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January 19, 2011
MSU fending off BC, UConn in battle for Clemons
Two-way lineman Brandon Clemons moved up in the Rivals.com national rankings this week, while starting to move on in his recruitment.
Clemons was elevated from No. 233 to No. 143 in the Rivals250 on Tuesday. Clemons moved up 90 slots due to an impressive showing at the Chesapeake Bowl, as well as "impressive senior film (which) bumped him up," according to Rivals.com's Mike Farrell.
With the reshuffled Rivals.com rankings, Clemons is now ranked the No. 2 player in Pennsylvania by Rivals.com.
Clemons took his fourth and final official visit over the weekend, to Michigan State. He took official visits to Boston College, UConn and Maryland in December.
"Right now I'm just trying to take this whole recruiting process day-by-day and try to slow it down because I just got back from that weekend at Michigan State, so I'm just trying to take my time with things, and give it a week to think about it, and then I'll start breaking things down, and then over the next two weeks I will know where I'm going and I'll be all set," Clemons said. "I'm starting to weed it out a little bit. I don't want to announce how I feel right now. But I'm starting to weed things out and starting to get the whole feel of the whole entire process and how things are going to be. I have a basic idea. I just have some soul searching I need to do."
Clemons has visited his eastern finalists several times. But this past weekend marked his first trip to East Lansing.
"I went there with an open mind, not sure what to expect, like okay it's Michigan State, let's see what they have to offer," Clemons said. "I went in there and I actually had a great time. The players were nice and I thought they pretty cool.
"(MSU defensive line coach ) Ted Gill is a great guy. He has come to my school twice. Talking to him was cool, like normal. And I got to sit down and talk to Coach Mark Dantonio, and that went well, that was good.
"The basketball game was great. I got a chance to see the college atmosphere. Overall I had a great time. It was a great visit.
"Academically I got to sit down with one of the professors of psychology, which is what I'm interested in majoring in. That was interesting to speak with him.
"Overall, it went pretty good."
Sophomore running back Larry Caper served as Clemons' player host at Michigan State.
Clemons, 6-foot-4, 255, is ranked the No. 6 offensive guard prospect in the nation by Rivals.com, but is being recruited as a two-way lineman by some schools, and primarily as a defensive tackle by Michigan State.
He encountered more committed players during his official visit to MSU than in his other visits.
"When I was down there for the visit I was also there with 10 commitments, plus the eight uncommitted players," Clemons said. "I talked to a bunch of the commitments and I talked to a bunch of the freshman kids."
Did any of them give him the hard sell on Michigan State?
"Oh every single one," Clemons said with a laugh. "Every one I talked to. They told me the reasons why they committed. And I talked to some of the freshmen who have been there for about a year now, and they were saying it's a great atmosphere, they just love being there. So as far as Michigan State goes, I haven't heard anything bad about it.
"I'm a very social person. I was trying to talk to everyone, even the regular students outside of the football program, about the school in general. They pretty much had the same opinion and feel as the football players, that they really enjoy going to Michigan State and it's a good school."
Pasqualoni Pays A Visit
Shortly after arriving at Michigan State from his home in Milford, Pa., Clemons met up with other recruits, MSU players and the Spartan coaching staff at an East Lansing restaurant.
"When I first got there, we met at a restaurant, and there were a lot of other recruits there and he (Dantonio) came over and we sat down and talked," Clemons said. "We talked more about academics and life than anything. We talked about football, obviously, but not as much as other things. Football will take care of itself. There is more to life than football. We talked about what Michigan State has to offer to further me in my career as a person and after school when I look for a job, and how it will help develop me as a man. Football will take of itself in terms of winning and pursuing championships. I got a good idea of what he stands for and what Michigan State stands for."
Connecticut and Maryland have changed coaches since his visits to those schools.
UConn's former head coach Randy Edsall left that school to become head coach at Maryland. Edsall has not had much contact with Clemons since taking over at Maryland. Meanwhile, UConn has rallied since hiring former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni to replace Edsall on Jan. 13.
Clemons met Pasqualoni face-to-face for the first time yesterday.
"UConn stopped by earlier today, just a few hours ago," Clemons said on Wednesday. "I got a chance to talk with the new coach, Coach P., and the conversation went really well. He's a great man. I didn't know what to expect from him. I heard about him from various coaches. He actually recruited my (high school) head coach when he was the head coach at Syracuse. I heard nothing but great things about him. And talking to him one-on-one, it was great."
When asked what he likes about UConn, Clemons said: "The coach from UConn (defensive line coach Hank Hughes has probably been by my school more than any of the other coaches, so I've had a chance to talk to him a lot. I probably know him as well if not better than all of the other coaches I've talked to."
Hughes was retained as part of Pasqualoni's new staff. Pasqualoni and Hughes paid a visit to Clemons at school on Wednesday.
"He came down with Coach P, and Coach P talked about how he was going to keep him around," Clemons said. "He talked him up. He said my recruiting coach was going to be there and said I could call the head coach when I want, and I felt pretty good about that.
"My official visit went well, too. That was pretty good. I just felt very confident in their program, especially in what they have accomplished in such a short time."
That progress was made under Edsall, who is now at Maryland.
"I know Coach Edsall is there now, but I haven't really heard from him yet," Clemons said. "That's very uncomfortable. I heard that he did call me, but when I tried getting back in contact with him I haven't heard from him. I'm not really sure. It's pretty uncomfortable, considering the whole situation. But who am I to judge, right?
"I have a few friends that go to Maryland and I talk to them about the school in general, they're on the football team. I was talking to them, and being around the thing, I just realized that wherever I go, it has to be about me, because these coaches are feeding me and telling me all of this stuff but they will be here until they get like a higher-paying job and then they could just leave out of nowhere."
That's too bad for the Terps, because Maryland made a big initial impression on Clemons when Ralph Friedgen was head coach.
"I went down there to Maryland (for an official visit) because I fell in love with the school, honestly," Clemons said. "I went down there and felt pretty good about it. That was the first school that I went to on an unofficial visit and the kids come up to me and ask me who I am and things like that. They were interested in me. They were very out-going. The campus is a great campus.
"The coach who was recruiting me isn't recruiting me anymore because they let him go."
MSU Battling From A Distance
It is reasonable to assume that Maryland has been weeded out of Clemons' top four, but Clemons is refraining from giving specifics about his top two or three. But he does admit that the decision-making process is harder than he anticipated.
"Oh yeah, it's a lot harder," he said. "Honestly, I thought I was going to Pittsburgh. That was my favorite school growing up, and that was the first school to offer me, and I was like, 'All right, there we go, I'm going to Pittsburgh.' And then there has been so much stuff going on there, I just had to knock it off my list.
"That's why I'm taking my time. I want to see what's going to be the best school for me, and how would I fit on the campus without football. I want to go to the school where I can get a good education, and be able to get a good job after graduation, all of those things.
"Every kid that goes to the Division 1 level wants to go play in the League, but for me education comes first and football will take care of itself."
Of the finalists, UConn's campus is the closest to Clemons' home in northeast Pennsylvania.
"UConn is about two hours down the road," said Clemons. "Boston College is four hours and change. Maryland is about the same as Boston College."
When asked what he likes about B.C., Clemons said: "I have had a good relationship with the coaches. They offered me during my junior year also and I've talked with them for a while. The coaching staff is great. I have been down there three or four times, and being down there, just the atmosphere of being with the kids, the players and the coaching staff has just been very good."
MSU's primary recruiter for Clemons is quarterbacks coach Dave Warner. Gill has increased his involvement, as the position coach most likely to work with Clemons at MSU.
"Coach Gill is stopping by here, I want to say on Thursday," Clemons said. "And I have Boston College stopping by also. I'm not sure if those visits will be to my school, or home or both."
Milford, Pa. is located on the New York and New Jersey border, about 90 minutes from New York City and two and a half hours north of Philadelphia.
Clemons is the most highly-recruited football prospect to come out of the mid-Hudson River Valley area since 2001 when tight end Brandon Sebald of Rondout Valley, Pa., signed with Miami (Fla.) over Michigan State and Virginia Tech.
Clemons estimates that MSU is 10 and a half hours from Milford, Pa. Clemons says distance from home will not be a factor.
"Originally it did (play a factor)," Clemons said, "but then after talking to the players and my head coach being a former Penn State player, I realized that the difference is not going to really matter. No matter how far away the school is, I'm not going to spend a lot of time home."
Clemons' high school head coach, Keith Olsommer, started at tight end at Penn State in 1995-96.
"He has been giving me advice, and he has been hands-off too," Clemons said of Olsommer's involvement in his recruitment. "Last spring, he took me to six or seven unofficial visits that he drove me to. He helped open up my eyes."
As for the in-state Nittany Lions, Clemons said. "They (Penn State) were recruiting me early, and then they stopped. I kind of lost interest in them and eventually they stopped recruiting me anyway, and that's how things worked out."
And now the countdown has begun, in ernest, toward a verbal commitment. Clemons estimates that he will have a decision within two weeks. He had better, because signing day is in 13 days.
"I kind of expect to have a decision a little bit before signing day," Clemons said. "I can't guarantee it, but that's what I expect. And I would like to tell the coach that I have committed to, but keep it to myself until signing day.
"That's the time frame I'm shooting for. I honestly won't know until I feel like a school is the place for me. We'll see what happens."