What is important, far more than star ratings and Rivals/Scout/ESPN rankings, is whether the signing class fills the needs of the program. Just signing 5-star backs every year doesn't equate to wins if you don't have 5 good OL up front with backups that can play in case of injury. It doesnt matter to put up 40 points if you give up 42. Below we'll look over the depth charts and give our thoughts as to whether the class really is good for Clemson.
DE - Gone is 1st Rd Pick DaQuan Bowers. Malliciah Goodman will likely step right up to 1st string on the strongside. Behind him is your best guess: incoming Fr. Corey Crawford or Rs Fr. Tavaris Barnes. Kevin Dodd is a big DE who likely will move inside in college, but should redshirt nevertheless. At Bandit, Andre Branch returns with Kourtnei Brown backing him up. Both guys at Bandit will leave after 2011. Goodman will be a Junior this fall. DE is a position that you must add personnel to every year so you don't start freshmen. Crawford and Gore are signed as Ends, though I think Gore is a better OT. I think he will end up moving, which puts us in a bind for 2012 if we don't sign a top-flight End. We lose Bowers and add Crawford back with Gore, but I am highly concerned about End depth at the Bandit position. In terms of numbers we are OK, depending on who moves around, but for 2012 we may be hurting at Bandit. Clemson needed a good player here, and we need an elite athlete at End in the next class.
DT - We lose Jarvis Jenkins and Miguel Chavis to graduation. Jamie Cumbie was lost since the last class. Chavis plays more Nose but Jenkins is more 3. Brandon Thompson will maintain the Nose position for another year and Rennie Moore steps up to the 3. Both are going to be Seniors in 2011. Moore played better in 2010 with a good motor, but there is a talent dropoff from Jenkins. Behind them there is a serious talent dropoff further. Tyler Shatley is a Nose, as is Tra Thomas. One of them must step up behind Thompson. Josh Watson redshirted coming out of Hargrave last year and will backup the 3 now that his back has (hopefully) healed. Clemson added Grady Jarrett, Roderick Byers, DeShaun Williams, and Jerome Maybank. Jarrett is a Nose. DE Tavaris Barnes could move inside to the 3, as would Kevin Dodd, whose chances of qualifying are not awesome. Byers is a 3. Maybank will not see the field at DT in my opinion, he's an OG. In terms of numbers Clemson is fine. Moving someone else around will help the talent dropoff. However, this would've been a prime position to bring in a JUCO player. I do not think Clemson addressed the need of talent at DT with enough lead time. There is not enough talent here.
If both Barnes and Dodd move inside to the 3-technique, the need at End becomes more acute and here it would be OK.
LB - Steele's scheme uses the LBs in their traditional 4-3 roles, but we do play a multiple front system, so you could see anywhere between 2-4 on the field at once. Clemson recently lost Brandon Maye earlier than expected, likely due to decreased playing time. Daniel Andrews returns for his senior season. Scotty Cooper has left since the last signing class. All are outside so you would like to sign OLBs and redshirt them. Corico Hawkins will remain at MIKE with Shuey behind him. Quandon Christian will start at SAM with Andrews and Tig Willard at WILL, who has no backup. At least one incoming freshman will avoid a RS because of that. Justin Parker will either play MIKE and challenge Shuey or backup Christian at SAM, I'm hoping he lives up to his billing and at least takes the #2 MLB spot. Vic Beasley was moved to SAM and comes off redshirt. Clemson signed B.J. Goodson, Lateek Townsend, Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward and Colton Walls. Walls will move to Fullback/H, so thats 4 signees. We said last year that Clemson needed 3-4 LBs in this class and thats what we got. Clemson filled the need with good personnel, possibly turning this into a position of strength in 2 years.
DB - DeAndre McDaniel is gone, as are Byron Maxwell and Marcus Gilchrist. These needs were addressed ahead of time last year but we'd need a couple for numbers purposes. Ricky Chaney and Evan McKelvey didn't make it in last year. Clemson doesn't lose much beyond that, with Sensabaugh being the lone senior in the secondary in 2011. Meeks and Hall will start, with Brewer at one CB position. The other is up for grabs and may go to Darius Robinson. Garry Peters will also challenge. Carlton Lewis and Spencer Adams are both safeties, and Adams is so fast that I'm surprised he hasn't made it on the field. Desmond Brown and Bashaud Breeland are both Safeties, but word is that Breeland has done well in his man/man technique during his RS year. Clemson brings in Adam Humphries, Cortez Davis and Robert Smith. 3 for 3. Clemson filled the need in the secondary.
QB - Kyle Parker is gone, and Tajh Boyd steps up. Michael Wade is gone but wasn't really a QB anyway. Boyd will be a RS Soph. Without any other scholarship backups, Clemson needed to take at least 2 QBs this year and got Stoudt and Tony McNeal. We could see one redshirting and using a walk-on as the 3rd string. It would've been better to take one last year but we're full at QB.
RB - Jamie Harper decided to leave early and quality depth was a serious issue in 2010. Daniel Barnes was on scholarship last fall and is gone. Clemson essentially played with only 2 RBs and just one in the 2nd half of the year. Andre Ellington comes back and McDowell will start out as #2. Andre is to be a Jr this fall. D.J. Howard comes off a RS with Demont Buice. You really need 3 to play with here at this oft-injured position, and to take one per year. Clemson got Mike Bellamy, who will not redshirt. Thats 5 players for only 3 true spots. Bellamy may end up getting the #2 spot and someone else will be moved. Clemson filled the need at RB perfectly.
WR - Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe are finally gone. Brandon Clear may leave early. Marquan Jones will be a senior in the slot. Joe Craig comes off RS and will step behind Jones and McNeal in the slot. Nuke Hopkins and Jaron Brown will have the outside spots. Brandon Ford was moved to TE, so we needed numbers in a bad way here, particularly for a 3-4 wide system. Clemson signed Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Stanton Seckinger and Charone Peake, though we see Seckinger as another Ford and moved to TE. We lose 2 or 3 and gain 4. Clemson filled the numbers need and raised the talent level immensely.
TE - Kasey Nobles leaves. TE will be featured differently in the new system, but spread formations and offenses do still use the TE, even moreso in the last 5-7 years than when spreads revolutionized college ball, therefore the requirement is still there. Our study of Morris' system thus far shows he uses the TE/H almost every down in some way. Dwayne Allen returns as #1 and Brandon Ford as #2. Drew Traylor and Darrell Smith will probably remain seldom-used. Sam Cooper comes off RS and Clemson signed Eric MacLain, one of the best in the nation. Its unlikely he redshirts, but we have numbers here, too many really. Chad Diehl has one more year as the dedicated blocker-H, and Walls is in to take his place. Clemson should be set here for awhile, even if one leaves.
OL - A position where attrition strikes the most, and where a minimum of 3 or 4 must be brought in every year. Our best lineman, Chris Hairston, is gone, leaving a huge void at the critical LT position. Brandon Thomas steps in, but who backs him up is the question. This is another position where a JUCO player would've been greatly beneficial to depth. Either Price or Timothy will likely backup at LT, which doesnt inspire confidence. The interior line loses only Ben Ramsey, former walk-on center, and Wilson Norris, who was injured for 2010 anyway and gave up his final year. Across the front everyone else returns, but with the exception of Freeman all will be Seniors. Top backup Mason Cloy will be a senior too, so in 2012 we could have issues. Kalon Davis and David Beasley will step in as backups with Reid Webster at Guard. Backup RT will be either Price or Timothy again. The Tigers bring in OT Shaq Anthony and Isaiah Battle, OG Spencer Region and C Ryan Norton. I think all should RS, linemen should always RS, thus the need for a JUCO Tackle. Matt Sanders will probably backup Freeman, but I would expect Cloy to draw snaps if injury occurs. Battle will go to Fork Union. Joe Gore could be moved to OT from DE. Jerome Maybank should be moved to OG from DT. In terms of just numbers, this group fills the need. In terms of depth at the Tackle position I think Clemson could've done more to address potential problems. We're solid at Guard. The biggest gain is Robbie Caldwell, who makes me feel better about the OL direction than I have in a decade.
Certainly Clemson has improved some questionable positions but games are won in the trenches and we have some big questions up front for 2011 and '12.
How do you rate the 2011 Class in terms of NEED?