Just Scratching the Surface

CLEMSON – As members of the Clemson coaching staff prepared to go to sleep on the eve of National Signing Day, they knew something the rest of the country didn't – they were about to land one of the top-ranked recruits in the nation.

While they knew the announcement that C.J. Spiller was headed to play for the Tigers instead of Florida or Florida State was going to shock nearly everyone, the Clemson coaching staff would have been shocked if he didn't select the Tigers.

"I had a great conversation with him (Tuesday) night and (Tuesday) afternoon," said Clemson receivers coach Dabo Swinney, who was the point man in recruiting Spiller. "I actually slept good last night. I really felt like in my heart that he was coming, but there was that little-bitty voice also telling me to be cautious and to not get my hopes up.

"I'm just excited that he was able to overcome a lot of pressure and do what he felt like was best for him."

The signing of Spiller was the topper of what was another very good recruiting class for Clemson. According to Scout.com, the Tigers' class ranks 21st in the country. Most national recruiting services have them in that general vicinity.

Other players that head this signing class are defensive ends Rickey Sapp and Jamie Cumbie, who are rated as the second- and 15th-best players in the nation at their position.

The Tigers also put together one of the best defensive backfield classes in the nation by signing DeAndre McDaniel, Bryan Maxwell, Crezdon Butler, Darius Gaither and Chris Russell.

Without question, Clemson has changed things and is now starting to get more and more top players in the country. It's a trend head coach Tommy Bowden sees continuing. In fact, he believes it's going to keep getting better.

"I think players nowadays are sensing some of the things we've accomplished here from wins on the field, to the WestZone project, that they can come up here and experience the successes that this profession can offer at Division I-A football at the highest level," he said. "I think players are seeing how close we were to having a really special year this year, and with the players we have coming back and stability in the program and the commitment this university has made from a facilities standpoint."

Bowden said that it's no coincidence that the rise in recruiting coincides with the advancement of the WestZone Project.

He cited the fact that in 2004, there was dirt and a couple of bulldozers and they got a decent class. In 2005, there was concrete being poured and they got an even better class. This year, bricks have been put in place and the results were better than the previous two years.

"I don't think we can underestimate the WestZone project," he said. "I don't think it's a coincidence or a chance or luck. … I can't wait to see the potential this program has when that building's completed and then bring in a freshmen class, a red-shirt freshmen class, a sophomore class and a red-shirt sophomore class. Bring in four years of prospects at the completion of that building and I think you're going to see the potential of this program being realized.

"I think we're just kind of scratching the surface."

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