CLEMSON -- With each question about Clemson's efforts to get back in the recruiting picture with trumpeted receiver Jheranie Boyd, Boyd's high school coach teasingly chuckles louder and longer.
Boyd, a 6-foot-2 Gastonia, N.C. product, is rated among the nation's top seven receivers by both major recruiting services. He was on the verge of committing to the Tigers before Tommy Bowden's midseason departure, Ashbrook High coach Mike Briggs said.
With Bowden's recruiters' jobs in flux as well, Boyd turned his attention elsewhere and pledged North Carolina over Oklahoma and Missouri on Nov. 6.
But then a funny thing happened -- the interim coach actually landed Clemson's full-time job after a six-game audition.
Dabo Swinney, whom Boyd had gotten to know as his potential position coach, was formally hired as Bowden's replacement Dec. 2.
Billy Napier, Boyd's recruiter of record, has been retained and appears likely to hold the offensive coordinator mantle.
As if those weren't enough feathers in Clemson's cap, it probably doesn't hurt that Briggs was also a Gardner-Webb teammate of newly hired defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison.
"Seems like they've been by here," Briggs said, coyly declining further details.
"I'm sure there's something in the works that they're trying to get Jheranie to come down there (for an official visit). I would say that's definitely a thing that will happen in the future."
What the future holds for Clemson's next recruiting class is anyone's guess, although its current status seems to have incited a premature panic among a share of Tigers fans.
Mainly because of its coaching staff uncertainty, Clemson has just eight commitments with less than two months remaining before the Feb. 4 national signing day.
Since Bowden's preemptive resignation, four commits have reneged, including two (safety DeVonte Holloman of South Pointe and running back Ben Axon) who switched their pledges to South Carolina.
According to the Rivals.com database, only two schools from BCS conferences have fewer commitments: Syracuse and Washington (seven a piece), both of which were known before season's end to be expatriating their coaches as well.
Miller Safrit, a regional recruiting analyst for Scout.com, said it will be interesting to monitor how Clemson's class comes together these next few weeks because there is little precedent for its situation.
New coaches typically have to lower their standards for their initial recruiting classes and fill out the group with bodies, but Swinney is the rare newcomer whose system is already largely in place, precluding the need for major roster turnover.
On one hand, the Tigers aren't going to experience the immediate recruiting benefits a school like Tennessee this year or North Carolina two years ago have from making a splash hire who has national name recognition, Safrit said.
On the other hand, Clemson should have a significant head start on rebuilding its class because the staff's core coaches already have established rapport with the majority of their primary targets.
"If you looked at it from the outside, you'd probably say, what recruiting class? It really is quite small right now." Safrit said.
"But they've got two of the southeast's best recruiters in Napier and Swinney, and it's going to be interesting how Dabo is going to be as a closer."
Napier, who has retained recruiting coordinator duties until Swinney makes official staff designations, said the rough plan is for Clemson to wind up with 20 or more signees.
That figure depends on the caliber of players the Tigers are still in contention for come February -- and going by the team's track record for luring blue-chippers at the 11th hour, Napier believes Clemson's late-season momentum will carry over into the recruiting venue.
"We've been known around here to pull some things off," he said.
Napier said the staff's biggest challenge in recovering from essentially a two-month recruiting holding pattern has strictly been organizational.
Swinney was officially hired during the first week college coaches were allowed to contract prospects, so the Tigers fell a week behind and have been playing catch-up since.
"We have several more spots to fill, so we have to recruit a larger pool of players, and that kind of stresses your staff, in particular a short-handed staff," Napier said.
"So January will be an extremely exciting time. When we complete our staff and have the time to prepare for the last three weeks of the contact period, I think there's going to be some fireworks."
Despite its small volume, Clemson's class ranks Nos. 38 (Rivals) and 46 (Scout) on the strength of holdovers such as West Florence defensive end Malliciah Goodman and Christ Church offensive lineman J.K. Jay, who was believed to be Georgia-bound had Swinney not been retained.
In theory, it could be the Tigers' first class outside Scout's top 25 or Rivals' top 20 since 2004 -- the year its recruiting nose-dived amid rampant speculation about Bowden's job security.
Bowden survived the hot seat that season by beating No. 3 Florida State and winning the year's final four games.
More than half of Clemson's corresponding class -- rated Nos. 40 (Scout) and 53 (Rivals) -- never amounted to contributors on the field.
But the Tigers closed that class by picking up several significant players from the supposed scraps.
Safety Chris Clemons, a three-year starter, quietly chose Clemson over Purdue. Two in-state players, safety Michael Hamlin and defensive tackle Dorell Scott, opted for the Tigers late over USC.
Foremost, Clemson pulled the trigger on an offer to a beanpole, likely Duke-bound receiver named Aaron Kelly, who leaves after the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl as the ACC's career receptions leader.
"That's the great thing about recruiting," Safrit said. "This will probably be one of those classes where they get somebody no one's heard of or doesn't have a ton of offers and will end up being All-ACC. That seems to be the way it always turns out."
Malliciah Goodman (6-4, 255), DE, Florence (West Florence)
J.K. Jay (6-6, 275), OL, Greenville (Christ Church)
Brandon Thomas (6-4, 280), OG, Spartanburg (Dorman)
Roderick McDowell (5-9, 175), RB, Sumter (Sumter)
Tyler Shatley (6-3, 255), FB/ATH, Connelly Springs, N.C. (East Burke)
Eric Fields (6-0, 205), LB/S, Warner Robins, Ga. (Northside)
Quandon Christian (6-3, 205), LB, Lake View (Lake View)
Corico Hawkins (6-0, 218), LB, Milledgeville, Ga. (Baldwin)