Clemson’s 2017 recruiting class was, on the surface, kinda disappointing. The Tigers finished No. 16 in the recruiting rankings after winning the national championship. But there was more to that class than met the eye.
For starters, the relatively low ranking came because it takes a little while for a championship to really take hold.
The Tigers did just win a national title. It’s generally believed, however, that teams get more of a recruiting bump from the class that signs 13 months after winning, than they do with the class signing a month after a team takes home the trophy. This is because coaches only have a month to sell the national title to the current class, but a full year to do it to the next class.
But the other reason is the number of players Clemson signed. The Tigers only brought in 14 recruits; only one other team in the top 100 of the recruiting rankings signed a class that small. But there was obviously quality in that quantity, given the fact that Clemson’s class still finished as high as it did in the rankings. Clemson’s 2017 class had an average 247Sports Composite player rating of 92.09, an elite score.
This season, they’re taking quality to an even higher level. The Tigers signed four of the country’s top nine players on the first day of the Early Signing Period.
Let’s meet them.
The country’s No. 1 overall recruit: QB Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence was rated the top recruit in the country early on in the cycle for good reason, and he’s the first QB since Matt Barkley in 2009 to finish No. 1 overall. It’s been a couple cycles since there was a can’t-miss QB like Lawrence. Lawrence will most likely take over for Kelly Bryant after he goes to the pros next season. It’s pretty easy to see why.
Such a talent is Lawrence that he held up the quarterback recruiting cycle for several teams, as they waited to move on to secondary targets until he made his commitment. As a junior, Lawrence was regarded more highly than almost all of the quarterbacks in the senior class ahead of him.
No. 3: DE Xavier Thomas
And the Tigers have a crown jewel for the defense, as well. Thomas committed to the Tigers last spring. He’s the top-rated defender in the country, but is now No. 3 overall behind Georgia’s Justin Fields on the 247Sports Composite.
With Thomas, it’s about getting to the passer, just like a former standout Tigers edge rusher did before him.
Like most five-star ends, Thomas prides himself on his pass rushing. Asked by SB Nation’s Bud Elliott earlier this year if he thought he could become like any particular NFL player, he named former Clemson and current Falcons star Vic Beasley.
“Just the fact that his speed off the edge, he’s an edge rusher, and I watched him at Clemson,” Thomas says, and adds, “I really relate my game to him.”
No. 8: DE KJ Henry
An edge-rushing demon who, like Thomas, has lots of power.
5-star DE KJ Henry is a force
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Clemson already had the country’s meanest defensive front. Landing Thomas and Henry in the same class makes the Tigers even less fair along the defensive line than they already were. They’re going to spend three years or so racing each other to the quarterback just for fun. Expect Clemson to get so, so many sacks.
No. 9: OT Jackson Carman
The Tigers reached into Ohio to deal Ohio State a devastating recruiting blow. Getting Carman out of the Buckeye State is a coup, because he’s reliable and dominant.
5-star OT Jackson Carman is the total package
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Clemson has built a monster. This recruiting class just adds to it.