The recruiting classes that built the 2018 national champions were ranked, respectively, Nos. 16, 9, 11, 16 and 7. That’s If everything breaks our way, maybe we can make the Orange Bowl level recruiting, not Send Nick Saban scampering back to Tuscaloosa with his tail between his legs recruiting.
If we take the recruiting experts at their word, Clemson’s talent level should not produce the results that the 2018 Tigers did — the first 15-0 team in more than a century, winning their two College Football Playoff games by a total of 74-19, and winning their final 10 games by an average of 36.1 points. Based solely on their recruiting rankings, this is not a program that should be 55-4 in its last four seasons, sitting on a run of four straight Playoff berths, four straight ACC titles and two national championships in three seasons.
Clearly, Clemson’s coaching staff has unlocked the ability to take really good, not great recruiting classes and produce historically great results.
Which begs the question: What happens if Clemson starts recruiting at a historically great level? Whatever the answer, we’re about to find out.
On Sunday, the nation’s No. 1 team added the No. 1 quarterback recruit to its already No. 1-ranked recruiting class when Bellflower, Calif., prospect DJ Uiagalelei committed to Clemson.
— 🌟 DJ Uiagalelei 🌟 (@DJUiagalelei) May 5, 2019
Uiagalelei picked Clemson over Oregon despite the fact the Ducks will have a vacant quarterback position after this season, while Trevor Lawrence will still be firmly entrenched as Clemson’s starter for at least one and possibly two seasons with Uiagalelei on the roster. Quarterbacks want the ball, and they’re not going to sit around and wait for it — at least, at every school other than Clemson.
With the nation’s top quarterback prospect on the board, Clemson only adds to its lead in the 2020 recruiting rankings. The Tigers’ 14-man class is nearly 20 points ahead of LSU’s 14-man class in the 247Sports Composite rankings, with a player average of 95.72, nearly two points ahead of LSU as well. In addition to Uiagalelei, Clemson has secured the pledges of Damascus, Md., defensive tackle Bryan Breese (the No. 2 player in the class, per 247Sports Composite rankings), Lakeland, Fla., running back Demarkcus Brown (No. 17) and Jacksonville cornerback Fred Davis II (No. 28). Recruiting experts widely expect Clemson as the favorite to land Columbia, S.C., defensive end Jordan Burch (No. 5) and Powder Springs, Ga., defensive end Myles Murphy (No. 8), and don’t be surprised if they land either Upland, Calif., linebacker Justin Flowe (No. 3) or Burien, Wash., linebacker Sav’ell Smalls (No. 4). And that’s in addition to the 10 4-stars the Tigers already have in the boat.
In the 247Sports formula, Clemson sits at 273.62 points with a player average of 95.72. The 247Sports Composite record for a class is held by Florida’s 2010 haul, a 28-man unit that scored 324.62 points; the player average record is held by Ohio State’s 2017 class, a 21-man group that averaged 94.59.
Before we go any further, let’s make sure no one turns this into something it’s not. Clemson was still recruiting at a high level before this current cycle. Trevor Lawrence was the No. 1 player in the country in 2018; All-American defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins were 5-stars, as was All-American offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt; the No. 3 player in the 2018 class, defensive end Xavier Thomas, came off the bench because of the overwhelming talent and depth in front of him.
Historically speaking, this can go one of two ways. Either the new recruits arrive to campus feeling like they’ve arrived simply because the recruiting services liked them and they’re wearing Clemson orange, or they push all that noise aside and Clemson builds a dynasty unlike anything the sport has ever seen.
Knowing Dabo Swinney’s program as we do — with culture being emphasized above all else — it seems Door No. 2 is the more likely of the two.
“My faith is important to me, and the first time I went out there was in June, and that’s what sold me, knowing they’re all big Christians,” Uiagalelei told ESPN. “I didn’t commit when I was out there, but that’s when I told myself that’s where I wanted to be.”
— Coach Jeff Scott (@coach_jeffscott) May 5, 2019
I don’t want to speak for Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator, but I believe Scott undersold it in the tweet posted above. These days, every day is a great day to be a Clemson Tiger.