Clemson’s run to the national title and South Carolina’s disappointing 3-9 record last season collectively magnified a number of disparities between the two programs, including that of the rival schools in recruiting.
The gap in the two schools’ recruiting success has become wider over the last several years with Clemson’s rise to the upper echelon of college football and the coinciding rebuilding project at South Carolina.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s ability to recruit at a high level was one of his most attractive traits that helped him land the head coaching job eight years ago, and the Tigers have done just that under his watch.
Since Swinney took over in 2009, Clemson has signed a total of 67 four-star recruits and 11 five-star recruits (ratings according to Rivals.com). More impressive is the fact that 45.3 percent of Swinney’s combined eight recruiting classes during his tenure have consisted of either four- or five-star recruits.
In the same time frame, 36.1 percent of South Carolina’s eight signing classes have been comprised of four- or five-star recruits.
But since 2011 — the best five-year stretch in Clemson history that includes 56 wins (a Clemson record for a five-year period), two ACC championships and a BCS Bowl victory — Clemson has finished no lower than 14th in the national recruiting rankings.
Meanwhile, South Carolina has finished no higher than 16th in the same span.
Since 2011, 53.3 percent of Clemson’s signing classes have been made up of four- and five- star recruits, while that percentage is 40.4 percent for South Carolina.
The Tigers have signed 11 five-star prospects since 2011 as opposed to South Carolina’s one (Jadeveon Clowney).
And Clemson’s prowess on the recruiting front is looming larger right now than it ever has in recent memory.
Of the 14 prospects that are committed to Clemson in the current 2017 cycle, two are five-stars and eight are four-stars. Clemson’s class as it stands now currently ranks eighth in the country.
A handful of the top pieces in the class — five-star quarterback Hunter Johnson, four-star quarterback Chase Brice, four-star offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst, four-star defensive back LeAnthony Williams and four-star receiver Amari Rodgers — all committed to Clemson in December, January or February, when Clemson was fresh off an ACC Championship victory and national title game showing.
Not only is Clemson’s brand becoming increasingly distinguished with the success, it is also helping Clemson expand its recruiting reach geographically.
After signing just six players from non-southern states from 2009-14, Clemson has signed eight in the last three years.
“I think the biggest change is just more people want to come see Clemson,” Swinney said in July during his annual media golf outing at The Reserve on Lake Keowee. “It’s an easier conversation. We’ve just had a lot more guys that want to come see us — unofficially, come to camp, whatever it may be.”
While a significant drop-off in on-field performance and an ensuing coaching change set back South Carolina’s recruiting efforts, new head coach Will Muschamp has begun to revive them in his first year.
South Carolina’s 2017 class ranks 12th nationally right now, though only 38.1 percent of the class is comprised of four- and five-star prospects.
Only time will tell if Muschamp is the man that infuses new life into South Carolina’s program and brings the Gamecocks back to the prominence that Steve Spurrier guided them to during his time as the head coach.
But right now, there’s no question which of the rival schools lays claim to the state’s crown of achievement in recruiting, and the Tigers are showing no sign of slowing down.