2001 Recruiting: Were Expectations Met?

CLEMSON – In 2001, Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden put together a top 10 recruiting class that was supposed to be the first of many. Those 29 signees were supposed to be the group that made the Tigers a perennial national power.

However, as a handful of those signees prepare to play their final home game as red-shirt seniors, the pinnacle of their careers up to this point would have to be the 2003 Peach Bowl win over No. 6 Tennessee.

In that signing class, which consistently ranked around 10th in the country by nearly every recruiting service, Clemson landed three of the country's top five receivers in Roscoe Crosby, Airese Currie and Tymere Zimmerman. Other notable signees at the time included defensive end Charles Bennett, defensive linemen Rod Whipple and Mo Fountain, and tight end Ben Hall.

Those not so well known at the time included linebacker Leroy Hill, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, then-running back Tye Hill, then-defensive back Curtis Baham, tight end Bobby Williamson and defensive back Jamaal Fudge.

There were also several walk-ons, such as then-running back Lionel Richardson and tight end Cole Downer.

"It's a pretty strong class," Bowden said at the time. "The true indicator is not obviously for another three or four years down the line, but if who's recruiting them is an indication, then you're going to feel pretty good."

All told, there's no doubt this was a top-notch signing class. But they never brought what so many expected – at the very least a run toward the ACC championship and possible Bowl Championship Series berth.

This class has seen it all. Since their first game as true freshmen in 2001, there have been three offensive and defensive coordinators. They've beaten Florida State, Miami, Tennessee, but at the same time have lost to Wake Forest twice and Duke once.

Bipolar is a word that could describe this class for they have lived at both ends of the spectrum.

Fifth-year senior and linebacker David Dunham has another word.

"'Turbulence' is the best word to describe our complete Clemson career," he said. "We've been through a gamut of emotions between beating someone by 30 point to … I can never forget when (North Carolina) came in here and blew us out on homecoming."

Obviously, several of the big-time players never panned out, including Crosby, who tried to split time between professional baseball and Tigers football, and Zimmerman, who never qualified academically and is now playing football at Newberry.

However, there were others that surprised a lot of folks with their performance, such as Leroy Hill, who was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and Whitehurst, who holds practically every Clemson passing record there is.

"My memory is a team that could compete with anybody and was on the brink of just becoming great and we always came up just a little bit short of achieving that dream of a national championship and a conference championship," said Baham, now a starting wide receiver. "We've been knocking on that door several times since I've been here and it's real disappointing not to achieve that goal. It's been real, that's for sure."

A couple of the things that hurt this class' success were the following recruiting classes were pretty bad, comparison wise. There wasn't a whole lot of talent that was paired up with those from 2001.

Thus, the average results. That's what happens when you mix a core of very good players with those not so stellar.

"We did come in as one of the nation's top classes," Dunham said. "It's hard to put a bunch of expectations on a bunch of kids who need to mature. And I just think that everybody matured at different times in their careers here. …

"It's kind of hard to say we've been a complete failure because we've done a lot of good things. It's just that we've had a lot of letdowns here."

Here is the complete list of those that signed in 2001 and the position they were recruited to play:
Curtis Baham, DB
Charles Bennett, DE
Kyle Browning, RB
Eric Coleman, TE
Roscoe Crosby, WR
Airese Currie, WR
David Dunham, DB
Maurice Fountain, DL
Jamaal Fudge, DB
Ben Hall, TE
Cliff Harrell, RB
Derrick Higgins, WR
Tye Hill, RB
Leroy Hill, LB
Micheaux Hollingsworth, RB
Mark Jetton, DL
Tavaghn Monts, DB
Chip Myrick, OL
Roosevelt Nelson, LB
Grant Oliver, OL
Travis Pugh, DB
Leo Reed, DL
Eric Sampson, DB
Wendell Singletary, DL
Trey Tate, DL
Rod Whipple, DL
Charlie Whitehurst, QB
Bobby Williamson, TE
Tymere Zimmerman, WR

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