Clemson's 2015 recruiting haul finished in the top 5 by most reputable recruiting services. The class has drawn comparison to the previous Swinney-era high 2011 recruiting class who just completed (minus redshirts) their four year run. I thought it would be an interesting study to look back at that class and see where they ranked then versus how they would rank now, as well as give the class an overall grade against the other 2011 classes ranked that year.
The 2011 class, according to Rivals, was the 8th ranked class in the country. The Tigers trailed Alabama, FSU, Texas, USC, UGA, LSU, and Auburn. The class was noted mostly for the 4 five stars brought in (and some had Peake as a 5 star as well). Stephone Anthony famously stated that "Clemson is coming" and made good on that promise as he and his classmates recorded a program record 42 wins in four seasons. Let's take a look at the guys signed in 2011:
OL Shaq Anthony (3 stars): Gave the team 1 star production prior to quitting the program in the fall of 2014. Showed signs of being a good pass blocker but could not get physical enough for the run game or stay out of the dog house.
LB Stephone Anthony (5 stars): Eventually developed into a 5 star level player as a senior after taking a little while to emerge. Was a major contributor snap wise all four seasons and one of the unquestioned leaders of the #1 ranked 2014 defense. Looking at cracking the first round of the NFL draft as the combine approaches but should be at least a 2nd rounder in April.
RB Mike Bellamy (5 stars): Clemson fans only got to see a brief flash of the electric talent Bellamy possessed as a true freshman, most notably on a 75 yard TD on his first carry and the nnnnnnasty TD run that broke off VT's Jayron Hosley in Lane Stadium. Bellamy could not get his life together and washed out of Clemson as well as his first JUCO stop.
WR Martavis Bryant (4 stars): Bryant had to do prep school before joining the star studded 2011 WR class. He certainly earned the 4 star rating by his junior year, though he clearly possessed 5 star talent. Bryant was no fan of the student part of student-athlete and nearly got booted from the program prior to a good junior year. He took his talent to the NFL early and was drafted in the 4th round by Pittsburgh where he eventually emerged as a starter and put up excellent numbers during the second half of the season, most notably 8 touchdowns and a whopping 21.1 yards per catch.
DE Rod Byers (3 stars): Byers recently moved to offensive line/tight end after being buried on the depth chart on defense. Byers was a late take in this class after the staff wasn't able to sway Clowney from the hooks of the chickens (and their Rock Hill boosters). Byers still has a year to produce for the team as a RS senior, but to this point has been closer to a 1 to 2 star guy.
DE Corey Crawford (4 stars): Crawford certainly lived up to the 4 star billing. Though he wasn't a superstar and never landed on an All-ACC team, he was a multiple year starter and a major cornerstone of the 2014 defense. Crawford is a combine invite and will be an NFL draft pick.
DB Cortez Davis (4 stars): Davis was an intriguing prospect offering major size at the position, but off the field personal issues led to his transfer out of the program after not being able to crack the 2 deep. The once heralded Davis/Marlon Lane combination out of Daytona Beach never bore fruit as the staff cut Lane loose prior to signing day.
DT Kevin Dodd (3 stars): Dodd has been waiting in the wings the last two years after redshirting, but will have a big opportunity to step up and give 3 star production as the bulk of Clemson's DL depth departed after 2014's bowl game. So far you'd have to say Dodd has been a 2 star guy, but the jury is still out with one to go.
LB B.J. Goodson (3 stars): Goodson was the most unheralded of the 2011 LB class, but has been a steady contributor during his time and also has a RS senior year to go. He certainly has earned that 3 star Rivals rating as a consistent 2 deep guy turned starter.
DE Joe Gore (3 stars): Gore was moved to OL pretty early on and looked to be the guy at right tackle in 2014 but underperformed prior to an appendectomy. Gore has some athletic tools for the position but appears to be the puppy that didn't bite. Now major competition has arrived on campus with the 2015 OL freshmen corps which will hopefully be the spark to get Gore going in his final year. To date he certainly hasn't been a 3 star guy.
WR Adam Humphries (2 stars): Certainly the poster boy for 5 heart success, Humphries was a steady-Eddie guy all four years at Clemson. He clearly played above a 2 star rating and was an above average blocker who showed good hands and was the team's top punt returner for two seasons (though unspectacular there, minus the Louisville game). He even cameoed as a DB during the 2012 season when the injury bug decimated the DB corps.
DT Grady Jarrett (3 stars): Jarrett was just barely a 3 star by Rivals but finished as a no-doubt 5 star player by 2014. Jarrett was dominant in 2013 even with a shoulder injury and in my view was robbed of being an All-ACC player despite his massive production that year. Certainly an all time great DT even though he lacked the measureables of past stars like William Perry, Michael Dean Perry, Chester McGlockton, and Brenston Buckner. Jarrett will be an NFL draft pick and make some team very happy with his tremendous strength and unmatched motor.
K Ammon Lakip (2 stars): Lakip rebounded from an awful start as Clemson's starting place kicker for a solid 2014. He hasn't been Cat Man yet, but if he can produce a solid 2015 then he will have justified the scholarship in my opinion.
TE Eric MacLain (4 stars): MacLain has been an All-In Tiger for sure, but certainly hasn't been a 4 star guy production wise. He made the move to OL, which was predicted when he came in at TE, but lost foot speed as he put on weight. He did come on late in 2014 and played major snaps in the Russell Athletic Bowl and will get every chance to be a starter in his final year, most likely at LG or RG. Hopefully he can be a solid starter in 2015 which would be a 3 star production level, otherwise this would have to count as a bust.
DT Jerome Maybank (2 stars): He had size so I thought perhaps he could amount to something as an OL, but clearly was a wasted take in the end. Just not a D1 player.
QB Tony McNeal (3 stars): McNeal never had a chance to provide depth at QB due to injuries.
OL Ryan Norton (3 stars): Norton looked to be right on track as the 3 star he was projected to be after earning the starting center job back in 2013 but struggled in 2014. Norton has logged the snaps worthy of the rating, but many fans look to his failings as one of the biggest issues with the Tiger team. Norton will look to put together a good 2015 and the team could certainly use it. Will be pushed by Jay Guillermo.
WR Charone Peake (4 stars): Peake has had a star-crossed career so far at Clemson as he didn't come on as quickly as wunderkind Sammy Watkins as a true freshman and then suffered a string of knee injuries. Peake has shown flashes of the heralded talent, including a sick 1 handed TD catch against SC State, and will look to stay healthy in 2015. If he does, he promises to put together a big year with Watson at quarterback and be the answer at the 5 man position.
OL Spencer Region (3 stars): Fans, including myself, were intrigued by Region who donned the face paint in high school and had a reputation for wanting to hurt people. This was a welcome sight to those jaded by the Corey Lamberts of the world. Unfortunately Region ballooned to 400 pounds and never dedicated himself to getting in the shape needed for the HUNH attack. Graduated early and will finish at another school.
QB Morgan Roberts (3 stars): Roberts would have been the ideal depth guy at QB had he stayed in the program and would have helped folks easily forget the flameout of Chad Kelly. Instead, Roberts went to Yale and lit it up this past season and was second team All Ivy League. Can't blame the kid for wanting to play but selfishly I would have loved to have had him to back up Watson and compete with Stoudt in 2014. If nothing else, he would have allowed the Tigers to get Stoudt fully healthy.
WR Stanton Seckinger (3 stars): Stanton was rated by most as a 2 star guy as he played private school ball at Porter-Gaud. Seckinger has produced some good moments, mostly as a receiver from the TE position, but hasn't been able to add the blocking element to his game to be a real difference maker. I will say he has out produced what I thought he would bring already and has a year to go. Unfortunately he is having to recover from an ACL tear and few have been able to put together a big year coming off that injury at Clemson.
ATH Robert Smith (3 stars): Smith was a QB at Woodland High, but moved to safety upon his arrival at Clemson. Smith put together 4 star production by his senior season and was a rock solid guy in the back for 2 full seasons. Though Smith lacked eye-popping athleticism of guys like Jayron Kearse, he made the most of what God gave him and was a Jamal Fudge type surprise in this class.
LB Tony Steward (5 stars): Steward was the big signing day get for the program and fans drooled over the potential of a kid in a grown man's body coming out of Florida. Steward suffered knee injury after knee injury, the last one coming just after the cutoff for a medical redshirt, and had to use 2014 as his opportunity to impress. After a bit of a shaky start in Athens, Steward came on and gave the Tigers 4 star production as a senior, which was admirable considering what he had to overcome getting there. Steward will be at the NFL combine and looks to continue his career in the NFL. He could show out in the measureable department and got better with his instincts as the year went on.
QB Cole Stoudt (3 stars): Stoudt's story is well known and he certainly lived up to the 3 star billing serving as Clemson's #2 QB behind Tajh Boyd before starting the majority of the 2014 season due to Watson's injuries. Had perhaps the greatest redemption in Clemson history when he helped the Tigers destroy Oklahoma in the bowl game and gutted the team to six victories in his 8 starts with a hurt shoulder.
LB Lateek Townshend (4 stars): In my estimation the biggest bust of the class, Townshend was never able to learn how to play the position at this level before leaving the program. He had extreme athleticism for a LB, but was just a roving loose cannon at Marlboro County where he was free to just attack with no regard for assignment or alignment. I thought he'd be at least a special teams dynamo but that never really came to fruition either.
LB Colton Walls (2 stars): 5 heart city here as Dabo offered the son of NFL veteran Wesley Walls. Colton wasn't his father and didn't last long in Tigertown.
WR Sammy Watkins (5 stars): What can you say here? Simply the best WR in Clemson history, a top 5 NFL draft pick and All-Rookie performer in the NFL. Sammy was what a 6 star would look like if they had that rating.
DT Deshaun Williams (3 stars): I loved De Finger's father when he was a Tiger. Williams was a totally different type of player for sure, but really produced above the low 3 star rating he got coming out of Daniel High. Williams was a rock for the 2014 Tiger defense and often anchored the second unit when Jarrett was taking a break.
OK, in the end we had (in my opinion) 6 guys outperform their rating, 7 guys perform as advertised, 8 guys under-perform, and 7 guys with a year to go at Clemson.
As a team, the Tiger class certainly surpassed the production of the higher rated Texas, Southern California, and LSU classes over a four year stretch. They held a 1-1 record against UGA during that stretch, 2-0 over Auburn (who had fewer overall wins but won an SEC title and played for a national title), and 1-0 over LSU (with the class heavily featured in the 2 deep roster in that game). The class was part of two BCS games, one ACC title, one BCS victory, three bowl victories, and four years of 10 wins or more. It certainly would re-rank in the top 10 four years later IMHO.