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Dabo Swinney once looked like he'd pulled one of the best classes in the country. Slowly, but very, very surely, it fell apart.
The Tigers still landed a decent class, but when compared with the players that could have signed up to join the Tigers, it has to feel like a salvage job. Once upon a time, Robert Nkemdiche was a Clemson pledge. So was fellow elite defensive end Elijah Daniel. So was top wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. But the writing was on the wall: by October, Clemson blog Shakin' the Southland was already starting to write about who could decommit, and sure enough, all three of the players they mentioned moved on. Nkemdiche famously went to Ole Miss, Daniel's Auburn commit was a surprise, but Clemson was long in the rear view mirror, and Robinson was seemingly never really even into Clemson.
They missed out on some big guys on Signing Day too, in Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, but got Mackensie Alexander.
Despite all that, Clemson still has a pretty good class. Rivals and ESPN have Clemson at No. 15, Scout puts it at No. 16, and 247 is the least optimistic at No. 20. But when you look at the guys they lost, Clemson fans can be bummed. Shakin the Southland wrote that Dabo Swinney needs to learn how to finish his classes better:
We have taken some blows and are not finishing as strong as we all would like right now. Two weeks ago we were flying high, rebounding with tremendous effort after losing our best offensive player in DeMarcus Robinson to Florida. Well you have got to finish in this business and for a second straight year we are missing on guys in the end--very important players.
However, this happened:
Bud Elliott’s grade
Clemson bringing in 11 players rated four or five-star is impressive. The Tigers brought in two instant-impact players in Mackensie Alexander and Shaq Lawson. Both could start immediately for the Tigers. The grade isn't higher because the Tigers missed out on an impact defensive tackle, but getting Lawson and end Ogundeko in early is a big help.
Top three players
MacKensie is a great pickup. He's easily one of the five best corners in Florida for the 2013 cycle, and should only improve... He's confident and will really get after receivers.
The 6'4, 265 lb Central (S.C.) D.W. Daniel High School product could get a chance to play early in his career at Clemson, as the Tigers will need a replacement for the departing Malliciah Goodman. Clemson has two other defensive ends in their 2013 class in Ebenezer Ogundeko and Dane Rogers, but Lawson looks to be the current class of that group. He is certainly the most physically ready to play of the three.
He will be switched to guard in college but despite about 20 pounds of unwanted weight--he is agile and can bend. He also has a powerful base and some serious strength. He is the real deal and will only get better as cuts a bit of weight. He may need to redshirt but I could see him playing in his redshirt frosh year.
Top three rival classes
It's tough to say whether South Carolina or Clemson did a better job in state - both tended to look for recruits out of it, anyway, and both ended up with similarly ranked classes. Florida State was the only other elite class in the ACC, surpassing Clemson. North Carolina surprised with its 2013 class, although they're well behind Clemson and FSU.
Biggest National Signing Day drama
Signing day was a mixed bag for the Tigers: fans went in a little disappointed after losing some players who went elsewhere, but they got Mackensie Alexander, one of the best cornerbacks in the country. Four star lineman Tyrone Crowder picked the Tigers, while four-star wide receiver James Clark didn't, picking Ohio State.
Notes from SB Nation blogs
Shakin' the Southland has extensive notes on each player in the full signing class, with this on top recruit Alexander:
One of the best cover CBs in the country, and filled a definite need. Great ball skills, great hip flexibility, tackles well enough too in run support. Reportedly gave Sammy Watkins a hard time in HS and excels in M2M coverage. We point out that his recruitment has been high drama, and he has a high bust factor because of that. Will not RS, so throwing him to the wolves may bring that attitude in check. Also will need significant work on his zone skills. Recruited as a group by Tony Elliott, Brent Venables, and Charlie Harbison.
And this on four-star LB Dorian O'Daniel:
Was originally much higher rated at his position nationally, formerly #37 in Rivals100. He's got great speed and range due to some great hip flexibility. He gets in the backfield and makes tackles, and can cover guys in open space. That natural coverage ability looks like a perfect fit for a WLB, though the SAM would do the same things in a 4-3 Over defense. I would not say he's a headhunter type that just craves putting a hit on someone, but he does take good angles in the film we've seen and wraps up. Played a lot of RB in HS as well. Recruited by Jeff Scott.
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