Josh Belk, Justin Mascoll, BT Potter, Jackson Carman, Derion Kendrick, Trevor Lawrence, Xavier Thomas and Kyler McMichael all represented the 2018 Clemson class at the Army All American Bowl.
With a staggering 8 signees in Saturday's US Army All-American Bowl, the Tigers had the most representation at the event in program history. With that game a couple of days behind us and the recruiting dead period in full effect for a few more days, I thought I'd use this week's Radar to take a look at the Tigers early enrollees--so many of whom played in the All-American game on Saturday--who are moving to campus this very moment.
****Breaking Down the Early Enrollees
Physically advanced for his age at 6’1 and 190 pounds, McMichael is going to make Brent Venables and Mike Reed very happy if he is able to come in and pick up on the scheme. We are talking a player that could contribute in his true freshman season.
Kyler starred two ways in high school, as he was also a very productive running back in the Metro Atlanta area, where he played for Greater Atlanta Christian and was Player of the Week on numerous occasions.
The combination of size, speed and athletic prowess that Kyler will bring with him to Clemson is just what the doctor ordered for the position.
McMichael, along with a host of other Clemson signees, just took part in the US Army All-American Bowl and is now on campus. He and several others will participate in spring practice, so we will find out soon if he has a chance to play as a freshman.
What can you say about the all-world QB from the Peach State that has not already been said? In what seems like a prodigious type of development, the Cartersville, GA native has been getting this type of press and accolades since his days as an 8th grader. A starter in high school since his freshman season, Lawrence has the experience that winning over 50 games in the prep ranks brings with it, along with breaking all of Deshaun Watson’s Georgia state records in the meantime. Not bad for a kid that also stands 6’6 and already weighs 210 pounds!
Some analysts have gone as far as to say he’s the best quarterback prospect to ever come across the rating system. That’s some high praise, and it puts Trevor in very rare air. At the same time, it will bring with him an expectation level that may be unenviable, as the fan base and recruitniks alike are all expecting the 2018 signee to come in and compete almost upon arrival for the starting job current held by rising senior Kelly Bryant.
Can the young man come in and live up to all the hype? Stay tuned right here, as we will have our ear to the ground in Clemson to see what we are hearing from winter conditioning and coming soon…spring football!
The state’s premier kicker is also considered one of top in the nation to boot, no pun intended. A teammate of fellow signee and US Army All-American participant Derion Kendrick, the Rock Hill star has seen his own success in High School as his South Pointe team has made back-to-back appearances in the state title game.
A standout at all the regional and national kicking camp events, Potter was invited to the US Army All-American Bowl and, in his performance at practice and in the game, has shown the nation what Dabo Swinney and staff saw prior to dispensing a rare offer to a kicker. The Tigers’ past M.O. has been to offer preferred walk-on status to kickers and save those scholarships for other roster needs.
That tells you how much this Clemson staff thinks of Potter to offer him a scholarship in this small class and so early in the process. Not to mention that Potter is also an in-state kid who grew up a fan of the Clemson program. In the past, all of those factors would be the formula that equates to a preferred walk-on for a kicker. But given that Potter is so highly regarded nationally, you can see why the Tigers decided to sacrifice a precious scholarship for one of the nation’s premier kickers. And in case anyone needed a reminder on how critical kickers are to competing for championships, the Tigers would have likely avoided their only regular season loss at Syracuse, but they lost starting kicker Greg Huegel days before the game, and backup Alex Spence missed two very makeable field goals in a 3-point loss.
Potter will get to come in and compete this spring with Alex Spence and former starter Greg Huegel, who is returning from the aforementioned season-ending knee surgery. So Potter will get his “at bats,” and will have the chance to showcase his skills among two experienced starters.
One of the most underrated and under-the-radar prospects (if that’s possible at 6’3, 290 pounds) is Josh Belk out of Lewisville High School here in the Palmetto State. He’s a big-time DT prospect and the prototypical run-stuffer and space-eater that programs like Clemson crave—the kind of player that can walk in and possibly see the field as soon as next fall.
The strength is there, but it’s raw and needs to be refined. Belk is super coachable and has the drive to learn the ins and outs of the position. I predict you will see the Midlands big man on the field sooner rather than later. Think of a hybrid cross between current Tiger DT Albert Huggins and former Tiger great and Super Bowl star Grady Jarrett with a little Rashaad Jackson tossed in there, and you’ll get an idea of what Belk brings to the defensive line.
The one no one talks about, Mascoll quietly had another big season in the Peach State. He was All-Region and again topped the charts of many analysts, such as yours truly, who had the chance to see him in person. Mascoll was rated as one the nation’s top defensive ends and was also a participant at the US Army All-American game in San Antonio. He showed on national television why the Tigers coveted the quiet big man.
If you want to compare him to a past Tiger, I see another Mallicaih Goodman with all that length and deceptive speed off the edge. The wing-span stands out, and he eats up the space out there as he’s setting the edge. I see a red shirt year because the DE rotation is going to be heavy with competition, but the Tigers have added another stud to the defensive end assembly line for which they have become known.
The Palmetto State product is no stranger to the Clemson fan base as one of the most visible recruits on social media, and his success in all-star events is notable going back to 2016. Most recently, he was named Lineman of the Year and recipient of the Anthony Munoz Award at the US Army All-American Bowl.
Xavier is a candidate to come in and contribute as a true freshman. He brings that rare combo of speed and strength to go with a heavyweight frame. At 6’3 and close to 270 pounds the nation’s #1 defensive end can really be a force off the edge and has proven at times to be unblockable at the high school level. Not since Jadeveon Clowney has the state produced a prospect with this much buzz in his senior year of high school. Although Thomas played his senior season at the prestigious football factory IMG Academy in Florida, he was a fixture in Death Valley throughout the fall.
Thomas is now on campus and will be able to go through winter conditioning and spring practice, giving him the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and be ready to contribute on the field later in 2018 when the Tigers run down The Hill to take on Furman on an hot September day soon to come, with a big early road game at Texas A&M to follow!
Jake was an almost guaranteed commitment to the Tigers from the start, as the Clemson native and son of Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables was expected to pick the Tigers over offers from Oklahoma, TCU and SMU to go with a few others. Other staffs basically knew that it was forgone conclusion Jake would join his father at Clemson and just stopped recruiting the Daniel High and Shrine Bowl star.
Venables has been a mainstay in the weight room in the past 18 months and managed to transform himself, putting on no less than 30-40 pounds of muscle and keep the lateral speed that set him apart in the past at his position. In high school, Jake was asked to quarterback the defense and do all he could—including lining up in the slot at times, covering wide receivers out of his position.
It’s difficult to compare Jake to a past Tigers, but if I had to come up with one it would probably be the likes of a Jonathan “Tig” Willard, another underrated in-state product that developed on campus and ended up in the NFL for a short span. Stay tuned, as Jake will be a red shirt candidate and another player that, by the time he starts to contribute, I think it will be on special teams to start. And on from there to the linebacking corps. It’s the same route current Tiger linebackers Jamie Skalski, Chad Smith and Shaq Smith have all been brought along.
The state of South Carolina’s Gatorade Player of the Year led his South Point (Rock Hill) team to yet another state championship appearance and was the team’s quarterback, as the athletic prodigy and football phenom was a one-man highlight film at times in the 2017 season.
Kendrick put his team on his back on a weekly basis, and his freakish speed and vision had him looking like a man among boys at times. When playing his recruited position of wide receiver, he Shrine Bowler and US Army All-American was uncoverable when this analyst had the pleasure to scout him in person.
Think Ray-Ray meets Sammy Watkins. Kendrick has smoothness of McCloud and the lightning explosiveness and physicality of a Watkins. It’s all wrapped up in a 6’0 package that needs to see the weight room and put on a few needed pounds to add to the durability he is going to need at the next level.
Stay tuned, as he will surely be a scout team legend this time next year if he does red shirt, which we expect at this time. He will need to learn the position and acclimate to the strength and conditioning program that Coach Batson will have for him.
All-World tackle and the latest addition to the 2018 Clemson class, Jackson Carman is a player that the Tigers coveted for a long time. Never in recent years could they have walked into the heart of Ohio State’s recruiting footprint, going head-to-head with the perennial Big Ten powerhouse and win, but in this case, the Tigers did just that. In doing so, they landed the nation’s #1 offensive tackle in the process.
Clemson Signees and US Army All-Americans Trevor Lawrence, Jackson Carman and Kyler McMichael
Carman is a freak—a rare combination of size and power with the feet of a tight end on a man that is 320 pounds and a 6’4 wall of a human. By picking the Tigers, Carman surprised many in his home state, as many of the recruiting services had him pegged as a Buckeye after many visits to the Columbus campus over the season. But it was the tug of the Tigers and the idea that he could be a part of an historic class at Clemson, along with the thought of joining fellow 5-stars Lawrence, Henry and Thomas, that was more than enough to send the big man from Ohio down south.
Look for Jackson to come in and compete right away for playing time in 2018. Personally, I cannot wait for spring ball and some of the “Oklahoma” drills or Paw drills, as the Tigers call them, that pit lineman against each other. Carman vs Big Dex will be one everyone will be waiting to see in mid-March!
Jefferies is a full grown man in an 18-year-old body. The Newton, Georgia native is another one who was late to bloom in the recruiting process but as soon as the Tigers got Darnell to commit, the rest of the Power Five took notice—especially in the southeast—and then came to the table with their own offers and selling points.
But the Peach State defensive tackle stood tall on his Clemson commitment and was very influential in getting his nearby friend Justin Mascoll to join the fold. The two traveled together to multiple events in Clemson and were attached at the hip from a social media standpoint. Jefferies also finished All-Region and was a player that was about as underrated as they could come in this analyst’s opinion.
In a state loaded with talent, this is one prospect that the prognosticators and raters got wrong. I can see Jefferies getting on the field in 2018 if he can pick up coach Todd Bates’ scheme quickly. Physically, he’s advanced beyond his age and ready to contribute right now, and the Tigers are going to be losing All-American Christian Wilkins at DT.
5-Star DE K.J. Henry committed to the Tigers on the 20th of December on the first-ever Early Signing Day, but he was projected to Clemson by this analyst as early as last June. The Tigers were confident in their long-standing relationship with him. They were the first to see the potential and offer the Tar Heel State standout, and that relationship would stand the test of time. The Tigers’ efforts paid off in the end, as the staff got its bookend defensive end to place on the opposite Xavier Thomas, continuing a trend of NFL-ready defensive ends coming to Clemson to fill spots left by underclassmen taking their talents to the next level.
In Henry, you get a fast-twitch player with great length and the “motor” you like to hear about—a never-ending drive and effort guy to go with all the physical tools. Now, he does need to see the weight room and add to the frame he has, but he can be a player that will also sniff early entry to the NFL himself one day if he gets on campus and is “All In,” to use a phrase popular in Clemson. Stay tuned, as we will report on Henry’s progress in the coming months.
Mike Jones, Jr.
Henry was the latest commitment for the Tigers, and then there was Mike Jones. Jr., the very first commitment of the 2018 class—a player who pledged after a Dabo Swinney Camp stop back in 2016 and stood the ultimate test of time. Jones was highly responsible for the efforts that ended up landing 5-star IMG Academy teammate Xavier Thomas. Since then. the two have led the way in recruiting for the Tigers among their high school gridiron peers. They were social media Clemson cheerleaders to say the least.
On the football field, the 6’1, 210-pound linebacker is a natural leader, and Mike played the Mike position like he was made for it. In college, I see him moving outside in the mold of a Kendall Joseph and use his athleticism and natural instinct to find the football and lead him onto the field with a potentially productive career as a Tiger. For now, I foresee another candidate for a red shirt with Skalski, Chad Smith, Shaq Smith and the Davis twins moving up in the ranks. Stay tuned, as we track Mike and the rest of the early enrollees as they join the roster and prepare for their first Spring as Clemson Football Players.
****ZION WATCH 2018
Recent developments in the recruitment of all-world basketball recruit Zion Williamson have Clemson deeply embedded in the mix for the Palmetto State star who is coveted by every single big-time program in the nation. The likes of Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are all vying for the program changer to sign with them along with in-state South Carolina.
Zion Williamson in Death Valley before the Clemson win over Auburn
Zion has announced a commitment date of January 20th and is trending heavily as of late towards the Orange and White of the in-state Tigers. Blue bloods Kentucky, Duke and Kansas are also heavily in consideration. So stay tuned right here, as a commitment from Williamson would mark the highest rated one in program history should it all come to fruition. With two weeks left on the “Zion Watch,” we probing our sources and will update you again with the latest news as it comes out of Spartanburg!
Zion Williamson (@ZionW32) January
4, 2018 The date is set
The date is set
****New Offer in CaliforniaJanuary 3, 2018
Clemson reached way out to the other side of the country with its latest 2018 offer for 2018 cornerback prospect Olaijah Griffin out of Mission Viejo, Ca. He is a former UCLA commit who has opened things back up recently after the staff changes occurred when UCLA hired Chip Kelly. Word has it that Griffin will trip into Clemson and take an Official Visit, but there are a lot of ties to the west coast and other programs in the Pac-12 and Big-12 to overcome. But the fact that the staff has Griffin coming in says a lot, so stay tuned here at CUTigers.com, as we will monitor this one from here on out!
****This Week’s Tweets
Zion Williamson (@ZionW32) January
4, 2018 The date is set
The date is set
That’s my QB !!! Even tho i was in his face ???? You see that accuracy https://t.co/JM3Ifyrss7— Xavier Thomas (@atxlete) January 2, 2018
Next chapter ????????...— K5 ???? (@thekjhenry_) January 7, 2018
Top 5???? (Not In Order ) pic.twitter.com/Yv1LvbO6lW— 9 (@boimarv9) January 5, 2018
#ArmyBowl Media Day: JOSH BELK
HS: Lewisville, SC
By All Accts @Jbelk50 has been amongst THE MOST DOMINATING forces in January 3, 2018
January 5, 2018
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