Recruiting is the solid foundation of any athletic program. And for the Clemson Tigers, head coach Dabo Swinney and his coaching staff have laid the foundations that have turned this team into legitimate national championship contenders in 2013.
And those foundations are proving their worth for building the 2014 class.
Thus far, the Tigers have 10 commitments in their upcoming recruiting class. The crown jewel is undoubtedly No. 1-ranked quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has been committed since February 2012 and who the Tigers were first to offer. Since then, the Tigers have landed a recent string of commitments from several highly-touted prospects out of the state of Georgia in receiver Demarre Kitt, linebacker Korie Rogers, tight end Milan Richard and running back Adam Choice.
The Georgia Bulldogs can't be too pleased with the Tigers snooping around in their backyard landing such talented commitments from their own state.
But the Tigers haven't slept in their home state either, grabbing running backs Jae'lon Oglesby and CJ Fuller, along with tight end Cannon Smith and offensive linemen Taylor Hearn. Their lone North Carolina commitment has come in the form of linebacker Chris Register.
With the majority of Clemson's recruiting class consisting of some of the top talent from the state of Georgia, is it entirely plausible to state that Clemson has a top five recruiting class on its hands?
A top five class for Clemson starts with Deshaun Watson, who some question whether he can handle the pressure being put on by top schools like Ohio State, Georgia and even Alabama, looking to sway his commitment to the Tigers as the recruiting cycle continues:
...Watson wants to be there. Eventually, though, he's got to put his foot down. It's only fair to Clemson. If he's truly sold on the Tigers, Watson can't flirt too long into his senior year with Meyer, Richt or Saban.
-Mitch Sherman, ESPN.com
Meanwhile, the Tigers' 2014 recruiting class is shaping into a lethal combination of offensive skill players and big-time potential. The status of this class will largely be determined by Watson, who the pieces appears to be shaping around.
"They want to build the program around me," Watson said. "Once I saw that, I took it and ran with it."
The recent commitment of Kitt at receiver, via shakinthesouthland, further proves the Tigers don't plan to leave Watson without firm talent to develop his own chemistry with. Kitt's big-play ability can be very reminiscent of current Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. He has skill in the return game and the athletic ability to consistently create separation.
Signing a receiver like Kitt could also point to the Tigers preparing for a 2014 season without Watkins, who, should he duplicate the success of his freshman season, could forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL draft.
Added to the mix is the potential for a stronger ground game, with Jae'lon Oglesby, Adam Choice and CJ Fuller at running back. The Tigers will also return Zac Brooks and DJ Howard, as well as 2013 signees Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman. However, it is important to note that Fuller could be moved to cornerback with the growing crowd in the backfield.
And, in an ever evolving game where tight ends have become playmakers in the passing game, the Tigers landed both Milan Richard, the nephew of former Georgia running back Herschel Walker, and Cannon Smith, continuing the trend of a cupboard full of tight ends.
The other interesting aspect of Clemson's recruiting class: The majority of the prospects are all rated as 4-star or higher by most recruiting services.The current class is ranked No. 4 overall according to Rivals.com and No. 7 by 247 sports. The class is also ranked No. 10 overall according to ESPN and No. 9 by Scout.com
The Tigers' 2014 has a chance to become a special one, and arguably Swinney's best recruiting class since 2011, where he landed highly touted receiving prospects such as Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake, along with top rated linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. This class also yielded several hidden gems in the form of defensive linemen Grady Jarrett and Deshawn Williams, as well as receiver Adam Humphries.