For a team that’s been able to recruit the way the University of Georgia has for the past five or so years, it was only a matter of time before the Bulldogs reached the pinnacle of College Football.
Kirby Smart’s team ended a 41-year drought with Monday’s National Championship victory over Alabama. For a man and a staff that’s been able to dominate the recruiting trail, it was the lone stone on the Infinity Gauntlet that was missing.
Now that Georgia has conquered that feat, it’ll only have further impacts on the recruiting trail. It will certainly affect programs like Clemson and the University of Alabama, to name a couple. Each program comes with winning pedigrees, but Georgia’s National Championship win is hot off the press.
After Georgia’s win on Monday, The Clemson Insider decided to take a look at the 2023 recruiting class and some of the prospects the Bulldogs and Tigers will be recruiting against each other for. Some of those prospects include five-stars such as Arch Manning, A.J. Harris and Peter Woods, to name a few.
Of course, the most high-profile target for whom Clemson and Georgia are both contenders is New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman five-star quarterback Arch Manning.
Along with the Tigers and Bulldogs, schools such as Ole Miss, Texas and Alabama have been heavily involved with Manning, the nation’s top-ranked prospect in the 2023 class regardless of position.
Manning visited each of those schools during the season and may take another round of trips before moving toward making his commitment. A decision could come sometime later in the spring or this summer.
Clemson has certainly made Manning a priority recruit in the 2023 class. Brandon Streeter paid a visit to Manning’s school in early December, then a week later, went back to Isidore Newman with C.J. Spiller to check on Manning again and visit with his head coach at Isidore Newman, Nelson Stewart.
Stewart told TCI he believes Dabo Swinney will travel to Manning’s school next week.
It’s no secret that Clemson and Georgia will directly battle one another for cornerbacks on the recruiting trail and the 2023 class is only further proof of that.
Though, let’s turn back the clock to this past December’s signing period.
After decommitting from Clemson in the aftermath of Brent Venables’ departure from Clemson, Daylen Everette found a new home in Athens. The IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) product signed with Smart’s program after being verbally committed to Swinney and Clemson for nearly six months.
There are four cornerbacks in the 2023 recruiting class that have offers from both Clemson and Georgia — Central (Phenix City, Ala.) five-star A.J. Harris, Thompson (Alabaster, Ala.) five-star Tony Mitchell, Roswell (Ga.) four-star Ethan Nation and Westlake (Atlanta, Ga.) four-star Avieon Terrell.
Mitchell is down to a top-7, which includes Clemson and Georgia, but he could be poised to stay home and play for Nick Saban’s program. As for Harris, the elite cornerback prospect recently backed off a Jan. 11 commitment date in the wake of all the coaching changes this offseason. Clemson is certainly in the mix here and will be in it to the end, as Harris weighs his options going forward.
In the case of Harris and other cornerbacks that the teams have mutually offered, it’s worth mentioning that Clemson has only offered six players, counting Wednesday’s offer of American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) four-star Damari Bown, compared to UGA offering upwards of 20.
Clemson has prioritized particular recruits and that includes Nation and Terrell, who is, of course, the younger brother of former Clemson and now current Atlanta Falcons cornerback, A.J. Terrell.
Clemson cornerbacks coach Mike Reed has been in to check in with Nation and Terrell, as well as Harris.
Even through a staff shakeup, Clemson has been able to maintain some level of consistency in Reed, who is coming off a season in which he coached not one, but two first-team All-ACC cornerback selections in Andrew Booth, Jr. and Mario Goodrich.
Reed staying in place is important here. He opted to stay at Clemson amid staff upheaval and in return earned a raise and a promotion. He’s now the team’s special teams coordinator, in addition to coaching the cornerbacks.
On the other hand, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported Thursday that Georgia’s defensive backs coach, Jahmile Addae, could be moving on from his current role. The Bulldogs also lost their now-former defensive coordinator, Dan Lanning, who accepted the head coaching position at the University of Oregon.
There are plenty of mutual targets for Clemson and UGA on the defensive line. The list of D-linemen in the 2023 class with offers from both the Tigers and Bulldogs includes Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco five-star Matayo Uiagalelei, Warner Robins (Ga.) five-star Vic Burley, Alabaster (Ala.) Thompson five-star Peter Woods, Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton five-star Lebbeus Overton, Troy (Ala.) Carver four-star Jaquavious Russaw, Gardendale (Ala.) four-star Kelby Collins, Kissimmee (Fla.) Osceola four-star Derrick LeBlanc, Columbus (Ga.) Carver four-star Darron Reed, Hickory (N.C.) four-star Rico Walker and New Bern (N.C.) four-star Keith Sampson.
Obviously, Matayo has ties to D.J. and Clemson, but it remains to be seen whether he will end up staying on the West Coast, playing somewhere in the SEC or perhaps following his brother to Tiger Town.
Burley, Russaw, Reed and Sampson are all planning to attend Clemson’s Elite Junior Day on Jan. 29. Collins told TCI in December that he would likely be at the elite junior day as well. The Tigers invited Walker to come and he’s going to do his best to make an appearance but is unsure of what his schedule may look like due to other visits in the month of January.
Woods recently named Clemson one of his top six schools — along with Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Oregon – and told TCI that Todd Bates’ departure to Oklahoma doesn’t impact where the Tigers stand in his recruitment.
Coach Bates leaving Clemson doesn’t change the way I view the program, the school itself, or the rest of the staff,” Woods said.
Clemson’s most recent D-line offers went out last week to Russaw, Reed, Walker and Sampson.
Recruiting battles will also surely include, but are not limited to prospects such as Blessed Trinity Catholic (Roswell, Ga.) four-star running back Justice Haynes, whose father, Verron, played his college football at Georgia.
There’s also Hickory Ridge (Harrisburg, N.C.) four-star wide receiver Christian Hamilton, who recently included Clemson and UGA in his top-12 schools, and Mill Creek (Hoschton, Ga.) five-star safety Caleb Downs. Though, it appears the Tigers have some more pull with the Peach State product at the moment.
Clemson and Georgia will continue to be fierce rivals on and off the field, but time will tell how much the Bulldogs’ National Championship win will affect both teams on the recruiting trail, especially in the 2023 recruiting class.