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Evaluating the 2009 Recruiting Class

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We are evaluating how close the recruiting services were with their ratings of the 2009 incoming class, Swinney's first and the so-called "Dandy Dozen." This includes all the guys signed by Clemson in 2009.  We've decided to review the class to see whether Rivals and Scout got their ratings right in the first place. I have my own thoughts about what I take star ratings to really mean, and it always becomes a point of contention between people who live by the ratings and those who trust the staff to make evaluations regardless of rating.

This class was always going to be a small one, with the initial projection being about 17-19 signees. In the beginning this class was off to a great start under Tommy Bowden. Craig "Poppa" Loston from TX had committed, but after the firing he immediately flipped to LSU. Sam Montgomery was likely always going to LSU but we may have had a chance without the turnover. Devonte Holloman was on the Clemson commit list. Stephon Gilmore from South Pointe in Rock Hill was heavily considering Clemson, and then the bagman got him for SC after Bowden's firing. RB Ben Axon and Larry Raper were also commitments that parted ways after the firing. Leon Mackey, a 4-star DL, originally signed with VT but never enrolled, and spent a year at Prep school, and was not released from his LOI. Clemson accepted his commitment for a January enrollment this year, but lost him at the last minute. Frank Beamer would not let him come to Clemson, and only released him to SC, where his son Shane was coaching. Chandler Catanzaro was an invited walk-on along with Donny McElveen from Summerville.

Instead of giving out the extra 5 scholarships, Swinney pocketed them, and then managed to keep 10-11 walk-ons on scholarship over the next two years as a result.

This class was initially rated 37th by Rivals, and 11th by average star rating.

My interpretation of the various star ratings are: 5-star -- starter by Soph year, contributor as true freshman; 4-star -- solid starter, All-Conf type player as upperclassman; 3-stars -- by upperclassman should be starting or playing a good bit; 2-star -- contributor, possibly a starter by Senior year. I think that is fair to both sides. Again, ESPN did not use a "star" rating but rather a point system, and i've converted that into an equivalent. When in doubt I list both possibilities.

2009 Signees
Player Rivals Scout ESPN Comments
QB Tajh Boyd 4 5 4 - 150 Set just about every Clemson passing record available in the Chad Morris offense. 6th Rd pick by the NY Jets. 6.0 Rivals rating and others are correct.
OLB Quandon Christian 3 3 3 Great promise as a freshman, but regressed like many under Steele. Still started all 4 years, but as a platoon player. Ratings were accurate, but he should've performed better.
DE Malliciah Goodman 4 4 4 - 150 Started his last two seasons, but I wouldn't call him solid. He showed potential early on but never developed, and for half of his senior year was abysmal. One really good game in his entire career, vs LSU. 4-stars and a ESPNU-150 rating is far too high for this player.
MLB Corico Hawkins 3 3 3 Hard to argue with the ratings here, Hawkins started his Jr season and showed that he really wasn't capable physically or mentally of playing the position on every down, but could be a good backup.
OT JK Jay 4 4 4 - 150 Weightlifting incident doing squats caused a severe back injury, never played a down at Clemson, so we'll never know. #Batson'd
RB Roderick McDowell 4 3 3 Hot Rod showed flashes during his time here, first behind Spiller and then Ellington, but did not put it together until his senior year and seized the starting job. Capable blocker, hard runner as a senior, and could've finished with 300-400 more yards if Clemson would run the ball with the RB. I'd say the 4-star is a high rating.
WR Bryce McNeal 4 4 4 - 150 Couldn't get on the field even with Marquan Jones and Xavier Dye here, transferred to UConn and Louisville, never amounting to much there either. Total Bust by all services.
SS Jonathan Meeks 4 4 3 Showed promise as a freshman, but took a step backwards with Steele's complex system along with many others. Decent S but never grew arms to make tackles with until the very end. Rating too high, but many prep guys are given 4 stars.
DT/OG Tyler Shatley 3 3 3 Started out at 1-technique, moved to RG his last two years. Never had great feet but was adequate and never challenged as a starter there. Low-3 stars is about right.
LB Spencer Shuey 3 3 3 Initially too slow to play, Shuey dedicated himself to losing weight, gaining some speed, and his instincts made him a reliable player by his last year. 3-stars is accurate.
DE/FB/TE Darrell Smith 2 3 3 Swinney personally offered this Alabama kid over objections by Vic Koenning as a DE, mainly to get teammates WR Kendall Kelly and Dre Kirkpatrick who signed with Alabama, and partially due to the loss of Leon Mackey. Never played there, moved to offense and played sparingly, mostly as a blocker. 2-stars is right.
OT Brandon Thomas 4 4 3 Took him a couple years to figure it all out, but became a very good LT. 3rd Rd pick by the SF 49ers after an ACL likely dropped him by a round or so. Ratings were right on by the first two.