With the clock ticking down on the period for in-person visits by coaches, the college football recruiting timetable will move into a 'dead period' over the holidays.
Things will pick up significantly in January, as host a series of official visits for both committed and uncommitted players.
Following is the first of a two-part glimpse at where things stand for the Tigers in regard to returning personnel, the 2013 recruiting class, and what's ahead for 2014:
Running Back: The Tigers face a huge loss in Andre Ellington, and a lost class in Mike Bellamy. Rod McDowell will be the man to beat for the starting job in the spring, with D.J. Howard competing. The Tigers are set for their 2013 recruiting class with Wayne Gallman (Loganville, Ga.) and Tyshon Dye (Elberton, Ga.), and have 2014 covered as well with Jae'lon Onglesby (Central, S.C.) and Dalvin Cook (Miami, Fla.). The staff also has an offer out to 2014 running back/defensive back C.J. Fuller of Easley, S.C.
Quarterback: The position is in good hands for the short-term future, with Tajh Boyd likely to return for his senior season and Cole Stoudt finishing up his second season as Boyd's backup, with two left to play. Chad Kelly, who challenged Stoudt for the backup job in August, will try to make his mark this spring, while Morgan Roberts will also compete. Tony McNeal will be back, as well, after missing last season with an ACL injury. Clemson plans to take no quarterback in the 2013 class, but has a commitment from one of the nation's best for 2014 in record-setting Deshaun Watson of Gainesville, Ga. Should Chad Morris move on to a head coaching position elsewhere, the coaching staff will likely have work to do to keep Watson committed.
Wide Receiver: A lot depends on DeAndre Hopkins' decision regarding the NFL. Recruiting guru Mel Kiper said Tuesday that he projects Hopkins as a second-rounder, and would advise him to stay in college for another year. If he does, the Hopkins-Sammy Watkins combo will be the nation's best. The Tigers lose starter Jaron Brown, but the rest of the crew returns, with Adam Humphries, Charone Peake, and - assuming he clears his academic hurdles - Martavis Bryant. Germone Hopper, the only wide receiver signee in last year's class, is expected to join the mix in a prominent role. The Tigers currently have three players committed for the class of 2013 - Mike Williams of Lake Marion, S.C., Ryan Jenkins of Marietta, Ga., and Demarcus Robinson of Peach County, Ga. Florida is making a late and serious run at Robinson, and his status is uncertain at this point.
Jayron Kearse is another commitment with potential as a big-target wide receiver, as well, though Clemson has been recruiting him primarily for defense. The Tigers made a strong run for S.C. Mr. Football Tramel Terry of Goose Creek, who eventually signed with Georgia and will enroll there in January, and are still pursuing Marquez North of Charlotte, N.C., who is one of the nation's top-rated receivers. Top targets for 2014 include Blake Bone of Woodruff, S.C., Demarre Kitt of Tyrone, Ga., and Trevion Thompson of Durham, N.C.
Tight End: For the second straight year, the Tigers will lose an All-ACC tight end - this time in Brandon Ford, who tied Dwayne Allen's school record for TD receptions at the position. Next in line are Sam Cooper and Stanton Seckinger, as well as Darrell Smith - the offense's designated 'fullback,' which is a role-specific tight end. Joining the group in the spring will be versatile redshirt freshman Jay Jay McCullough, while Eric Mac Lain is expected to move full-time to offensive tackle. The Tigers have commitments for both 2013 and 2014 in Jordan Leggett of Navarre, Fla., and Cannon Smith of Columbia, S.C. The coaching staff has no more offers out for 2013, but for 2014 is targeting Jeb Blazevich of Charlotte, N.C. and Kalan Ritchie of Goose Creek, S.C.
Offensive Line: The Tigers lose just one lineman - four-year starter Dalton Freeman - and have an excellent base of talent to build on. Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley will be seniors next year, while Gifford Timothy and David Beasley will return for their second year as starters. Ryan Norton, who logged significant playing time this year, is expected to take over for Freeman at center. The second group includes players who got their feet wet this season, including Shaq Anthony, Isaiah Battle, Kalon Davis, Reid Webster, Joe Gore, and Spencer Region. Joining the mix this spring will be redshirts Jay Guillermo, Patrick Destefano and Oliver Jones. The coaching staff has a commitment for 2013 from Maverick Morris of Coffee County, Ga., and is still recruiting one of the nation's best in Tyrone Crowder of Rockingham, N.C., who will decide between Clemson and Georgia. Among players to keep an eye on for 2014 are Donnell Stanley of Latta, S.C., Taylor Hearn of Williston, S.C., Steven Moss of Fredricksburg, Va., and Orlando Brown of Duluth, Ga.