Clemson already assembling impressive 2016 recruiting class

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney talks to reporters about his 2015 recruiting class last week. The Tigers have already received commitments from several highly recruiting high school juniors. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Fresh off its top-5 recruiting class for 2015, Clemson has begun putting together another stellar group for 2016.

Clemson has eight commitments for the 2016 class after Spartanburg running back Tavien Feaster, wide receiver Cornell Powell of Greenville, N.C., and linebacker Jamie Skalski of Newnan, Ga., announced their intentions to sign with the Tigers last week. Clemson was the first to offer Feaster in 2013 and immediately moved to the front of the list as he added offers from South Carolina, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Penn State, North Carolina, Virginia, Nebraska and Notre Dame.

“I enjoyed my recruiting process but Clemson is where I want to be,” Feaster said. “I’ve known they were my top choice and five days ago I told everybody I was ready.”

Feaster attended Clemson’s junior day late last month and soon after decided he was ready to make his final decision and join what he thinks will be a program that will contend for ACC and national titles.

“Coach Swinney was telling me he’s building a dynasty,” Feaster said. “From what I see they are getting some highly recruited guys. They’ve got a wonderful quarterback, a big 2015 offensive line, great receivers that are already there and great receivers coming in. He’s put together a pretty good bunch.” Feaster is regarded by some as the nation’s top running back prospect. Last season he rushed for 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 45 passes for 1,016 yards and 11 touchdowns. He knows Clemson will have several veteran running backs in the program but he’s not expecting to stand on the sideline for long.

“From what I’m told, they didn’t sign a 2015 back and they won’t sign another 2016 back,” Feaster said. “They’ve just got those young backs they had in 2014. I believe I can go in and compete for the spot right away.”

Skalski announced for the Tigers over USC. He also had offers from North Carolina, Ole Miss, Central Florida, Marshall, Louisville and Wake Forest. At one point, Skalski favored USC but he visited Clemson in late December and that visit moved the Tigers to the front of his list.  He was back for their junior day late last month and that sealed his decision.

“I knew I liked the football and coaches at Clemson already and I just wanted to see the facilities and the academics,” Skalski said.  “The facilities they have and the ones they are going to build, and the supporting cast, I like it all.”

Skalski was limited to seven games last season because of a broken hand. He had 78 tackles and three sacks.

Powell attended Clemson’s junior day in late January and made up his mind then. Some of his other offers were USC, Ohio State, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, East Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and West Virginia. Last season Powell caught 67 passes for 1,248 yards and 19 touchdowns.

USC last week offered junior linebacker TJ Brunson of Richland Northeast. The Gamecocks join N.C. State and Georgia Southern with offers for Brunson.  Brunson attended the Gamecocks’ junior day last month where he was able to size them up and vice versa.

“I’m excited about the offer,” Brunson said. “Their defense is very similar to ours and I can see myself playing in it and understanding what’s happening. I will go to a spring practice and I will take an official visit there my senior year.”

Brunson said the Gamecocks currently sit at the top of his list. He is also drawing interest from Clemson, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Wake Forest, Purdue and Louisville. Last season Brunson made 134 tackles and four sacks.

Goose Creek defensive end Javon Kinlaw visited Clemson and USC for their junior days late last month. Kinlaw doesn’t have any other visits planned but he wants to get down to see Florida. He had USC and Florida tied at the top of the list but once again he has the Gamecocks out front, he says by a 60-40 margin.

“They keep in contact,” Kinlaw said. “They are always around. But I’m not rushing a decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life.”

Kinlaw has offers from USC, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Louisville and East Carolina.  Some schools view him as an offensive tackle but Kinlaw sees himself strictly as a defensive end in college. He had 50 tackles and eight sacks last season.

Lineman John Simpson of Fort Dorchester could not make the USC or Clemson junior days because of wrestling matches. He won in the region competition, by the way, and is on his way to the Lower State finals. His most recent offers are from Louisville and Georgia Southern. He also has offers from USC, Clemson, Georgia, Wake Forest and Maryland.

Linebacker Brandon Hill of Heathwood Hall picked up an offer from Virginia Tech. That’s his fourth offer, all from the ACC. The others are from Clemson, Wake Forest and Duke. Hill attended Clemson’s junior day last month. He will go to Duke on Feb. 21, Wake Forest on Feb. 22 and Florida State on Feb. 28.

Lake Marion defensive back James Valdez was offered Wednesday by Michigan. Valdez currently is committed to N.C. State. He also has offers from USC, Tennessee, North Carolina and Wake Forest.

Offensive lineman Jack DeFoor of Calhoun, Ga., who is a Clemson target and lean, picked up offers from Ole Miss and Colorado State. Clemson tight end commitment JC Chalk of Argyle, Tex., was offered by SMU.