After wrapping up his in-home visit with Justyn Ross last Wednesday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney felt good about his team’s chances of landing the five-star wide receiver from Phenix City, Ala.
Exactly seven days later, Swinney’s feeling proved to be accurate, as the coveted prospect signed with Clemson over in-state finalists Alabama and Auburn during Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
“There was plenty of drama and plenty of uncertainty,” Swinney said of the suspense leading up to Ross’s announcement, which was televised live by ESPN2. “When I left his house last week, I felt confident that we had done everything we possibly could.”
One reason for Swinney’s confidence? A pinky promise with Ross that he would choose Clemson.
“When he pinky sweared me, I was like alright, we’re going to get him,” Swinney joked. “You break the pinky swear, we probably don’t want ya (laughing).”
True to his promise, Ross inked with Clemson, and in the process became the first No. 1-ranked player from the state of Alabama to sign with Clemson.
In addition, Ross is just the second top-ranked player in the Yellowhammer State who did not sign with Alabama since 2005 (Jameis Winston, 2013).
So, Swinney and the Tigers accomplished a rare feat by beating out Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide for Alabama’s best.
“That just again shows you where we are as a program,” Swinney said. “To go into that state — you’re 30 minutes or so from Auburn, and Alabama with what they’ve been able to do — and sign the No. 1 player in that state, that tells you the type of young man that Justyn is, the type of strength his family has, because there’s a lot of pressure on these guys. People don’t mean bad, but fans want kids to do what’s best for them. But he had a strong supporting cast around him.”
Swinney passed off credit for Ross’s addition to wide receivers coach Jeff Scott and area recruiter Todd Bates.
“I’m so proud of Todd and Jeff Scott,” he said. ”Todd Bates and Jeff Scott did an amazing job.”
Swinney also commended Ross’s mother, Charay Franklin, and his family for their cooperation during the recruiting process.
“They were a joy, they were amazing in the process,” Swinney said. “They did it the right way and took all their trips. Because they weren’t really sure, but in the end, they were very comfortable with Clemson. A lot of that speaks to the relationships that we were able to develop during the process.”
At the end of the day, though, picking Clemson was Ross’s decision.
The odds were against the Tigers in Ross’s recruitment. But they remained steadfast in their pursuit of him, and it paid off in the end.
“We could have taken some other guys,” Swinney said. “There are some other guys we could have taken, but we were all in on Justyn, and he had given us enough of an indication to give us hope to hang in there with them.
“So, this was a huge, huge get for us today. There’s not been many No. 1 players leave the state of Alabama. To be able to get the No. 1 player out of that state says a lot about our program, the young men here, and then again the job that our coaching staff did.”
Ross is ranked by Rivals as the No. 2 wide receiver and No. 15 overall prospect in the 2019 class. He earned first-team 7A All-State honors as a senior last season, when he recorded 37 receptions for 730 yards and 13 touchdowns while also returning 14 punts for 383 yards and two more scores.