Fact or Fiction: Clemson will ink an OL from North Carolina this cycle

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Rivals recruiting analyst Adam Friedman – along with Paul Strelow of TigerIllustrated.com, Chris Peak of PantherLair.com, and Jacey Zembal of TheWolfpackCentral.com – tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.

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1. Clemson will sign at least one offensive lineman from North Carolina this cycle. 

Sam Pendleton

Sam Pendleton (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Friedman’s take: FACT. Less than a month ago I would have said this was an easy call, but now I’m a little less confident. Rivals250 offensive lineman Sam Pendleton grew up wanting to play for Clemson. It was his dream school, but now the Tigers are losing momentum and it could be hard for Clemson to catch up if a commitment is coming soon. Four-star Sullivan Absher is also very close to the Clemson coaches, and for a long time it has looked like he’d eventually end up playing for the Tigers. Notre Dame and NC State made his recently announced top three and a decision could be coming relatively soon. Clemson’s edge in Absher’s recruitment has been called into question a couple times recently due to the efforts of the Notre Dame staff and their current recruits but, much like Will Shipley a few years ago, I think Absher will pick Clemson.

Strelow’s take: FACT. The needle is clearly moving in NC State’s direction for Pendleton, and there are others who’d have a better chance of slowing that train down. But Absher is one who has always felt like he was in Clemson’s wheelhouse. Personality is a match, he stays close to home, plus there are various ancillary connections between him and the program. Here’s guessing that the Tigers won’t miss on both.

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2. Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi’s new extension will help the Panthers on the recruiting trail.  

Pat Narduzzi

Pat Narduzzi (AP Images)

Friedman’s take: FACT. Narduzzi absolutely deserved a coaching extension, and the timing makes a lot of sense. There wasn’t much time left on his current deal and he had just won a conference championship. A whiff of instability at the head coach position can set a program back almost overnight. With more than five four-star prospects across the 2023 and 2024 classes located just a few miles from campus, it is more important than ever for Narduzzi and his staff to do everything possible to capitalize on last season’s success. Now the lingering question about the head coach’s contract won’t hinder those efforts.

Peak’s take: FACT. While Narduzzi’s extension seemed to come naturally from Pitt’s ACC championship in 2021, the reality is the Panthers’ head coach was due an extension regardless of last season’s results. When Narduzzi received his last extension at the end of the 2017 season, the terms of the deal ran through the 2024 season. That’s now two years away, and for recruits in the classes of 2023 and 2024 it was a contract that ended in the middle of their eligibility. With Narduzzi and company working hard on local 2023 four-stars like Ta’Mere Robinson and Rodney Gallagher and 2024 standouts Quinton Martin and Anthony Speca, having a new contract extend beyond their college years was crucial this offseason.

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3. NC State will sign more in-state four-stars than North Carolina in the 2023 recruiting class.

Dylan Smothers

Dylan Smothers

Friedman’s take: FACT. This is a pretty interesting storyline that will get a lot clearer over the next eight weeks or so. There are nine four-stars in North Carolina right now and the only one that’s committed is tight end Javonte Vereen, who chose the Wolfpack last week. Standouts such as Noah Rogers and Sam Pendleton could be considered NC State leans, while some are already counting players such as Christian Hamilton and Rico Walker for the Tar Heels. The other four-stars – Daylan Smothers, Zack Myers, Sullivan Absher and Kevin Concepcion – are either toss-ups between the two schools or are more likely to leave the state. Some people are saying this cycle is setting up for NC State to dominate in-state recruiting. It could certainly turn out that way, but this could be a closer contest. NC State should sign more in-state four-stars than the Tar Heels, but it may not be by very many.

Zembal’s take: FACT. Math is on the side of NC State, plus it has a good case of momentum on its side. There are nine four-star prospects at the moment in the class of 2023, and NC State is in the hunt for six of them, and they have a commitment from Vereen. The rules of engagement is always simple in North Carolina — the first battle is to be the top in-state choice and then take on the national powers. We’ve reached that point where the recruitments have started to crystalize. NC State has emerged as the top in-state choice for Rogers, Concepcion, Smothers, Myers, Pendleton and Absher. Some of these recruits are talking about playing together, with NC State quarterback Lex Thomas leading the way. UNC has emerged with Hamilton and Walker. The Tar Heels’ best chance would be if some three-star prospects became four-star prospects down the road, like nose tackle Jamaal Jarrett of Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley, for instance.

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