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By Billy TuckerUnfortunately for Tiger fans, the dominos quickly fell on the beautiful campus of Clemson University this week following the resignation of head coach Tommy Bowden. Almost instantaneously, it lost the No. 1 safety duo in the country in Craig Loston (Aldine, Texas/Eisenhower) and Devonte Holloman (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe). Loston's decommitment was not quite a shocker; ESPN's top-rated safety had already stated publicly he was looking around, but the program definitely felt a sting in losing Holloman, the Palmetto State's No. 2-rated prospect.
To add to the implosion, we learned Wednesday night that talented athlete Larry Raper (Shelby, N.C.) is now exploring other options. So is Under Armour All-American linebacker Eric Fields (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside), who has been shaky since his commitment back in April. Now, a once-strong class that claimed a No. 6 ranking as recently as Monday is beginning to look quite ordinary. The Tigers dropped out of the top 15 in our latest release on Friday and could struggle to remain in the top 25 if this class continues to be fall apart.
Despite some unsettlement within the Tigers' coaching staff and a handful of prospects' jumping ship, we did find some stability in the core of this class. In his new role at the helm, Dabo Swinney has his hands full in preparation for this week's contest versus Georgia Tech, but Clemson's interim head coach made the time to reach out to the remaining prospects in this '09 class, offering reassurance as well as asking for assistance.
"I am solid right now with Clemson, and coach Swinney asked a few of us to be leaders of this class," said ESPNU 150 defensive end Malliciah Goodman (Florence, S.C./West). "He asked us to step up and keep this good class together."
Goodman said Swinney came across like a new leader as well: "Coach said he can turn things around and to just stay with him."
In the case of Goodman, Swinney and the Tigers' staff may not have to do much convincing. Decommitting often occurs when a prospect chooses a school primarily for its coach and football program. In the case of the physically impressive Goodman, ESPN's No. 9-rated defensive end, the gridiron did not take precedence over Clemson's academics and his overall interest in the university. That strong message is what he's trying to convey to the remaining nine committed prospects. So far, Goodman has been getting his point across.
"[Top-25 outside linebacker] Quandon Christian (Lake View, S.C.) wasn't sure if he wanted to stay committed at first," Goodman said. "We talked, and I basically just told him you're not just going to Clemson for one coach, and he is strong again."
One of the other assigned leaders in the class is longtime Tiger pledge J.K. Jay (Greenville, S.C./Christ Church). The ESPNU 150 tackle spoke with us this week about his close relationship with Bowden and the realism his resignation brings to the recruiting front.
"He was an inspiration to me," Jay said. "He really connected with me and helped me with my faith, but they did what was best for the team."
Although he will assist in making sure this class doesn't fall apart, Jay said, he also recognizes the reality that some of his fellow Tiger commits will need to explore all of their options.
"It's a business, and you have to understand that, and the fans have to understand that. I think recruits are just trying to cover their bases and make sure they are taken care of no matter what happens."
At this time last year, Bowden was in the driver's seat on the recruiting trail and about four months away from signing the No. 2 recruiting class in the country. Things have certainly come full circle in Clemson, S.C.
Clemson wasn't the only school hit hard because of its subpar fall performance. West Virginia hasn't quite lived up to its expectations on the field in 2008, despite its 4-2 record. A once nationally regarded offensive attack is stagnant and currently ranked sixth in the Big East. But it's the Mountaineers last-ranked passing attack, at a measly 117 yards per game, that has deterred ESPNU 150 quarterback Tajh Boyd (Hampton, Va./Phoebus).
"He just isn't overly comfortable with where the offense is going at West Virginia right now," Boyd's father, Tim, explained to us this week. "We gave it half the year to see how things would progress. Tajh wants to not only be an athlete, but also a passer that can throw the ball downfield, not just throw screens."
Boyd will focus his recruiting attention on Boston College and Tennessee.
We presume most of Michigan's pledges knew this would be a rebuilding season in Ann Arbor, but we doubt many of them expected a 2-4 start and a loss to the non-BCS Toledo Rockets. ESPNU 150 receiver Bryce McNeal (Minneapolis/Breck) announced this week that he will be looking elsewhere.
One of the schools now on his radar screen is Minnesota, which boasts a 6-1 record. Head coach Tim Brewster and the Golden Gopher program could use a stud like our No. 9 overall receiver. Interestingly, Brewster has not assembled the same type of talent at this point that earned Minnesota a top-25 recruiting ranking last February, despite its 1-11 record. Winning is definitely more attractive, but selling early playing on a losing program can also be a lure on the recruiting trail.
Gamecock defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will have great scheme versatility in his future secondary when Gilmore and fellow in-state standouts Damario Jeffery (Columbia, S.C) and Chris Payne (Columbia, S.C.) arrive on campus. There is an infusion of youth and talent on South Carolina's current two deep at safety, but Gilmore, like the Jeffery, could potentially line up at a number of different positions in the back seven. The smooth 6-foot-1 athlete shows the excellent foot-quickness needed to play corner and the speed to line up and make plays periodically at any of the offensive skill positions, even quarterback.
Their positions will be sorted out once they arrive on campus. The big picture is that the ol' ball coach now has commitments from half of the state's top-6 players and is in the mix for the remaining three: safety Devonte Holloman (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe), defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C.) and guard Quinton Washington (Saint Stephen, S.C./Timberland).
On The Trail
JUCO pass-catcher Cobb back to Utes
Travis Cobb, a receiver from Blinn CC, Texas, has recommitted to Utah of the Mountain West Conference.
Originally from Rocky Mount, N.C., Cobb had reopened his recruitment last August. He also holds scholarship offers from Arizona, UAB, Memphis and Ohio.
He continued, "I want to see different places too. I'm from North Carolina and I'm in Texas now, so I want to see a lot of places."
The Salt Lake Tribune adds that Cobb had narrowed his list down to Utah, Arizona and UAB before recommitting to the Utes.
• Cobb's On the Trail archive
UGA-bound Murray likely done for the year
Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla./Plant), Georgia's prized class of 2009 pledge, sustained a dislocated left ankle and broken left fibula during Thursday night's 44-28 win over Hillsborough, ESPN affiliate Web site TotalUGA.com reports.
At this time it is unknown how long Murray's rehabilitation will be, but according to TotalUGA.com, "It appears Murray's next game will be as a Georgia Bulldog."
Before suffering the injury, Murray had passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 95 yards and another score.
• Murray's On the Trail archive
• Complete On the Trail updates
Craig Haubert: I think the Huskers have the best shot with the talented defensive end Graham -- after that possibly Adams -- but of the 3 Graham is likely the best possibility
Randy (St. Paul, Minn.): With Bryce McNeal back out on the market, is there a good possibility that he will stay home and play for the Gophers, especially considering their on field success this year?
Craig Haubert: Michigan is still in the race for him, but at this point I do think the in-state Gophers have a good shot at him
Austin (San Diego): Does Shaquelle Evans look like a lock for Notre Dame,?
Craig Haubert: Not going to say lock -- that USC campus is very close to Evans -- but it does look like ND has got themselves in the drivers seat and it is their game to lose so to speak.
Mostly, Lipscomb misses a heaping pot of New Orleans seafood gumbo laced with Tabasco sauce. He was born and reared in the city that relishes Dixieland jazz. But he prefers another music style that originated in New Orleans: bounce music, a high-energy hip-hop sound that features a dual-musician call-and-response pattern.
"New Orleans is about culture, Cajun food and Mardi Gras; it's a unique place," said Lipscomb, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior running back. "You can never forget where you come from."
Lipscomb hopes Thursday night will be a night to remember. His Cypress Ridge (Texas) team will host Cypress Falls (Texas) in the 2008 ESPN Old Spice High School Showcase in a sold-out Berry Center (ESPNU, 8 p.m. ET).
"The whole team, we're anxious for the game," Lipscomb said of the key District 15-5A contest. "We've worked hard for the chance to play on ESPN. It's a big stage and brings publicity to our team."
|Clemson's 2009 verbals|