College football is in the midst of a transformational period. Name, image and likeness (NIL) and the transfer portal continue to alter the way rosters are constructed. The SEC and Big Ten continue to strengthen their hold on power in college football as they add schools like Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, USC and others. The College Football Playoff is expanding to 12 teams (for now). Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh are gone to retirement and the NFL, respectively. Despite all the change, one thing remains constant: recruiting is critical to success.
High school recruiting is even more important to Clemson now than it was five or ten years ago as Dabo Swinney continues to shy away from utilizing the transfer portal as a means of supplementing the roster. That means misses in high school recruiting, such as a failure to land top offensive line prospects in prior years, prove critical on the field later on. After faltering to a 9-4 record in the 2023 campaign, Dabo Swinney made a couple of key staffing changes. Those new coaches have the Tigers are roaring on the recruiting trail as they build the 2025 class.
After a weekend filled with highly-touted visitors, Clemson received a pair of commitments from four-star offensive linemen. That comes after one of the nation’s top pass rushers, Ari Watford, committed to Clemson earlier in the week. New position coaches Matt Luke (OL) and Chris Rumph (DE) are paying immediate dividends. Additionally, defensive tackle Isaiah Campbell, another top 70 player, committed to Clemson on January 29.
- Ari Watford (#20 nationally, 94 rating) - Edge - Norfolk, VA
- Isaiah Campbell (#67 nationally, 92 rating) - DL - Durham, NC
- Amare Adams (#109 nationally, 91 rating) - DL - Florence, SC
- Gideon Davidson (#82 nationally, 92 rating) - RB - Lynchburg, VA
- Brayden Jacobs (#123 nationally, 91 rating) - OT - Buford, GA
- Easton Ware (#188 nationally, 90 rating) - OT - Lynchburg, VA
- Blake Hebert (#23 QB, 89 rating) - QB - Lawrence, MA
- Logan Brooking (#20 TE, 88 rating) - TE - Savannah, GA
- Marquise Henderson (#37 ATH, 87 rating) - ATH - Honea Path, SC
- Jaylan Beckley (#50 OT, 86 rating) - OT - Addison, TX
- Carleton “Juju” Preston (NR) - WR - Woodbridge, VA
Clemson has 11 commitments for the 2025 class thus (as of January 29, 2024) and the class is currently ranked second nationally. While there is a lot of work to do, particularly on the defensive side of things, the Tigers are getting work done early and are setting the table to focus a lot of time and energy on high-energy prospects for the second-half of the class.
The offensive line has been a major focus early with Matt Luke securing 6’7” Brayden Jacobs from Georgia over offers from Florida State, Auburn, and Georgia. Jacobs drives defenders on their heels and is a tremendous addition.
Jaylan Beckley joined the class shortly thereafter and has a similarly impressive offer list. With Easton Ware, a four-star from Virginia, already committed, the Tigers have a trio of very good offensive line commitments that serve as proof of the upgrade Luke could provide at the baseline of talent at the position.
The defensive line is in a similarly good position with three recruits ranked in the top 110 nationally. Amare Adams, Isaiah Campbell, and Ari Watford all have the talent to develop into multi-year starters for the Tigers. Gideon Davidson was a top-option for position coach CJ Spiller and landing him early was a big indicator of Spiller really settling into his role. Davidson projects as a difference-maker that can contribute as a freshman.
The Clemson Tigers are focusing on a few positions to continue building this class. First would be wide receiver. The biggest targets for the Tigers are Cortez Mills (four-star from Florida) and Kaliq Lockett (four-star from Texas). Mills could be tough to get away from the Miami Hurricanes and Kaliq Lockett is being pursued by Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, and others so that will be a heavyweight battle.
The other position to highlight is safety. Clemson has become known as a place that safeties will develop from prospect to star player and Mickey Conn is aiming high in 2025. Three of the top safeties in the country are considering Clemson and the Tigers have a legitimate chance at each of them. Jordan Young (Monroe, NC), DJ Pickett (Zephyrhills, FL) and Anquon Fegans (Alabaster, AL) will be visiting Clemson sometime between now and the beginning of the 2024 season. Jordan Young seems to have Clemson out in front after his recent visit and an earlier trip to Clemson for the FSU game. Given the success Mickey Conn has had, it seems likely Clemson hits a home run or two at the position.
Other positions will be signed as well, of course. Dabo Swinney is probably done at quarterback with Blake Hebert coming. Tight end and running back are also probably off of the shopping list for 2025. Matt Luke probably wants to grab another couple of offensive linemen as he remakes that room to be what he wants it to be. On defense, Clemson has already secured a pair of highly-regarded defensive tackles and a top edge rusher. Expect another edge rusher or two to be added to the class and then they’ll be done on the defensive line. A pair of linebackers will likely be added along with a couple of cornerbacks (although Clemson is pretty well stocked with young talent that won’t be going anywhere after 2024) and then the aforementioned safeties.
There is a lot of work left to do in the 2025 recruiting class and Clemson will almost certainly drop a bit from the lofty perch of second in the class rankings once class sizes elsewhere begin to grow. The Tigers are well-positioned to close strong though with scheduled visits from their top targets and a number of top 150 players still very much in play. If a couple of the top ten safeties commit, as expected, and the Tigers can add another highly-ranked wide receiver to the mix, this class will slot comfortably inside the top ten nationally.