Clemson might have had the best football recruiting class that you heard the least about on signing day earlier this month.
And a lot of that had to do with the lack of drama on the big day for the Tigers.
There weren’t any last-minute flips for Clemson, or any recruits stalling with sending in their paperwork.
The 25-member class, including four recruits from Georgia, was officially finished by 9:30 a.m. on signing day.
“That’s the way we want it to be,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told the AJC. “You always start out the recruiting process with your ‘wish list’ kind of guys at each position. And we never really had to expand our board. We got all of our top guys that we were chasing.
“Fifteen (of 25 signees) came in at midterm and 19 were committed in August. It was a great group of guys that knew what they wanted to do. And that’s the way it ought to be.”
But Swinney pointed out that there was indeed drama on signing day – in a good sort of way.
“There was a lot of drama for us because we were really, really excited because it was the formal process.
“It was like you get engaged to somebody and you’re happy about that. But buddy, when your wedding day comes, that’s the real celebration. That’s how signing day was for us. It was a celebration for the guys already in school here. We made a big deal out of that, and then with the 10 that signed with us on signing day.”
It was another strong year for Clemson’s recruiting efforts in the state of Georgia. In 2014, the Tigers signed the Georgia’s best QB prospect since Cam Newton (Gainesville’s DeShaun Watson). This year, Clemson’s marquee recruit was Mitch Hyatt, the 5-star offensive lineman from North Gwinnett.
“We work hard there in Georgia,” Swinney said. “We recruit the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina like one big state. If you really study geographically where Clemson is — we’re right off I-85 about 12 or 13 miles, and we’re just barely in the state of South Carolina — we’re kind of right there on the North Carolina and Georgia border. So we make a concentrated effort to recruit Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina as if it’s our home state.
“And what I mean by that is that we put a ton of coaches in the state with areas. We get to as many schools as we can get to. And we’re very thorough. That’s part of it, the work we put in. And the other part of it is, Clemson has a great brand in the state of Georgia. Those guys down there, they want to come take a look. When they come and see it, a lot of these guys like it, and we’ve been able to sign some of the best players. Not just from Georgia, but also from Florida, North Carolina and so forth.”
Mitch Hyatt was not only one of the state’s best players (ranked as Georgia’s No 2 overall prospect) but also one of top in the nation (rated No. 22 overall). And Hyatt’s recruiting went sort of like Clemson’s on signing day – without a lot of drama. Hyatt committed to the Tigers on signing day as a junior, and quietly remained true to his word.
“That’s just who he is,” Swinney said. “He’s a guy who knew what he wanted to do – to the point where he committed to Clemson on the signing day of his junior year. Recruiting has moved up so much, as far as these guys making decisions. But he’s a guy who grew up following Clemson, and he knew a lot about Clemson.
“Obviously, his uncle was a great player here as well. But just because there was that family connection, it didn’t necessarily mean that we were going to get Mitch Hyatt. I think he just likes the direction of our program. Obviously, he has got a huge opportunity to play early here with our numbers in the OL. That was a big area of emphasis in this year’s recruiting class. And with the direction of our program, he knows that he can achieve all of his goals. He wants to be an Engineer.
“He’s just a guy that knew what he wanted to do. He was a huge part of putting this class together because once Mitch jumped in, some other guys quickly followed.”
Clemson finished with the nation’s No. 8 class, per the 247sports composite rankings. The Tigers have seven commits for next year, including two from Georgia – Jonesboro quarterback Zerrick Cooper and Northgate linebacker Jamie Skalski.