AP Photo/Mark Crammer
Clemson continues recruiting hot streak with '09 class
By Billy Tucker, Scouts Inc.With a commitment from top-tier safety Devonte Holloman (Charlotte, N.C./Independence) this week, Clemson is well on its way to signing another impressive recruiting class. While Tommy Bowden and the rest of his veteran staff have done a tremendous job luring elite prospects from around the country the past two years, it is Bowden's youngest full-time coach, recruiting coordinator Billy Napier, who has been the true architect behind the Tigers' recent success on the recruiting trail.
Napier oversaw Clemson's last two recruiting classes, which finished ranked No. 18 and No. 2, respectively, and collectively boasted an impressive 13 ESPN 150 prospects, including No. 1 overall 2008 prospect DaQuan Bowers (Bamberg, S.C./Ehrhardt). The majority of the Tigers' signees we spoke with last year, including its unprecedented 10 Under Armour All- Americans, pointed to the 28-year-old coach as one of the deciding factors in their decisions to attend Clemson.
His influence was actually powerful enough to persuade ESPN's No. 3-rated tight end prospect Dwayne Allen (Fayetteville, N.C./Terry Sanford) to make a late switch on signing day.
"Recruiting coordinator coach [Billy] Napier just told me to come down and check them out without pushing hard," Allen said in February. "He just said, 'I think you will like it,' and, well, when I went a few weeks ago, I liked it."This came only days after he held a press conference saying he was going to sign and keep his longtime pledge to Georgia. The second-year Clemson coach appears to emphatically bleed Tigers orange, and recruits have commented how his love for the school helps his approach sound less salesman-like. His pride for the Clemson football program also shows in his work ethic. Not only does he presumably oversee most of the recruiting efforts, including delegating recruiting areas for the entire coaching staff and personally identifying the large number of targeted prospects each year, Napier has a cell phone attached to his hip and personally recruits the majority of the Tigers' top prospects himself.
"He really stays in touch with you as a recruiter, I talk to him a lot," said Devonte Holloman, after his commitment this week.
Holloman also explained how Napier does a good job facilitating the communication between fellow committed Tigers in an effort to build a strong bond within their forming class. The conversations probably stem around their newly-found love for Clemson -- most likely influenced by Napier.
"He just basically tells you why he loves Clemson so much and what it has to offer," continued the Under Armour All-American safety. "He doesn't come across as a recruiter. It's not a hassle when you speak with him, and we talk about life more than football."
Those sentiments where shared by most of the '09 prospects we spoke with. Under Armour All-American linebacker Eric Fields (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside) calls Napier "sort of a father figure" and fellow All-American offensive tackle J.K. Jay (Greenville, S.C./Christ Church Episcopal) said the one-time Clemson graduate assistant has already made a lasting impression on him as well.
"I know it (college football) is a business, but coach Napier doesn't come across as a salesman like other big-time programs," Jay said. "He genuinely cares about you as a person and talks about life after football. You know if you go there and get hurt, someone would still care about you."
Both Jay and Holloman talked extensively about Napier's ability to communicate as a recruiter and his relaxed, calm demeanor. Today's elite prospects are getting hit from a lot of different angles in regards to recruiting, but it is apparent a phone call from Napier is far from a bother and may actually be soothing.
"He is cool, relaxed and relates to us well, because he's young," Holloman said.
Napier, who doubles as the Tigers' tight ends coach, may not have been heavily recruited by prominent Division I programs, but he was a successful national quarterback at nearby Furman and recently went through the process himself.
"He relates so well to us and knows what we are going through and how tough it can be," Jay added.
It's rare for a top Texas prospect to end up at Clemson, but Napier's young age played an integral role in landing a commitment from arguably the state's top defensive prospect, safety Craig Loston (Aldine, Texas/Dwight D. Eisenhower).
"You connect to him because he is young, he's just a cool guy," said the recently committed ESPN 150 Watch List safety. "He is a coach you can really relate to and compare yourself with."
Loston was also quick to point out Napier's ability to recognize talent and find system-fitting prospects for the program at positions of need. The Under Armour All-American safety should know, the Tigers will lose two senior starters at safety next season and have already filled the void with two of the better high-point prospects in the country.
"He knows how to find the pieces Clemson needs," explained Loston. "He doesn't just go for top players, he goes for players they need and can fit."
Napier has already overseen two top-20 recruiting classes and looks to be building another -- Clemson's '09 class already boasts eight ESPN 150 Watch List prospects. While we might not be able to measure the job Napier has truly done until 3-4 years down the road, the young recruiting coordinator has certainly established a reputation, at least among the top prospects in the country, as one of college football's best recruiters.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.
Penn State's class comes to life
By Billy Tucker
Some Penn State fans have been making a case that Paterno's age coupled with no clear apparent predecessor have presumably created a feeling of instability among the program and thus precipitated the subpar recruiting. While still early, this week was an auspicious sign that both PSU can rebound from its marginal '08 class that failed to crack the top-25 and the ageless Paterno still has some energy left on the recruiting trail.
Under Armour All-American Givens told us this week he made his switch from Ohio State to Penn State Saturday mainly because he saw the opportunity to start as a freshmen in Happy Valley and optimistically thought Paterno would be there for all four years.
"He is still active among the Penn State players and recruits," explained Givens. "When we talked, he said he would still be there for my whole four years at college and still felt great with a lot of energy.
On paper, this kid might not blow you away with elite size and speed measurable, but he possesses a lot of intangibles you can't measure at a combine. Fullam is a savvy safety who shows good route and coverage awareness. He consistently positions himself and his teammates correctly on film and is a true quarterback of the defense. The solidly-built athlete also displays the toughness and physicality you like to see in a college safety prospect with so many teams at the next level inserting eight in the box to stop the run. His good fundamentals continue as a tackler, and you can tell he has been taught and coached well. Though without ideal range, he closes quickly and hard as an intimidating presence over the middle.
At Scouts Inc. we take pride in recognizing great football players, regardless of hype and we feel Vanderbilt got a good, under-the-radar prospect this week.
Check out Craig Haubert's profile of Cox from earlier this week.
From The Briefing Room
Longhorns get pledge from DT Howell
ESPN 150 Watch List defensive tackle Calvin Howell, a longtime Texas lean, has committed to the program, bevosports.com reports. He visited Oklahoma and Texas Tech before settling on the Burnt Orange.
Wideout DeBose considering three visits
DeBose told affiliate Web site Bucknuts.com, "I know I'll visit USC as an official visit for sure. I'll probably visit Ohio State and Michigan too. But I don't know about the other too."
Early PT lures WR Haulstead to FSU
ESPN 150 Watch List WR Willie Haulstead committed to Florida State over scholarship offers from Auburn, Purdue, Boston College, Iowa State, South Carolina, South Florida and Central Florida, Florida Today reports.
Last fall, Haulstead caught 44 passes for 635 yards (14.4 average) and 13 touchdowns.
• Complete Briefing Room Updates
Chat With Tom LuginbillTony (Memphis): How do you project a guy like Nukeese Richardson to the next level? Is he a Noel Devine type guy?
Tom Luginbill: His size is always going to limit his ceiling because he just isn't a big target. However, he compensates with quickness and speed so it is difficult to get a clean shot at him. He may end up being a return specialist as much as anything else.
Brian (LA): Does UCLA pick up a big time QB in this class? How about some quality O-lineman?
Tom Luginbill: They better get some quality at quarterback and having both Norm Chow and Neuheisel will help them on the recruiting front. If they offer Josh Nunes, I think they would be the front runners for his services. As far as O-Line, it is a solid year on the west coast in this area, but USC also needs lineman and is likely the front-runner for the top interior prospects out West.
Meet Janzen Jackson
The LSU-bound defensive back has been crafting his skills at the position for quite some time under the tutelage of a certain defensive backs coach with a special relationship to the 6-foot-1 corner -- his father Lance Guidry.
Guidry, in his second stint as an assistant coach at FCS power McNeese State, started training his son at an early age on the nuances of the position. Judging by his performance on film, the 2009 Under Armour All-American was a quick learner.
Tracking The Tigers' Class
|Clemson's top 2009 defenders|