CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 17: Fans of the Clemson Tigers cheer on their team against the Auburn Tigers at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Clemson has a smaller class this year, but it's packed with big linemen.
This Clemson football recruiting National Signing day preview is provided by SB Nation's excellent Clemson site, Shakin' The Southland. Looking for National Signing Day coverage of other teams or recruits? Head to SB Nation College Football Recruiting.
The Clemson Tigers go into National Signing Day with 20 verbal commitments for their 2012 recruiting class. The Tigers would like to close the class with a few more. If Clemson gets any more commitments, there will need to be attrition on the current roster.
There is not a clear headliner of the commitments on the board so far, but there are three prospects with cases to be considered Clemson's top commitment; Tallahassee, FL defensive back Travis Blanks, Forest City, NC defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, and Buffalo, NY quarterback Chad Kelly.
Blanks is one of the elite defensive backs in the nation, and an early enrollee who projects to compete for immediate playing time in Clemson's secondary next year, at corner, safety or nickel. Considering Clemson's depth issues at both positions, its unlikely he'd redshirt. Watkins is the best defensive tackle prospect to commit to the Tigers since Brandon Thompson, and he will compete for a spot on the two-deep as soon as he steps on campus this summer. Kelly is not as highly regarded a prospect as either of the above two; however, he plays the most important position on the field and brings an excellent pedigree and tons of athletic ability to the program. He will certainly be one of Clemson's most high profile players over the duration of his Tiger career.
Of the remaining commitments, several are very promising. Charlotte Berry wide receiver Germone Hopper is an excellent prospect. The 2012 recruiting class is not particularly strong in the state of South Carolina, but Clemson has taken quite a few instate commitments. Of the 11 prospects from South Carolina committed, the best of the bunch appear to be Daniel defensive end Shaq Lawson, Bamberg defensive lineman Martin Aiken, Silver Bluff defensive back Cordrea Tankersley and Allendale defensive back Ronald Geohaghan.
Clemson is not currently in serious jeopardy of losing any of its current commitments to another school via decommitment, however several kids, including South Aiken's Josh Brown and Woodruff's Javarius Leamon, are considered academic risks. It would not be surprising to see a defection from one of those two to a school like Marshall or ECU that could offer immediate enrollment regardless of whether or not they qualify under NCAA standards. Or they could sign with Clemson but end up at a prep school or junior college next fall. At the moment, we are very pessimistic about Leamon getting into Clemson next August unless he gets an LD waiver. If he goes to JUCO, its unlikely he'll ever play a down at Clemson because of Clemson's academic restrictions.
The academic news is not all bad, however. Clemson has eight of their 20 commitments enrolled for the start of the spring semester. Blanks, tackle Oliver Jones, guard Patrick Destefano, tackle Isaiah Battle and center Jay Guillermo, punter Brad Pinion and defensive lineman Kevin Dodd and athlete Zac Brooks are all in early. The eight early-enrollments are a school record. Blanks, Battle, Dodd and Pinion should all be in position to compete for positions as contributors on the 2012 team this spring. Destefano, Jones and Guillermo will probably all redshirt for the 2012 season, as most offensive linemen should.
For the remaining spots in this class, Clemson's heaviest priorities are along the defensive line and at running back. Greensboro, NC defensive tackle DJ Reader has also drawn positive reviews at the Shrine Bowl. Reader is going to choose between Clemson, Maryland and North Carolina. With turmoil at UNC and UMD, Clemson has taken the lead in Reader's recruitment, though rumors about Maryland persist. Reader will decide at noon EST on Wednesday.