After working out at Dabo Swinney’s high school camp over the summer, 2026 OL Kail Ellis made his return to Clemson for the Tigers’ upset win over Notre Dame.
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound prospect, out of Cass (Cartersville, Ga), came away not only impressed by the electric atmosphere, but also Clemson’s ability to almost run the ball at will against the Fighting Irish. Watching the offensive line lead the way for Phil Mafah’s 186-yard performance hit the mark with Ellis.
It was an amazing victory and atmosphere,” Ellis told All Clemson Tigers. “This was my first game day visit. I’d never been to Death Valley for a game but I loved it. And they ran the ball great. Number seven is a ballplayer. I just loved it. Love the coaches. Loved talking to them.”
“That zone looked pretty. That backside, the right guard and right tackle sealed off a bunch of times on inside zone and dominated the line of scrimmage. Adjusted to a bunch of the fronts that they were given, especially in pass pro.”
Getting an up-close look at Thomas Austin’s coaching style is another thing that stood out.
“Coach Austin, I’ve built a great relationship with him,” Ellis said. “But the connection they all have and the energy they give. Coach Austin was running down the sidelines on some of them big runs and just jumping in the air and getting really excited and with his players. I just really liked that. I liked that about all the coaches. A lot of good energy from them and they have a great connection with each other.”
Ellis is a fast-rising prospect in the 2026 class. He already has offers from several big boy football programs, including Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, NC State and Penn State.
Clemson won’t start handing out offers to 2026 players until June, so the Tigers have yet to pull the trigger.
“Auburn’s a big one. Vanderbilt, Florida State, NC State, those are my top schools. And then Clemson,” Ellis said. “I mean, I don’t have an offer but I really want them to be in my top schools and when they offer, they’ll definitely be there.”
“Honestly, I like I like how coach Swinney does it and how he is old school,” Ellis said. “I like late offers. And I know I’ve gotten offers early, but I just think it gets to your head. I mean, it’s gotten in my head. Just getting those offers early, you think you’re above everybody. But once you get humbled it gives you a reality check. So honestly, I really like it. That’s why Clemson is the highest of the high on my list. I don’t think it really matters to me.”
Ellis has also taken visits to Vanderbilt, Auburn Alabama and NC State, and you can expect to see him back at Clemson at some point in the future.
“I want to try and come back to another game, if I can, but I’m definitely going to be back here in the spring, early spring,” Ellis said. “Probably January February and then camp here in June. That will probably be one of the few camps I do next summer. I don’t want to camp to much because I did a bunch of camps this past summer, so I think I’m gonna shorten it down. Do Clemson for sure. Even if I only do one camp it will be Clemson.”
As he goes through the recruiting process, Ellis is looking for a number of things as he looks for a college to call home. A connection to the coaching staff and an electric game day atmosphere are two of those things. But one of the biggest things is academics. That is something that Ellis takes seriously.
“I know there’s a lot of great coaches nowadays,” Ellis said. “I want to build a great connection with the coach. I want to have a connection. I want to make sure I like how they coach and just their coaching style. I want to be able to talk to the head coach, and have a relationship with him. And I want a great atmosphere at games.”
“The big thing for me is academics. I want to go want to go to a school that’s great academically. I’m big on academics. Those are some things that I take into account when I’m looking at schools.”
NIL is also something that has to ba taken into account in today’s landscape. However, while it will absolutely factor in for Ellis, it’s not what he’s looking for first and foremost.
“I will say it’s obviously going to factor in some but I’m about football first,” he said. “I just want to go in and play. However early I can get on that field, that is where I’m gonna want to go. I obviously want to play as early as possible. I’m just worried about football first and competing every day. Day in and day out. I’ll say I think it counts a little bit but I would say not as much as with some of these other kids.”
As for a decision, there is no concrete timeline just yet. Ellis first needs to officially narrow his list down, something he plans to do early next year. He wants to take more visits, and let the chips fall where they may.
“I kind of want to narrow it down to about five or six… probably five schools in the spring. I kind of already got an idea of what I want to do. I want to commit probably next football season. I want to take another year of visits. Probably make my decision after that. I don’t want to wait too long though because spots fill up. Kids are committing a lot earlier. It could possibly be in the summer; I don’t know just yet. Definitely after spring. Don’t want to do it right after spring but either in the summer or in the fall. Somewhere in there.”
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