Looking at the last three (and a half) classes I've noticed what I believe are some significant trends in the current staff's recruiting efforts. Each of these trends represents to me a major improvement in the overall talent-level of our team.
The first trend is closing off the state boundaries. Gone are the days when the Florida States and the Tennessees could pick and choose among the best players our state has to offer. Unless I'm mistaken this was the first year in quite a long while that neither of these national powerhouses gained a single signature from a South Carolina prospect. Even the other supposed football school in the state (no, not the Citadel) has had to seek greener pastures due to the recruiting strangle hold Tommy and company have placed on the state. Make no mistake, this is vitally important to the long-term success of the program, despite what certain poultry may say.
The second trend is increasing national recognition, or respect. For numerous reasons, including a high-profile offense, a high-profile coaching name, high-profile opponents such as Florida State and Virginia Tech, and recent on-the-field improvement, the name Clemson has steadily regained recognition in the eyes of recruits throughout the nation. This is evidenced by the fact that prospects from all over the country, including Washington, California, Texas and New Jersey are reportedly mulling offers from the Tiger staff, not to mention all of the southeastern states. It will definitely take time before the Tigers will sign prospects from opposite ends of the country with any regularity, but the trend is clear.
Another trend is recruiting speed. It is overwhelmingly obvious that the staff is committed to recruiting exceptionally fast players to compete with the likes of Florida State. Bringing in players like Airese Currie, Derrick Hamilton, Tye Hill, Terrance Huey and others at the skill positions and Brian Mance, John Leake, David Dunham, Eric Sampson and others on the defensive side will only make the Tigers more competitive against the better competition they will face.
Yet another trend is adding height to the defensive line. The average height of the 2000 starting four of Nick Eason, Jason Holloman, Terry Jolly and Terry Bryant was right at 6'-3". In gaining commitments from the likes of 6'-6" Donnell Washington, 6'-7" Wendell Singletary, 6'-5" Leo Reed, 6'-4" Charles Bennett, 6'-5" Rod Whipple and 6'-7" Irving Brisker the staff clearly wants to increase the number of passes being batted down at the line and make it tougher for the opposing quarterbacks to see their targets. This additional height on the line could pay huge dividends in the near future.
One last trend is increasing position flexibility. In the most recent class the Tiger staff recruited a number of players that could see different positions on the field, from tight end, to defensive end, to linebacker to offensive line. Signing a Mark Jetton that can play tight end, offensive line or defensive line is invaluable, as is having a Bobby Williamson that can play tight end or offensive line. Tymere Zimmerman was considered by many recruiting services to be a premier wideout prospect while still others considered him a standout defensive back. The value of this aspect of recruiting should not be underestimated. One has to look no further than Rod Gardner to see an example of this, practicing as a quarterback and strong safety at Clemson before becoming an All-American and a first-round draft pick at wide receiver.
These recruiting trends all point to great things in the future of Clemson football. Tommy and his staff are to be commended for their efforts in helping to right a 3-8 ship and get it sailing in the right direction, and the continual upgrade in talent will certainly become more and more evident in the seasons to come. The future is bright indeed.
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