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Recruiting board watch: Tight end

Clemson’s 2018 recruiting class is currently comprised of five commitments, two on offense and three on defense. Cartersville (Ga.) five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 2018 prospect, headlines a Clemson group that is ranked seventh in the country by 247Sports in the early going with all of the pledges rated among the recruiting service’s top 250 prospects.

The class will end up similar in size to Clemson’s 14-member 2017 class, as the Tigers are expected to take anywhere from 13 to 16 prospects.

After not signing a tight end in the 2017 class, Clemson will sign one in 2018.

Clemson has six scholarship tight ends on the roster heading into the 2017 season, though four of the scholarships will come off the books by the end of the 2018 season. D.J. Greenlee is a rising redshirt senior, while Milan Richard and Cannon Smith are in line to be redshirt seniors in 2018. Garrett Williams is on track to be a true senior in 2018.

So, one can see why the Tigers are in the market for a tight end in this cycle. And with limited available scholarships, they are looking to make the most of the one they use on a tight end.

A few that have the potential to be difference-makers in the future sit atop Clemson’s board at the position.

The Tigers’ top target at this juncture is Missouri City (Texas) Ridge Point four-star Mustapha Muhammad, a consensus top-250 overall prospect who is rated by ESPN as the No. 36 player in the class and the No. 1 tight end.

Clemson extended one of his 30-plus offers last April, and he made his first visit to Clemson for the school’s Junior Day on Jan. 28 before traveling to Oklahoma State for its Junior Day on Feb. 11. During the visit Muhammad was able to meet Dabo Swinney, who he called “relatable” and “a players’ coach.” He also chopped it up with Lawrence again after meeting him at the Under Armour Future 50 Underclassmen Camp in Orlando in December. Muhammad has been high on Clemson for a while, and told us after the visit that Clemson “really felt like home.”

Clemson is in good standing with him, and the Tigers certainly have staying power coming off of the national championship and with future NFLer Jordan Leggett serving as a recent example of success. He is expected to narrow his list of options in May, with Clemson and in-state Texas and Texas A&M virtual locks to make the cut. Florida State, among other schools, is a factor.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder was a first-team all-district selection as a junior after catching 29 passes for 430 yards and four touchdowns.

Big Stone Gap (Va.) Union four-star tight end James Mitchell was also present at Clemson’s Junior Day. It marked his fourth visit to the school and third since last summer, when he competed at the Dabo Swinney Camp in June prior to returning for the Louisville game in October. He most recently visited Duke for its Junior Day on Feb. 4.

Mitchell, a top-250 prospect by Rivals and the service’s No. 11 tight end, received a long-awaited offer from Clemson on Jan. 17. As expected, his recruitment is starting to heat up — Miami, Louisville, Ole Miss and West Virginia have offered over the past few weeks, joining Clemson, Duke, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest on his offer sheet.

Mitchell told us after his Junior Day visit that he is “very impressed with Clemson.” He was especially intrigued by the new football operations facility, in particular the PAW Journey aspect of it, a special section devoted to helping players develop the skills they need to be successful in life after football. Clemson is high on Mitchell’s list of top schools, which he could release before his senior season. In-state Virginia and Virginia Tech were first to offer Mitchell last February and March, respectively, and are a couple of schools that carry weight in his recruitment.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder was named a first-team all-state tight end and his conference’s player of the year following his junior season.

Another name to keep an eye on is Jacksonville (Fla.) Providence four-star Will Mallory, who Clemson offered the same day as Mitchell on Jan. 17. Mallory, a top-200 prospect and top-10 tight end by 247Sports, took in Clemson’s game against Syracuse last season and is reportedly planning to visit again during his spring break.

Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee are some of the nearly 30 schools that have offered him. Michigan has long been viewed as the favorite. His dad, Mike Mallory, played alongside Jim Harbaugh at Michigan in the early 1980s, and two of his uncles were also Wolverines. Miami is another school heavily involved.

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