Over the past several years, summer camp has become an increasingly-prominent part of Clemson's football recruiting strategy.
The two sessions of Dabo Swinney's high school camp gives the coaching staff an opportunity to get top-flight prospect on campus for up-close, in-person evaluation not afforded by any other recruiting vehicle, while giving prospects an opportunity to take a long look at Clemson.
“It’s almost as if summer camp has become the new ‘official visit,’” said recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott, describing the place of camp in Clemson's overall recruiting blueprint. "Camp has taken on a much more important part in the whole recruiting process. Most of the guys have already been here for junior days, and they may have visited in the fall (on unofficial game-day visits). The summer has become decision-time for a lot of guys, who want to get things settled so that they can go out and enjoy their senior seasons.”
The NCAA, which closely regulates contact between coaches and prospects throughout most of the recruiting year, allows high school players to attend camp, wherever and as many as they want, at their own expense during the summer. The camp setting allows coaches and prospects to interact informally, which Scott believes has become a foundation-stone in Clemson’s recruiting success.
“Some people try to get a guy on campus for maybe one day, but we’ve had a lot of success getting guys here and letting them spend three days in Clemson,” Scott said. “Coach Swinney has done a great job of building our staff, and we feel like if we can get a prospect to come in and spend some time with our coaches – maybe walk to practice with them or eat lunch with them at the cafeteria – they really get a chance to get to know us."
This week is a case in point.
Of the more than 700 campers who'll attend at least one day of workouts this week, a substantial portion are, or will emerge as, Division 1 prospects.
Eight of Clemson's 10 committed players for what is projected as a 15-man class are scheduled to attend this week, including five-star quarterback Deshaun Watson of Gainesville, Ga. Others on the list include running backs Jae'lon Oglesby of Daniel High in Central, S.C., C.J. Fuller of Easley, S.C. and Adam Choice of Thomasville, Ga.; tight ends Milan Richard of Savannah, Ga. and Cannon Smith of Columbia, S.C.; linebacker Korie Rogers of Buford, Ga.; and offensive lineman Taylor Hearn of Williston, S.C. Linebacker commitment Chris Register of Greensboro, N.C. visited for the first session of camp last week.
As Clemson looks to put the finishing touches on its 2014 recruiting class, this week shapes up as an important one. The Tigers have just five spots remaining (though that number is probably somewhat flexible), and the coaches would like to add another wide receiver, a linebacker, a defensive end or tackle, a defensive back, and possibly another offensive lineman.
Three highly-rated 2014 wide receivers will visit this week - Trey Quinn of Lake Charles, La., Trevion Thompson of Durham, N.C., and Artavis Scott of Tarpon Springs, Fla.
The top-rated recruit in camp will be five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan of Hinesville, Ga., who is also considering Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame.
Other 2014 targets who'll be in Clemson this week include defensive ends Cory Thomas of McCalla, Ala., Andrew Williams of McDonough, Ga., Rick Leonard of Middleton, Md., and Jalyn Holmes of Norfolk, Va. All are rated among the top players in the nation at their position.