Dabo Swinney always says time will tell with recruiting rankings, and he thinks recruiting services should rank signing classes four years later instead of coming out of high school because, in his opinion, how good a class truly ends up being depends on performance, development, graduation, etc.
However, when Clemson’s head coach looks at his current freshman class, he is confident in saying the highly touted group will live up to its lofty billing.
The Tigers’ 2020 class was ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN, and Swinney believes all 23 of the student-athletes his program signed last December will pan out and be really good players before all is said and done.
“This is a really, really good group,” Swinney said to reporters Sunday evening. “I’m going to be surprised four or five years from now if this doesn’t really prove to be what they were on paper. They were the No. 1 class in the country for a reason.”
The members of Clemson’s freshman class are all at different places in their development, according to Swinney, who pointed out that it is sometimes uncertain how quickly a high school player’s talent will translate to the next level.
Some guys like former five-star defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee – who combined for nine total tackles, including 2.5 sacks, in Clemson’s 37-13 win at Wake Forest on Saturday night – are able to step right in and make an immediate impact, while others need more time to develop physically and/or mentally before they are ready to contribute.
While Murphy and Bresee garnered most of the attention among the freshmen who saw action in Saturday’s season opener, Swinney says lesser-known players like Murphy and Bresee’s fellow first-year defensive linemen, Demonte Capehart and Tre Williams, will turn out to be special as well.
“You sometimes don’t know how that’s going to translate, and they’re all at different stages,” Swinney said. “You obviously see a guy like Myles and Bresee, you just go ‘wow!’ But let me tell you, when my man Capehart and Tre get it all together, they’re going to be equally impressive. Everybody’s at different levels, and sometimes it’s different opportunities.”
Swinney went on to mention other freshmen such as wide receivers E.J. Williams and Ajou Ajou, running backs Demarkcus Bowman and Kobe Pace, tight end Sage Ennis, and the six offensive linemen the Tigers signed last year, as examples of players who may not be stars right now but have a chance to be in the future.
“Those two freshmen receivers, E.J. and Ajou – special. Special,” Swinney said. “Been doing this a long time … special talent that is going to really develop nightly, and they’re going to be unbelievable by the time they leave here. Same thing with those backs and the young tight end, Sage Ennis. Nobody’s going to talk about him right now because he just doesn’t have quite the opportunity yet, but let me tell you, he’s going to be a great player. All those OL, they just have a lot to learn and we’re in the process of teaching them. That’s what we do.”
Potential is just that – potential – and nothing is guaranteed with young players. But Swinney believes he and his staff did a great job during the evaluation process and hit it out of the park with the whole freshman class.
“They’re all the right guys,” he said. “There’s not one kid in that entire freshman class that I don’t think we hit on. I think every single one of them, if the good Lord keeps them healthy, will leave here having left their mark and developed into a really good player.”
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