Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney knows that games are not won and lost on paper. A program’s culture, coaching and development of talent are just as key to success on the field as its recruiting rankings and the star ratings in its classes.
With that said, make no mistake, there is a direct correlation between winning in recruiting and winning in the fall. Clemson — the second winningest program in the country over the last seven years behind only Alabama — is a perfect example of that.
Every year since 2011, Clemson has signed a top-15 recruiting class. It is no coincidence that since 2011, the Tigers have compiled an 82-15 record, the most wins in a seven-year period in school history.
So, to win at an elite level over an extended period of time, a program must consistently recruit at the highest level. And after bringing in yet another recruiting class that ranks among the nation’s best, the Tigers are poised to stay at the top of college football for the foreseeable future.
Clemson’s 2018 class is ranked in the top 10 nationally by all of the major recruiting services. The Tigers finished fifth in the final ESPN rankings, their highest finish under Swinney according to ESPN.
“With the addition of this class, I think we can continue to have the type of talent and competitive depth that it takes to be an elite team,” Swinney said during his National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday. “It’s just that simple. I think we’ve got the makings of that.”
Twelve of the 17 scholarship players in Clemson’s 2018 class are ranked among the top 300 prospects nationally by ESPN, including 10 in the top 150. That mark is tied for the most top-150 players in Clemson history according to ESPN.
Clemson is the first school since Southern Cal in 2007 — and just the second in the 13 years ESPN has ranked prospects – to sign three of ESPN’s top six prospects. Five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence checks in at No. 2 overall, while five-star defensive ends Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry come in at No. 4 and No. 6, respectively.
In terms of star power, the Tigers signed six recruits rated as five-stars by Rivals: Lawrence, Thomas, Henry, offensive lineman Jackson Carman and wide receivers Justyn Ross and Derion Kendrick. To put that into perspective, Clemson’s five-star total is twice that of Alabama’s this year and the second most in the country behind only Georgia.
According to Rivals, Clemson’s average star rating per recruit is 4.06, the highest mark in Clemson history since Rivals began rating prospects in 2002. In fact, Clemson’s 2018 class is just one of 10 classes in the history of the Rivals database to meet or exceed a 4.0-star average.
“I don’t have any doubt that this group will be special,” Swinney said. “Probably on paper – and again, you don’t play the game on paper and all that – but on paper, this is probably the most complete class that I’ve signed since I’ve been the head coach. This is a very special group
“On paper, I think this is an incredible class and very complete.”
Just as impressive as the caliber of talent Clemson signed this year is that the Tigers went all over the map to get it.
Clemson’s 17-member scholarship class includes players from eight states. Six of the players are ranked No. 1 in their respective states by either ESPN or Rivals. The Tigers signed the top-ranked player, according to at least one service, from North Carolina (Henry), South Carolina (Kendrick), Florida (Thomas), Ohio (Carman), Alabama (Ross) and Georgia (Lawrence).
“Getting the No. 1 guy in six different states, I don’t know if anyone else can say that,” Clemson recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter said. “That is strong. It is a tribute to the people here and to the brand of Clemson University.”
The bottom line is that Clemson’s historic 2018 recruiting class further cements the Tigers’ elite status in college football.
After adding another stellar signing class to the fold, Clemson is set to continue competing for championships in the coming years.