What We Said Last Signing Day

On Signing Day 2004, we take a look back one year ago to see what we predicted would happen with the 2003 recruiting class. Some predictions, we were dead on. Others- well we still have some work to do! Here's a look back on what we were saying last signing day. A must read for Clemson fans!

The following article appeared in the CUTigers Recruiting Yearbook last March. This year, our recruiting yearbook will be even bigger and better than ever!

Make sure you don't miss out on what promises to be our most spectacular issue ever!
Write it down now, the 2003 class will at some point experience a BCS bowl in their Clemson career. Perhaps that's a bold prediction based on what we've seen the past two seasons on the football field, but let's just call it a hunch for now.

It has often been said that college football recruiting is an inexact science. More times than not the 1-star prospects become future first round draft picks and the 5-star "can't miss" athletes end up as career benchwarmers.

Interestingly enough, that's what keeps college football fans so intrigued by the entire process. Even though some experts won't rank a particular class high on the national charts, that doesn't necessarily mean that team can't compete for a national championship in the coming years.

With that in mind, we introduce 10 bold opinions about the 2003 class.

10. Tramaine Billie is the Sleeper
That's right, one of the south's fastest running backs also figures to be one of the big time sleepers in the 2003 recruiting class. Billie won the state championship last year in the 100 meters and has speed that compares with that of current Tiger cornerback Tye Hill- who is considered by most people to be the fastest player on the team. He's rushed for close to 4,000 yards in his last two seasons at Dreher High School and even though he'll face an uphill battle with the logjam at running back at Clemson in the coming years, he could see the field as early as 2004.

9. Brandon Pilgrim will be the Highest Draft Pick
Okay, maybe it's a little early to start talking about the NFL Draft, but looking at Pilgrim's track record, it may not be too far-fetched. You are talking about a kid that comes from one of the top high school football programs in the country in Parkview. You are talking about player who hasn't lost a single football game in almost 4 years. Pilgrim has back-to-back-to-back state championships on his resume and he has a work ethic that should allow offensive line coach Ron West sleep a lot easier at night. Never mind that he's 6-feet, 5-inches tall and will come to Clemson weighing close to 300 pounds. This kid has the makings to be one of top offensive linemen to play at Clemson in the last 10 years.

8. 3 Players will Contribute Immediately
Go ahead and pencil in Maurice Nelson, Jad Dean, and Brian Staley in your two-deep depth charts next season. Nelson has already been informed that he'll have the chance to compete at Rover next fall and with the Tiger's injury riddled depth chart, he could crack the two-deep before the Dawgs come calling late August.

Dean has been told that he'll have the chance to handle kickoffs in the season opener against Georgia, and why not? He's hit kickoffs, not field goals, that have gone wide right of the goal posts in the back of the endzone at Greenwood High School. With all of the struggles of the past two seasons on special teams, Dean appears to be one of the solutions from the 2003 class.

And then there's Brian Staley. Staley's athletic ability and mind-boggling statistics from the last two seasons alone should get him into the two-deep early this fall. He's a natural ball hawk with 4.4 speed and great hands, what else can you ask for in a cover corner?

7. Who Reminds us of Who
There's little doubt who Georgia Military cornerback Brian Staley reminds us of- can you say Donnell Woolford? Yes, he's that talented, and yes he'll make that much of an impact next season in the Tigers' secondary.

He wasn't named a JUCO All-American for consecutive years, and he didn't return a total of 9 interceptions back for scores because he was in the right place at the right time. This kid has skills, and he's going to be absolutely dynamite wearing orange. Staley has the speed and the ability to compete right along side of Justin Miller as one of the top cornerback combinations in the entire country. The only question left to answer is which side of the field will opponents throw to in 2003?

And what about Jad Dean? Have you ever thought about another placekicker to come to Clemson with such impressive credentials? Does the name Chris Gardocki ring a bell? Dean has one of the strongest legs in the country and if he works hard enough, he'll have the opportunity to score a lot of points during his Clemson career.

6. The Biggest Catch
In terms of who has the chance to make the biggest impact over the course of the next 4 seasons, it's definitely Maurice Nelson. The linebacker/strong safety prospect out of Crestwood High School is one of the few players ready to compete at the collegiate level from a physical standpoint. He has a body builder's physique and is about as fast as they come for a player his size. Coach Lovett will try him out as a Rover and he might also get an early look at the whip linebacker spot if he continues to develop quickly. With his brother already wearing a Clemson uniform, Nelson knows what to expect once he arrives on campus, and that should easily pave the way for early playing time.

5. The One that Got Away
You can't talk about the 2003 recruiting class without at least mentioning the one "big fish" that got away. How about Union's Eric Young, who left the state of South Carolina for the Tennessee Volunteers? Young wavered back and forth between South Carolina and Clemson before ultimately landing in Knoxville on signing day and his loss undoubtedly hurt the Tigers' recruiting efforts this year.

Young would have likely seen early playing time next year on the offensive line at Clemson, but it just wasn't meant to be. We may very well look back on Eric Young in the coming years and wonder how in the world he ever left the Palmetto state for Tennessee. He'll be a good one for Coach Phil Fulmer, just be glad the Tigers aren't scheduled to play the Vols anytime soon.

4. In 10 Years We'll Say that this Class was…
Very underrated. That's right- underrated. Even though some people are quick to point out the players that didn't' sign with Clemson this year, there is an ample amount of talent in this class- especially on the offensive line and in the secondary. Players like Brandon Pilgrim, Clint LaTray, Marion Dukes and Maurice Nelson and Brian Staley have as much potential as any of the other players that the Tigers have brought in the last 5 years. The Clemson coaching staff did a good job in getting most of their needs filled this year, and that will pay dividends down the line as most of the players from the last two classes will redshirt and become 5th year seniors later on in their careers.

3. Everyone's Forgetting About
Nick Watkins, the talented linebacker out of New Orleans' Karr High School. Watkins comes from a school known for producing quality linebackers, and if you talk to anyone that's seen him play the last two seasons, they'll tell you what a gem the Tigers picked up by signing him on February 5th. He's relentless in his pursuit and he just overpowers people with his brute strength. Mark it down right now; Watkins will be a great one in a Clemson uniform. Plus, the name "Nick Watkins" just sounds like a tough, hard-nosed linebacker doesn't it?

2. Two Players will Switch Positions
Two players will make position changes once they arrive on campus this fall. Brandon Nolen, a standout running back out of New Jersey is most likely headed to the defense at free safety, and Robert Reese will move from the offense over to cornerback. Nolen is a speedster that will have little problems adjusting to the secondary while Reese is a versatile player that should also be able to take advantage of his athleticism to become a contributor as a cover corner. Also, don't be surprised to see Reese emerge as one of the top punt and kick returners once he gets his feet wet in the secondary. The Georgia native has true 4.4 speed and he really excelled in high school at making the big play on special teams.

1. This class will go to a BCS Bowl
Write it down now, the 2003 class will at some point experience a BCS bowl in their Clemson career. Perhaps that's a bold prediction based on what we've seen the past two seasons on the football field, but let's just call it a hunch for now.

The overall talent level has been there, and the Tigers have more potential now on both sides of the ball than any point in the last 10 years. How that talent is developed and what kind of team chemistry is present going forward will likely determine whether or not this prediction becomes a reality.

With Charlie Whitehurst, Duane Coleman, and more skill assembled at wide receiver than anytime in they history of Clemson football, the Tigers stand poised to do great things in the coming years. The addition of several quality offensive linemen, three of which should make their presence felt this season, will also be critical in the Tigers' rise in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

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