When linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward chose Clemson on signing day last year, the Tigers' coaches shared cheers and embraces at their Memorial Stadium offices as they watched the televised decisions cement a top-10 recruiting class.
Anthony and Steward were among the top high school players in the nation, rated five-star prospects by the experts. But all college coaches know no single player is a savior, and no one recruiting class is enough to elevate a program among the elites of college football.
Clemson's staff knows what happened last February must be repeated. On Wednesday, Clemson is projected to sign a second straight top-10 class, something the program has not done during the era of web-based recruiting services.
Clemson's 2012 class is rated sixth in the country by ESPN and 10th by Rivals.com. Last year, both rated Clemson's class at No. 8.
"One class isn't going to do it," said ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill. "You have to develop depth of equal-caliber talent from one class to the next without a drop-off. Ultimately the goal is to be an Alabama or an LSU, particularly on the defensive side, where when you rotate in the next group of players and there's no drop-off in production ... and that takes multiple classes of premier talent."
Luginbill thinks Clemson has improved its recruiting every year under coach Dabo Swinney but must improve depth along the lines. Ten of Clemson's 20 commitments are offensive and defensive linemen, including prized defensive tackle Carlos Watkins.
"In my estimation, (Clemson) has made upgrades in recruiting as you can see with the offensive playmakers," Luginbill said. "I think the defensive front personnel is talented but has not been consistent, so I think it's about consistency and continuing to add depth along the defensive front four.
"Depth on defense bit them this (season) at critical times. They were clearly a team that, athletically, could play with anyone in the country as long as they don't turn the ball over. I think the program, without question, is heading down the right path."
Clemson recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott said another byproduct of signing consecutive top-10 classes is the environment it creates.
Elite programs "put multiple years of top-10 recruiting classes back-to-back-to-back-to-back and they create that culture," Scott said. "Look at some of the best teams in football year-in and year-out and go back and look at their recruiting four years prior and it's not much of a secret."
But what has changed at Clemson for the program to sign back-to-back elite classes?
What has allowed Clemson to earn commitments from top-10 positional talents like quarterback Chad Kelly and safety Travis Blanks?
"I think with the facilities we now have here at Clemson and under the direction of coach (Dabo) Swinney I think our recruiting has become more consistent and improved," Scott said.
Swinney said for most of the past two decades, Clemson's recruiting simply was not good enough.
"There's this perception out there that we've always recruited these great classes, and I don't know where that comes from," he said. "We've signed a good class here and there, a great player here or there, but we've never, not since the 1980s, really built a program through recruiting."
Swinney said Clemson is on the verge of building an elite program through recruiting, and the 2013 team could be his best at Clemson.