By Hale McGranahan.
TCI Recruiting analyst Hale McGranahan weighs in with his thoughts on his favorite prospects in Clemson’s 2015 class.
QB – Kelly Bryant
There was a time during Bryant’s prep career when he was viewed as more of an athlete than a quarterback. While some may still take that stance, since transferring from the Abbeville Wing-T to Wren’s version of the hurry-up, no-huddle, Bryant’s made significant strides as a quarterback. In his first season at Wren, he completed 63 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,665 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also tacked on 1,174 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns on the ground.
Impressive first-year numbers aside, it was a conversation with Bryant at the end of his sophomore year that has made him such a personal favorite. That morning at Abbeville, he was asked whether or not he preferred one position over another at the next level. His answer: Quarterback. Why? The spotlight, the pressure and everything else that comes with playing the position are things that Bryant wants to experience.
Bryant is on his way back to the 200-pound range after losing nearly 40 pounds during later winter/early spring because of a stomach infection. At 6-4, Bryant runs extremely well, and that certainly is his best physical tool right now. As Bryant continues to refine his mechanics as a passer, his upside as a college quarterback prospect will continue to increase.
WR – Deon Cain
Cain has been the starting quarterback at Tampa Bay Tech his entire high school career. During the summer 7-on-7 and camp circuits, Cain has worked at wide receiver. He’s a five-star wide receiver, according to 24/7. Scout and Rivals rate him with four stars. At Clemson, Cain profiles best at the 9-position, the same spot that DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant occupied over the last three seasons.
Cain and Hopkins are both 6-foot-1. While Hopkins is currently listed at 214 pounds, he was a slight 175 coming out of high school in 2010. Cain currently checks in at 190. After a few years in Clemson’s strength program, he could be one of the most rocked up wide receivers in all of college football.
For a guy who has minimal experience playing wide receiver, he certainly looks pretty natural doing it. During the Rivals camp series this spring he was regularly listed among the top performers. And, while in Oregon for The Opening, Cain was one of the most impressive wide receivers during 7-on-7 play. Just imagine how good he’ll be once wide receiver is his full-time position.
OT – Mitch Hyatt
This one is a no brainer, right? Every recruiting service (Scout, Rivals, 24/7, ESPN) rate Hyatt as a five-star prospect. According to Scout, Rivals and ESPN rank Hyatt is the No. 2 overall offensive tackle in the class. He’s third-overall on the 24/7 list.
While Hyatt may be a bit on the lean side, he has the body type and shape that college coaches would prefer to see from their incoming offensive tackles. There’s nothing sloppy about the 275 pounds he carries around the hallways at North Gwinnett High School. After Hyatt arrives to Clemson in January, the Clemson coaches probably won’t have many issues with tacking on good weight to the franchise left tackle.
Like Bryant, some of the intrigue with Hyatt is intangible. While his physical tools are nice (footwork, technique, etc.), Hyatt has the mental makeup of an offensive lineman. Quiet and unassuming away from the field, Hyatt is a different dude when he steps between the lines. He doesn’t need to be in the spotlight and has no interest in being heard.
ATH – Ray Ray McCloud
To be a fly on the wall during recruiting meetings inside Clemson’s West End Zone facility when McCloud’s name came up, it would be rather interesting, to say the least. Clemson offered McCloud after a strong showing at the Dabo Swinney Camp in June of 2013. Brent Venables and Mike Reed offered him as a defensive back. But as McCloud’s recruiting profile grew over the ensuing months, the Clemson staff changed its tune, telling McCloud he could come to Clemson to play Sammy Watkins’ 2-position.
McCloud is versatile enough to play a number of different positions at Clemson. At the 2, McCloud would be set in motion to take handoffs in the backfield, catch quick screens or get vertical in downfield passing game. He could even line up beside or behind the quarterback and have the look of a running back.
Some contend that McCloud’s highest upside is one the defensive side of the ball, namely as a cornerback. But, at this juncture, it seems unlikely that will happen during his time at Clemson.
OLB – Chad Smith
Scout, Rivals and 24/7 couldn’t be further from one another when it comes to sizing up what kind of a player Smith will be at the next level. A three-star prospect, according to Scout, Smith is ranked as the No. 52 outside linebacker in the country. Rivals views him as a four-star guy and ranks him No. 11 at the position while 24/7 lists him with three-stars and ranks him at No. 35.
His junior film, plus his work during the spring camp circuit, along with third-best Nike SPARQ rating in the country leads to the conclusion: Scout is way off base and 24/7 could probably stand to bump him a little higher. The Rivals ranking is probably the most accurate.
Highly-recruited offensive lineman Matthew Burrell, a fellow Virginian, has raved about the kind of competitor/trash talker that Smith is. Smith can back it up, too. His commitment is rock-solid and he’s one of the most dogged recruiters in the Tigers’ class. Burrell and five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle rode down to Clemson earlier this summer for camp.