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Clemson

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

Large Linemen Helped
Cushion Major Blows

CLEMSON — Fred Culver had been by Mike McIntosh's side since he was in the seventh grade. Culver said they trusted each other completely during their time together, first when he coached McIntosh in track and field and later as an assistant football coach. “I don't know why he would not confide in me,” Culver said, two days after McIntosh surprisingly chose Florida over Clemson, where he had been committed since early January. “That's the question I want to ask him.” Clemson filled some needs with its 25-player 2004 class, which ended up being headlined by highly touted offensive lineman Cory Lambert. Many recruiting services rated Lambert one of the best tackles in the country. Rivals100.com ranked Clemson's class 53rd in the nation and eighth in the new-look ACC, behind Miami, Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The Tigers benefited late from landing safety Michael Hamlin over South Carolina and tight end Akeem Robinson over Florida. But the sudden departure of McIntosh, a top-25 receiver from Jacksonville, Fla., became the major signing day story for the Tigers. He had drawn raves from Clemson supporters for saying no to Florida State coach Bobby Bowden's face in January. McIntosh announced he was committing to Clemson on a television show, saying that Derrick Hamilton's early departure to the NFL figured into his decision because of the chance to play immediately. In the end, though, Florida proved too tough to beat. McIntosh never made an official visit to Gainesville, but he and his father John McIntosh visited the school on Super Bowl Sunday and watched the game in coach Ron Zook's office. “Clemson was offering him to throw him the ball as soon as he stepped off the plane. Florida was saying they could do the same thing, and they're hurting at the receiving spot just as much as Clemson is,” John McIntosh said. “I think the deciding factor was being a little closer to home, plus being a fan of Florida. Florida is the state school.” Even John McIntosh, though, was shocked by Mike McIntosh's decision. The elder McIntosh said he told his son the night before signing day to “go with your heart,” but he said he still figured Clemson would win. At First Coast High the next morning, McIntosh's teammate, Brandon Croley, faxed his signed letter of intent to the Tigers at 7:56. Clemson wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney told Culver he couldn't wait to get McIntosh's, too. Culver told Swinney it would be there at 9. But when McIntosh got to the stage for a signing day ceremony before 1,000 people, there were two hats on the table in front of him: one Clemson, one Florida. “The crowd wooed and knew he was going to Clemson. He put on the Florida hat,” Culver said. “I thought he was joking. I'm thinking, ‘OK, Mike, take it off.' He bent his head down and picked the pen up and started signing and never looked up. From that point on, my heart ain't really been the same since that moment.” Swinney said he was not upset that McIntosh changed his mind, but Swinney was disappointed that McIntosh did not have the courtesy to call him. “It's just disappointing that you recruit a guy all year, and he's been committed solid for so long, to not even get a phone call,” Swinney said. “He's probably where he needs to be. I want to spend my time and energy focusing on young men that choose Clemson.” That included another surprise, a late catch by the Tigers over the Gators. Robinson originally committed to Rutgers, then backed off that decision. Clemson and Florida both pursued him, and Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said he was on the phone at 2:15 a.m. on signing day getting Robinson's commitment. A 6-5, 259-pound offensive lineman during his only year of high school football, Robinson initially will play tight end at Clemson, although he could end up on the defensive line. “The big, athletic bodies are hard to get,” Bowden said. “Going head-to-head with Florida and getting him at two o'clock in the morning, that was a big lick. Sure, we'd like Michael McIntosh. But I've got Airese Currie. I've got Curtis Baham. I've got Kelvin Grant. I've got Chris Jefferson. … I've got one ball. You can only do so much with one ball.” The bigger bodies were a theme for Clemson on signing day. The Tigers believe that stockpiling talented linemen will give them a shot to eventually crack into the BCS. Bowden's offensive linemen used to be runts, relatively speaking. In his first season at Clemson five years ago, the top six blockers were John McDermott (6-6, 278), Will Merritt (6-3, 250), Theo Mougros (6-2, 265), Kyle Young (6-3, 260), Akil Smith (6-4, 272) and T.J. Watkins (6-3, 257). “In the past, we've had to go with smaller guys and project them getting bigger,” Bowden said. “Now it seems like, this year in-state, there were some big guys who are athletic.” The average listed size of Clemson's starting line at the Peach Bowl in January was 6-3, 301. The Tigers then signed five offensive linemen who already average 6-6, 305. Lambert (6-7, 300) and Barry Richardson (6-7, 330) are potential bookend tackles. On defense, end signee Xavier Littleberry is 6-6 and 240 pounds, which is taller than all but one current Clemson end. Tackle Dorell Scott (6-3, 300) already is bigger than 2003 starter DaJuan Polk (6-2, 285). “I think you'll see this class is loaded with body-type guys. That's my stamp that I believe in,” first-year recruiting coordinator David Blackwell said. “Those are the guys that are going to win for you, the big guys that run. The four games down the stretch we won, we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.” To see over the tall offensive linemen, Clemson signed two quarterbacks in the mold of Charlie Whitehurst, who is 6-4 and 220 pounds. Tribble Reese (6-3, 190) and Cullen Harper (6-3, 200) could grow into similar frames. Reese, from Birmingham, Ala., was more highly recruited, having drawn late interest from Mississippi, Notre Dame and N.C. State. Clemson quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain, who landed a commitment four years ago (while at N.C. State) from an Alabama quarterback named Phillip Rivers, loved Reese's mechanics. However, even Clemson didn't first contact him until Halloween 2003. “I remember I was in the Homecoming Parade on a little Hummer, and there was this weird number calling me,” Reese said. “I didn't recognize the number, so I answered it. That's how it started. The next day Coach Swinney called back, and it went from there.” Swinney, who used to play and coach at Alabama, signed three players from the state. Alabama had not produced a Clemson player since 1989. “ACC schools, Nebraska, Notre Dame — they all recruit out of Alabama,” Swinney said. “The best two players at N.C. State (Rivers and receiver Jerricho Cotchery) were from Alabama. It's a natural fit for us, especially for me.” In the end, though, there were reasons besides McIntosh for the Tigers to be disappointed. In-state targets Robert Ayers (Tennessee), Lawrence Timmons (Florida State) and Leon Hart (Auburn) did not give Clemson much consideration. Bowden said that for the first time in his five years, some of the best South Carolina players did not visit the Tigers. “We had the most momentum, most impressive wins, highest graduation rates, facilities are starting to move ahead with construction,” Bowden said. “I would say getting bombarded for six months with negative publicity hurt. … I had to personally address that issue, with one family hearing some comments on national TV. I'd say if we can find a way to internalize that from within, it will probably help us in recruiting.”

Massive Lineman Decided On Early Arrival

CLEMSON — Cory Lambert was Clemson's top-ranked recruit from the 2004 class. But another offensive tackle, Barry Richardson, has the most unique story. In a surprising move, Richardson decided to forgo his final season of eligibility in high school. “Usually, you're competing against another I-A coach,” Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. “Here you're competing against a high school coach to keep him another year. I've never had that happen.” Richardson accelerated his course work in order to graduate in May, when he will turn 18, so actually he's just getting back on the same track with many other students his age. He was held back in the sixth grade because of behavior problems and wanted to be in the same class with his four cousins. “I don't think I deserve to be (in high school),” said Richardson, a 6-7, 330-pounder who chose Clemson over South Carolina. “I was supposed to be out this year. I'm not supposed to be there next year. Someone else can get that credit to be the best (lineman in the state) next year.” Bob Hayes, who coached Richardson during his three prep seasons, tried talking him out of his decision. Richardson never attended a summer camp and had no significant postseason honors. “He really did not discuss this with anyone,” Hayes said. “I don't think he fully understood what it meant athletically when he decided. He was going to have another year of physical and mental maturity. The schools recruiting him now would still be there, and there would probably be more options.” Richardson's mother, Vanessa, said she is excited about her son's choice but also a little bit apprehensive. “He's going to need time,” she said. “I'm more concerned about him leaving home, because he's never left home, and I really don't know how he's going to adjust to it. I think as long as he's going to play football, he's going to be happy.”

Who Got Away?

The following prospects had firm scholarship offers from the Tigers and/or took official campus visits to Clemson but signed with other programs: Monroe (NC) High RB Albert Ashcraft (South Carolina), Rock Hill (SC) Northwestern DB C.J. Barber (South Carolina), Rockingham (NC) Richmond WR Jamar Bryant (Georgia), Greer (SC) High DB Sinclair Cannon (Tennessee), Lake City (FL) Columbia RB Andre Copeland (South Florida), Rockingham (NC) Richmond DB Dannell Ellerbe (Georgia), Greenbelt (MD) Roosevelt DT Jared Gaither (Maryland), Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military TE/DE Anthony Hill (NCSU), Jacksonville (FL) First Coast WR Mike McIntosh (Florida), Tallahassee (FL) Lincoln OL Danny Muy (Nebraska), Bamberg (SC) Ehrhardt DT Matt Raysor (South Carolina), Fork Union (VA) Military LB Maurice Reevey (Virginia Tech), Tuscaloosa (AL) Hillcrest DB Travis Robinson (Alabama), Lancaster (PA) Conestoga Valley QB Jordan Steffy (Maryland) and Sumter (SC) High OL James Thompson (South Carolina) and Sarasota (FL) Booker DE Chris Zellner (Miami). The following prospects also had scholarship offers from Clemson but eliminated the Tigers very early in the recruiting process: Venice (FL) High TE Brad Allen (Vanderbilt), Ridgeland (SC) Heyward DT Dorian Capers (South Carolina), Hoover (AL) High LB Curtis Dawson (Alabama), Greensboro (NC) Dudley RB Jamaal Edwards (FSU), Newnan (GA) High WR Demiko Goodman (Georgia), Dodge City (KS) Community College WR Bruce Gordon (Purdue), Prattville (AL) High DT Kevin Hamilton (Alabama), Prattville (AL) High TE Travis McCall (Alabama), Simpsonville (SC) Hillcrest DE Jamon Meredith (South Carolina), Greensboro (NC) Dudley DT DeMario Pressley (NCSU), Hartselle (AL) High WR Nikita Stover (Alabama), Crawfordville (FL) Wakulla OL Jim Tartt (Florida), Laurinburg (NC) Scotland LB/DE Hilee Taylor (UNC), Greensboro (NC) Dudley DB Martel Thatch (UNC), Hartwell (GA) Hart County LB Jae Thaxton (FSU), Florence (SC) Wilson LB Lawrence Timmons (FSU), Madison (FL) County DB Jonathan Warren (FSU) and Hoover (AL) High QB John Parker Wilson (Alabama).

Compiled by Dave Glenn

2004 Clemson Football Signees

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Stars High School/Junior College Comment
Durrell Barry TE/DE 6-3 242 2/2 N. Charleston (SC) Ft. Dorchester Big numbers (66-1126-11) as TE/WR; over Louis. (?)

</td>

Chris Clemons RB/DB 6-1 180 2/3 Arcadia (FL) DeSoto Co. SP-62 FL; TL-23 S; HM 3A; 10.5 100; over Pur., USC

</td>

Brandon Croley DB 6-0 180 2/2 Jacksonville (FL) First Coast SP-88 FL; 4-year starter; team captain; over WF, I-AA

</td>

Andrew Diomande WR 6-1 185 1/1 Miami (FL) Columbus All-county; 41-685-6 as senior; late over Aub., I-AA (!)
Elsmore Gabriel DT/DE 6-3 255 2/2 M. Village (NY) Christ The King SP-15 NY; injured (foot) as sr.; captain; early decision

</td>

Corey Groover^ DT 6-3 282 2/3 Southwest Mississippi (MS) CC Prep A-A from Pamplico (SC) Hannah; 2002 re-sign
Michael Hamlin DB 6-3 185 3/3 Lamar (SC) High TL-11 S; SP-10 SC; all-state; 1A POY; over Duke, USC

</td>

Cullen Harper QB 6-3 200 3/3 Canton (GA) Sequoyah RV-32 GA; hurt (collarbone) sr.; early over Duke, USC
La'Donte Harris WR 5-11 185 2/2 Gadsden (AL) Litchfield 4-year starter; captain; very early over Miss.St., USC
Bobby Hutchinson OL 6-4 290 2/3 Madison (FL) County SP-67 FL; 3-year starter; 2nd-team 2A; over Syr. (?)

</td>

Rashad Jackson DT 6-3 290 2/2 Union (SC) High SP-27 SC; 3-year starter; 1st-team all-state; over USC (?)
Aaron Kelly WR 6-4 198 2/2 Marietta (GA) Walton 1st-team 5A; 55-955-17 as sr.; returns; over Duke, WF
Adrian Kindred DB 6-2 200 2/2 Opelika (AL) High SP-25 AL; captain; all-state safety; over Louis., USM
Cory Lambert* OL 6-7 300 4/4 Greenville (SC) High TL-8 OT; SP-12 OL; RV-13 OT; over FSU, USC, UT (?)

</td>

Xavier Littleberry DE 6-6 240 2/2 Camden (SC) Military All-county; originally from Ohio; over Ky., I-AA (?)

</td>

Phillip Merling TE/DE 6-5 250 3/2 Cordova (TN) High SP-14 TN; also Calhoun Co. (SC); over Ark., USC (?)

</td>

Phillip Morris WR/DB 6-3 190 3/2 Timmonsville (SC) High SP-22 SC; brother of Kelvin Morris; over USC, I-AA (?)
Alex Pearson LB 6-2 240 2/2 Greenville (SC) High SP-36 SC; 3-year starter; Clemson family; over I-AA (!)
Tribble Reese QB 6-3 190 3/3 Mountain Brook (AL) High HM all-state; 1-year starter; over Miss., NCSU, WF (!)
Barry Richardson OL 6-7 330 2/2 Mt. Pleasant (SC) Wando Graduated from HS early (jr.); HM all-area; over USC

</td>

Akeem Robinson TE 6-5 259 2/2 Miami (FL) Carol City 3rd-team 6A; 1 yr. of FB (OT); over UF, Rut., USF

</td>

Dorell Scott DT 6-3 300 3/3 Columbia (SC) Ridge View SP-7 SC; all-state; 3-year starter; over UNC, USC (?)
Taylor Tremel OL 6-5 2/2 280 Lake Mary (FL) High SP-75 FL; all-county; captain; early over USF, USM

</td>

Courtney Vincent LB 6-1 220 2/2 Allendale (SC) Fairfax SP-20 SC; captain; very early over USC, WF interest (?)
Tony Willis OL 6-6 325 2/2 Highland Springs (VA) High RV-19 VA; SP-28 VA; 2nd-team 3A; early decision
*-All-American (top 250 by two/more services)
^-enrolled
(!)-strong academics
(?)-unconfirmed academics

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