Today, which marks the traditional February National Signing Day, is stress free for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff.
That’s because the Tigers have already had one of the nation’s top signing classes locked up for two months.
All 19 members of Clemson’s 2021 class signed with the program during the early signing period in December, and it is another special class that came into today ranked No. 4 nationally by ESPN, No. 5 by 247Sports and No. 6 by Rivals.
“You talk about a great group of young people, a great group of young leaders – that’s who this group is,” Swinney said.
Clemson has produced seven consecutive signing classes that have ranked in the top 10 nationally according to at least one major recruiting service.
As the rankings presently stand, Clemson is in position to sign back-to-back top-five recruiting classes according to at least one major service for the first time in rankings on record since 2003. Last year, Clemson’s 2020 class finished No. 1 according to ESPN, No. 2 according to Rivals and No. 3 according to 247Sports.
Clemson’s 19-member class includes 17 members of the ESPN 300, 15 members of the Rivals 250 and 16 members of the 247Sports Top247. Fourteen members of the class appear on all three lists: offensive lineman Tristan Leigh, safety Andrew Mukuba, defensive tackle Payton Page, wide receiver Troy Stellato, defensive end Zaire Patterson, safety Barrett Carter, running back Will Shipley, defensive end Cade Denhoff, tight end Jake Briningstool, wide receiver Beaux Collins, offensive lineman Marcus Tate, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., running back Phil Mafah and cornerback Nathaniel Wiggins.
Offensive linemen Dietrick Pennington and Ryan Linthicum and wide receiver Dacari Collins appear on two of the three lists, while quarterback Bubba Chandler appears on one. Seventeen of Clemson’s 18 members of the class appear on at least one list.
The Tigers inked four players rated as a five-star prospect by at least one major recruiting service, including Leigh, Shipley, Carter and Trotter Jr.
“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.”
As Clemson’s program has ascended to becoming a perennial national title contender 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 10 different states, including California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Since 1972, Clemson has signed student-athletes to football scholarships from 34 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.
A prime example of Clemson’s national profile and appeal is the fact the Tigers have now signed a player out of California in three consecutive recruiting classes for the first time on record. Beaux Collins (South Central Los Angeles, Calif.) joins Joseph Ngata (2019) and D.J. Uiagalelei (2020) as California products on Clemson’s roster.
“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 (19) 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.”
Swinney credited his staff for the job it 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.”