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Clemson Recruiting is in a Strong Position, but There Is Still Work To Do

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NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve missed the news, Clemson fans should be in a state of panic. Recruiting is down, recruiting is terrible. Clemson is gong to slide back to the doldrums of the Tommy Bowden era because of recruiting and the class of 2019 is just the start.

And if you go read other news you’ll hear things about how stars don’t matter, that this coaching staff more than any other staff in the country has the ability to take unpolished recruits and turn them into stars. As fans we need to trust Coach Swinney and the staff to do their job and it will all work out.

Stunning no one, the truth is somewhere between these two extremes with a lot of unknowns. It is fair to say recruiting is a bit disappointing right now. The class of 2019 was always going to be a drop off from 2017 and 2018. The small size of those classes coupled with the obscene amount of talent in Clemson’s backyard those years always meant they were going to be special classes and others would not measure up. But that disappointment is a bit of fan panic and a bit of reality.

First let’s address the soft stuff. The class of 2019 on a general level does not have the talent level of the classes on either side of it. It doesn’t matter if you are Alabama, Penn State, USC, or Clemson. There just isn’t the type of talent we’ve seen over the past few years. That means fewer true blue chip guys for everyone. It also doesn’t help that the top talent there is in this class doesn’t come from Clemson’s stronghold. We can talk about Clemson building a national brand, but outside of very few blue bloods it just isn’t realistic, even with what this staff has done. If Clemson continues this success for another 15-20 years we can talk about true national recruiting, but until then the staff has to pick their spots with guys from outside of the area.

With the soft stuff out of the way, let’s look at hard numbers. Even though the class is barely half full, we can compare the star ranking and player rating averages from this year with previous classes. The table below is the average star ranking and player ranking for each class since 2011. All of these numbers come from 247’s rankings.

Clemson Class Quality

Year Average Stars Average Rating Total Commits
Year Average Stars Average Rating Total Commits
2019 3.41 0.89 17
2018 4.00 0.93 17
2017 3.86 0.92 14
2016 3.55 0.83 20
2015 3.52 0.89 26
2014 3.47 0.88 20
2013 3.50 0.89 23
2012 3.50 0.90 21
2011 3.36 0.87 30

So yes, as we’ve said this class doesn’t measure up to the class of 2017 or the class of 2018. But it is comparable to the class of 2016. The average star rating is down compared to 2016, but the 2019 class has a better average player rating. A similar breakdown occurs with the class of 2015. That class worked out pretty well for Clemson and the class of 2016 is going to provide a big foundation for what the 2018 Clemson Tigers accomplish.

The other big thing we talk about with recruiting is meeting needs. Yea it’d be nice if we got all blue chip guys. But if those blue chip guys just play DE, WR, and QB we’ll have some problems down the line.

Earlier this year we looked at what Clemson’s needs are at each position after the 2018 season ends. Going off of those numbers Clemson has met its needs at quarterback, safety, special teams, wide receiver, tight end, and linebacker. The staff should still look at add another running back, another four offensive lineman, another cornerback, and another few guys at each spot on the defensive line.

It is worth pointing out that at the margins some of these numbers can fluctuate based on top guys committing or passing on a chance to come to Clemson. These are designed to be rough numbers, but they do give us an idea of where the staff should be focusing resources to try and shore up future weaknesses on this team, in particular along the OL and DL.

Now all of this stings because the class of 2019 was when Clemson finally got numbers. This class should approach 30 recruits with the staff targeting 28 by all reports. To fill a class of that size with guys that have talent but seem underwhelming compared to previous years stinks. And it doesn’t help the staff has so far missed out on a few blue chip guys. But a lot of this is perception. Approximately 10-11 recruits are going to join this class and there should be a few blue chip guys. If so then this class is going to be fine. But if we see another 10 or so 3 star guys it is fair to say the staff missed on this class and that 2020 is going to have to be an exceptional year for Clemson recruiting.