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Clemson quietly in top 10 again

There was no signing day drama at Clemson. Unlike a year ago when Clemson signed a pair of five-star linebackers in Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony on signing day, nearly all of Clemson's 20 signees Wednesday had committed since the middle of last season.

Coach Dabo Swinney said the faxed signatures gave Clemson its first back-to-back top 10 recruiting classes since the late 1980s under coach Danny Ford. After signing a consensus top 10 class last year, the 2012 Clemson class ranked No. 7 in the country according to ESPN, No. 13 in Rivals.com's rankings, and No. 16 according to Scout.com.

Wednesday was less about sweaty-palmed moments and celebrating late additions of star power and more about Clemson filling significant needs along its offensive and defensive fronts. Half of Clemson's 20 signees are offensive and defensive linemen, a critical influx of talent considering Clemson graduates three starters from both the offensive and defensive lines.

"The lines were a major area of emphasis and we did an outstanding job filling those needs," Swinney said. "We are going to have youth on the fronts on both sides. Nothing is set in stone (regarding the depth chart) so there will be opportunity."

Clemson won't just be young along the lines - it will be young everywhere, as 65 players on scholarship will be either freshmen or sophomores in 2012.

Swinney said he was most excited about having a program-record eight early enrollees, and among them are four offensive linemen. They will have a spring practice to begin learning the offense.

The early offensive line enrollees include four-star tackle Isaiah Battle, who has the frame (6-7, 270) and athleticism to play left tackle, Jay Guillermo, ESPN's No. 1 center prospect, and Oliver Jones, who has a massive 6-foot-6, 320-pound frame.

The Tigers' lone signing day addition was 6-foot-3, 306-pound guard D.J.Reader, who is perhaps the most interesting prospect in the class because he will also play baseball at Clemson. Reader can throw in the low 90s as a right-handed pitcher and also plays first base.

Swinney said Reader picked Clemson in part because Swinney allowed his starting quarterback, Kyle Parker, to play baseball and football in 2009 and 2010.

Of course some of the enthusiasm for Clemson's class was eroded by division rival Florida State's consensus top 10 class, which will challenge Clemson's young linemen in the coming years with the 2012 No. 1 defensive tackle (Eddie Goldman) and defensive end (Mario Edwards).

The Clemson line voids extend to the defense, as Clemson loses both starting defensive tackles.

Clemson added three defensive tackles in the class, and the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Carlos Watkins, a four-star prospect, is the best of that group and should help immediately. Swinney said four-star defensive end Shaq Lawson could also play early.

Clemson's other area of need is running back. Swinney said suspended running back Mike Bellamy is on track to rejoin the team in the spring, but also noted four-star signee Zac Brooks, a hybrid running back and receiver, is enrolled and could immediately help.

While Clemson filled needs, there was star power added in four-star signees like quarterback Chad Kelly, wide receiver Germone Hopper and defensive back Travis Blanks, the No. 2 safety in the country according to ESPN.

"We are built to make a run," Swinney said. "We are building it through recruiting."

Clemson recruiting class

Isaiah Battle, ot, 6-7, 285, Blue Ridge School, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Travis Blanks, db, North Florida Christian School, Tallahassee, Fla.

Zac Brooks, rb, Jonesboro (Ark.) Senior HS

Patrick DeStefano, ol, Dorman HS, Spartanburg, S.C.

Kevin Dodd, dl, Riverside HS, Taylors, S.C.

Jay Guillermo, c, Maryville (Tenn.) HS

Oliver Jones, ol, Ninety-Six (S.C.) HS

Bradley Pinion, p, Northwest Cabarrus HS, Concord, N.C.

Chad Kelly, qb, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, Buffalo, N.Y.

Germone Hopper, wr, Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, Charlotte, N.C.

Jay Jay McCullough, te, Nation Ford HS, Fort Mill, S.C.

Josh Brown, dt, South Aiken HS, Aiken, S.C.

Ronald Geohaghan, db, Allendale-Fairfax HS, Fairfax, S.C.

Martin Aiken, de, Bamberg-Ehrhardt HS, Bamberg, S.C.

Shaq Lawson, de, D.W. Daniel HS, Central, S.C.

T.J. Burrell, lb, Goose Creek (S.C.) HS

Carlos Watkins, dt, Chase HS, Forest City, N.C.

Cordrea Tankersley, db, Silver Bluff HS, Aiken, S.C.

Marty Williams, db, 6-1, 200, Fox Creek HS, North Augusta, S.C.

D.J. Reader, og, 6-3, 306, Grimsley HS, Greensboro, N.C.

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