Clemson signed its smallest recruiting class since 2009 on Wednesday, but Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said he believes what the group lacks in size, it makes up for in talent.
The Tigers inked 14 players – two five-stars, nine four-stars and three three-stars, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. The class is ranked No. 16 nationally, making it one of four recruiting classes with less than 20 players that’s ranked in the top 25.
“This is a small class. It’s the smallest class we’ve had since ’09, my first class, but another excellent, excellent group of quality young men,” Swinney said. “We’ve become very consistent in how we recruit. … I don’t have any doubt that this will be another excellent group that will join the fold.”
There was no drama for Clemson on Signing Day, as all 14 of its commitments signed their national letter of intent before 10 a.m., and the majority of the class had been committed for months.
With a small class, Clemson’s spots filled up quickly. The only late addition to the group was Louisiana running back Travis Etienne, who committed to the Tigers last Thursday.
“Most of them have been committed since the summer,” Swinney said. “We met all of our critical needs. We don’t just fly by the seat of our pants and just go recruit guys. We stick to our plan, and we focus on the needs that we have and we move on.”
Etienne will be counted on to contribute right away as the Tigers enter the spring with only three running backs on scholarship.
Clemson went head-to-head with LSU for Etienne, convincing him to take an official visit late in the recruiting process before securing his services.
“We got one of the best running backs in the country and really didn’t know him until 10 days ago. This is a young man that had offers all over the country and could’ve gone anywhere, and he ended up coming to Clemson. I think that really speaks highly of the paw,” Swinney said.
The class is headlined by five-star quarterback Hunter Johnson, of Indiana, who enrolled in January. The second-ranked quarterback in the country will be in the conversation to compete for the starting job this spring.
Swinney said Johnson has potential.
“I think he’s got an incredible skill set, as talented a guy as we’ve signed, but you’ve gotta just go to work,” Swinney said. “As far as just his potential, off the charts, tremendous. He’s got the skill set, but how does it translate? You just never know until you start coaching a guy. You make a big mistake as a coach when you just assume those things.”
Other candidates to play early on for the Tigers are receivers Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers of Tennessee.
Higgins is a 6-foot-4, five-star receiver with impressive athleticism and hands, while Rodgers is a smaller, speedy wideout who averaged 31 yards per catch as a senior.
“Can they grasp it mentally? We’ll see,” Swinney said. “But those two guys have a chance to jump in there.”
Defensive back A.J. Terrell, the No. 6 cornerback in the nation, is a 6-2 defender whose length could help him get on the field early, according to Swinney.