Clemson’s 56-7 victory against South Carolina last season — the Tigers’ third straight win against the Gamecocks — highlighted a number of disparities in the state of the rival programs, especially in regard to talent.
The beatdown accentuated that South Carolina hasn’t been able to keep up with Clemson on the recruiting trail in recent memory. The gap in the recruiting success of the Palmetto State programs has grown wider over the last several years with Clemson’s rise to the elite in college football and the coinciding rebuilding project at South Carolina. Thus, the Tigers have simply attracted a lot more talent than the Gamecocks, and that was reflected in the score of last year’s game.
When comparing the two schools’ recruiting classes over the last several years, there is really no comparison.
From 2011 to 2017 — the best stretch in Clemson history that includes a national championship, three ACC championships, a BCS Bowl victory and seven seasons with at least 10 wins — Clemson has finished lower than 14th in the national recruiting rankings only once, according to Rivals.com. The lone exception was last year, when Clemson signed the 22nd-ranked class. However, that ranking was due in large part to quantity, not quality. The Tigers brought in just 14 players in the 2017 class, but the class’s average star rating was 3.86, the highest mark Clemson has posted dating to the beginning of the Rivals database in 2003.
In the past seven years, per Rivals, Clemson has finished in the top 15 of the national recruiting rankings six times. South Carolina has finished no higher than 16th in the same span.
Since 2011, 45.8 percent of Clemson’s signing classes have been comprised of four- or five-star recruits, while that percentage is 32.0 for South Carolina. In the last seven signing classes, 61.9 percent of the Gamecocks’ players had a three-star rating, while only 45.5 percent of the Tigers’ players had a three-star rating in the same span.
Moreover, Clemson has signed 14 five-star recruits since 2011 according to Rivals, while the Gamecocks have signed just one five-star in the same time (Jadeveon Clowney, 2011).
The trend looks as if it will continue with the next class. South Carolina’s 2018 class is currently ranked 23rd in the country by Rivals, ahead of Clemson’s No. 32 ranking, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
South Carolina’s ranking is buoyed by the fact it has 18 commitments in the 2018 class right now as opposed to just 11 for Clemson. Of the Gamecocks’ prospects, 14 are rated as three-star recruits and four are rated as four-stars. Meanwhile, Clemson has the same number of four-star recruits, along with two five-star recruits in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and defensive end Xavier Thomas.
Furthermore, Clemson’s average star rating for the 2018 class is 3.73 — currently the sixth-best mark nationally. Meanwhile, South Carolina’s average star rating for the 2018 class is 3.22 (24th best).
So, Clemson continues to stay ahead of South Carolina in recruiting, and the Tigers aren’t slowing down. Entering Saturday’s game against the Gamecocks, Clemson is ranked No. 3 in the country and poised to return to the College Football Playoff for the third time in four years.
There’s no denying South Carolina has improved in its second season under Will Muschamp. After going 6-7 a year ago, the Gamecocks are 8-3 and ranked No. 24 in the latest CFP Rankings. However, they still have a long way to go to get to where the Tigers are — on both the field and the recruiting trail.
–All rankings and ratings according to Rivals.com