As Clemson looks to close out its 2021 recruiting class in strong fashion, it is also beginning to lay the groundwork for the 2022 class as evidenced by its numerous offers to rising junior recruits since June 1.
In our Looking Ahead series, The Clemson Insider gives a position-by-position overview of the top remaining targets in the current cycle and looks ahead to some of the names to know in the 2022 class.
In this article, we focus on defensive tackles:
Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley defensive tackle Payton Page is the only prospect at his position that Clemson has been pursuing in the 2021 cycle, and he remains the Tigers’ bulls-eyed target heading into the stretch run of his recruitment.
Page — ranked as high as the No. 30 overall prospect in the country by Rivals — still hopes to render a commitment decision before his upcoming senior season. The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder is working with a top three of Clemson, North Carolina and Tennessee that he released in April.
Clemson has played host to Page three times since offering him last summer. He attended a couple of games at Death Valley in the fall and most recently returned to campus for the Tigers’ elite junior day in January. He has built a strong bond with defensive tackles coach Todd Bates and loves how the coaches treat him like family when he is on campus.
Tennessee got Page’s latest visit in early March before the NCAA shut down all in-person recruiting due to the coronavirus, and the Volunteers look like Clemson’s biggest competition. However, the Tigers have long been the frontrunner to land Page and we continue to like where they stand as he draws closer to making his college choice.
Looking ahead to the next cycle, a couple of defensive tackles were among the first group of class of 2022 prospects that picked up offers from Clemson on June 1: Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley’s Travis Shaw and Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy’s Walter Nolen, both of whom are rated as five-star prospects by Rivals.
Shaw camped at Clemson last summer after traveling to campus for last year’s Orange & White spring game. There is a lot about Dabo Swinney’s program that appeals to Shaw.
“Just how family oriented it is,” he told The Clemson Insider recently. “It’s a winning school. They produce a lot of D-linemen in the NFL. Coach Swinney’s senior graduation numbers are high, so that’s always a good sign. And really, there’s just a lot that Clemson has that a lot of schools don’t have.”
Over two dozen programs have extended offers to Shaw, including schools such as Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Penn State and Oklahoma to name some.
A rising junior, Shaw would ideally like to have his commitment decision out of the way before his senior year begins in 2021. Expect Clemson to be a top contender for the duration of his recruitment.
“If I make a top five or a top 10 or a top 20 or a top 25, they will definitely be in it,” he said.
Shaw was extremely productive as a sophomore last season when he totaled 110 tackles, including 18 for loss and 12 sacks, to go with 19 quarterback hurries.
As for Nolen, Clemson joined an offer list which also includes Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma, among others.
Nolen has not had a chance to visit Clemson yet but was able to take a virtual visit of the school and program and liked what he saw. The interest from Nolen is there, so look for the Tigers to try to get him on campus for an actual visit at some point after the NCAA dead period comes to an end. As Swinney likes to say, if they can get a prospect on campus, then they will have a chance.
Nolen, who is originally from Olive Branch, Mississippi, recently transferred to IMG. As a sophomore at Olive Branch High School in 2019, he racked up 92 tackles including 26 for loss.
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