Dabo Swinney will wait until four years from now to truly assess the impact of the 2019 signing class that Clemson officially wrapped up Wednesday during National Signing Day.
With that said, the Tigers’ head coach is very excited about this year’s class and sees a bright future ahead for the newcomers.
“Time will tell, because down the road, it’s all based on performance and not potential, and it’s based on graduating and decision making and all those things,” Swinney said during his signing day press conference. “Y’all have heard me say many times – I think we’ve got the recruiting thing backwards. I think we should right now be evaluating the class four years ago because then it’s more data-driven as opposed to potential.
“But potential wise, I really like this group.”
After signing 27 student-athletes during the early signing period in December, the Tigers inked an additional two prospects Wednesday in Charleston (S.C.) First Baptist School running back Michel Dukes and Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman offensive lineman Mason Trotter.
“It’s great to have all those guys join our program,” Swinney said. “It’s a big day for everybody. So today, even though we had the signing day in December, today is a celebration of the completion of the class — and really to me, it’s kind of turning the page and being able to put our eyes forward on the 2019 team and getting started.”
Clemson’s class is ranked No. 9 nationally by Rivals and No. 10 by both ESPN and 247Sports. Fourteen of Clemson’s signees are ranked among the top 300 prospects in the country by at least one of the major recruiting services.
Having just graduated the winningest senior class in college football history – Clemson’s 2018 group had a 55-4 overall record in the last four years – Swinney knew it was critical to bring in a top-tier recruiting class this cycle.
“We had a challenge in this class,” he said. “The winningest class in college football history just walked out the door. You talk about some impactful young people – graduates, leaders that were so much a part of our culture here. Unbelievable competitiveness and toughness. All those guys walking out, it was important that we do a great job with this class.
“And time will tell, but I really feel that this group is going to continue to help us be a consistent program on and off the field, because I think that they have bought in to who we are and the way we do things.”
Seventeen of the 2019 signees enrolled at Clemson in January and thus will be able to participate in spring practice.
The list of mid-years includes four defensive linemen — Tyler Davis, Etinosa Reuben, Ruke Orhorhoro and Logan Cash — a group that will try to help fill the void left by All-American D-linemen Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.
“To have 17 of them here is huge, especially this team with so many seniors gone, in particular at D-tackle,” Swinney said. “Otherwise, I don’t know how we’d practice this spring. We have a couple guys out due to injury (Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams), so we’re going to run a bunch of freshmen out there. It should be a lot of fun.”
Swinney is stoked about the 2019 signing class and can’t wait to start working with the special group.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but man I’m excited to get started with them,” he said. “I’m thankful for these players. I’m thankful for their families for their belief in our program, and then I’m also thankful for the job of our staff. It’s just a never-ending process when it comes to recruiting. But I love it.
“To me, one of the best parts of college coaching is you have the opportunity to be able to recruit to your program, and guys have to choose you. It’s not like the NFL where you just draft somebody and they have to come whether they want to or not. It’s a really cool dynamic in college football because people have choices, and when they choose to come be a part of it, I think it’s really cool.”