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Friday, August 1, 2014
Half of Clemson's class signs aid papers

By Jared Shanker

Clemson has the No. 3-ranked recruiting class for 2015, and more than half of its commitments, including a five-star lineman, signed financial-aid agreements with the Tigers on Friday, six months before signing day.

Five-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt (Suwanee, Georgia/North Gwinnett) headlines a group of 13 commitments in Clemson’s 2015 class, which has 21 total pledges, that signed financial-aid agreements with the school on the first day prospects entering their senior year are allowed. All 13 are expected to enroll at Clemson in January.

"We're signing 13 guys to financial aid before we have even played a game,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Friday. “We're excited to have them join the Clemson family."

The NCAA clarified a rule last year that allows for senior recruits planning to enroll in the midyear to sign financial-aid agreements with schools beginning Aug. 1, the same day schools can officially give a recruit a written offer. The financial-aid agreements do not bind the player to the school, but the school is locked into the player unless he is no longer eligible for midyear enrollment. For the recruits, it guarantees their scholarship in Clemson’s 2015 class.

The recruits did not sign national letters of intent and are free to sign financial-aid agreements with multiple schools, but only the school they signed with first receives the contact benefits. With the clarified rule, however, once a prospect signs a financial-aid agreement the school can publicly mention the recruit and is no longer limited to contact restrictions with that recruit. The Clemson coaches are not limited to calling those 13 prospects once a week during the season anymore. Before last year it was taboo for schools to mention a recruit by name before signing a letter of intent, but the Tigers updated its official Twitter account throughout the day Friday welcoming the 13 recruits and sent out a press release announcing the soon-to-be additions.

There is a minor risk in Clemson publicly announcing the 13 recruits, and Swinney said Friday it’s still uncomfortable to be speaking about high school players before they are locked in to Clemson. If any of the 13 players enrolls at a school outside of Clemson, it could be perceived as a recruiting violation for mentioning a prospective student-athlete by name. The NCAA told ESPN.com reporter Mitch Sherman in January one conference office requested it be a violation. Any violation, if the NCAA deemed it as such, would likely be minor in nature.

There is an upward trend with recruits graduating high school a semester early and enrolling in January, and Clemson is taking full advantage. Deshaun Watson, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 class, enrolled in January and went through spring practice, and now the Tigers will likely bring in 13 recruits from the 2015 class for the spring semester. The extra semester on campus coupled with the 15 spring practices allows those freshmen to potentially make a greater impact during the season. The Tigers had five early enrollees in the 2014 class.

Six ESPN 300 recruits were among the 13 who signed for Clemson. Hyatt (No. 17) was joined by Jake Fruhmorgen (No. 95), Garrett Williams (114), Ray-Ray McCloud III (150), Noah Green (181) and Shadell Bell (262). Kelly Bryant, Kaleb Chalmers, Zach Giella, Tucker Israel, Tanner Muse, Chad Smith and Van Smith were the remaining recruits to sign financial-aid agreements.

Elsewhere in the ACC, North Carolina announced that two 2015 recruits, Carl Tucker and Anthony Ratliff, signed agreements.