NCF On The Trail: Clemson Tigers

Top sleeper commits: ACC 

December, 15, 2014
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Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than a hundred FBS programs competing for talent, it takes more than just those top-rated prospects and rosters are built with mainly prospects that enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key to a program’s success. Every year we see prospects who flew under the radar, but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we come across many players who show promise and based of their upside for development or scheme fit are great additions.

Here are five unheralded commitments in the ACC worth keeping an eye on.

OG Wyatt Knopfke, Boston College
While Knopfke is an ESPN 300 player, he’s not as well-known as other interior linemen in the rankings. The big man out of Florida is a physical, strong player with the tools to be a good well-rounded player. And while listed at guard, he could be a candidate to develop at center as well. With an Eagles line that was loaded with seniors this season, head Coach Steve Addazio, an O-line coach himself, has a player who can develop into a key contributor in Knopfke.

DE LaSamuel Davis, Clemson
Four-star prospects like OT Zach Giella and athlete Van Smith are talented prospects and still rated highly, but they could be overlooked in a Tigers’ class that features double-digit ESPN 300 prospects. Another prospect in that group is Davis who notched over 100 tackles and 16 sacks this season. A rangy defender with wiry strength, he can use his hands well, flashes a good first-step and displays the tools to at least develop into a productive edge rusher. He needs to work to fill out his frame and be more consistent with his motor, but among this great collection of talent, Davis could emerge in time as a productive defensive contributor.

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Clemson got back in the game Friday with a commitment from ESPN 300 defensive tackle Albert Huggins. Below, see what he means for Dabo's Swinney's impressive 2015 class:


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Are four-star DT Carlos Davis and his twin, three-star tackle Khalil Davis, still committed to Nebraska? Good luck figuring that out. Plus, handicapping the finalists in advance of Josh Sweat’s Wednesday decision.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

December, 2, 2014
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The big visit weekend in the ACC is now in the rearview mirror with Florida State having hosted a very impressive collection of talent, and Virginia Tech playing host to the top target on the board.


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TAMPA, Fla. -- ESPN300 ATH Ray-Ray McCloud III, was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Thursday morning in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of family, friends and teammates at the Sickles High School gymnasium in Tampa, Florida.

The 12th-ranked athlete and the 151st-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300 said he felt honored to be selected to one of the top All-America games in the country.

“I feel honored and blessed. Just growing up and watching this game and wishing and dreaming of playing in this game and now dreams are coming to reality,” McCloud said. "I feel blessed to be presented with my jersey today. It’s a dream come true."

McCloud has been committed to Clemson since July. The four-star athlete has never wavered in his pledged to the Tigers despite still being pursued by several other schools.

“With Clemson, I’m 100 percent. That’s where my heart is right now,” the four-star athlete said. "But other schools like Bama, Ole Miss, UCLA, Florida and USF are recruiting me hard but I’m solid to Clemson.

“I just like the character they build at the schools. The football players, coaches and even the rest of campus is a caring culture and everybody is all about Clemson. They put God first. Coach Dabo [Swinney], his character is just off the charts. He loves the kids."

Six questions with Ray-Ray McCloud III

Who was the best player you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

McCloud: I’d say Vernon Hargreaves III. Him coming from Florida and representing the area like he has. He’s lived up to the hype and done his thing.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?

McCloud: Derwin James. Just with his leadership and the way he carries a defense. He can pick up the defense and just change the whole defense.

If you could go one-on-one with any other player in this class who would it be?

McCloud: Probably Byron Cowart. They beat us my sophomore year, and I’d love to go against him again.

What's your earliest football memory?

McCloud: When I was playing little league football I had a 60-yard touchdown called back, then a 70-yard touchdown called back, then finally an 80-yard touchdown that counted. I was done after that.

If you could take on a professional athlete in their sport, who would it be and why?

McCloud: A.I. — Allen Iverson. He’s my favorite basketball player and I’d like to go against the best.

What kind of player can Clemson expect to get when you get on campus?

McCloud: A leader, ready to work. I’m mature and a guy that’s dedicated in everything he does.

About this time of year coaches scour junior college ranks for offensive line talent, and thathas helped Tyler Howell become one of hottest targets around. Plus, is Clemson in danger of losing ESPN 300 commitment Juwuan Briscoe?

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UA jersey tour: Garrett Williams

October, 28, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- ESPN 300 tight end Garrett Williams was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Tuesday morning in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of family, friends and teammates at The First Academy's gymnasium in Orlando, Florida.

The No. 2-ranked tight end in the ESPN 300 and the 113th-ranked player overall said he felt honored to be selected to one of the top All-American games in the country.

"It means a lot,” Williams said. "I remember going to these games when they were in the Citrus Bowl with my grandpa and just idolizing those players and wanting to play in the game someday and to be selected for it now is truly a dream come true. I can't wait to participate in January.”

Williams has been committed to Clemson since May and hasn't wavered at all. In fact, the four-star tight end will only take two visits before signing day and both will be to Clemson.

"I'm just going to take one official visit to Clemson around February sometime and then one unofficial visit for the South Carolina game," Williams said.

Williams credits the Clemson coaching staff, in particular head coach Dabo Swinney as a main reason he committed to the Tigers.

"I love the coaching staff at Clemson. It's a very unique coaching staff,” Williams said. "Coach Swinney and the rest of the coaches are incredible men as well as elite coaches. I think that was really special to me to be able to be coached by men that I can look up to off the field as well. Also, their scheme fits my skill set. I feel like I can be versatile in their offense."

Six questions with Garrett Williams

Who was the best player you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

Williams: There's been so many great players that have played, but I'd have to say Jadeveon Clowney because he was such a specimen and he would just dominate the game. I remember watching Greg Reid play because I was a big Florida State fan growing up and he went there. I really liked watching him.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?

GW: I don't really know him well, so this is not because of my relationship with him but from what I've seen and read, Chad Smith, the linebacker commit for Clemson I feel like he's a really good leader. That's somebody that I would want to start a team with -- a strong leader with a strong personality.

Who are you looking forward to competing against the most?

JW: The tight ends usually go up against the linebackers so I'd say the best linebackers there. That's one of the things that's so special about the Under Armour game is all the top talent is there. It's truly a unique opportunity to get all the top athletes in the country at their position in one place. I'm just excited to go against the top-tier linebackers and improve my game.

If you could take on any professional athlete in their sport who would it be?

GW: That's a tough one. I'd probably say Patrick Willis for the 49ers. I love watching him play. He's incredible.

What's your earliest football memory?

GW: My earliest tackle football memory would be when I was in third grade, which was the first year my parents let me play Pop Warner. I was bigger than most the kids that were my age so I had to play up with the sixth graders and I played center. I was so happy I could get the starting job and just get on the field anyway I could.

What's something that most people don't know about you?

GW: One interesting thing is that I have a garden at my house. Right now I have okra, bell peppers, beans and different kind of herbs. This summer, I wanted something to do when I wasn't here playing football so I decided I was going to clear 180 square feet of our yard so I cleared all the sod out and I built three 96 square foot boxes and I had to do all this stuff with the soil, but I was able to get it all done.
A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.

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Clemson is tearing it up the recruiting trail with the momentum created last season culminating with the Orange Bowl win over Ohio State. The Tigers currently have the No. 2-ranked class in 2015 with 12 ESPN 300 commitments, and now has a first ESPN Jr 300 pledge in Peach State quarterback Zerrick Cooper, No. 65 overall.


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Help is on the way: ACC 

October, 8, 2014
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Each year on the recruiting trail, schools are met with needs that need to be addressed to shore up depth issues both immediately and down the line. With four months until national signing day for the class of 2015, many teams have addressed and met needs.


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Numbers tell us it’s USC that rules the roost over the years with the top-ranked prospects in California. Plus, UCLA has officially signed Josh Rosen, the Bruins’ most important recruit in years, to a financial aid agreement.

1. Since ESPN started ranking players in 2006, only four different schools have signed the top player in California. Those four schools are USC, Colorado, Washington and Notre Dame. You could say five if you count Eddie Vanderdoes as a Bruin signee in the 2013 class, but he did ink with Notre Dame on signing day and later transferred to UCLA. During that timeframe, though, USC has signed the top California player in the 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014 classes. The Trojans have a good shot at doing it again in 2015 as many insiders believe five-star cornerback Iman Marshall is USC’s to lose.

[+] EnlargeDeon Cain
Tom Hauck for Student SportsClemson commit Deon Cain has 184 yards passing yards and 197 yards rushing in two games.
2. There was never, ever any doubt about how solid No. 1 ranked pocket-passing quarterback Josh Rosen was to UCLA. But Rosen, the No. 19 player in the country, took his commitment to the next level on Monday when he signed a financial aid agreement with the Bruins. Rosen remains the top-ranked prospect to commit to a Pac 12 program, and in my opinion, he is also the most important recruit in the conference with the Bruins’ quarterback race next season expected to be wide open since most UCLA observers believe Brett Hundley will depart for the NFL after his junior season.

3. How good has Clemson commit Deon Cain been in Tampa Bay (Florida) Tech’s first two games of the season? Cain, the nation’s No. 25 player, has been so good that Tech coach Jayson Roberts said he’s going to have to find somebody else to help do something on offense because he’s afraid he’s going to “break Deon’s back” from carrying the load. “Deon has been about 90 percent of our offense,” Roberts said. “The good thing is that he’s doing exactly what we want him to do, but the bad thing is that somebody else on the team is going to have to step up to help him out. But he’s been doing a tremendous job for us.” So far, Cain has 184 yards passing and 197 yards rushing in two games. He’s also caught a few passes and is returning punts and kickoffs. “He’s doing everything but driving the bus for us,” Roberts said.

Social Studies
There’s little doubt as to which school ESPN 300 quarterback Sheriron Jones is committed to. Check out the picture he posted Tuesday on his birthday.



Schools tweet posts like this one sent out by Baylor Tuesday and fans think they’re meant for them. Wrong. Tweets like these are meant to impress recruits and what’s scary is that the Bears have another good receiver in the 2015 class heading to Waco. Don’t forget about ESPN 300 receiver longtime Baylor commit Devontre Stricklin. He’s got the talent to be a huge impact player for the Bears.



The Under Armour All-America jersey tour continued on Tuesday with Auburn offensive line commitment Bailey Sharp receiving his jersey on Tuesday. To read more about the tour check out RecruitingNation’s coverage.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: James Franklin and Penn State was already building one of the best classes in the country, and Monday's news that the Nittany Lions were eligible for postseason play will help them build an even better class. Plus, recruits across the country agreed with the NFL and the Ravens' decision to distance themselves from Ray Rice, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: A lot of eyebrows were raised when class of 2017 quarterback Tate Martell committed to Washington, but he proved this past Friday night he’s the real deal. Plus, Oklahoma won’t only be hosting Tennessee next weekend, but the Sooners are also expected to bring in more than 13 impact recruits on official visits. We also continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: Notre Dame has the No. 15 class in the country, but the Irish could quickly climb into the top 10 with a monster recruiting weekend on the horizon. Plus, after Georgia landed star junior quarterback Jacob Eason, the Dawgs have been on a recruiting run at receiver, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart is closing ranks and instead of focusing on the more than 50 schools that have offered him scholarships, he's zeroing in on four schools leading up to his late September decision. Plus, Oregon fans can rest a little easier knowing the Ducks' star running back recruit didn't suffer major damage in his first game of the season, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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