Fairfield (Ohio) five-star Jackson Carman, the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle, threw the recruiting world a curveball on Tuesday when he announced following his first visit to Clemson that it is now his top school.
Carman has long been thought to favor in-state Ohio State and had maintained the Buckeyes were his number-one school throughout his recruiting process to that point.
If Ohio State is behind Clemson, it’s by a slim margin. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have made Carman their highest priority in this recruiting cycle, and they are still the team to unseat for the state of Ohio’s best prospect.
But the fact Carman declared Clemson his favorite shows Clemson hit a home run with him on the visit. Clemson’s coaching staff, starting with top dog Dabo Swinney, and the culture that has been created within the program resonated with Carman.
“According to him obviously they’re number one, but Ohio State’s right there,” said Jason Krause, Carman’s head coach at Fairfield who accompanied him on the trip. “And he’s got some other schools. He’s going to visit Florida State, Southern Cal, LSU, Wisconsin. He wants to visit those places, and that’s kind of his short list right now.
“But I think just after spending the time around the program at Clemson, he really, really enjoyed it. He felt like he fit right in with the coaches and the players he got to spend the evening with, and that’s probably his biggest thing right now is his comfortability is what he says. His comfortability and the program, the coaching staff, the players and then obviously the degree that comes along with the university that he chooses and the value of that.”
Altogether it was a 35-hour round trip for Carman and Krause, who arrived at Clemson on Monday, spent the day on campus and traveled back home early Tuesday.
The two took a tour of the facilities, saw the academic side of things, sat in on team and position meetings, attended the Tigers’ practice and watched a little film. Carman was able to hang out with some Clemson players and fellow recruits that evening.
Carman also had a lengthy conversation with Swinney, and he liked what he heard.
“I think coach Swinney was just kind of reiterating what they’re about as a program,” Krause said. “How they develop the culture, the expectations of their young men when they come in. Obviously where Jack would be fitting in that program if he came to Clemson and things like that.
“I thought it was a really good job by coach Swinney the way he talked about character and academics and all of the other things involved with the decision-making process of a high school kid, picking a school.”
According to Krause, Swinney made quite the impression on Carman.
“He’s obviously a players’ coach and a coaches’ coach,” Krause said. “Everybody kind of leads in different ways, and coach Swinney’s leadership is he likes to roll his sleeves up and get right in there and get dirty with everybody along the way. That was evident by watching him at practice and just watching him in relationship with his guys throughout the facility there.”
Overall, it was Swinney, his staff and the culture at Clemson that left Carman feeling like he would fit right in there.
“I think the first thing was his appreciation for the coaching staff at Clemson and the kind of guys they were, and just the kind of vibe and energy that they gave off,” Krause said. “It’s a family atmosphere with a great culture. They pay attention to details, and Jack noticed that as well. All the way from the facilities to just watching them coach in practice.”
Carman, who is ranked as a top-10 overall prospect in the 2018 class by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports, intends to take all five of his official visits next season before advancing toward a decision.
Clemson, Krause said, is a lock to get one of those officials.
“I know for sure he wants to attend a game next year and he wants to see that atmosphere and kind of get that energy,” Krause said. “So he’ll definitely be taking an official visit there next year and attending a game.”
Up next for Carman is a visit to Ohio State from April 14-15. He will stay the day and night on campus before taking in the Buckeyes’ spring game on the 15th.
Krause said he might attend Michigan State’s spring game tomorrow, as well. He also plans to visit Wisconsin at some point and is slated for a visit to Florida State in June.
Right now, though, Clemson and Ohio State are ahead of the pack, and there is nothing to indicate that will change anytime soon.
When it comes time for him to make a college choice, comfort level with a school and program will be of primary importance.
“He definitely wants to do his due diligence in finding the best fit for him as a young man and as a player,” Krause said. “So he’s going to do that homework, and once he’s done with that process, then he’ll make his decision.”