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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Clay among Georgia freshmen with offers

By Kipp Adams

There was a time when news of a rising junior with an offer was reason to pause and take a second look at why college coaches thought enough of such a young prospect to extend a scholarship. Just a few years ago, summer camps and the fall season were primarily seen as opportunities for seniors to earn offers from BCS programs. Now the recruiting landscape has changed immensely, and 2016 cornerback Chad Clay (Marietta, Ga./Walton) is a prime example.

Chad Clay
Chad Clay, a 2016 defensive back, has more scholarship offers than varsity snaps.
The 6-foot, 170-pound freshman did not play varsity for the Raiders last year, as head coach Rocky Hidalgo does not allow it at his program. But this spring, as schools such as Auburn, Miami, South Carolina and Tennessee came by to see ESPN 150 cornerback D.J. Smith, Clay caught their eye. Most invited Clay to their prospect camps this summer. Last week Clemson defensive backs coach Mike Reed decided to take it one step further, extending an early offer to Clay.

His father, eight-year NFL veteran defensive back Willie Clay, was admittedly surprised by the news.

“I was floored,” Clay said of his son earning an offer. “He has yet to play a varsity snap, so I was shocked. But he is bigger, more athletic and more talented than I was at that stage.”

Willie Clay, the all-time interceptions leader at Georgia Tech, coached his son until he was 12. He credits the information age, recruiting coverage and emergence of 7-on-7 camps as a factor in the process starting much earlier for his son than it did for him. The hastened pace of evaluations might seem troublesome to some, but Clay feels it can have a positive effect as well.

“What I like about it as a parent is the motivation factor it can have on your child,” Clay said. “It can really push them in the classroom to excel in order to realize their dream. We as a family are trying to use that to show him going forward what he needs to do to reach that ultimate goal, but also trying to maintain a steady expectation level because there is a long way to go in the process.”

Clay is not alone, as several other 2016 prospects in Georgia have offers as well. Tight end Isaac Nauta (Buford, Ga./Buford) and cornerback Khalil Ladler (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) have double digit scholarship offers already. Multiple programs have offered offensive tackle Ben Cleveland (Toccoa, Ga./Stephens County), defensive end Cecil Stallings (Chamblee, Ga./Chamblee) and lineman Antwuan Jackson (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove). Lineman Landon Rice (Rome, Ga./Darlington) picked up his first offer from Cincinnati last week, and cornerback Ronnie Blackman (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) claims an offer from Akron.

It’s early yet, but it will be interesting to see how these eight early risers will fare in their development and ranking over the next three years.