By William Qualkinbush.
As Dabo Swinney has built Clemson’s program in his image, rarely has there been a Signing Day without some pizzazz.
There have been surprises. There has been drama. Shocking decisions have seemed to consistently favor the Tigers, and in the aftermath, the nation is left looking around and wondering how Clemson did it.
Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how the past three seasons have been on the field under Swinney. It stands to reason that Signing Day would follow suit.
But this year, there was a distinctly different feel. As signatures rolled in on fax machines across America, Clemson got exactly what it expected—no more, no less.
The fireworks—often reserved for announcements like those of Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward, Tyrone Crowder, Mackensie Alexander, and Korrin Wiggins—were found elsewhere in 2014. For once, it was a ho-hum day in Clemson.
It may not sound like it, but that’s a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong. Getting blue-chip recruits to pick your school is always a good thing. Getting as many of them as possible is the goal.
But in the past, Clemson’s class has been made on Signing Day. The nation talked about the Tigers as a surprising force on the recruiting trail as evidenced by some eleventh-hour heroics.
The difference now is that the Tigers aren’t sneaking up on anyone. Heading into Signing Day 2014, Clemson’s locked-in haul was good enough. People still talked about Clemson without all the drama.
The ability to exhale in a low-stress environment is a testament to Swinney’s program. This class wasn’t easy to keep together, but it was originally put together over a long period of time.
The headliner was the founding member, committing two years ago. Deshaun Watson was already on campus, getting ready to play quarterback in the spring while the fax machine in the football office got a workout of its own.
The 2014 class had been mostly completed for months, with only a mid-January commitment (Trevion Thompson) and a Signing Day decision (Richard Yeargin III) that was all but assured weeks earlier providing intrigue. Swinney and recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott addressed needs without having to go the distance to acquire quality talent.
This isn’t to say that making a splash on Signing Day is reserved for college football’s wannabes. Such bluebloods as Georgia, LSU, and Alabama significantly improved their respective classes with last-minute coups.
But those groups were already highly regarded. They didn’t need Signing Day for validation. In the past, Clemson did need that kind of exposure for its program.
Not this year, though. Analysts were impressed with Clemson because of months and years of hard work, not just the wow factor of a couple of major signatures.
Simply put, that means Clemson has now arrived. People assume the Tigers will be there, with either a splash or a ripple at the end.
That’s enough reason for Swinney, Scott, and the staff to bask for a moment and enjoy a boring, run-of-the-mill day in the world of college football.