As Dabo Swinney put it, Christmas came a little bit early for his program on Wednesday when college football’s early signing period got underway.
Swinney and the Tigers inked 18 prospective student-athletes in their 2021 class, which is considered one of the top signing classes in the country by all the major recruiting services.
“We’re always excited when this day comes around, and today was another great day for us. Christmas is next Friday, but it kind of came early for us,” Clemson’s head coach said during his early signing day presser. “It just never gets old seeing a young man choose Clemson, especially nowadays where our program is, where our brand is.”
Swinney’s first signing class in 2009, a 12-member group, is referred to as the “Dandy Dozen.”
This year, Swinney has dubbed his latest class as the “Pandemic Posse” and called it the most unique group he has signed during his tenure as the Tigers’ head coach.
Because of the recruiting restrictions that were implemented by the NCAA in response to the coronavirus, and the ongoing ban on recruiting visits that has been in effect since March, there are a few members of Clemson’s 2021 class who have never been on campus and Swinney has never met in person before – namely Austin (Texas) LBJ safety Andrew Mukuba, Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake cornerback Nathaniel Wiggins and Bogart (Ga.) North Oconee quarterback Bubba Chandler.
“All of our signing classes are special. They really are,” he said. “But I’ll never forget my first class, February of ’09, the ‘Dandy Dozen.’ And I’ll never forget this class, ever. The ‘Pandemic Posse’ is what I’ve called them because this is the most unique recruiting class that we’ve had to sign, and the most unique recruiting experience that any of us have had.
“You talk about a great group of young people, a great group of young leaders – that’s who this group is, and I can’t wait to get started with them in person. A couple of them I haven’t even had a chance to meet in person, which is the most 2020 thing ever in our world here at Clemson. So, super excited about them.”
As Clemson has ascended to becoming perennial national title contenders on the field in recent years, the Tigers have also flexed their muscles on the recruiting trail with their ability to recruit on a national level and pull in top prospects from all across the country.
This year, Clemson signed players from nine different states, including California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“We have a national brand,” Swinney said. “We can recruit all over the country from California to Texas to Florida, Ohio – you name it. We’ve signed kids up in Connecticut and so forth … But these are 18 guys that really could have gone anywhere they wanted to go, and the fact that they chose to come to Clemson, believe in who we are as people, believe in the philosophy, the culture of our program – just very grateful for that, and that’s also a credit to the young men that are here, because they’re the ones who live it every day and they’re our greatest ambassadors.”
Clemson’s class includes two quarterbacks (Chandler and Will Taylor), two running backs (Phil Mafah and Will Shipley), three wide receivers (Beaux Collins, Dacari Collins, Troy Stellato), one tight end (Jake Briningstool) and three offensive linemen (Ryan Linthicum, Dietrick Pennington, Marcus Tate), as well as two defensive ends (Cade Denhoff and Zaire Patterson), one defensive tackle (Payton Page), one linebacker (Jeremiah Trotter Jr.), two safeties (Mukuba and Barrett Carter) and one cornerback (Wiggins).
The class features two five-star prospects in Shipley and Carter, along with 14 four-star prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers’ 2021 class was ranked among the top five nationally by ESPN (No. 4), Rivals (No. 5) and 247Sports (No. 5).
“It’s an exciting group,” Swinney said. “It’s a group that brings power, speed, athleticism, high character and great leadership qualities. And one of the also really cool things about this class is they’re all winners. These guys have won. The great majority of these guys have won state championships or they’ve competed for them, and are coming from programs that have great cultures and they’re well coached, and I know they’re going to bring that stuff with them.”
Swinney credited his staff for the job they did in helping Clemson put together a special class amidst all the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Very thankful for our staff,” he said. “It’s an enormous amount of work every year that goes into the recruiting process, but this year, in all that we couldn’t do, we had to figure out what we could do. And the job of our recruiting staff is amazing, and everybody in this entire organization pulling together to put our best foot forward to still be able to convey who we are at Clemson and what we’re all about and secure a great class.”
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