Summer is drawing to a close, and with it brings the arrival of fall camp and the beginning of the 2018 college football season. Many college football fans breathed a collective "at long last" reading that last statement. College football coaching staffs nationwide are preparing to turn their attention from summer fundraising events and media engagements to the first month of a grueling season in less than a week.
However, as the final weekend before the beginning of fall camp rolls around, many coaching staffs look to close out perhaps the most important part of college athletics with a bang: recruiting. Of course, visits to campus during the season to attend games are commonplace in college football. However, getting a large number of prospects on campus at the same time during the season is rare.
This final July weekend, a plethora of coaching staffs will host extravagant recruiting events intended to gather a large number of highly coveted recruits on campus one last time before the season begins. Coaches hope hosting large numbers of recruits together will encourage interaction and potentially sway these recruits to favor the school if another prospect is already doing so.
Florida State is one of these schools, as head coach Willie Taggart has encouraged fans to pack Doak Campbell Stadium to create an "electric gameday atmosphere" as recruits compete in a camp-like setting on the field. Georgia is another school hosting a major event this weekend, as Coach Kirby Smart will unveil the new recruiting facility in the west end zone for the first time to a select number of players. Even Clemson gets in on the action, as Coach Dabo Swinney hosts an annual event during the last weekend of July that brings players from all around the country to little ole' Clemson, South Carolina.
However, Clemson's recruiting event is much more "Dabo" than it is "extravagant." Instead of flashy facility reveals or large crowds, Coach Swinney hosts a Cookout, dubbed the "All-In Cookout," where a small, but elite, faction of recruits gather to interact with the coaching staff and already committed players.
The Cookout epitomizes Swinney's famous family environment and has been an amazing success in past years. Located at the new Allen Reeves Recruiting Complex for the first time, Swinney again will have a flock of elite prospects descend on Clemson for a quaint and quiet cookout in the shadow of Death Valley.
The Cookout was first held in 2012, and has drawn elite four and five star players each year to Clemson. In fact, a few important committments have come either at the Cookout or shortly thereafter over the years. Following the 2013 Cookout, Clemson received committments from defensive tackles Jabril Robinson and Scott Pagano, and also wide receiver Mike Williams, all who attended the event just days earlier. Linebacker Tre Lamar surprised everyone and committed to Clemson at the 2015 Cookout, followed by defensive end Austin Bryant and wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud just days later.
The 2016 Cookout was also a success, as defensive tackles Jordan Williams and Nyles Pinckney committed at the event, and cornerback A.J. Terrell committed shortly thereafter. The results speak for themselves: the Cookout is successful. How big of a success will it be in 2018, though? Based on the visitor list, 2018 is shaping up to be one of the highest profile Cookouts to date, with a variety of nationwide prospects swarming to Tiger Town for the weekend.
Below is a comprehensive list of confirmed visitors, and also a few potential visitors who have yet to confirm their plans for the weekend. Remember, this list is fluid, as recruits can cancel at any time and new ones can randomly elect to attend the event. However, if all goes as planned, here's a look at some of the recruits who will be at the 2018 All-In Cookout as Clemson looks to enter the 2018 season with a wave of recruiting momentum.
- Four-Star Wide Receiver, Joe Ngata (Folsom, CA): Clemson's reputation as "Wide Receiver U" has spread all the way to the West Coast, as the coaches will host a coveted receiver from California this weekend. Ngata comes in at 6'3"/210 pounds and perfectly matches the body type that Clemson looks for in its receivers. Ngata, despite the distance, is considered a Clemson lean and has been placed on "Commit Watch" by many recruiting pundits. The Tigers currently hold 62% of the Crystal Ball Expert Predictions on 247 Sports.
- Four-Star Inside Linebacker, Vonta Bentley (Birmingham, AL): Bentley, a 6'0"/220 pound linebacker from Birmingham, is going to be another steal for Clemson out of the state of Alabama. Bentley holds 100% of the Crystal Ball Predictions and has been reported by multiple outlets to be the next Clemson committment for the 2019 class. Do not be surprised if Bentley commits to Clemson on Friday. He is bringing his mother with him to the Cookout and has stated he wants to end his recruitment...with Clemson far and away in the lead.
- Five-Star Cornerback, Andrew Booth (Lawrenceville, GA): The last prospect we can confirm that will make the journey to Clemson is probably the most important one. Booth is an elite 6'1"/190 pound cornerback from Georgia, hence his lofty 5-star status. Rated as highly as the #32 prospect in the nation, Booth would fill a position of need for Tigers in the secondary, as Clemson expects to lose 3 corners after the 2018 season. He would also complement current Clemson cornerback commit Sheridan Jones very nicely at the position, as the two would provide an elite 1-2 punch from both sides of the defense if both signed with Clemson.
Clemson has long led for Booth's services, but Auburn has made a very strong push as of late. In fact, some believe the Tigers from the Plains have taken the lead for Booth. Getting Booth on campus for an event the caliber of the All-In Cookout is crucial for Clemson, as the coaches need to make a very strong impression once again on this top prospect. Booth will also attend Auburn's similar summer recruiting event this weekend following the Cookout. This visit is big.
Photo from Andrew Booth @andrewbooth21 Twitter
- Five-Star Center, Clay Webb (Oxford, AL): Clemson has up to four spots to fill along the offensive line for the 2019 recruiting class. A huge addition would come in the form of Clay Webb. Labeled as one of the most technically sound offensive line prospects in recent years, Webb is going to be a day-one starter at most schools. While Webb has not been confirmed to be an attendee for this year's Cookout, he has mentioned a visit for this weekend on multiple occasions. Webb has camped at Clemson for consecutive years and has an excellent relationship with area recruiter Todd Bates. However, many see Webb as an Alabama-lock.
The Tide holds 100% of Webb's Crystal Ball Predictions, and nobody expects the 6'3"/300 pound center to leave the state of Alabama. However, if Webb elects to show up at the Cookout this weekend, it would show that he is much more open to Clemson than many previously thought. If the coaches can somehow convince Webb to visit for the Cookout, it could be a huge win for the Tigers.
Photo from Clay Webb @claywebbg3 Twitter
Commits at the Cookout
Not only is the Cookout limited to hosting elite prospects, but also current Clemson commits and their families. While many Clemson committments are expected to show, here is a few of the bigger names that are expected to return to Tiger Town this weekend.
- Five-Star Wide Receiver, Frank Ladson Jr. (Miami, FL): Ladson comes in at 6'4"/190 pounds and is the heir apparent to big-bodied wide receivers Tee Higgins, Diondre Overton, and Justyn Ross. He perfectly matches the mold of the "9-man" receiver Clemson covets in their offense, a position famously manned by the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Williams, and Deon Cain. Ladson differs from these previous receivers, though, as a tall, lanky pass-catcher that is more versatile and can move around the offense. His elite body control, speed, and uncanny hands makes him a perfect red zone threat, but also a receiver who can play more in the Sammy Watkins realm of short yard pass catching that can turn into an explosive play. Ladson committed to Clemson on the morning of the Spring Game on April 14th over hometown Miami and previous committment Florida, and has stated on multiple occasions that he is "All In."
- Four-Star Cornerback, Sheridan Jones (Virginia Beach, VA): Jones, as mentioned earlier, is an elite corner prospect that will provide similar lockdown coverage as former Clemson great Mackensie Alexander. The ball is rarely thrown Jones' way due to the overwhelming coverage he provides. Jones, a 6'1"/180 pound cover man, reclassified from the 2020 recruiting class to 2019, and quickly fell in love with the Tigers. He committed on April 20th, wrapping up a big week for Clemson recruiting, and has since stated his recruitment is officially over and he will sign with the Tigers. He has since become the most vocal recruiter for the 2019 class and has been heavily involved with the recruitment of Andrew Booth. Having both players on campus at the same time this weekend is big for the Tigers.
- Four-Star Outside Linebacker, Bryton Constantin (Baton Rouge, LA): Constantin committed to the Tigers on April 13th, a day before the Spring Game, as a severely underrated 3-star that was not heralded by many schools. During the spring and summer however, Constantin has certainly proved his merit. He won MVP Honors at the Rivals Challenge this spring, was a standout at the elite The Opening Finals in June, and has since received an invite to the Under Armor All-American Game. He has also seen a drastic ratings boost, moving from a 3-star to a high 4-star, and sky-rocketing to the #4 linebacker prospect nationally. Constantin comes in at 6'2"/210 pounds, and was deemed a priority by Brent Venables. Constantin will be an immediate impact player upon arriving on campus next year, and has become another vocal recruiter for the 2019 class.
- Four-Star Safety, Joseph Charleston (Alpharetta, GA): Clemson's first 2019 commit, Charleston pulled the trigger was back in October of 2017. Charleston is not a very vocal guy, but is as solid as they come in his commitment to the Tigers. Coming in at 6'2"/195 pounds, Charleston is a thumper of a safety, notorious for his hard-hitting. Charleston is another player who has a great relationship with priority target Andrew Booth, so getting them on campus at the same time is big.
A few other committed prospects who are confirmed to be attending Clemson this weekend are: four-star tight end Jaelyn Lay, three-star wide receiver Brannon Spector, three-star safety Lannden Zanders, three-star linebacker Greg Williams, and three-star safety Ray Thornton. Clemson looks to host the committed prospects and visiting recruits at a potentially crucial 2018 All-In Cookout.