How Georgia's national championship could impact Clemson

How Georgia's national championship could impact Clemson

Football

How Georgia's national championship could impact Clemson

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Georgia’s four-decade wait for another national championship came to an end Monday night with its 33-18 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The reverberations of the Bulldogs’ title could reach 500 miles away in Clemson, South Carolina.

Georgia’s run to its latest national championship began with its 10-3 win over Clemson back on Labor Day weekend in the teams’ first meeting since 2014, but the schools have long been going up against each other off the field, too, given their geographical proximity. And each has won its share of recruiting battles against the other as they’ve risen to national prominence in recent years.

Clemson has dipped into Georgia and beat the Bulldogs for some blue-chip talent that helped the Tigers make six straight College Football Playoff appearances from 2015-20. Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Georgia) and Trevor Lawrence (Cartersville, Georgia), the quarterbacks on Clemson’s most recent national title teams in 2016 and 2018, quickly come to mind.

The Tigers had 22 players on their roster this season who call Georgia home, including cornerback Andrew Booth, linebackers James Skalski and Baylon Spector and defensive end Myles Murphy, a former five-star recruit whom Clemson beat Georgia for in 2020. Another former five-star prospect, freshman linebacker Barrett Carter, is the latest coup for the Tigers out of the Peach State.

Clemson has gotten an overall recruiting bump from its recent success, finishing as high as No. 3 in the team recruiting rankings during the 2020 recruiting cycle, according to the 247Sports Composite. But Georgia has been even better in consistently luring top talent to Athens since Kirby Smart took over as head coach in 2016.

The Bulldogs have strung together five straight top-5 recruiting classes, according to the 247Sports Composite. Georgia’s No. 6-ranked class in Smart’s first season at the helm, per those same rankings, is the lowest-rated class of his tenure so far.

This year, Georgia is working on the No. 3-ranked class while Clemson’s recruiting haul is ranked 25th nationally heading into next month’s traditional signing period, according to the 247Sports Composite. Part of that is the Bulldogs have 27 signees or verbal commitments at this point compared to just 12 for Clemson, but some of it is tied directly to some head-to-head recruiting battles that have largely gone Georgia’s way.

Clemson and Georgia were both finalists for Malaki Starks, a five-star defensive back out of Jefferson, Georgia, and Oscar Delp, a four-star tight end from Cummings, Georgia, before both ultimately picked the Bulldogs. Starks is currently the highest-rated signee in the Bulldogs’ class, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Last month, Georgia flipped former Clemson commit Daylen Everette, a five-star cornerback out of IMG Academy, though Everette’s change of heart came after former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables left for Oklahoma just before the early signing period. And Georgia even reached into the Carolinas back in the spring to steal one from under Clemson’s nose, beating out the Tigers for Salisbury (North Carolina) four-star linebacker Jalon Walker, who was Clemson’s top linebacker target at the time.

Clemson has kept the bulk of South Carolina’s top talent home during this recruiting cycle, signing four of the state’s top five prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite. Mauldin four-star cornerback Jeadyn Lukus and four-star receivers Adam Randall (Myrtle Beach) and Antonio Williams (Irmo) headline the group while the Tigers also inked the state’s top tight end prospect, Greenville’s Josh Sapp, after losing out on Delp.

But Clemson doesn’t have any recruits from Georgia signed or committed to its 2022 class so far, a rarity for a program that relies heavily on the talent-rich bordering state as part of its recruiting footprint. The Tigers still have top-line talent and have more coming in, including the nation’s top quarterback recruit in Westlake (Texas) five-star signal caller Cade Klubnik, but in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of college football, it’s Georgia, sitting atop it for the first time since 1980, that is carrying the sport’s biggest wave of momentum into next season both on and off the field.

That could further impact a Clemson program that was already losing some steam against one of its primary competitors on the recruiting trail.

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