson on the map as a priority destination for the nation’s best prospects. The 2016 class is a prime example of Clemson’s newfound national appeal as the staff was able to nab pledges from 2 of the top 3 players out of Kansas. The Tigers also hold verbal commitments from Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, and Indiana in the 2017 class. This sort of national appeal is not something we’re akin to seeing around here.

Former head coach Tommy Bowden did a respectable job of bringing in talent during his tenure, but under Swinney’s direction this program has taken a step up to the elite tier in the recruiting world. There is enough talent stockpiled on the current roster that even the second string is littered with former blue chip prospects. And with the Tigers coming off a national championship appearance, expect the staff to boost their recruiting efforts even more in the 2017 and 2018 classes.

NOTE: I’m going to start with the 2010 recruiting class, since the “Dandy Dozen” in 2009 was a patchwork class after Bowden’s departure. Also, Rivals star ranking system was used.

2010: 21 Commitments
5-Star: None
4-Star: 7
3-Star: 13
2-Star: 1
Average Rating: 3.35
In-State: 7
Out of State: 14
Gems: Vic Beasley (***), Sam Cooper (**), Bashaud Breeland (***),
Busts: Desmond Brown (****), Justin Paker (****)
Other Notables: Tavares Barnes (****), Nuk Hopkins (****), Demont Buice (Transfer), Joe Craig (Transfer),
*Added Crawford & Bryant to ’11 class (Prep School)

2011: 27 Commitments
5-Star: 4
4-Star: 6
3-Star: 13
2-Star: 4
Average Rating: 3.37
In-State: 12
Out of State: 15
Gems: Adam Humphries (**), Grady Jarrett (***), Robert Smith (***)
Busts: Mike Bellamy (*****), Cortez Davis (****), Lateek Townsend (****)
Other Notables: Stephone Anthony (*****), Martavis Bryant (****), Corey Crawford (****), Tony Steward (*****), Sammy Watkins (*****)
*Added Battle & Dodd to ’12 class (Prep School)

2012: 19 Commitments
5-Star: None
4-Star: 8
3-Star: 11
2-Star: None
Average Rating: 3.42
In-State: 9
Out of State: 15
Gems: Kevin Dodd (****), Jay Guillermo (***), Cordrea Tankersley (***)
Busts: Isaiah Battle (****), Chad Kelly (Transfer), Ronald Geohaghan (Transfer)
Other Notables: Carlos Watkins (****), Travis Blanks (****), Bradley Pinion (***), DJ Reader (***), Germone Hopper (****)
*Added Lawson to ’13 class (Prep School)

2013: 22 Commitments
5-Star: None
4-Star: 10
3-Star: 9
2-Star: 3
Average Rating: 3.32
In-State: 5
Out of State: 17
Notables: Mackensie Alexander (****), Ben Boulware (****), Wayne Gallman (***), Jayron Kearse (****), Mike Williams (****), Shaq Lawson (****), TJ Green (**), Jordan Leggett (***)
*Added Priester to ’14 class (Prep School)

2014: 20 Commitments
5-Star: 1
4-Star: 9
3-Star: 10
2-Star: None
Average Rating: 3.45
In-State: 7
Out of State: 13
Notables: Deshaun Watson (*****), Artavis Scott (****), Adam Choice (****), Kyrin Priester (Transfer), Demarre Kitt (Transfer), Korie Rogers (Transfer)
*Did not add JD & Judah Davis (greyshirts)

2015: 22 Commitments
5-Star: 3
4-Star: 9
3-Star: 10
2-Star: None
Average Rating: 3.68
In-State: 6
Out of State: 16
Notables: Deon Cain (*****), Mitch Hyatt (****), Ray Ray McCloud (*****), Christian Wilkins (*****), Austin Bryant (****), Garrett Williams (****)
*Did not add Amir Trapp (greyshirt)

2016: 20 Commitments
5-Star: 3
4-Star: 10
3-Star: 6
2-Star: 1
Average Rating: 3.75
In-State: 3
Out of State: 17
Notables: Dexter Lawrence (*****), Tre Lamar (*****), Shaq Smith (*****), Tavien Feaster (****), Trayvon Mullen (****), Xavier Kelly (****), Cornell Powell (****)
*Did not add Cade Stewart (greyshirt)

Totals
Commitments: 151
Average Commits: 21.6
5-Stars: 11
4-Stars: 58
3-Stars: 73
2-Stars: 9
Average Star Rating: 3.47
In-State: 49
Out of State: 102

Make sure you head over to the SUR Recruiting Forum for the latest up to date news.

Recruiting Rewind 2

Metrics Favor Tigers & Schedule from Toughest to Easiest

If you are a believer in football analytics to any degree, then you’re probably familiar with Bill Connelly of SB Nation.  

Connelly does the type of analysis that guys like me wish they had the time and smarts to accomplish, digging into the minutiae of all 128 college football teams.

Of interest this week is his preliminary S&P+ College Football Team Ratings, where Clemson sits at #3.  This rating is comprised of 3 components (in order of weight): Returning production, recruiting, and recent history.

Connelly ranks Clemson as tops in the nation for returning production (easy to see why), but notes that LSU has the most returning production, but because Alabama and Clemson were better (the returnees had more impact on the S&P+ ratings) in 2015, Clemson ends up being ranked first, with Alabama second and LSU third in returning production.

Breaking down the returning production into units, Connelly assigns 90% to the offense and 50% to the Clemson defense, averaging out to 70%.

Without digging into the details too much, just note that the Tigers are the top ranked ACC team in Connelly’s early rankings, just ahead of 5th ranked Florida State.  The Tigers also easily out rank their two non-conference SEC foes (Auburn is 24 and South Carolina is 63rd).

Finally, scrolling down on Connelly’s post you will see that he spends some time discussing the improvement of the ACC, which his rankings project as the second best conference in 2016.

Here’s a look at the 2016 schedule in game order with the S&P+ Rankings.

Sched Date Order

And here’s the schedule in order of S&P Ranking as they stand today:

Sched S&P+ Order

Important to note that these are “preliminary” rankings and things can, and will, change before the season begins.  After all, going in to 2015 Clemson had a solid left tackle in Isaiah Battle and a steady place kicker and kick off man in Amon Lakip on the roster.

Final NSD Primer Update

NOTE: Head over to the SUR Recruiting Message Board for updates throughout the day. Original story was published several weeks ago and updates have been added as noted by the dates.

Fresh off a welcomed extension to their season, the Clemson coaching staff will hit the ground running with just 3 weeks remaining until National Signing Day (February 3rd).  The 2016 recruiting class currently stands firm with 15 pledges, including 6 commitments that are already on campus as early enrollees.  Given the recent surge of underclassmen bolting for the draft and potential transfers I’d expect Clemson to try and add between 3-4 more prospects before calling it a day.  In this article we’ll take a look at the current remaining targets on Clemson’s board, and I’ll offer some percentages that are based solely on the information that I’m armed with as of today.  These percentages will carry very little weight as the recruiting landscape changes over the next few weeks. You can also probably expect a new name or two to pop up given the mass exodus of players to the upcoming NFL Draft.

Rashan Gary
Defensive Tackle, 6-3 293lbs (Parmus, NJ)
Crazy to think that Clemson could be in position to land the nation’s top two defensive tackles, but I’m here to tell you Clemson is squarely in the conversation.  Michigan has been the defaulted front-runner by recruiting services nation wide, and Ole Miss is thought to be near the top of his list as well.  Gary has already taken official visits to Michigan, Auburn, and Ole Miss meaning that he has two left. Southern Cal is slated to host him on January 15th and he’s hinted at Clemson receiving his final visit either on January 22nd or 29th.   If the Tigers are able to get him on campus then all bets are off.  Gary’s mother fell in love with the Clemson atmosphere when the two visited last Spring.  Another big advantage for Clemson is the fact that Gary’s uncle lives right down the road in Anderson.  This will be one to keep a very close eye on.
(1/16) Gary is on campus at Southern Cal for his OV
(1/18) The visit to Southern Cal went about as good as it could have, but they aren’t going to be his destination. The aforementioned leader Michigan is slated to host him this weekend on an unofficial visit.  At this point, I’d be surprised if they didn’t seal the deal even further.  Now that final visit that Clemson is vying for seems 50/50 at best leading me to lower the percentages here.
(1/20) Reports have surfaced that Clemson coaches conducted an in-home visit with Gary on Tuesday night.  If the reports are true, that means the staff gave their final sales pitch to attempt to lure the nation’s #1 prospect in for an OV on the last weekend before NSD.  Clemson is fighting Alabama for that final visit, but Gary is headed to his perceived front runner Michigan this weekend for an extended unofficial.  There’s no doubt that Harbaugh will pull out all the stops in an attempt to keep Gary from making that final visit, which is the only thing that could prevent him from signing with the Wolverines.
(1/22) All signs are pointing to Gary taking an OV to Clemson over Alabama for the final weekend. Obviously that’s good news for Tiger fans if he follows through with that visit.
(1/24) Gary will not depart from Ann Arbor until Monday due to snowy conditions that prevented travel on Sunday. I maintain the belief that Gary will follow through with his visit to Clemson next weekend, but a decision in regards to that visit has not been made public at this time.
(1/26) Gary and his mother are expected to decide tonight where he will take his final visit. This observer still believes that visit will be to Clemson.
(1/26) News broke late Tuesday night that Gary has decided to take his last OV to Clemson. Percentages up.
(1/28) Gary will be in Atlanta Thursday night to pick up an award.  He will then head up I-85 to Clemson on Friday. That visit is expected to last through Sunday afternoon.
(1/29) Rashan and his mother arrived to Clemson early Friday and were seen spending time with freshman DT Christian Wilkins and early enrollees Shaq Smith and Dexter Lawrence.  Gary is expected to stay at his uncles house during the visit, which reinforces the family pull that sits in Clemson’s corner.
(1/31) Both Gary and his mother stayed for their entire visit, which is key because Alabama was trying to lure him to campus on Sunday before he headed back to New Jersey. The returns from the visit have been through the roof as Clemson fans have grown accustomed to under Dabo’s regime.  I do in fact believe that this visit made Gary’s decision a difficult one, but whether it was enough to unseat Michigan remains to be seen. Now comes the waiting game. Gary will announce his decision on Wednesday at 1pm. Percentages up.
(2/1) Details have slowly leaked out today surrounding this past weekends OV to Clemson, and the returns are even better than anticipated.  Rashan bonded well with his several hosts and his mother was impressed with the academic sides of things. His mother cited that they just got a different vibe at Clemson, and they were treated with open arms unlike their experiences on some other campuses. I’m now comfortable labeling this decision as a toss up. Percentages up.
(2/2) “Supposedly” a decision has been made. No one knows. I’m taking a shot in the dark. Percentages up…

Chances he signs with Clemson: 51%

John Simpson
Offensive Line, 6-4 290lbs (North Charleston, SC)
Without a doubt the top remaining target on the board, Simpson has played his recruitment close to the vest since hinting at Clemson as his leader back in the Summer. The Palmetto state native has been a frequent visitor to Clemson’s campus, but still has an official visit on the docket for January 23rd.  He also has two more officials set up to Florida (January 16th) and Alabama (January 30th).  It’ll be worth watching to see if Simpson decides to give the new staff at South Carolina a look, which could happen considering a longstanding relationship with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.  What this all boils down to is that Clemson has done all they can do to in their recruitment of Simpson and they just have to simply stay the course.
(1/16) Simpson is on campus at Florida for his OV
(1/18) The trip to Gainesville definitely helped the Gators cause, but I’m still of the belief that LSU is Clemson’s biggest contender as of now. I’ve stated above how Clemson has pretty much done all they can do here, but they will get at least one more shot to pitch Simpson this weekend when he makes his long anticipated official to the Upstate.  South Carolina is still lobbying for a visit either midweek or in place of Alabama, but that has not formalized yet.
(1/24) Simpson wrapped up his Clemson visit Sunday afternoon.  The visit went about as well as it could, and this situation remains status quo.  Be patient.
(1/26) Reports indicate that his Alabama visit may be off.  This would be important for two reasons: 1) Alabama would be officially out of the picture and 2) South Carolina may back in the picture.  If Simpson decides to venture to South Carolina for this final weekend then there will certainly be reason for concern.
(1/27) South Carolina site is now reporting that the Gamecocks have been eliminated from consideration. This is a Clemson/Florida battle. Percentages up slightly.
(1/29) Florida may be much more of a factor than previously perceived. The Gators sent several coaches including head coach Jim McElwain to see Simpson earlier in the week, and that visit helped lock Florida in his top two. I still believe Simpson ends up a Tiger, but I’m going to temper expectations somewhat.
(1/31) Simpson will announce on Wednesday at 12:30.  Everything still pointing towards Clemson at this time.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 75%

Trayvon Mullen
Cornerback, 6-1 170lbs (Pompano Beach, FL)
An expected visitor this weekend, Mullen had once proclaimed Clemson as his dream school.  That interest hasn’t seemed to carry over into his recruiting process as FSU and LSU have sat atop his list for quite some time.  Over the last couple months, Clemson has rejoined the party and is set to roll the “Orange carpet” out this weekend for the rangy corner.  Mullen didn’t exactly shine in the Army All-American game, but he possesses the tools to blossom into an outstanding corner with a year or two in the weight room. The Tigers will be able to sell immediate playing time and NFL potential given the production at corner over the last decade.
(1/16) Mullen is on campus at Clemson for his OV. He attended the basketball game earlier this afternoon.
(1/18) After talking with several current Clemson commits who were around Mullen during his visit I think it’s safe to say the staff certainly made an impression.  Mullen was hosted by Ray Ray McCloud and Rahshaun Smith, both prize recruits out of Florida themselves.  If today were signing day I have a feeling that Mullen would be signing with Clemson, but the fact he has a visit set up to Baton Rogue next week makes me a little weary.  Nonetheless, I’m going to slightly raise the percentage here.
(1/22) Mullen is heading to LSU today for his last OV.
(1/24) Despite his OV this weekend, this is looking more like an FSU/Clemson battle as of now.  LSU has two corners committed and are the favorites to land the nation’s second ranked corner as well.  Mullen will take the last weekend off and is planning to announce his NSD commitment on ESPNU.
(1/27) The sentiment that this is a Clemson/FSU battle seems to be true.  The Noles are the favorite, but are in good standing with another 4-star corner Carlos Becker and that is a small benefit in Clemson’s favor.  The staff still has their in-home visit to use as well.
(1/30) Mullen has made a surprise visit to Louisville this weekend. Not sure if they will factor into his NSD decision, but the fact he’s back on campus after taking an OV on December 12th is noteworthy.
(2/2) My gut feeling here is still Florida State. Mullen has stayed relatively quiet and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick Clemson or even clutter up LSU’s secondary even more. This one is truly a toss up.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 40%

Romeo Finley
Safety, 6-1 198lbs (Niceville, FL)
Perhaps the newest name to emerge on the board for Clemson is Finley.  The 4-star safety has a busy couple weeks ahead with visits to Georgia Tech (January 15th), Clemson (January 22nd), and Miami (January 29th) on his slate.  With the new regime in place at Miami, they will try to make a run and are the likely favorites at this point.  However, Finley doesn’t have to look far to see the pipeline of success from Florida to Clemson that includes defensive backs Jayron Kearse and Mackensie Alexander who just bolted for the NFL.  The staff will have plenty to sell Finley when he steps on campus, but we’ll have to see if it’s enough this late in the process.
(1/16) Finley is on campus at Georgia Tech for his official visit. Given Clemson’s standing with Thomas and now Simmons at safety I’m going to lower my percentages.
(1/18) The Georgia Tech sites are now reporting that Finley has identified the Yellow Jackets as his clear cut leader following his trip to Atlanta over the weekend.  Clemson is set to host him this weekend before he heads to Miami, who I deem as the largest threat, on the last weekend before NSD.  Just a personal note, I don’t believe Finley is at the top of Clemson’s safety board.
(1/19) Defensive backs coach Mike Reed conducted an in-home visit with Finley on Monday night prior to his OV this coming weekend.
(1/21) Finley hosted Miami coaches including new HC Mark Richt for an in home visit on Wednesday evening.  He’s still planning to take an OV to Coral Gables following his Clemson trip this coming weekend.
(1/24) Finley’s visit to Clemson this weekend was an eye opener.  Both Finley and Simpson got to experience Clemson’s 2016 awards banquet that was sure to impress.  The Florida native also got his first taste of snow, and it just happened to be inside of Death Valley where Dabo Swinney was seen sledding down The Hill.  Defensive backs coach Mike Reed also made sure Finley was well aware of the potential for early playing time due to the mass exodus at safety. He’ll head down to Miami for his final visit before rendering a decision on NSD. I’m going to raise the percentages here.
(1/28) Dabo Swinney and Mike Reed dropped by Niceville High today to see Finley. Georgia Tech coaches came by as well.
(1/29) Finley is at Miami for his final OV.
(1/31) The 4-star safety will announce his decision on Tuesday via his twitter account.  Clemson has positioned itself well and I would not be surprised to see him join the 2016 class. Percentages up slightly.
(2/1) With Simmons supposedly announcing for Clemson at 5, I’d be surprised if Finely announced for Clemson as well.  Not ruling the possibility out but I don’t believe the staff is wanting to take both at this time unless they know they’re missing on Mullen and Wallace. Percentages down.
(2/2) Committed to Miami.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 0%

Michail Carter
Defensive Tackle, 6-4 300lbs (Jackson, GA)
This is definitely one of the more interesting names on the board considering the depth Clemson has accumulated at the defensive tackle spot.  Carter appears to have legitimate interest in the Tigers, and the interest seems to have been reciprocated back from the staff.  The 4-star prospect also has a busy schedule upcoming starting with a visit to Clemson (January 15th) before seeing instate rivals Georgia Tech (January 22nd) and Georgia (January 29th).  The Bulldogs new HC Kirby Smart holds the trump card here if he decides Carter is a take in their class.  Just based on numbers alone I would be surprised if Clemson decided to take another DT, but maybe the staff has plans to move some guys around.  This will be a recruit to keep a close eye on.
(1/16) Carter is on campus at Clemson for his official visit. He attended the basketball game earlier today and Austin Bryant is his host.
(1/18) Fresh off the visit to Clemson there is really no news to report.  Carter isn’t one to talk with reporters and he’s kept his recruitment under wraps for the most part.  The instate schools are set to hosts him over the next two weekends, and I believe that the Bulldogs still hold the cards here depending on how they feel Carter compares with some of their other targets.  There could also be a visit in the works to Alabama, but that has yet to be scheduled as of this moment.
(1/22) Continuing to hear and read positive things surrounding Carter to Clemson. I’m a little surprised based on the depth at DT, but there’s no way you turn down a Top 100 player out of a pipeline state. Percentages up.
(1/24) Carter visited Georgia Tech this weekend. I don’t foresee them being a factor in his recruitment.
(1/28) Derrick Brown, a 5-star DT out of Georgia, announced a top 3 of Auburn, Alabama, and Tennessee.  This is important because most had Brown as a lock to UGA, meaning that Carter was on the fence as a take.  Well now that it appears Brown is out of the picture that would lead one to believe UGA is the perceived front runner for Carter now. Percentages down.
(1/29) The freshness from Clemson’s visit seems to have worn off and this seems to be a UGA/Alabama battle. Not ruling out a signing day surprise, but this is a stretch at this point.
(2/1) All signs point to UGA.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 0%

Isaiah Simmons
Safety, 6-3 212lbs (Olathe, KS)
Brent Venables paid a visit back to his old stomping grounds out in Kansas to see Simmons, a rangy 6’3 212lb safety.  He currently has visits set up to Mizzou (1/15), Nebraska (1/22), and Louisville (1/30).  Simmons certainly fits the mold of the bigger prototypes that Clemson has identified as it’s preference at the safety position over the last few cycles.  This is another example of Clemson’s newfound national reputation allowing them to expand their recruiting reach to areas that have been irrelevant for the staff.  Keep an eye out for news in regard to a potential visit.
(1/15) Venables extended an offer and appears to have gotten an official visit in place for January 29th. We’ll see if that impacts his Louisville visit or not.
(1/16) Simmons received an offer from Michigan tonight.  No word on whether or not he made it to Mizzou for his scheduled visit.
(1/18) Simmons did in fact make the scheduled visit to Missouri. And there is news to report on the potential visit to Clemson.  The scheduled trip for the 29th did bump Louisville out of their visit slot, which tells you that the Tigers are under serious consideration.  The rumblings on this front seem to be carrying some weight and Clemson is riding the wave of momentum from a 14 win season here.  Getting him on campus is key, but that shouldn’t be an issue. Percentage is going up.
(1/20) After offering last week Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh made an in-home visit with Simmons on Monday evening.  He would like to visit Ann Arbor, but time and scheduling are an issue.  Nebraska, where Simmons is visiting this weekend, is the biggest threat as of now.
(1/22) Simmons is headed to Lincoln today for his OV.  Nebraska continues to be the biggest threat to the Tigers.
(1/25) Swinney and Venables conducted an in home visit Sunday evening. Things are trending up for the Tigers before his visit this weekend. Percentage up.
(1/26) Michigan sites are reporting that Simmons will OV in Ann Arbor on Wednesday and Thursday before heading to Clemson this weekend. I’m still of the impression that Nebraska is the biggest threat here, and after talking with Clemson commit Xavier Kelly I feel even better about Simmons to Clemson.
(1/29) Simmons arrived to Clemson around 7pm on Friday evening on the heels of a midweek OV to Michigan. Nebraska continues to be the biggest threat here.
(1/31) Returns from Simmons visit to Clemson have been pretty quiet, but that has more to do with the fact that his visit was overshadowed by the Gary visit and elite Junior Day turnout.  Simmons is also not keen with revealing info to the media, which is understandable given the constant hounding.  Still feel good here.
(2/1) Reports indicate that Nebraska’s proximity and option to play either side of the ball may be too much for Clemson to overcome. I get the feeling Clemson is now on the outside looking in as his visit did not seem to blow him away. Percentages down slightly.(2/1) Simmons tweeted out he will be announcing at 5pm on Tuesday, just before fellow safety target Romeo Finley. Also, several of the midwest recruiting guys are reporting that Simmons in leaning to Clemson. Simmons hasn’t made himself available for interview to us, but it looks like things are back in Clemson’s favor just a couple hours after I posted that I felt Nebraska was his likely destination.
(2/2) All signs pointing heavily towards a Clemson announcement tonight. Percentages way up.
(2/2) Committed to Clemson.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 100%

K’Von Wallace
Defensive back, 6-1 180lbs (Highland Springs, Virginia)
Clemson extended an offer to the Cincinnati commit on Sunday evening.  Wallace is a solid athlete that starred on both sides of the ball at the high school level. Clemson is recruiting him as a defensive back, most likely at corner. Over the last two weeks he’s added offers from Maryland, Pitt, Virginia Tech, and Arizona. With all these big offers coming so late it’s tough to know the impact it holds, but the fact one is coming from of the hottest programs in the country could make thing interesting. Keep an eye out to see if a visit it set up for the final weekend before NSD.
(1/26) News surfaced earlier today that Wallace would OV to Clemson tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday.  That was before he added two more big time offers from Michigan State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes are his favorite school and could potentially be a gamechanger here.  Assuming he makes that scheduled OV, percentages up.
(1/27) Clemson defensive backs coach Mike Reed paid Wallace an in-home visit today. He’s also supposed to visit Clemson today and tomorrow, but I’m not sure when that visit will begin if he just had an in-home this AM. Clemson’s board at corner also seems to be dwindling down meaning that Wallace will become more of a priority.
(1/28) I can confirm that Wallace made it into town yesterday evening and spent time with defensive players Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins, and Clelin Ferrell.
(1/28) Wallace just tweeted out that he will take a visit to Ohio State this weekend, which knocks Pitt from consideration.  The Buckeyes interest appears legit and they will be tough to beat out.
(1/29) Wallace enjoyed his midweek OV and claimed the Tigers have given him plenty to think about.  The only thing is he won’t have much time to digest all the happenings as he ventured to Ohio State upon his return home from the Upstate today.  Like I said above, if the Buckeyes want him he’s likely theirs.
(1/31) He has plans to announce at his school on Wednesday, but a time has not been set. This is likely a Clemson/Ohio State battle with the Buckeyes still holding the trump card.
(2/2) Announcing at 9:30am tomorrow at his school. That time is important, because it’s 30 minutes after Trayvon Mullen’s announcement. Ohio State also picked up a 4-star corner commitment yesterday. Feeling better about the Tigers chances here. Percentages up.
(2/2) Trending Clemson. Seems that Ohio State may be full with their DB class, which I suspected when 4-star Jordan Fuller committed yesterday. Also, Wallace may be perceived as a fall back option to the public eye, but the Clemson staff is extremely high on his abilities. Percentages up again.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 70%

Other Notes
Wide receiver Jayson Hopper and offensive lineman Cade Stewart are also under consideration for preferred walk-on spots.  Both prospects are Palmetto State natives and both played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
(1/15) Clemson defensive line coach Dan Brooks paid 4-star corner Marquez Callaway a visit yesterday.  He currently has three officials set up for the next three weekends to Tenn, MSU, and Ole Miss. Clemson and Ohio State are trying to get a foot in the door for the remaining visit.  If a visit comes to fruition he will officially be added to the board. .
(1/15) Malek Young commits to Miami. Removed from board.
(1/21) Callway committed to Tennessee as a WR(1/21) Matthew Ryan, an OL out of New Orleans, is expected in for an official visit this weekend.  Ryan does not have an official offer as he will be brought in as a preferred walk-on.  In case you’re wondering he is the son of NFL defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and nephew to Bill HC Rex Ryan, who’s son Seth is a walk-on WR for the Tigers.
(1/24) Ryan has accepted the walk-on spot and will join the Tigers next Fall.
(1/25) An update to the Cade Stewart situation listed above: He was in town for a visit over the weekend and has reportedly been offered as a greyshirt.  Stewart committed to Georgia Southern last week, but the hometown Tigers will be tough to turn down.
(2/1) Stewart accepted the grayshirt offer from Clemson today as expected.
(2/2) Removed Daniel Thomas, Arkeem Byrd, and Lavert Hill.
(2/2) WR Jayson Hopper accepts a walk-on position at Clemson. He turned down several other offers to do so.

February 2nd NSD Primer Update

NOTE: Original story was published weeks ago and updates have been added as noted by the dates.

Fresh off a welcomed extension to their season, the Clemson coaching staff will hit the ground running with just 3 weeks remaining until National Signing Day (February 3rd).  The 2016 recruiting class currently stands firm with 15 pledges, including 6 commitments that are already on campus as early enrollees.  Given the recent surge of underclassmen bolting for the draft and potential transfers I’d expect Clemson to try and add between 3-4 more prospects before calling it a day.  In this article we’ll take a look at the current remaining targets on Clemson’s board, and I’ll offer some percentages that are based solely on the information that I’m armed with as of today.  These percentages will carry very little weight as the recruiting landscape changes over the next few weeks. You can also probably expect a new name or two to pop up given the mass exodus of players to the upcoming NFL Draft.

Rashan Gary
Defensive Tackle, 6-3 293lbs (Parmus, NJ)
Crazy to think that Clemson could be in position to land the nation’s top two defensive tackles, but I’m here to tell you Clemson is squarely in the conversation.  Michigan has been the defaulted front-runner by recruiting services nation wide, and Ole Miss is thought to be near the top of his list as well.  Gary has already taken official visits to Michigan, Auburn, and Ole Miss meaning that he has two left. Southern Cal is slated to host him on January 15th and he’s hinted at Clemson receiving his final visit either on January 22nd or 29th.   If the Tigers are able to get him on campus then all bets are off.  Gary’s mother fell in love with the Clemson atmosphere when the two visited last Spring.  Another big advantage for Clemson is the fact that Gary’s uncle lives right down the road in Anderson.  This will be one to keep a very close eye on.
(1/16) Gary is on campus at Southern Cal for his OV
(1/18) The visit to Southern Cal went about as good as it could have, but they aren’t going to be his destination. The aforementioned leader Michigan is slated to host him this weekend on an unofficial visit.  At this point, I’d be surprised if they didn’t seal the deal even further.  Now that final visit that Clemson is vying for seems 50/50 at best leading me to lower the percentages here.
(1/20) Reports have surfaced that Clemson coaches conducted an in-home visit with Gary on Tuesday night.  If the reports are true, that means the staff gave their final sales pitch to attempt to lure the nation’s #1 prospect in for an OV on the last weekend before NSD.  Clemson is fighting Alabama for that final visit, but Gary is headed to his perceived front runner Michigan this weekend for an extended unofficial.  There’s no doubt that Harbaugh will pull out all the stops in an attempt to keep Gary from making that final visit, which is the only thing that could prevent him from signing with the Wolverines.
(1/22) All signs are pointing to Gary taking an OV to Clemson over Alabama for the final weekend. Obviously that’s good news for Tiger fans if he follows through with that visit.
(1/24) Gary will not depart from Ann Arbor until Monday due to snowy conditions that prevented travel on Sunday. I maintain the belief that Gary will follow through with his visit to Clemson next weekend, but a decision in regards to that visit has not been made public at this time.
(1/26) Gary and his mother are expected to decide tonight where he will take his final visit. This observer still believes that visit will be to Clemson.
(1/26) News broke late Tuesday night that Gary has decided to take his last OV to Clemson. Percentages up.
(1/28) Gary will be in Atlanta Thursday night to pick up an award.  He will then head up I-85 to Clemson on Friday. That visit is expected to last through Sunday afternoon.
(1/29) Rashan and his mother arrived to Clemson early Friday and were seen spending time with freshman DT Christian Wilkins and early enrollees Shaq Smith and Dexter Lawrence.  Gary is expected to stay at his uncles house during the visit, which reinforces the family pull that sits in Clemson’s corner.
(1/31) Both Gary and his mother stayed for their entire visit, which is key because Alabama was trying to lure him to campus on Sunday before he headed back to New Jersey. The returns from the visit have been through the roof as Clemson fans have grown accustomed to under Dabo’s regime.  I do in fact believe that this visit made Gary’s decision a difficult one, but whether it was enough to unseat Michigan remains to be seen. Now comes the waiting game. Gary will announce his decision on Wednesday at 1pm. Percentages up.
(2/1) Details have slowly leaked out today surrounding this past weekends OV to Clemson, and the returns are even better than anticipated.  Rashan bonded well with his several hosts and his mother was impressed with the academic sides of things. His mother cited that they just got a different vibe at Clemson, and they were treated with open arms unlike their experiences on some other campuses. I’m now comfortable labeling this decision as a toss up. This is also strictly a Michigan/Clemson race, the other schools in contention have been eliminated. Percentages up.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 50%

John Simpson
Offensive Line, 6-4 290lbs (North Charleston, SC)
Without a doubt the top remaining target on the board, Simpson has played his recruitment close to the vest since hinting at Clemson as his leader back in the Summer. The Palmetto state native has been a frequent visitor to Clemson’s campus, but still has an official visit on the docket for January 23rd.  He also has two more officials set up to Florida (January 16th) and Alabama (January 30th).  It’ll be worth watching to see if Simpson decides to give the new staff at South Carolina a look, which could happen considering a longstanding relationship with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.  What this all boils down to is that Clemson has done all they can do to in their recruitment of Simpson and they just have to simply stay the course.
(1/16) Simpson is on campus at Florida for his OV
(1/18) The trip to Gainesville definitely helped the Gators cause, but I’m still of the belief that LSU is Clemson’s biggest contender as of now. I’ve stated above how Clemson has pretty much done all they can do here, but they will get at least one more shot to pitch Simpson this weekend when he makes his long anticipated official to the Upstate.  South Carolina is still lobbying for a visit either midweek or in place of Alabama, but that has not formalized yet.
(1/24) Simpson wrapped up his Clemson visit Sunday afternoon.  The visit went about as well as it could, and this situation remains status quo.  Be patient.
(1/26) Reports indicate that his Alabama visit may be off.  This would be important for two reasons: 1) Alabama would be officially out of the picture and 2) South Carolina may back in the picture.  If Simpson decides to venture to South Carolina for this final weekend then there will certainly be reason for concern.
(1/27) South Carolina site is now reporting that the Gamecocks have been eliminated from consideration. This is a Clemson/Florida battle. Percentages up slightly.
(1/29) Florida may be much more of a factor than previously perceived. The Gators sent several coaches including head coach Jim McElwain to see Simpson earlier in the week, and that visit helped lock Florida in his top two. I still believe Simpson ends up a Tiger, but I’m going to temper expectations somewhat.
(1/31) Simpson will announce on Wednesday at 12:30.  Everything still pointing towards Clemson at this time.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 75%

Trayvon Mullen
Cornerback, 6-1 170lbs (Pompano Beach, FL)
An expected visitor this weekend, Mullen had once proclaimed Clemson as his dream school.  That interest hasn’t seemed to carry over into his recruiting process as FSU and LSU have sat atop his list for quite some time.  Over the last couple months, Clemson has rejoined the party and is set to roll the “Orange carpet” out this weekend for the rangy corner.  Mullen didn’t exactly shine in the Army All-American game, but he possesses the tools to blossom into an outstanding corner with a year or two in the weight room. The Tigers will be able to sell immediate playing time and NFL potential given the production at corner over the last decade.
(1/16) Mullen is on campus at Clemson for his OV. He attended the basketball game earlier this afternoon.
(1/18) After talking with several current Clemson commits who were around Mullen during his visit I think it’s safe to say the staff certainly made an impression.  Mullen was hosted by Ray Ray McCloud and Rahshaun Smith, both prize recruits out of Florida themselves.  If today were signing day I have a feeling that Mullen would be signing with Clemson, but the fact he has a visit set up to Baton Rogue next week makes me a little weary.  Nonetheless, I’m going to slightly raise the percentage here.
(1/22) Mullen is heading to LSU today for his last OV.
(1/24) Despite his OV this weekend, this is looking more like an FSU/Clemson battle as of now.  LSU has two corners committed and are the favorites to land the nation’s second ranked corner as well.  Mullen will take the last weekend off and is planning to announce his NSD commitment on ESPNU.
(1/27) The sentiment that this is a Clemson/FSU battle seems to be true.  The Noles are the favorite, but are in good standing with another 4-star corner Carlos Becker and that is a small benefit in Clemson’s favor.  The staff still has their in-home visit to use as well.
(1/30) Mullen has made a surprise visit to Louisville this weekend. Not sure if they will factor into his NSD decision, but the fact he’s back on campus after taking an OV on December 12th is noteworthy.
(2/2) My gut feeling here is still Florida State. Mullen has stayed relatively quiet and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick Clemson or even clutter up LSU’s secondary even more. This one is truly a toss up.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 40%

Romeo Finley
Safety, 6-1 198lbs (Niceville, FL)
Perhaps the newest name to emerge on the board for Clemson is Finley.  The 4-star safety has a busy couple weeks ahead with visits to Georgia Tech (January 15th), Clemson (January 22nd), and Miami (January 29th) on his slate.  With the new regime in place at Miami, they will try to make a run and are the likely favorites at this point.  However, Finley doesn’t have to look far to see the pipeline of success from Florida to Clemson that includes defensive backs Jayron Kearse and Mackensie Alexander who just bolted for the NFL.  The staff will have plenty to sell Finley when he steps on campus, but we’ll have to see if it’s enough this late in the process.
(1/16) Finley is on campus at Georgia Tech for his official visit. Given Clemson’s standing with Thomas and now Simmons at safety I’m going to lower my percentages.
(1/18) The Georgia Tech sites are now reporting that Finley has identified the Yellow Jackets as his clear cut leader following his trip to Atlanta over the weekend.  Clemson is set to host him this weekend before he heads to Miami, who I deem as the largest threat, on the last weekend before NSD.  Just a personal note, I don’t believe Finley is at the top of Clemson’s safety board.
(1/19) Defensive backs coach Mike Reed conducted an in-home visit with Finley on Monday night prior to his OV this coming weekend.
(1/21) Finley hosted Miami coaches including new HC Mark Richt for an in home visit on Wednesday evening.  He’s still planning to take an OV to Coral Gables following his Clemson trip this coming weekend.
(1/24) Finley’s visit to Clemson this weekend was an eye opener.  Both Finley and Simpson got to experience Clemson’s 2016 awards banquet that was sure to impress.  The Florida native also got his first taste of snow, and it just happened to be inside of Death Valley where Dabo Swinney was seen sledding down The Hill.  Defensive backs coach Mike Reed also made sure Finley was well aware of the potential for early playing time due to the mass exodus at safety. He’ll head down to Miami for his final visit before rendering a decision on NSD. I’m going to raise the percentages here.
(1/28) Dabo Swinney and Mike Reed dropped by Niceville High today to see Finley. Georgia Tech coaches came by as well.
(1/29) Finley is at Miami for his final OV.
(1/31) The 4-star safety will announce his decision on Tuesday via his twitter account.  Clemson has positioned itself well and I would not be surprised to see him join the 2016 class. Percentages up slightly.
(2/1) With Simmons supposedly announcing for Clemson at 5, I’d be surprised if Finely announced for Clemson as well.  Not ruling the possibility out but I don’t believe the staff is wanting to take both at this time unless they know they’re missing on Mullen and Wallace. Percentages down.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 30%

Michail Carter
Defensive Tackle, 6-4 300lbs (Jackson, GA)
This is definitely one of the more interesting names on the board considering the depth Clemson has accumulated at the defensive tackle spot.  Carter appears to have legitimate interest in the Tigers, and the interest seems to have been reciprocated back from the staff.  The 4-star prospect also has a busy schedule upcoming starting with a visit to Clemson (January 15th) before seeing instate rivals Georgia Tech (January 22nd) and Georgia (January 29th).  The Bulldogs new HC Kirby Smart holds the trump card here if he decides Carter is a take in their class.  Just based on numbers alone I would be surprised if Clemson decided to take another DT, but maybe the staff has plans to move some guys around.  This will be a recruit to keep a close eye on.
(1/16) Carter is on campus at Clemson for his official visit. He attended the basketball game earlier today and Austin Bryant is his host.
(1/18) Fresh off the visit to Clemson there is really no news to report.  Carter isn’t one to talk with reporters and he’s kept his recruitment under wraps for the most part.  The instate schools are set to hosts him over the next two weekends, and I believe that the Bulldogs still hold the cards here depending on how they feel Carter compares with some of their other targets.  There could also be a visit in the works to Alabama, but that has yet to be scheduled as of this moment.
(1/22) Continuing to hear and read positive things surrounding Carter to Clemson. I’m a little surprised based on the depth at DT, but there’s no way you turn down a Top 100 player out of a pipeline state. Percentages up.
(1/24) Carter visited Georgia Tech this weekend. I don’t foresee them being a factor in his recruitment.
(1/28) Derrick Brown, a 5-star DT out of Georgia, announced a top 3 of Auburn, Alabama, and Tennessee.  This is important because most had Brown as a lock to UGA, meaning that Carter was on the fence as a take.  Well now that it appears Brown is out of the picture that would lead one to believe UGA is the perceived front runner for Carter now. Percentages down.
(1/29) The freshness from Clemson’s visit seems to have worn off and this seems to be a UGA/Alabama battle. Not ruling out a signing day surprise, but this is a stretch at this point.
(2/1) All signs point to UGA.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 5%

Isaiah Simmons
Safety, 6-3 212lbs (Olathe, KS)
Brent Venables paid a visit back to his old stomping grounds out in Kansas to see Simmons, a rangy 6’3 212lb safety.  He currently has visits set up to Mizzou (1/15), Nebraska (1/22), and Louisville (1/30).  Simmons certainly fits the mold of the bigger prototypes that Clemson has identified as it’s preference at the safety position over the last few cycles.  This is another example of Clemson’s newfound national reputation allowing them to expand their recruiting reach to areas that have been irrelevant for the staff.  Keep an eye out for news in regard to a potential visit.
(1/15) Venables extended an offer and appears to have gotten an official visit in place for January 29th. We’ll see if that impacts his Louisville visit or not.
(1/16) Simmons received an offer from Michigan tonight.  No word on whether or not he made it to Mizzou for his scheduled visit.
(1/18) Simmons did in fact make the scheduled visit to Missouri. And there is news to report on the potential visit to Clemson.  The scheduled trip for the 29th did bump Louisville out of their visit slot, which tells you that the Tigers are under serious consideration.  The rumblings on this front seem to be carrying some weight and Clemson is riding the wave of momentum from a 14 win season here.  Getting him on campus is key, but that shouldn’t be an issue. Percentage is going up.
(1/20) After offering last week Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh made an in-home visit with Simmons on Monday evening.  He would like to visit Ann Arbor, but time and scheduling are an issue.  Nebraska, where Simmons is visiting this weekend, is the biggest threat as of now.
(1/22) Simmons is headed to Lincoln today for his OV.  Nebraska continues to be the biggest threat to the Tigers.
(1/25) Swinney and Venables conducted an in home visit Sunday evening. Things are trending up for the Tigers before his visit this weekend. Percentage up.
(1/26) Michigan sites are reporting that Simmons will OV in Ann Arbor on Wednesday and Thursday before heading to Clemson this weekend. I’m still of the impression that Nebraska is the biggest threat here, and after talking with Clemson commit Xavier Kelly I feel even better about Simmons to Clemson.
(1/29) Simmons arrived to Clemson around 7pm on Friday evening on the heels of a midweek OV to Michigan. Nebraska continues to be the biggest threat here.
(1/31) Returns from Simmons visit to Clemson have been pretty quiet, but that has more to do with the fact that his visit was overshadowed by the Gary visit and elite Junior Day turnout.  Simmons is also not keen with revealing info to the media, which is understandable given the constant hounding.  Still feel good here.
(2/1) Reports indicate that Nebraska’s proximity and option to play either side of the ball may be too much for Clemson to overcome. I get the feeling Clemson is now on the outside looking in as his visit did not seem to blow him away. Percentages down slightly.(2/1) Simmons tweeted out he will be announcing at 5pm on Tuesday, just before fellow safety target Romeo Finley. Also, several of the midwest recruiting guys are reporting that Simmons in leaning to Clemson. Simmons hasn’t made himself available for interview to us, but it looks like things are back in Clemson’s favor just a couple hours after I posted that I felt Nebraska was his likely destination.
(2/2) All signs pointing heavily towards a Clemson announcement tonight. Percentages way up.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 80%

K’Von Wallace
Defensive back, 6-1 180lbs (Highland Springs, Virginia)
Clemson extended an offer to the Cincinnati commit on Sunday evening.  Wallace is a solid athlete that starred on both sides of the ball at the high school level. Clemson is recruiting him as a defensive back, most likely at corner. Over the last two weeks he’s added offers from Maryland, Pitt, Virginia Tech, and Arizona. With all these big offers coming so late it’s tough to know the impact it holds, but the fact one is coming from of the hottest programs in the country could make thing interesting. Keep an eye out to see if a visit it set up for the final weekend before NSD.
(1/26) News surfaced earlier today that Wallace would OV to Clemson tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday.  That was before he added two more big time offers from Michigan State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes are his favorite school and could potentially be a gamechanger here.  Assuming he makes that scheduled OV, percentages up.
(1/27) Clemson defensive backs coach Mike Reed paid Wallace an in-home visit today. He’s also supposed to visit Clemson today and tomorrow, but I’m not sure when that visit will begin if he just had an in-home this AM. Clemson’s board at corner also seems to be dwindling down meaning that Wallace will become more of a priority.
(1/28) I can confirm that Wallace made it into town yesterday evening and spent time with defensive players Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins, and Clelin Ferrell.
(1/28) Wallace just tweeted out that he will take a visit to Ohio State this weekend, which knocks Pitt from consideration.  The Buckeyes interest appears legit and they will be tough to beat out.
(1/29) Wallace enjoyed his midweek OV and claimed the Tigers have given him plenty to think about.  The only thing is he won’t have much time to digest all the happenings as he ventured to Ohio State upon his return home from the Upstate today.  Like I said above, if the Buckeyes want him he’s likely theirs.
(1/31) He has plans to announce at his school on Wednesday, but a time has not been set. This is likely a Clemson/Ohio State battle with the Buckeyes still holding the trump card.
(2/2) Announcing at 9:30am tomorrow at his school. That time is imporant, because it’s 30 minutes after Trayvon Mullen’s announcement. Ohio State also picked up a 4-star corner commitment yesterday. Feeling better about the Tigers chances here. Percentages up.

Chances he signs with Clemson: 50%

Other Notes
Wide receiver Jayson Hopper and offensive lineman Cade Stewart are also under consideration for preferred walk-on spots.  Both prospects are Palmetto State natives and both played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
(1/15) Clemson defensive line coach Dan Brooks paid 4-star corner Marquez Callaway a visit yesterday.  He currently has three officials set up for the next three weekends to Tenn, MSU, and Ole Miss. Clemson and Ohio State are trying to get a foot in the door for the remaining visit.  If a visit comes to fruition he will officially be added to the board. .
(1/15) Malek Young commits to Miami. Removed from board.
(1/21) Callway committed to Tennessee as a WR(1/21) Matthew Ryan, an OL out of New Orleans, is expected in for an official visit this weekend.  Ryan does not have an official offer as he will be brought in as a preferred walk-on.  In case you’re wondering he is the son of NFL defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and nephew to Bill HC Rex Ryan, who’s son Seth is a walk-on WR for the Tigers.
(1/24) Ryan has accepted the walk-on spot and will join the Tigers next Fall.
(1/25) An update to the Cade Stewart situation listed above: He was in town for a visit over the weekend and has reportedly been offered as a greyshirt.  Stewart committed to Georgia Southern last week, but the hometown Tigers will be tough to turn down.
(2/1) Stewart accepted the grayshirt offer from Clemson today as expected.
(2/2) Removed Daniel Thomas, Arkeem Byrd, and Lavert Hill.

Recruits react to Clemson’s Orange Bowl victory

Some of Clemson’s top commitments and targets react to the Tigers 37-17 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma.

LaSamuel Davis, 2015 3-star DE signee (Bamberg, SC)
“I’m happy we get a chance to go win the national championship.”

Chandler Reeves, 2016 3-star OL commitment (Mcdonough, GA)
“Clemson was unstoppable.”

Sean Pollard, 2016 4-star OL commitment (Southern Pines, NC)
“Clemson proved why they are the number 1 team in the country tonight.”

Nyles Pinckney, 2016 4-star DT commitment (Seabrook, SC)
“It was a hard first half, but Clemson really dominated the second half and Wayne was fresh which helped.”

Cornell Powell, 2016 4-star WR commitment (Greenville, NC)
“Expected nothing else. We’re the number one team for a reason.”

Tre Lamar, 2016 4-star LB commitment (Roswell, GA)
“It was a great team win and they ran away with it in the second half.”

Zerrick Cooper, 2016 4-star QB commitment (Jonesboro, GA)
“Great game, but I really didn’t get to watch because I was traveling on a plane. I did see the offense moving the pall without a problem though.”

Xavier Kelly, 2016 4-star DE commitment (Witchita, KS)
“I feel like they have some great players and the coaches have worked very hard this year. All that hard work is coming together for an amazing season. I’m stoked and can’t wait to get on campus.”

Diondre Overton, 2016 4-star WR (Greensboro, NC)
“Love the great team win! Excited that they get to advance to the national title and I hope they win it all.”

Arkeem Byrd, 2016 3-star ATH (Savannah, GA)
“I believe in them and I knew that they were going to pull it off! Clemson is making history.”

Baylon Spector, 2017 3-star LB/S commitment (Calhoun, GA)
“Great win! Loved that we can prove the wrong wrong. I hope we are the underdog again (versus Alabama).”

Chase Brice, 2017 4-star QB commitment (Loganville, GA)
“I thought it was an awesome victory for Coach Swinney and the team. They played so hard and physical all night, and never quit. They definitely deserve everything they have received in an undefeated season and a trip to the national championship! Proud commit!”

Noah DeHond, 2017 4-star OL commitment (Highstown, NJ)
“It was awesome to say the least!”

Andrew Thomas, 2017 4-star OL (Atlanta, GA)
“Just a great game.”

Amari Rodgers, 2017 4-star WR (Knoxville, TN)
“I had a blast! The fans were so hype and I enjoyed how they stayed in it the whole game! And Clemson played great as always. What impressed me the most is how they got the ball in so many different players hands and they all did something with it when they got the chance.” Rodgers was in attendance last night.

LeAnthony Williams Jr, 2017 4-star CB (Roswell, GA)
“Great, they really deserve everything they worked for and I can’t wait to visit again.”

Jonathon MacCollister, 2017 3-star OL (Deland, FL)
“An excellent team win! Defense stepped it up in the second half and the offense followed right behind them.”

Trajan Bandy, 2017 4-star CB (Miami, FL)
“I love the way Coach Venables runs the defense. Clemson leads for me, and who knows what else I may do so stay tuned. #ALLIN”

Jordan Anthony, 2017 4-star RB (Bradenton, FL)
“Definitely a big time statement that they’re ready to compete for a national championship!”

Chandler Wooten, 2017 3-star LB (Kennesaw, GA)
“I thought it was a well deserved and well earned win!”

Eric Douglas, 2017 3-star OL (Charlotte, NC)
“Excellent execution and I know they can take the whole thing.”

Zachary Carter, 2017 4-star DE (Tampa, FL)
“What a great win! Clemson keeps impressing me.”

Yetur Matos, 2017 4-star DE (Fredericksburg, VA)
“It was a very impressive win last night. Losing at the half to a team like Oklahoma and then shutting them out in the second half was something to watch.”

Kyshaun Bryan, 2017 4-star RB (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
“Clemson balled like I believed they would. I’m pulling for them to win it all. #ALLIN”

Khalid Jones, 2018 LB (Greenville, SC)
“I think it was a great win. The team played hard throughout the game, and I’m looking forward to watching them play in the National Championship against Alabama.”

Will Lawrence, 2018 OL (Memphis, TN)
“It was incredible to watch! The Clemson program is on the rise for sure!”

Dax Hollifield, 2018 LB (Shelby, NC)
“I thought it was awesome. Shows that Clemson means business.”

ACC Bowl Picks

Nic Mills went 87-26 (77%) on ACC pics in 2015 and back in April picked Clemson in all 12 regular season games.  Nic also picked Clemson to beat UNC in the ACC Championship game.  Below are his picks for ACC teams in upcoming bowl games.

The 2015 season has been quite the season for the ACC with 3 teams finishing in the top 10. Unfortunately no other teams were good enough to be ranked.

The conference is still judged to be the weakest of the five power conferences but now with another successful bowl season the narrative could slowly start changing. The ACC is the underdog in 7 of the 9 bowl games, including number 1 Clemson being an underdog to number 4 Oklahoma.

December 26

(Sun Bowl) Miami (8-4) vs Washington State (8-4)- So the ‘Canes will look to cap off a good second half of the season and finish 9-4. Hard to believe that this team fired their head coach at mid-season and now they are looking at a possible 9 win season! Wazzu is a hard team to figure out, just with their air raid offense, they had a good season playing a lot of good teams close and even winning a few! I’ll take Miami to get one for the ACC. Miami 28 – Washington State 24

(Pinstripe Bowl) Indiana (6-6) vs Duke (7-5)- The Blue Devils have definitely been scuffling down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 2-4. Still a fourth straight season of bowl eligibility is quite the feat at Duke for David Cutcliffe and now they will be tested by the Hoosiers from Indiana. Duke is the better team and should get the win in this game between who is struggling the least right now. Duke 23 – Indiana 17

(Independence Bowl) Tulsa (6-6) vs Virginia Tech (6-6)- Frank Beamer’s final game as the head coach of his alma mater should be a relatively easy win over Tulsa out of the AAC. Both teams are 6-6 but I feel that Virginia Tech’s is more battle tested, plus the Hokies are playing to send Beamer out a winner. Virginia Tech 24 – Tulsa 14

December 28

(Military Bowl) Pittsburgh (8-4) vs Navy (10-2)- The Naval Academy has had an outstanding season this year and they will cap it off with a nice win over the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Military Bowl. The Midshipmen run the triple option to perfection with a QB that can complete passes down the field. Pitt has been struggling down the stretch after starting 6-1 they have gone 2-3 since. Navy 31 – Pittsburgh 24

December 29

(Russel Athletic Bowl) North Carolina (11-2) vs Baylor (9-3)- I have seen OU fans stating how Baylor even with their back-up QB would kill Clemson and that is there justification for why OU will beat Clemson, well those people are asinine and incredibly mistaken. Baylor has a couple of good defensive lineman, Oakman is a monster and good but overall Baylor’s defense is not on the same level as Clemson’s. I picture this game for North Carolina being a lot like the ACC championship game except this time it will be UNC coming out on the winning side. North Carolina 45 – Baylor 35

December 30

(Belk Bowl) NC State (7-5) vs Mississippi State (8-4)- This should be one of the better bowl games the ACC is participating in, well really these last five starting with UNC-Baylor are all top tier bowl games and matchups. This should be a good QB matchup of Jacoby Brissett verses Dak Prescott. I think Miss State is probably the better team coming into this game but I feel like State will be better prepared and be the better team on the day of this game, plus it is practically a home game for the ‘Pack. NC State 28 – Miss State 24

(Music City Bowl) Texas A&M (8-4) vs Louisville (7-5)- Believe it or not, after what has transpired the last couple of weeks, the Cardinals will have the advantage at QB plus a defense that has been improving a lot over the course of the season. With Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both announcing they will be transferring this game is the Cardinals to lose and I don’t think they will. Louisville 24 – Texas A&M 20

December 31

(Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl) Houston (12-1) vs Florida State (10-2)- This is the game that the Seminoles have got stuck in a lot I feel like, immediately thinking back to 2012 when they had to play MAC Champion Northern Illinoi, they went on to win that game 31-10 I believe. This game gains Florida State absolutely nothing in terms of respect from the rest of the country. Win and yea, you should have you were playing Houston, lose and well there goes the ACC not even able to beat Houston. This is the big stage though and I think FSU knows that a big win here will help propel them into the off-season and a chance to regain the ACC next season, even though Clemson with Watson returning will still be the clear front runners again next year! Florida State 34 – Houston 20

(Discover Orange Bowl: Playoff Semi-Final) Oklahoma (11-1) vs Clemson (13-0)- Finally, the one we have all been waiting for, the Clemson Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners in a rematch of last season’s Russel Athletic Bowl, a game in which OU lost the TO margin 4-1 and let the game get away from them early. Big-Game Bob apparently didn’t view it as a big game and therefor got his tail outcoached and team whipped. This year the Sooners have a much better QB leading the way and a new offensive coordinator, however Clemson also has a much better QB and offensive coordinators that will be in their 15th game co-coordinating instead of first game. The Tigers have the better defense, and a defense that will be well rested and rejuvenated and out to prove a point after a sloppy end to the season. Clemson 38 – Oklahoma 30

Worst Bets of Last 5 Seasons

Yesterday I posted the teams that have covered the spread at the best rates  over the last 5 years.  Today, I take a look at the worst records against the spread in the same time frame.

My thanks to SUR reader Dan Biebel for formatting the data from our college football game database in a way that allows me to “select a team and hit enter” to obtain the details.Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.25.34 PM
*Note: Team records are for current conference and separate records were tabulated for each conference a team was a member of during the 2011-2015 seasons.  Records for conferences that no longer exist (WAC and Big East) are not included.

Best Bets Last 5 Seasons

The surest bet over the last 4 years is…..the Georgia State Panthers and Utah State Aggies?  Whatchoo talkin’ about Willis?  Over the last two years GSU is 13-5-1 against the spread (ATS), including 8-1-1 in 2015 and Utah State is 13-5 ATS.

Next up is another team from Georgia – nope not the Bulldogs or Yellow Jackets – the Eagles of Georgia Southern.  The caveat with Georgia Southern (and Navy) is that they are one year wonders (so far) being a newly minted member (for our purposes) in the Sun Belt (Navy was 22-23 ATS as an independent before joining the AAC).

Houston on the other hand, seems to beat the spread no matter the conference or coach.  In addition to the 24-11 mark shown below against AAC competition, the Cougs were 15-9 in CUSA ATS prior to that.  That’s 5 solid years of beating the spread.

The other team in this category is Western Kentucky, who went 21-14-1 ATS as a Sun Belt member and now is 13-8-1 as a CUSA member.

Probably the biggest shocker on this list is Vanderbilt.  Sure, most of that record was built under James Franklin, but even in the recently completed 4-8 season the Commodores were 6-4-1 ATS and in a 3-9 2014 they managed to go 5-5 ATS.

If you follow my ramblings on Twitter you know I’m not the biggest Stanford fan alive and have pointed out that the Cardinal loses as a favorite routinely (twice as double digit favorites this season), but in the bigger picture Stanford has been rock solid ATS, including 9-4 in 2015.
Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 3.02.17 PM

This information is obviously just one piece of the puzzle and there are many factors involved in how and why some teams perform better than others.  Baylor’s record ATS looks great, but not so much this season and were on their 4th quarterback (who moved from receiver) in a loss to Texas as a 21 point favorite.

My thanks to SUR reader Dan Biebel for formatting the data from our college football game database in a way that allows me to “select a team and hit enter” to obtain the details.

Up next I’ll take a look at the worst records against the spread over the last 5 seasons.

*Note: Team records are for current conference and separate records were tabulated for each conference a team was a member of during the 2011-2015 seasons.  Records for conferences that no longer exist (WAC and Big East) are not included.