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The Day After: Evaluating the Clemson Tigers 2017 Recruiting Class

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CFP National Championship Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I'm continuing a longstanding tradition here at STS to evaluate recruiting classes not simply by star rankings but also digging into the actual roster and seeing if we met needs.

Consider this to be the overall introductory post with longer specific posts on some of the position groups coming next week. I’ve given a lot of these thoughts on the podcast, but for those who don’t want to wade through my meandering—here it is in written form.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

First, Dabo Swinney just won a national championship and can do whatever he wants. That is just a fact and you deserve that after you win it all. Dabo is going to do it his way and his way is all about culture. If he feels like bringing in 5 or 6 glue guys (some 5 heart Dabos) instead of using those scholarships on 4* recruits—he absolutely can. My only concern is with stringing together back to back classes with under 15 recruits. It will ultimately cause depth problems. But when you have an outrageous star average per player, you can get away with it. This class was top 5 (#5) overall in the nation in star average per the 247 Composite.

This class successfully replaced all of the major talent lost from last year. That is a really high benchmark, but we grabbed some guys that can get to that level, that have that kind of ceiling. This is a solid class that meets our immediate needs, but not the spectacular class that was envisioned and possible at this time last year. I’m not sure we got any better, but I don’t think we got worse. I was hopeful that the class would end up with 16 players. Dabo said yesterday in his presser that he will have one more slot open for a punter. For me, this class needed Xavier McKinney—that last highly talented player to really put that exclamation mark on. I’m really glad though that we found a RB because while 15 would have been a bit better than 14, only having 13 and no RB would have been a gaping hole in the roster.

OFFENSE

QB

We met our needs with the top class in the country. You can’t replace Deshaun Watson but we grabbed the top dual threat QB in the nation (yes, Hunter Johnson is an athlete) and pair Johnson with a quality 2nd take in Chase Brice.

RB

We met our needs by taking Travis Etienne. Without him it would have been a gaping hole. Will need a strong take in 2018 and still don’t have a big bruising back on the roster. Gallman’s violent running will definitely be missed, however.

WR

Yes. YES. YESSSS.

We missed on a third WR in this class, but Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers give us two players who can step in and play next year. We already have a lot of talent at WR and 3 wide receiver takes wouldn’t have been necessary. We have so much talent right now, best to use that slot elsewhere on the roster for now. You can’t replace Mike Williams, but Higgins gives you an alpha WR in the future and Rodgers is capable of replacing the physical presence of Scott.

TE

No takes. Good move. We have too many TEs now and a logjam with 3 juniors. Big need in 2018 to land a Leggett type pass catching WR who can also block.

OL

We met our needs in terms of numbers with three takes, but could use a bit more talent at this position. It is the one position where we haven’t recruited truly elite players across the board (losing Fruhmorgan hurts the talent level but Simpson, Pollard and Anchrum are all above average talents with the chance to be elite, Hyatt is elite). I know that sounds overly harsh but the four offensive lineman we had at the 2018 junior day are all elite talents in Salyer, Hill, Nana, and Gouriage. I want them all. We will probably only take two, maybe three in 2018.

Bockhorst can play and will give us an interior presence if he is fully healthy. Vinson and DeHond are developmental prospects, but they have the frames to stick at Tackle.

DEFENSE

DT

Didn’t take one. Right move, especially since we hit on Pinckney. Need a couple good ones in 2018 and off to a good start with Josh Belk and possible 3-tech Wynn. We lost Carlos Watkins but Wilkins will slide back inside.

DE

This is the strange spot because it depends on where Rudolph and Foster end up. If both of those guys are DEs then we met our needs with respect to numbers. Jordan Williams is the most ready take in this class to contribute on the defensive line, but we still could use an elite pass rusher on the roster.

We could get that in 2018 with KJ Henry and/or Xavier Thomas.

LB

Again, where do put Rudolph and Foster. I think Rudolph has the best chance to play LB. We lost Ben Boulware, but have a lot of talent and numbers at LB right now. Spector plays SAM and is the only guaranteed LB in the class.

DB

We lost Tank but replaced him with AJ Terrell and LeAnthony Williams. We lost Jadar Johnson but didn’t replace him with anyone. Even if you say Terrell is the Safety replacement (he will start playing at Corner and I think he sticks there), you still have a need for one more talented player like McKinney.

In 2018 I will be disappointed if it is not our best class ever at Clemson. We have the natty, the facility, and the coaching staff to get that done. The class needs to hit at least 15 and the closer to 18 the better. If we don’t get to 15 we will be turning down top 100 players from coming to play at Clemson.