Clemson has grabbed headlines during the offseason for the recruiting class it has started putting together, serving notice that coach Dabo Swinney has his program have no plans on going anywhere.
The Tigers are now up to No. 2 in the latest ESPN class rankings, up two spots from their previous ranking earlier this month. Alabama is ranked No. 1, while ACC nemesis Florida State is at No. 7. Clemson currently has a league-high 19 commitments, including 12 from players with four- or five-star rankings. The ESPN scouts write:
The Tigers continue to be hot on the recruiting trail, recently adding athlete Deon Cain and DE Clelin Ferrell, bringing the Tigers' current total of ESPN 300 commits to nine. The lengthy and athletic Cain, gives the Tigers offense a big play weapon, and Ferrell is another nice pickup that helps them address a need along the DL.
It is impossible to get too excited about recruiting rankings in June, as there are still nearly eight months to go before national signing day. Rankings also are completely subjective, and it is impossible to know whether they were right until years down the road. But they do show the type of work Swinney and his staff have done now that they have a consistent 10-win, top-15 program.
Perhaps more impressively, Swinney has earned pledges from one recruit after another after despite finding himself on the defensive in April over his religion. The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint with Clemson, accusing Swinney of "unconstitutional behavior" at the public university. Swinney denied the accusations, but he was used as a case-study in a much larger debate that erupted about what place religion has in sports, especially at a public university. Did the firestorm even matter to recruits?
Apparently not. Clearly that publicity has done little to persuade top recruits to look elsewhere. Eight players committed after mid-April, when the first story about the complaint broke. That includes Cain and Ferrell, two of the four highest-rated players in the class.
There is still more work to be done. The Tigers are pursuing ESPN 300 players Tim Settle (No. 10), George Campbell (No. 11), Shy Tuttle (No. 22) and Jalen Dalton (No. 90), along with several others. Tuttle, a defensive tackle from Lexington, N.C., has ties to the program and fills an area of need. But along with trying to get a few more commitments, Clemson has to hang on to the ones it already has until February rolls around.
If they do, Clemson has a chance to ink one of the best classes in school history.