Predicting Where Clemson Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

Predicting Where Clemson Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

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    Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
    Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The key to becoming a powerhouse in college football is simple: win the recruiting battle. It's no coincidence that Alabama has won three national championships over the past five years. The Crimson Tide have had the top-ranked recruiting class—per 247Sports (subscription required)—for four straight years and are poised to finish No. 1 again in 2015.

    But not if the Clemson Tigers have anything to say about it.

    Currently, Clemson has 20 verbal commitments in the class of 2015, most in the country. The Tigers are ranked No. 2—behind Alabama—in 247Sports' team rankings. And they're not finished yet.

    Clemson's biggest commitment thus far is offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt from Suwanee, Georgia. Hyatt is a 5-star recruit and the nation's No. 2 ranked offensive lineman. 

    Three straight 10-win seasons are beginning to pay dividends for head coach Dabo Swinney. Back-to-back bowl wins over traditional powers LSU and Ohio State don't hurt either. But can the Tigers continue that momentum with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins now in the NFL?

    The Tigers can move past Alabama and win the 2015 recruiting wars, but it won't be easy. Many of the country's top prospects often wait until signing day, or close to it, to make their intentions known. By that time, the Tide have usually won another national title.

    Here are three reasons why Clemson could overtake Alabama for 2015's top recruiting class and a prediction on where it will finish. 

    All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Avoid Decommitments

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    Mississippi defensive end and former Clemson commit Robert Nkemdiche
    Mississippi defensive end and former Clemson commit Robert NkemdicheThomas Graning/Associated Press

    Decommitments are a part of college football. There is no way around it. Even titans such as Alabama and Ohio State have the occasional decommit. 

    Clemson unfortunately knows this process all too well. 2013's top player, Robert Nkemdiche, originally committed to the Tigers before backing out and eventually signing with Ole Miss. 

    High school kids are fickle. Oftentimes, a kid will go to a college campus and be shown the love, so to speak, and commit on the spot. Then, the next week, have the same thing happen on a different campus that forces him to re-think his choice. 

    For Clemson to close out this class strong, it needs to continue recruiting the committed players throughout the high school season. Swinney and his staff must show all the players why Clemson is the place to be. 

    With 20 players already committed and more likely on the way, it would be a small upset if the Tigers secured the signature of every player. But it can happen. 

     

Close on a 5-Star Recruit (or Two)

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    Clemson has currently signed one 5-star player and six 4-star players. It is in the mix for a handful of other talented 5-stars. Tim Settle, Shy Tuttle and George Campbell are among the names that Clemson is in a good position with as the 2014 season nears. 

    All three are instant-impact players. Settle and Tuttle, both defensive tackles, could play immediately in 2015. Several of the Tigers' top defensive tackles this season are either juniors or seniors. Both are tremendous talents. Settle especially is already an advanced interior rusher. 

    Campbell is the type of receiver all major colleges covet. He's big, fast and a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Clemson's recent success with players like Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant is appealing to a talent like Campbell.

    If the Tigers can get another 5-star or two, they will be at or near the top of next season's recruiting lists. 

Win

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    Clemson vs. South Carolina in 2013
    Clemson vs. South Carolina in 2013RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    Clemson's run of success is one of the major reasons it's doing so well on the recruiting trail at the moment. Beating Ohio State in the Orange Bowl will stick in the minds of high school kids.

    However, if you can't beat your primary rivals, you'll never win a national title. The Tigers have struggled with both ACC rival Florida State and in-state rival South Carolina recently. For kids in the south, where all three teams play, it's important for the Tigers to come out on top. 

    Why would a talented but impressionable high school athlete choose Clemson over Florida State if both schools are interested? The Tigers haven't proven they can beat FSU in three of the last four years. The Tigers have lost five straight to the Gamecocks. 

    A team's win-loss record isn't the ultimate factor in where someone chooses to play college ball, but kids do pay attention. If Clemson can continue to win, especially against ranked teams, it will continue to thrive on the recruiting trail. 

Prediction

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    The Tigers continue to enjoy success this offseason on the recruiting front. Just recently, Clemson added athlete Deon Cain and defensive end Clelin Ferrell. Both are 4-star prospects. 

    Those two add to an already good haul of prospects. The Tigers will remain in the mix for Settle, Tuttle, Campbell and Jalen Dalton until the end. 

    Can they sign at least one of those four?

    Yes, and Swinney will likely land one of the four, but that will not be enough to top next season's recruiting list. Alabama will again close strong, but the Tigers will make a push toward the top of the list and likely finish where they are currently ranked, at No. 2.