Even without the 2018 recruiting class, Clemson would be in a position to compete for the national title this upcoming season.
The Tigers return a veteran team with experience on both sides of the ball and have plenty of players who have made plays on the biggest stage in college football.
The return of Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant pretty much guarantees that Clemson will enter the season as one of the top three teams in the country.
To supplement its experience and talent, Clemson signed a top-10 recruiting class filled with players ready to contribute right away.
The Tigers return a quarterback — Kelly Bryant — who is on some early Heisman lists. Clemson signed the No. 1 quarterback in the country.
Clemson returns the best defensive line in college football with four All-Americans. The Tigers signed the No. 1 and No. 3 defensive ends in the country.
The Tigers have a deep receiving corps filled with former four and five-star prospects. Clemson signed two of the top pass catchers in the country — Derion Kendrick and Justyn Ross.
Most of Clemson’s class had signed before Wednesday’s second signing day, and many of the top prospects, including five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, defensive ends Xavier Thomas and KJ Henry, wide receiver Derion Kendrick and offensive lineman Jackson Carman are already on campus.
Clemson has nine recruits who have already enrolled in school, six who signed early, and it added a pair of prospects on Wednesday in Ross, the top ranked player in Alabama, and Mario Goodrich, a four-star safety from Missouri.
When you add it all together, you have a recruiting class that Dabo Swinney believes is the best he has signed.
“On paper, this is probably the most complete class that I’ve signed since I’ve been the head coach, just as far as the young men walking in this building, and nine of them already here, this is a very special group,” Swinney said during Wednesday’s signing day news conference. “We met all of our critical needs.”
Lawrence, Kendrick, Ross and Thomas are almost a lock to get an opportunity to help Clemson in 2018. The Tigers have several other players who are physically ready to help if needed.
But when you return seven starters on offense, eight starters on defense and have several backups who have gained valuable experience, there isn’t a huge need for guys to come in and play right away.
Still, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable.
Swinney has referred to several players during his career as being guys who showed up ready to play. Recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter sees plenty of those prospects in this class.
“I see guys that are more readymade, maybe, than we’ve seen in the past, guys that have been superstars at their place for a while and showed a maturity about them throughout the recruiting process that you can tell they mean business,” Streeter said. “They’re not here to just sit around and wait for their turn. They want to go get it. That’s exciting for us when you see a guy like that or a prospect like that that is just mature beyond his years and knows that he’s about business and when he gets here he’s ready to work … Defintiely in this class I feel like most of these guys, if not all of them, fit that mold.”
Clemson has played in the College Football Playoff three consecutive seasons, winning the national title in 2016.
On paper, this Tigers team is better than the one that entered the playoff No. 1 last year. Don’t be surprised if Clemson is in a similar position come December.
“We’ve got a very talented team coming back,” Swinney said. “This time last year lots of question marks and not a lot of experience from a senior standpoint. This will be a very senior, junior led team.”