CLEMSON — Every year, there’s drama at the 11th hour, and for Clemson it might again be the difference between a good class on football signing day and a great one.
Entering the final weekend Clemson was virtually assured of mining another Top 25 class, this one rich in defensive ore. Pivotal are decisions by a half-dozen high school seniors, including some of the nation’s best.
“It could go either way on signing day, as we know,” said Chad Simmons, national recruiting analyst for FoxSports and Scout.com, “but Clemson’s in the place you want to be a few days away with a legitimate shot at some of those top kids come signing day.”
Of the 18 commitments, 11 are listed at defensive positions. On their hit list are a defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker and corner that could push this class near the Top 10, Simmons said.
“It’s a solid group,” he said. “They’re hoping it can get a whole lot better.”
For that to happen, Clemson needs to land several from the group that includes defensive tackle Montravius Adams from Dooly County High in Vienna, Va.; defensive end Carl Lawson, Milton High, Alpharetta, Ga.; corner MacKensie Alexander, Immokalee High in Florida, and guard Tyrone Crowder, Richmond County High, Rockingham, N.C.
First priority, of course, would be securing the commitments, a couple of whom have been on board for a year. Four players enrolled in January, including defensive end Shaq Lawson. A highly regarded prospect last year out of Daniel High, Lawson spent a semester at Hargrave Military and could be in the mix for the vacancy left by Malliciah Goodman.
A few of the other more highly regarded commitments could work into the mix next fall at positions thinned by attrition. Simmons sees “star power at the top” in outside linebacker Jayron Kearse of Fort Myers, Fla., receiver Mike Williams of Lake Marion in Holly Hill, and running back Tyshon Dye of Elbert County High in Elberton, Ga.
Adams was thought to be a near lock early in January, but Alabama, Auburn and Georgia have continued to push hardest. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Adams projects potential game-changing athleticism, and the three major recruiting services rate him a five-star.
“I would have said probably Clemson back around Christmas and as late as early January,” Simmons said, “but I’ve been hearing less about Clemson, really, and more about schools like Alabama and Georgia with Auburn getting the last visit.”
Adams “has been playing things so close to the vest,” Simmons said.
“Clemson has been recruiting him longer,” Simmons said. “I just think it’s a much closer race than people realize.”
Consistency and steady persistence are trademarks of Swinney’s recruiting style, Simmons said, and it’s paid off handsomely the first five years.
“He has great people skills. High school coaches and the parents like Dabo Swinney for the person that he is,” he said. “And he has a great staff.
“Kids of today want attention every day. They want to feel special every day. Clemson has done an outstanding job continuing to recruit these kids every day, whether it’s over the phone, through social media, email or hand-written letters.”
With two running backs, two receivers and a tight end among the current commitments, there won’t be any pressure to add another offensive skill player this year unless it’s a quarterback to replace transfer Morgan Roberts. Swinney said he would be willing to sign up to 24 under the right circumstances. Clemson looked at Asiantii Woulard of Winter Park, Fla., and reportedly has been in touch with Josh Dobbs of Alpharetta, Ga., Simmons said.
As the week began, Clemson’s class was ranked 14th nationally by ESPN, 18th by Scout and 21st by Rivals.
“You don’t have to have a kid committed to your school,” Simmons said. “All you have to do is be in that final group of two or three. Clemson appears to be there for some of the best prospects n the country.
“Obviously, if they hit a home run or hit a grand slam and get all those guys, I think you’re possibly pushing Top 10, but I think realistically more Top 15.
“It’s going to be hard to get all of those guys.”