This 5-star recruit grew up an Alabama fan. Why Clemson football is still ‘in the race’

·4 min read
Jason Caldwell/247Sports

Peter Woods grew up an Alabama fan.

His father went to school there.

He plays football an hour away from campus; he has three former teammates playing for the Crimson Tide right now and a fourth committed for next year; and he hasn’t taken an official visit because, by his own count, he’s already dropped in on the Tuscaloosa campus “50 times.”

And yet, with the five-star 2023 defensive lineman scheduled to announce his college commitment Friday night and Alabama and Clemson listed as two of his four finalists, the Tigers are still “very much in the race” to land Woods, per one analyst.

Woods, the No. 23 overall recruit in the class of 2023, also lists Florida and HBCU Jackson State as finalists ahead of his Friday ceremony scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET.

But, according to On3 Sports director of recruiting Chad Simmons, the Thompson High School star’s decision will ultimately come down to the Crimson Tide and the Tigers, national rivals who’ve faced each other four times in the College Football Playoff (2-2 split) and three times for a national championship (Clemson leads 2-1).

“Two months ago, you’d probably get 99% Alabama,” Simmons said Wednesday in a YouTube video. “But that official visit to Clemson in early June went extremely well for Peter and his family … I think the biggest surprise leading up to this decision is just how tight it is.”

On3 Sports’ Recruiting Prediction Machine gives Alabama a 66.9% chance to secure the commitment of Woods; Clemson is second at 31.1%. Rivals FutureCasts are split two to one in favor of Alabama, while Woods, notably, has zero 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions this year, a mainstay for most recruits leading into decisions.

Clemson offered Woods, the nation’s No. 3 defensive lineman, a scholarship last summer. He’s made five visits to campus, per Rivals, and was the top-ranked recruit at the Tigers’ June 3-5 official visit weekend (which marked a change in previous Dabo Swinney policy to only take fall official visitors).

Clemson’s lead recruiter for Woods is first-year defensive line coach Nick Eason, who’d previously gained traction with Woods in his old job as Auburn defensive line coach.

Since joining Clemson in January, Eason has already served as the primary recruiter for a number of notable defensive line commits: four-star 2022 recruit Caden Story and four-star 2023 recruits Vic Burley, Stephiylan Green and AJ Hoffler (all three committed last month).

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Woods has been described as a “defensive coach’s dream” and recorded a career-high 92 total tackles, 55 solo tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks across 14 games as a junior.

Woods also had 30 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, a blocked field goal and an interception (which he returned 45 yards for a touchdown) as Thompson won its third consecutive state championship in Alabama’s largest classification.

Nick Saban’s dynastic Alabama program has long been a player in Woods’ recruitment, but Clemson has remained a contender thanks in part to a momentous month that saw the Tigers pick up 12 commits in June, a single-month program record in the modern recruiting era.

Five-star quarterback Christoper Vizzina of Alabama, four-star defensive lineman Burley of Georgia and four-star offensive lineman Harris Sewell of Texas are all top 100 recruits, and they lead a 16-man group ranked No. 4 in the 247Sports composite team rankings behind Notre Dame, Ohio State and Texas.

Vizzina, Burley and Hoffler have been actively recruiting Woods – as well as four-star 2023 recruit Hunter Osborne, another defensive lineman from Alabama – on Twitter in recent weeks.

Woods is Clemson’s third 2023 target with a commitment date this week.

Four-star Georgia offensive tackle Zechariah Owens committed to the Tigers on Monday, and four-star Alabama defensive lineman Keldric Faulk opted for ACC rival Florida State on Tuesday.

If Woods (0.9875) commits to Clemson over Alabama, he would slot in between five-star 2019 cornerback Andrew Booth (0.9891) and five-star 2020 linebacker Trenton Simpson (0.9871) as the No. 23 all-time Clemson commit in the modern era.

He’d also bump Clemson past Texas into the No. 3 spot in the class of 2023 rankings.

How to watch

Woods’ commitment will stream live at 6:15 pm CT (7:15 pm ET) on the YouTube channel. Here’s a link to the page.

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