A Look Back: The 1999 Recruiting Class

In this first of a three part series, we analyze each of Tommy Bowden's recruiting classes at Clemson University. Which class ranks the highest? Which class contains the most role players? The answers just might surprise you!

Tommy Bowden's success at Clemson can be traced directly to both him, and his staff's recruitment of some of the finest football players in the country over the course of the last few years. As we always say, recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and without good players even the best coaches in the land are handcuffed against teams that possess superior talent.

Bowden and the Tigers have won 6, 9, 7, 7, and 9 games respectively in each of the past 5 seasons. That's an overall record of 38-24 for the mathematically challenged. And for you hardcore statisicians, that's a winning percentage of .632.

Not to shabby if you ask me.

On Wednesday of next week, Bowden will wrap up his 6th recruiting campaign as the head man of the Clemson University football program. And just as we've seen in year's past, recruiting rankings will come out soon after the signing day frenzy, analyzing each individual player on every major team in the country.

These days, it seems as though judging recruiting classes on Signing Day has become somewhat of a national past time. This judgment is fun for the fans because it gives us all something to talk about. However, the accuracy of these rankings is about as unpredictable as the 10-day forecast from your local weather man.

And perhaps an even more difficult thing to judge on Signing Day is how good a particular class rates against the previous classes under that particular coach of that particular program.

I mean, how can you judge players that have never played a snap for your school against those that have? The simple answer is, you can't.

The only true way to analyze a recruiting class compared to a previous year is to look back on the class years down the road and evaluate it from a more rational perspective.

It is my judgment that the best way to truly analyze a recruiting class is to look back on it 3-to-4 years later and assess which players ended up making a significant contribution to the team and which ones did not.

Of course, this analysis does little to compare Clemson's recruiting class to Florida State's or Georgia's or South Carolina's.

It simply compares which classes at Clemson under a coach are better than the others the coach has signed.

Determining a formula for that analysis is also difficult and somewhat subjective, but I have created a formula I feel is best suited to comparing one class to another. Before I break down Bowden's classes at Clemson, I must define how my judgment is made. All players are grouped into 3 categories:

  • Impact Players are individuals that were heavily involved in the team on the field for more than one season.
  • Role Players are individuals that saw action in a limited role throughout their career.
  • Non-Impact Players are individuals that saw little or no significant playing time over their career.
With those definitions in place, here is how Tommy Bowden's first 3 classes stack up against each other.

1999- Tommy Bowden's First Class
Surprisingly, this class stacks up as the best class of Bowden's first three years if you go by my stated criteria. Bowden was not hired until December of 1998, only 2 months before signing day, but the eventual success of the players from this class cannot be understated.

This class had more impact players (percentage-wise) than either of the next two classes. 58% of this class went on to play a major role at Clemson during their careers. Another 21% of this class can be classified as role players, which leaves only 21% of the class that did not make an impact on any level at Clemson.

The "catch" to this class is that there were very few superstars.

Greg Walker, Brian Mance, Kahleed Vaughn, and Kevin Youngblood are the only players from this class that ended up being clear cut starters at their positions. You could also make the case for Rambert, Jasmin, McKelvey, and Thomas, but for the most part each of those four were only significant contributors during their senior seasons.

Willie Simmons appeared poised for stardom after leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind road win over UNC in 2000, but the turnover bug seemed to bite him once he got his big chance, leading to his benching and eventual transfer.

Marcus Houskin was also another player that caught the eyes of some of the coaching staff early on, but a neck injury unfortunately ended his career before it got started.

Anytime you can have more than 50% of your class playing in a positive major role for your team, it's obvious that you have signed a good class. And, as you will see tomorrow, this class eventually proved to be head and shoulders more productive at Clemson than the 2000 and 2001 classes overall.

At least up to this point.

Much of the credit for the 1999 classd has to lie at the feet of Tommy Bowden. However, it also speaks volumes to what Tommy West had done prior to his firing and the continuity of Bowden hiring recruiting coordinator Rick Stockstill to his staff.

Coming up tomorrow, a breakdown of the 2000 and 2001 recruiting classes at Clemson University.

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