Overall Class Rating: B+
Top 7 Players: Mike Bellamy; Tony McNeal; Eric MacClain; Sammy Watkins; Charone Peake; Cortez Davis; Lateek Townsend
Most Likely Early Contributor: Mike Bellamy is five-star running back who is absolutely enough, though it would be nice to have gotten another bigger back. Five-star WR Sammy Watkins should be a considerable and immediate upgrade for a group that struggled to even catch the ball last year, let alone get yardage. And let's not forget Charone Peake (four-star WR), Cortez Davis, and Martavis Bryant (four-star WR).
Top Class Sleeper: Tony McNeal (QB) is a nice prospect, and Cole Stoudt should him give good competition.
The One That Got Away: DE Ray Drew, who committed to Georgia. Also, Jeoffrey Pagan -- we dropped pursuing him, thinking we had legitimate shots at Phillip Dukes and Jerell Adams, which would prevent us from having to cross-train Pagan as a DE and DT. I know Pagan was ultimately playing the game, but you would think the coaches would have fought a little harder if they knew they were wasting their time with Dukes and Adams.
Hey, Jealousy: Ja'Daveon Clowney gave a courtesy visit this weekend, but likely just to mollify a random relative. He has said for a while he wants to play for the Cocks or the Crimson Tide, which makes you wonder whether he just likes dark red; so, we were never in the running. I really thought we had a chance for Dukes and Adams (both four-star recruits) . . . both have now indicated they'd rather play for Spurrier.
I'm From Mizzourah: Stanton Seckinger, a WR, played private school ball in Charleston, South Carolina. I'm not saying this means he's potentially overrated, but . . . well, actually, that's exactly what I'm saying.
But he is big and supposed to be athletic. He is joining a strong wide receiver class, and the other guys are more proven commodities. I hope he can transition well to big time ball, otherwise his pants will look pretty all year long.
Strongest Position Group. Wide receiver. Good thing too, as that's where they needed the most help.
Weakest Position Group: The secondary, which has been a traditional strength at Clemson, so this is somewhat of a concern.
Narrative: Clemson played for the ACC Championship in Dabo Swinney's first year at the helm. Consequently, Clemson faithful were riding high hopes despite CJ Spiller's departure to the Buffalo Bills. Spiller was all-world at Clemson and my concern that he was the only reason Clemson wasn't absolutely horrid on offense proved true, unfortunately. Without him, the holes the O-Line created didn't look quite as big, and they closed with extreme prejudice.
Coming into 2010, the line was in dire need of stepping up. Injuries prevented them from reaching full potential, however. An unproven backfield mixed with an inexperienced line made the Clemson faithful long for the days of Danny Ford, Terry Allen, and the option. I heard uttered more than once, "Didn't we used to be a good run team?" and yes, that is true, if grammatically incorrect.
The passing game was no refuge. After signing a deal to play professional baseball, Kyle Parker acted more like Roger Doyal in the movie Major League than he did a gritty gunslinger. When he actually got a ball to his receivers, they dropped it. In mild defense of the wide receivers, most of the balls that got close to being on target were still high and behind them.
When Clemson was on offense, the most exciting place in the stadium was the Dippin Dots line. The chick selling them was hot and their flavor selection had improved. Who knows how good the defense could have really been if they only had to play half the game?
Clemson hit a home run with wide receivers. Together, they should make any quarterback look good for years to come. Watkins, Peake, and Bryant have the makings of an all-star trio. And Tiger fans should even express cautious optimism for Seckinger.
With their help, the university bookstore may even start selling quarterback jerseys again. McClain is a decent recruit at tight end in the sense that he is a big ole stud, but he has been known to drop a ball, which gives me cause to wince and wonder whether Dippin Dots are going to increase in price.
What makes offenses go, however, is the O-Line, and here I feel they stumbled a little. I would give them a C+ at best. They put a lot into the pipeline (Shaq Anthony, Isaiah Battle, and so on), but most of them look like long-term projects, and the team needs help now.
Offense is nice, but Clemson fans have always demanded a strong defense, and most years, they have gotten their way. On the defensive front, the recruits look big, strong, and fast. Michael Dean Perry would be proud. To continue in that tradition, the team needed most help at linebacker, and they got it, particularly if they land Stephone Anthony (I'm putting my money on Clemson) and Tony Steward (I'm putting my money on FSU).
Even without them B.J. Goodson and Townsend are solid, and Davis (who was recruited to be a DB and listed that way on most websites) could slide in and make a nice OLB. Defensive ends Corey Crawford (four stars) and Joe Gore (three stars, but underrated) will be nice bookends up front. In the middle, DTs DeShaun Williams and Grady Jarrett look good. DT Kevin Dodd, if he can qualify, could be the steal of the class.
Did class address need? Yes, for the most part. We need immediate help at WR and LB more than any other area. We did a decent job of addressing this on the LB front as of right now and a solid job on the WR front, with several players that have talent and have a chance to see significant playing time next year.
Overall: I think this is a nice group of immediate contributors (Bellamy, Watkins, Peake, McClain, Crawford, Anthony, and at least one DT), guys who will redshirt (Stoudt, Shaq Anthony, Norton, Battle, Gore, and Humphries) and some developmental risk/reward types (Dodd, Maybank, and Seckinger) with a couple of 'glue guys' (Colton Walls and Robert Smith).
Closing Thoughts: If we can land Stewart and Anthony, it may cement this class as outstanding across the board, but I still think our O-line and DB positions would remain average at best.