In the words of Dabo Swinney, the fact that Clemson was able to sign Nathaniel Wiggins is simply “God’s favor.”
Wiggins, a four-star cornerback from Georgia, had been committed to LSU since August before flipping his commitment to Clemson on Dec. 12, four days before the start of the early signing period last Wednesday.
Similar to the case with Travis Etienne, whom Swinney didn’t meet in person until late in the recruiting process, Swinney has never physically met Wiggins due to the in-person recruiting restrictions that have been put in place by the NCAA because of the coronavirus pandemic.
And just as the Tigers pursued Etienne after a scholarship opened up for the running back position following Cordarrian Richardson’s decommitment during the 2017 recruiting cycle, Clemson locked in on chasing Wiggins for its lone available cornerback spot in the 2021 class once four-star corner Jordan Hancock decommitted this summer, and the Tigers ultimately managed to land Wiggins down the stretch.
“Sometimes — I always mess with the staff all the time — sometimes it’s just God’s favor,” Swinney said during Clemson Football’s National Signing Day Show at the Reeves Football Complex. “That’s just how I say it. But this is a young man… Travis Etienne, I had never met Travis Etienne until December of his senior year. Boy, aren’t we glad we got Travis Etienne, and that was literally just God’s favor because situations changed, circumstances changed in the recruiting process, and all the sudden, boom – we needed a running back, and we got Travis Etienne. And kind of the same thing with Nate.”
Clemson extended an offer to Wiggins back in January, but as the recruiting process progressed, it looked like Wiggins was heading in one direction and the Tigers were going in another.
However, after situations became different and certain developments unfolded, Wiggins and Clemson ended up being a match – and Swinney says God was smiling down on his program for that to happen.
“I mean, this guy is unbelievable,” Swinney said. “He is a long guy, can fly, got elite speed, tough… But he had a different path that he was going in recruiting, and for whatever reason circumstances changed and next thing you know we’re looking for a corner, and boom – here we are. So, that’s all I can say. This is just God’s favor getting this young man right here.”
Swinney described Wiggins as being “the epitome” of Clemson’s recruiting philosophy, which yields very few scholarship offers compared to many other college football programs around the country, as the Tigers are highly selective with who they offer and are all about finding not only great players but also great people who fit their culture.
“We don’t offer a lot of guys, and kind of like with (defensive tackles) coach (Todd) Bates, I told (cornerbacks) coach (Mike) Reed, I said, ‘All right, you’re getting one spot. You get one. We’re going to take one elite corner,’” Swinney recalled. “And so, very few guys that we offered scholarships to. Very few, and sometimes we may be heading down a different path and this young man’s heading down a different path, and again, things change for whatever reason and here we are. Like I said, God’s favor just worked it out. It’s an awesome situation for him and for us.
“And again, taking one guy at a place like Clemson, that’s all you need to know about what we think of Nate Wiggins. We think he’s got a great future ahead of him. … We think Nate is going to be special.”
Swinney joked that Christmas came early for Reed when Wiggins flipped from LSU to Clemson less than a week before the early signing period.
“Coach Reed, Santa definitely came to see him on December the 16th,” Swinney said with a smile. “He’s a few days early.”
Wiggins hails from Atlanta’s Westlake High School, the same school that produced former Clemson cornerback and Atlanta Falcons 2020 first-round pick A.J. Terrell.
In the first nine games Wiggins played at Westlake, he was very productive on offense despite limited appearances on that side of the ball, scoring on a 71-yard touchdown run, returning a kickoff 75 yards and recording 11 receptions for 323 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 29.4 yards per reception.
Wiggins, who also had two career interception returns for touchdowns, including one of 100 yards, played at Grady High School in 2018 and 2019 and also played basketball at Grady.
“He’s dynamic,” Reed said during Clemson’s signing day show. “When you turn on the film and you watch Nate play, you’ll see a guy that’s just a blazer with the ball in his hands. Very confident, goes against great competition, has played against some of our former players here. And you’re talking about A.J. Terrell, this is one in the bigger version, taller. So, I’m ecstatic about this one.”
Wiggins, a consensus four-star prospect according to the major recruiting services, plans to enroll early at Clemson in January.
“When he finally called and said he was committing… As we talked about, we’re on Zoom calls,” Reed said. “Well, I was on a Zoom call with his mother, and he had texted her, and then he called me, and literally just erupted. My family, my kids are jumping. So, it was a great Christmas present.”
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