By Keith McGonigle.
With National Signing Day in the books, it is time to hand out the TCI awards for the class of 2011.
Biggest Surprise – LB Tony Steward – Other than TCI, almost every national and local recruiting authority had Steward as a Seminole. So when one of the highest rated linebackers in the country decided to go against his mother’s wishes (much like CJ Spiller) and sign with Clemson it was a huge shock. Even though at TCI we had some inkling he would end up in Orange and Purple, it was still a surreal. Even former Gator coach Urban Meyer said multiple times that he was shocked that Steward, who he had talked to and seen at the Florida Camp, would choose Clemson over Florida State. He also said he believes that Steward would be a great linebacker for Clemson.
Most Potential– RB Mike Bellamy – Bellamy was another steal for the Tigers out of the state of Florida. Bellamy’s probably has the highest celling of any Tiger. He has unbelievable speed and quickness and showed during the Under-Armor game that he is willing to deliver a blow. The Speedy back may have a tough time adjusting to stronger competition and he still needs to add some weight (listed as 175 lbs but looks about 155 lbs), but there is so much hype around Bellamy, and rightfully so, because he has so much raw talent.
Most College Ready – WR Sammy Watkins and LB Stephone Anthony – When entering college most recruits have to work on a lot of things because in high school they got by just using their tremendous athleticism. Usually wide receivers need a lot of work on route running, but Sammy Watkins already seems to be an excellent route runner much like WR DeAndre Hopkins. It would not be surprising to see Watkins have a similar impact (maybe even more of a deep threat) on the offense as Hopkins did last year. Based off of Stephone Anthony’s highlight tapes, he is so athletic that he is probably good enough to play running back if he wanted to. But even though Anthony is ridiculously athletic, he is great at wrapping ball carriers up and dropping back into coverage, two things that talented linebackers usually don’t focus a lot of energy on. Anthony should be a big help to a Clemson linebacking core that had 0 interceptions last year and only one forced fumble.
Most Underrated – QB Tony McNeal – I really think that if McNeal, who stands at around 6’1” 190 lbs, were 2 or 3 inches taller, he would be considered one of the top signal callers in the country. McNeal played most of his college career from the spread, so I think he has a good chance of coming in and establishing himself as second on the depth chart.
Best Trench Guy – C Ryan Norton – The guys in the trenches usually are the forgotten bunch, but I think Norton is going to be a very good player. He is hard working, intense and goes 100% on every play; I think he will eventually be a fixture in the middle of the Tigers line.
Better Late Than Never – QB Morgan Roberts and DE Roderick Byers – Byers was actually offered on signing day. He has good size and will eventually end up in the Tigers defensive line rotation. Roberts is a guy I had seen highlights of before Clemson offered him. I was shocked that more teams had not offered him, he is a good looking quarterback and a winner, and even though he and Tony McNeal are not highly rated, I think both can become great quarterbacks for Clemson.
Big names flying Under the Radar – WR Charone Peake and DB Cortez Davis – With the hype surrounding National Signing Day it is easy to forget about the recruits that are already committed. Clemson fans should not forget about about Davis and Peake who are both highly rated recruits because, they are fast, tall, rangy players with great ball skills.
Don’t forget about these guys– WR Martavis Bryant and DE Corey Crawford – Bryant and Crawford were not able to enroll for academic reasons last year, but both highly regarded recruits could have an early impact for the Tigers. Let’s not forget that Bryant is 6’4”-6’5” runs in the 4.4’s and has all sorts of upside, and that Crawford dominated at Hargrove and has been rated top junior college prospect by many experts.