Despite losing four blue-chip defensive prospects after the departure of Coach Venables, Clemson’s post-early signing period recruiting push netted them the 11th ranked 2022 recruiting class.
There’s been a lot of talk about how this class was a disappointment. After four-straight top 10 classes and two consecutive top-five classes, the sentiment is fair. Clemson could have put up another top-five class if not for a few things that broke out of their favor. The most obvious of those is the loss of four blue-chip defensive recruits following Brent Venables going to Oklahoma. Linebacker Jaren Kanak followed him to Oklahoma. The others went to Georgia, Alabama, and Michigan. That hurt, but it seems there isn’t a ton that could have been done to prevent that. Nobody expected the Oklahoma job to open up and replacing the best coordinator in school history is going to come with some bumps.
The other issue was simply missing on a few players. When that gets coupled with Clemson’s conservative scholarship offer strategy it can be a double-whammy. The Tigers went hard after a few players they didn’t win. They’ve done pretty well getting the players they focus on in the past so it is hard to criticize the strategy, but when you wait on a player and don’t land him, the remaining options can be bare. That seemed to happen in a few cases.
Nonetheless, Clemson landed 20 total players in what was the 11th ranked class nationally and 2nd in the ACC (behind UNC who somehow still recruits well with Mac Brown despite lacking on-field success).
The class is headlined by five-star QB Cade Klubnik. Quarterback is the most important position in the sport and he is rightfully the most important player in this class.
Despite suffering a cornerback de-commitment, the Tigers added three in this class. After Klubnik, the highest-rated player in the class is Jaedyn Lukus from Mauldin. He is the only other five-star in this class. Along with Lukus, high four-star cornerback Toriano Pride joins from Illinois. The only recruit in the class from Georgia is CB Myles Oliver. He is a three-star prospect that chose Clemson over Georgia Tech.
After QB and CB, the other position Clemson hit a home run on was wide receiver. The speedy 6-0 Antonio Williams joins Clemson from Dutch Fork, SC — where QB Hunter Helms previously started. The taller 6-3 Adam Randall joins from Myrtle Beach, SC. Both had offers from practically every school in the region. WR Cole Turner is a developmental prospect from Alabama. Despite his brother playing safety for Clemson, he was primarily a basketball player until his junior season. A big senior year and some open scholarship space netting him a Clemson offer.
Clemson added two four-star offensive linemen. You would have loved to see them add a third, but the quality is certainly there. They also added two safeties in Sherrod Covil, a high four-star with an Alabama offer on the table, and Kylon Griffin who they added late in the cycle out of Alabama.
I won’t use this space to highlight every player and position, but I’ll touch on just two more before zooming out for a most historical analysis. Clemson only added one running back and one defensive end. The Tigers were all-in on Trevor Etienne, but he chose Florida. Then they were seemingly all-in on Andrew Paul, but Georgia swooped in at the end and stole him. They ended up with Keith Adams, a legacy who had no other Power Five offers. In the era of the transfer portal having some lower-rated guys who will be patient and wait their turn may actually be for the best, but it would be intellectually dishonest to not acknowledge Clemson missed their higher targets at running back.
Likewise, at defensive end, Jihaad Campbell re-negged on his Clemson commitment after the coaching changes and signed with Alabama. The Tigers signed Shaq Lawson’s little brother, Jaheim Lawson. Lawson had offers from Georgia Tech, Syracuse, and Coastal Carolina. He is no scrub and can get after the QB, but he’ll need to hit the weight room and take a little time to develop. Clemson is absolutely loaded at defensive end with Junior Myles Murphy and Seniors Xavier Thomas and KJ Henry. They’re set for 2022, but all three will likely depart after this season and there is no up-and-comer that we’ve seen much from quite yet. Perhaps this would have been the case regardless of what Clemson did in this recruiting class, but they’ll likely need to use the transfer portal to fill a hole there next season.
Despite its imperfections, this recruiting class is right in-line with the 2015-17 classes that built the 2018 15-0 national championship team. Let’s take a look at how Clemson’s last 10 classes have been ranked:
This year’s class is clearly behind the last two but isn’t a down year from the broader perspective of the past decade. There may be some headwinds with NIL, but the biggest challenge was the coaching turnover. Despite that, this class ended with the kind of talent they won two National Championships with. Let’s now take a more detailed view by looking at the 247 Sports class points which the rankings are based on:
As you can see, Clemson’s class isn’t where it was the past two seasons, but it remains in line with the past decade. As references, you can see Texas A&M’s 2022 class at 331 points (highest ever) and U of SC at 217 points (26th-ranked). The rankings and point totals are heavily influenced by class size so let’s also look at the average rating per player:
Again here you see the 2022 class is right in line with the 2015-2017 classes.
Overall, Clemson came up big in their three biggest areas of immediate need: QB, WR, and CB. They landed elite prospects at all three positions. After losing out on Kanak they recovered really nicely at linebacker. I’ve heard good things about LB Kobe McCloud. He certainly isn’t just a legacy we offered because of family connections (he is the little brother of WR Ray-Ray McCloud). To then add TJ Dudley on signing day is a good boost.
While there were some misses and the class is a player or two smaller than you might have hoped, this is the type of class Clemson has built championships upon and they can do it again. All-in-all it was a great recovery after a rough early signing period.