Tigers go deep for top-25 class

23-member group is headlined by LB Justin Parker, RB D.J. Howard

(Charleston) Post and CourierFebruary 4, 2010 

Clemson Signing Day Football

Jeff Scott, Clemson wide receivers coach and the team's recruiting coordinator, talks about the NCAA college football team's signing-day class, during a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010, in Clemson, S.C.

AP PHOTO/ANDERSON INDEPENDENT-MAIL, MARK CRAMMER

CLEMSON - Jeff Scott prefers cutting-edge technology. Upon becoming Clemson's recruiting coordinator last February, he required staff members to replace their cell phones with iPhones.

Yet on National Signing Day, Scott found himself anxiously hovering over a fax machine, the only day this year Scott plans to spend with the archaic relic.

Scott did not wait or worry long Wednesday as the Tigers received letters of intent from all their commitments by early afternoon. Clemson also reeled in four-star linebacker Justin Parker of Beaufort and running back D.J. Howard.

The 23-member class did not contain a five-star recruit, but thanks to quality depth it ranked 17th according to ESPN. Rivals.com ranked the class 18th, and Scout.com ranked it 23rd.

Dabo Swinney's first class with a full year to recruit trailed only Florida State in ACC rankings.

"I could not be more pleased with this class," Swinney said. "We hit on all of our needs."

The Tigers had to wait until the afternoon to fill one need.

Parker picked the Tigers over South Carolina and LSU at 3 p.m., becoming the only linebacker in Clemson's class.

Parker is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds.

"He's as good a linebacker as we have recruited here in a long time," Swinney said. "He's an outstanding prospect, a dynamic linebacker. He can play all three positions. He's very smart and comes from a great family."

Factor in Clemson's uneven play at linebacker and the graduation of Kavell Conner, and Parker might have chance to play immediately.

Along with Parker, Swinney said incoming freshmen could have an impact at wide receiver, defensive back, tight end and defensive end.

The team's leading returning wide receiver, Xavier Dye, had 14 receptions, leaving open a window for signees Martavis Bryant and DeAndre Hopkins.

Bryant is the only signee among ESPN's and Rivals.com's top 100 prospects, drawing comparisons to Georgia's A.J. Green.

Hopkins, listed as the 12th-best athlete in the 2010 class, will play receiver at Clemson. Scott joked that since all film comes through him as recruiting coordinator, and with his role as receivers coach, he simply edited out defensive highlights of Hopkins.

"He has a defensive personality," Scott said. "He reminds me of DeAndre [McDaniel] with his passion and physical play. ... He's got a chance to play early."

The class is deepest in defensive backs, arguably the team's greatest need.

Clemson signed three four-star defensive backs: Darius Robinson, Garry Peters and Desmond Brown. The Tigers graduated both starting corners, Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler, and will graduate two more valuable secondary starters after this year, DeAndre McDaniel and Marcus Gilchrist.

The one need Clemson did not address was quarterback.

With Willy Korn transferring and the possibility a Major League Baseball team makes Kyle Parker an offer he can't refuse, it's plausible Clemson could go into the season with only Tajh Boyd and Michael Wade at quarterback.

Swinney considers such a scenario unlikely.

"If I had to line up with Mike Wade, I'd be just fine," Swinney said. "We were a little late to the ball on a few [quarterbacks]. We didn't just want to take a guy. We feel like we can sign a couple great ones (in 2011) rather than putting a Band-Aid on it."

The class also marked a geographic shift, relying more on Georgia and less on Florida.

The Tigers signed seven players from Georgia, as many as the previous four classes combined. Clemson signed one player from Florida, which had been a rich recruiting ground in recent seasons, especially when Swinney was patrolling north Florida as Clemson's receivers coach.

"(Georgia) is 15-20 minutes away," Swinney said. "Atlanta has 4 million people. ... We hadn't done a good job in (Georgia)."

The lone Floridian is four-star recruit Tavaris Barnes, who along with early enrollee and fellow four-star prospect Reid Webster gives the Tigers depth at defensive tackle.

Swinney said Clemson must soon replace five interior defensive linemen, making the position a need.

All in all, it was a day of few surprises.

Clemson received commitments from the majority of the class by December, allowing the Tigers to work ahead. Clemson has seven commitments for 2011, the beginnings of a class that ranks second nationally, according to MaxPreps.com's rankings.

It means next signing day could be a more exciting visit with the fax machine for Scott.

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