Clemson signs best class under Dabo Swinney


Jeff Scott woke up early Wednesday morning and got in his car to drive in to work, a big day ahead. It started to hit him this would be his last signing day as Clemson recruiting coordinator.

Since 2009, he has helped Dabo Swinney put together one top-notch class after another, all of them Top 20 classes; five straight in the Top 15. The 2015 group, however, is their finest effort.

ESPN RecruitingNation placed Clemson at No. 4 -- its highest ranking since 2008. It also is the highest ranking under Swinney. There is little doubt the Tigers have been building for this moment. When Swinney became full-time head coach, he laid out his vision for recruiting and the program, built on a strong foundation with strong relationships.

The elite athletes and victories have followed. Clemson just finished its fourth straight season with 10 or more wins, and has become a Top 25 mainstay, bolstering the cause.

"What that does is it sends a message to these recruits and to their families that Clemson is here, and Clemson is going to be a contender, and Clemson is not going anywhere," Scott told ESPN.com. "That top-tier athlete, we have signed our share of those the last five or six years, but there’s a higher concentration of those overall in this class, and it’s just because they’ve seen the product Clemson’s put out, not only in the Top-15 finishes, but also three top-10 years in APR graduation rate. All that really resonates and has come together to put together one of the best classes we’ve ever signed here at Clemson."

Clemson signed nine of the top 150 players in the ESPN rankings, its highest number since 2008. It all started with its highest rated player, offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, ranked No. 18 in the ESPN 300. Hyatt committed on signing day in 2014, setting the tone for the rest of the class.

"He became the cowbell for this 2015 class," Scott said. "Being a very highly rated, highly thought of player, we were able to build a lot of this class around him and his early commitment. He, along with Jake Fruhmorgen, Zach Giella and then right here in our home state Noah Green -- we feel those are four of the best offensive linemen in the country, and all four are here in January."

Clemson has a school-record 15 players enrolled early. Because the program just graduated so many seniors, they had the ability to take freshmen who wanted to get a jump on their collegiate careers. Clemson had 16 spots available for January, filling all but one.

So many openings also made Clemson appealing this recruiting cycle. Recruits know they will have the opportunity to play right away -- even on the offensive and defensive lines, the areas that Clemson targeted heavily this cycle.

They also happen to be the most difficult to fill with true freshmen. But being in school early means they will be able to participate not only in spring practice, but also get a jump on strength and conditioning so they can compete for playing time come August. Of the 15 mid-year signees, six are offensive or defensive linemen.

The work is not over, of course. Just like last year, Clemson picked up commitments on signing day Wednesday, including running back Tavien Feaster (No. 13 ESPN Junior 300). But new recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter is spearheading the 2016 class and beyond, as Scott transitions to co-offensive coordinator with Tony Elliott.

It is a move Scott is happy to make, though he did have mixed emotions Wednesday.

"It is bittersweet, but there’s no better way to go out than with this class this year," Scott said.