It’s time for this week’s edition of The Insider Report.
We hope everyone had a great weekend.
Tomarrion Parker update
After speaking with multiple sources, we wanted to pass along the latest we’ve been hearing on Clemson’s pursuit of Phenix City (Ala.) Central four-star defensive end Tomarrion Parker.
It’s no secret that the returns from the prized pass rusher’s unofficial visit for Clemson’s 35-12 win over Furman on Saturday, Sept. 10, have been great. Currently, we can tell you that the Tigers feel relatively solid in their standing with Parker and certainly have a chance at landing his commitment.
At the same time, Parker still has official visits lined up to Tennessee and Florida, in addition to the official visit he’ll be taking to Clemson for the weekend of Oct. 22, which coincides with the Tigers’ matchup against Syracuse.
In any event, Parker has become Clemson’s prized target and is said to be the team that’s been pursuing him the hardest. The former Penn State commit has other visits to take before he renders a solution on his college decision and while we feel good about where Clemson stands, Parker is not anywhere close to a final decision.
Initial visitors for the Clemson-N.C. State game
Clemson’s Oct. 1 matchup against N.C. State is lining up to be a big recruiting weekend for the Tigers.
The Clemson Insider has been able to confirm a partial guest list for what is looking like the premier in-season recruiting event for Clemson’s class of 2024 targets.
Here are some of those names:
Burlington (N.C.) Hugh M. Cummings four-star wide receiver Jonathan Paylor, Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley High four-star wide receiver Alex Taylor, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas four-star wide receiver James Madison II, Cass (Cartersville, Ga.) three-star wide receiver Sacovie White, Savannah (Ga.) Calvary Day School four-star quarterback Jake Merklinger and Hough (Cornelius, N.C.) kicker Nolan Hauser.
As for some unconfirmed juniors, Tampa (Fla.) Carrollwood Day four-star defensive back Tavoy Feagin told The Clemson Insider that he will “most likely” be in attendance for the N.C. State game, while fast-rising quarterback Mason Fortune out of Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C) told us that he’s trying to work out a visit and it’s possible it could be for the State game.
Other names that will likely be in attendance are Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Cardinal Gibbons 2023 WR Patrick Stepelton, Central (S.C.) D W Daniel 2023 WR Jaylen Brown-Wallace, Buford (Ga.) 2025 four-star linebacker Jadon Perlotte and Cass (Cartersville, Ga.) 2026 QB Brodie McWhorter.
There will certainly be more names that come to light and we will provide the necessary updates at a later time.
Big-time Peach State lineman high on Clemson after latest visit
It’s no secret that Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) offensive lineman Cortez Smith likes Clemson. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound sophomore in the class of 2025 was on campus for Clemson’s 48-20 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night, along with two of his teammates — one of them being a five-star athlete in Mike Matthews.
“It was amazing,” Smith told The Clemson Insider regarding his experience. “Especially the part where we got to see them run down the hill. It was so energetic. It was loud. It was a great game too. Clemson’s a great place.”
Did anything stand out about Clemson’s game-day environment?
“It’s got to be when they ran down the hill,” Smith explained “That’s the best part of the game right there. You could feel the energy (from the top of the hill). The whole crowd was cheering for them.”
Smith had the chance to speak with Clemson offensive line coach Thomas Austin before the game, as well as co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Mickey Conn.
Every time Smith sees Austin, their relationship seemingly gets better. He’s quickly become a primary target for Clemson in the class of 2025, even if he’ll have to likely wait until next June for that offer to come. With that said, Smith plans to pay Clemson plenty of more visits in the future.
Peach State receiver has ‘unbelievable’ visit to Clemson
A junior Peach State wide receiver on Clemson’s recruiting radar returned to campus this past weekend.
Johns Creek (Ga.) High School’s Kyle Vaka – whose sister actually goes to Clemson – was back in Tiger Town for Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech.
TCI caught up with Vaka, who said the visit to Clemson and the night atmosphere at Death Valley “was unbelievable.”
“The crowd was incredible,” he said. “The lights, the scoreboard, the entrance – everything was electric and a really incredible and a great experience.”
Vaka had the chance to spend time with offensive player development coach Tajh Boyd, and Vaka and his father were able to eat dinner with receivers coach Tyler Grisham.
Vaka told TCI he “definitely” feels his relationship with Grisham grew stronger Saturday while talking about things beyond football.
“We just had some great conversations about not only football but what’s important in life – relationships, God, values and just building your life around that,” he said. “So, Coach Grisham’s a really good coach. He’s a really good dude as well, and you can see that through the conversations he has with the recruits, with the players – not even just talking about football but about life and what’s important in life.”
Vaka has traveled to Clemson a bunch of times. He made his way to campus for a couple of games last season, went to the spring game in April and camped at Clemson this summer for the second year in a row, not to mention a couple of other trips he has made to visit his sister.
Vaka intends to camp at Clemson again next summer. The 6-foot, 170-pounder also plans to get back on campus again this year and in the spring as well.
Prior to Saturday’s Clemson visit, Vaka went to Vanderbilt a week earlier for its game vs. Wake Forest. While he had a great experience at Vandy, he admitted “it’s hard to compare to Clemson.”
Vaka has 13 catches for 275 yards and two touchdowns through four games this season.
Promising QB prospect returns to Tiger Town
Clemson played host Saturday to a promising young quarterback prospect – a local product who now plays in the Peach State.
Gavin Owens, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomore in the class of 2025, made his way to Death Valley for the Louisiana Tech game.
Owens, who has been participating in the Dabo Swinney Camp since he was about 10 years old, has traveled to Tiger Town numerous times and once again enjoyed his latest trip to campus.
On Saturday, he was able to catch up with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter, as well as Boyd.
“You always know, I always go back there and I love it,” Owens told TCI after Saturday’s visit. “Every time I go, it’s always a good experience.”
Owens played his freshman season at Wren High School (Piedmont, S.C.) but has since transferred to Rabun Gap-Nacoochee (Rabun Gap, Ga.). In leading his team to a 4-1 record through five games this season, he has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions, according to MaxPreps.
As for what he heard from Streeter and Boyd on Saturday, Owens said, “They just asked how my season was going, and I said I’d let them know how I was doing, and they just told me to keep up the good work.”
Owens cited being around the coaches, taking in the environment again, going into the locker room after the game, and seeing how the players and coaches interact with each other as the best parts of his visit.
Owens owns a half-dozen offers already, including an SEC offer from Kentucky and ACC offers from Louisville and Virginia Tech.
As a freshman last season, Owens passed for 2,262 yards and 19 touchdowns while also rushing for 125 yards and four more scores on the ground.
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