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Clemson Recruiting Class Boasts Star Power, but Short on Quantity

The Tigers have work to do to fill their roster for 2022.

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 10 College Football Playoff National Championship - Head Coaches Press Conference Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Clemson just concluded the early signing period with 12 scholarship recruits and the 24th-ranked class (per 247 Sports). While the class is small in number, it is large in star power. Of the 10 position players (Clemson also signed a kicker and a punter), seven were four-star recruits. Another was the five-star No. 1 QB in the nation. That’s a great start, but with the spate of transfers the Tigers endured throughout the season, there’s still a lot more work to be done.

Counting the incoming recruits that have signed, the Tigers currently have 70 recruited scholarship players projected to be on the 2022 roster (assuming KJ Henry stays and both Xavier Thomas and Andrew Booth go to the NFL). 33 are on offense, 33 are on defense, and four are on special teams. Add to that about four former walk-ons we should expect to be awarded scholarships (Hunter Helms, Billy Wiles, Drew Swinney, and whoever wins the long-snapper role) and you are up to 74 players. There will likely be a few more, but if we stop at four scholarships awarded to original walk-ons, that leaves room for another 11 recruits or transfers before the 2022 season begins.

Where will the Tigers look to fill these spots?

Jaren Kanak, a four-star athlete from Kansas, committed, but didn’t sign during the early signing period and ended up enrolling at Oklahoma. He projected as a linebacker so we may see Clemson fill that spot with another linebacker.

Running back Trevor Etienne, Travis Etienne’s little brother, has narrowed his college choices to Clemson, Florida, and LSU. The Tigers must take a running back after Mickey Dukes, Lyn-J Dixon, and Chez Mellusi all transferred out in the last year. Coach Swinney said their need for a running back is “not rocket science.” Even if Etienne’s commitment falls through, it is imperative they find a freshman back to add to the running back room. This one really can’t be a transfer as they need to space out their graduation times with Kobe Pace being a rising junior and Will Shipley and Phil Mafah being rising sophomores.

With no defensive ends committed to the Tigers thus far in the 2022 class after the de-commitment of Jihaad Campbell (who is headed to Alabama), adding one should be a priority. This becomes especially true if KJ Henry, who has already graduated with bachelors and masters degrees and Xavier Thomas who could go early in the NFL draft conclude their Clemson careers.

If they both depart, this may be the spot where a impact transfer could be especially crucial. Without that, Clemson will choose between Justin Mascoll, Greg Williams, Kevin Swint, Cade Denhoff, Zaire Patterson, and whatever true freshman they bring in to start at defensive end opposite Myles Murphy. The Tigers just offered three-star DE Jaheim Lawson from nearby Daniel High School. He has offers from Georgia Tech, Syracuse, and Coastal Carolina among others. He is also the little brother of former Tiger Shaq Lawson.

In addition to Jihaad Campbell, two other IMG Academy recruits de-committed, a cornerback and a safety. While it hurts because they were top-end talents, I don’t know that those are necessarily key areas of need. The Tigers already add two cornerbacks — Jaedyn Lukus and Toriano Pride — and one safety — Sherrod Covil — in this class. Still, you could see Clemson find someone to add at these positions.

Way back in October, I wrote an article suggesting it was critical that Clemson get at least 17 recruits. That number ended up being low due to the high number of transfers Clemson had. Unfortunately, it is still five more than Clemson signed. They either did not project an accurate level of attrition (i.e., transfers) and aimed below 17 recruits or missed on the recruits they were targeting. Out of their control was the loss of four defensive commits.

There is no doubting the quality of the young men brought in, the questions arise only about the sheer quantity.

After injuries hit hard last season, Clemson was given a harsh lesson about the importance of utilizing all 85 scholarships to their max potential. From game one, freshman were thrust into critical roles for which they didn’t appear ready. By the end of the year, walk-ons were playing a key role.

The Tigers need more than just three or four more recruits in February. Clemson should look to add as many as 11 more players through a mix of high school recruiting and transfer before the season starts. If not, the roster could be thinner and less able to overcome injuries or mid-season transfers than they were last year.

Hopefully, we’re due for an exciting signing day in February and then see Clemson bring in significant impact transfers for the first time in the Swinney-era.