CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott likes to say recruiting is like shaving.
“Miss a day,” Scott has said several times over the past two years, “and you look like a bum.”
It is a constant process for Scott and Clemson’s entire staff, from Dabo Swinney on down the line, and it shows in the Tigers’ results. Over the past five years, Clemson has built one of the ACC’s most talented rosters, winning at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons (the program’s longest streak since 1987-90).
With about eight weeks left before 2014’s national signing day, Clemson’s Class of 2014 is in solid shape. The Tigers have 18 verbal commitments, and their class is ranked 19th nationally by 247Sports.com, 14th by Rivals.com and 25th by Scout.com.
“I like the way we’re recruiting,” Swinney said Saturday. “Right now we’ve got a great class. Hopefully we’ll be able to finish out strong.”
However, several key questions remain for Scott, Swinney and the Tigers’ staff to answer before fax machines hum with signed national letters of intent on the first Wednesday in February.
Let’s examine them, shall we?
How many players will Clemson sign?
Clemson has 18 commitments, but when asked Saturday, Swinney didn’t commit to a particular number he’d sign in February.
The Tigers have a very small senior class featuring only 11 scholarship players, a residue of the 13-man class Swinney signed in 2009 just after he took over as the program’s full-time head coach.
“I don’t know yet,” Swinney said when asked how many players Clemson would sign. “There’s just too many moving parts to say, ‘Boom, this is what we’ve got right now, here’s a guy, I’ve got my number.’”
A reasonable expectation would be for Clemson to add three or four more signees, but that is uncertain. Much depends on transfers and juniors who leave early for the NFL draft.
Late last month, junior defensive tackle Josh Watson said he’d give up his final season of eligibility but quickly recanted his decision.
Junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins is projected as a mid-first-round selection, and Swinney himself has said several times that he feels Watkins is a top-10 selection.
Junior defensive end Vic Beasley said Saturday that he would lean toward declaring if he received a first-round projection from the NFL’s draft evaluation committee. He is among the nation’s top 10 in both sacks and tackles for loss and was named a first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation.
Junior wide receiver Martavis Bryant said he’d consider leaving if he was projected as a second- to third-round selection. Swinney does not recommend players leave unless they’re a first-round pick but supports decisions regardless.
Junior middle linebacker Stephone Anthony could also have a decision to make as the Tigers’ leading tackler.
“We’ve got to see what happens with a couple of our junior guys,” Swinney said. “That affects it. Sometimes you have a guy who comes to you like [former quarterback] Morgan Roberts who says, 'hey, I want to go to Yale.' Those are things you never know. It’s a fluid situation.”
Can Clemson sign another elite wide receiver?
With Watkins, Bryant and Adam Humphries finishing their junior seasons (and 2013 starter Charone Peake, a junior, redshirting following a torn ACL), Clemson needs wide receiver depth. Four-star receivers Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt and Kyrin Priester will enroll in January, but Swinney and Scott would like to add at least one more.
Five-star prospect Josh Malone spurned the Tigers, picking Tennessee over Clemson and Georgia. But standouts like 4-star Trevion Thompson of Durham, N.C. are still considering Clemson. Thompson, who stands 6’3”, 188 pounds, has Clemson among his four finalists with N.C. State, Ohio State and West Virginia.
Can Clemson get a commitment from Raekwon McMillan?
McMillan, a Hinesville, Ga., native, is a 5-star middle linebacker who is considered among the nation’s top five MLB recruits. The 6’2”, 230-pound prospect is an aggressive player who would be a perfect fit in the middle of Clemson’s defense and an obvious heir apparent for Anthony whenever he departs. McMillan is announcing his choice Monday afternoon between Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State. A Clemson choice would give the Tigers’ class a huge boost.
Can Clemson add an impact pass-rusher?
With Beasley pondering an NFL jump and Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes entering their senior seasons, Clemson has room for a defensive end in its class. Ebenezer Ogundeko redshirted this fall, but the Tigers must add depth on the line.
Greensboro, N.C., end Lorenzo Featherston fits the bill. He stands 6’7”, 270 pounds and is a 4-star recruit. He is considering the Tigers along with Florida and Florida State and is friends with early enrollee Chris Register, a fellow Greensboro native.
Clemson is also among the suitors for McDonough, Ga., defensive end Andrew Williams, a top-30 end prospect who is considering LSU, South Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Notre Dame, among others.
Notre Dame defensive end commit Richard Yeargin III, rated among the top 15 ends in his class, visited in late November.
Any member of that trio would make an excellent addition to the Tigers’ pass-rushing stable.