2008 Recruiting Already Taking Shape

Sitting at 22 public verbal commitments, the Clemson coaching staff has the luxury of turning their attention towards next year's prospects.

Every year about this time, Clemson fans always seem to be focused in on the surprises in store before National Signing Day.

The past two years have seen a plethora of "signing day shockers," including LB Antonio Clay in 2005, who by most accounts was headed to Oklahoma, and also RB C.J. Spiller just last year. Spiller was rated as one of the top running backs in the country and chose the Tigers over Florida, Florida State, Southern California and Miami in a signing day press conference held at Union County High School in Lake Butler, Fla.

This year, sure, there could be a few more.

Maybe four-star wide receiver Dwight Jones decides to pick the Tigers over Tennessee and North Carolina. Perhaps another four-star prospect, defensive end Kourtnei Brown is also in line to wear orange.

Regardless of what happens, it's easy to see that outside of these late surprises, there is another trend developing when it comes to recruiting: the trend of giving verbal commitments earlier in the recruiting process.

In fact, it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that the Clemson coaching staff is not only focused on the class of 2007, which is set to be etched in stone in just 10 days, but also on the class of 2008.

"Obviously we still have recruit the guys that are committed hard," said Clemson recruiting coordinator David Blackwell earlier in January. "But we are in a unique situation with the number of commitments we have hard. We are going to be able to get out there and recruit hard the next couple of weeks and then start focusing on next year's class. This class should give us a great start into next year."

By all accounts, the Tigers have already built the foundation for a great 2008 class.

Case in point: consider the fact that Clemson has already secured the verbal commitments of two of the top five juniors in the state in DE Daquan Bowers and WR Marquan Jones.

Bowers is considered to be one of the top two players in the state, not to mention one of the top defensive linemen to come out of South Carolina in years, and will be rated as a five-star prospect later this year.

Jones, a future four-star prospect, caught eight touchdown passes in a single game earlier this year while helping lead Blythewood to a state championship in its first year ever of playing varsity football.

Both players were considered "Clemson leans" before making their commitments public, but with the recruiting process now essentially out of the way, they can now begin to focus more on their senior years of high school.

"Clemson is a great school. I have been favoring them since I went to my first game there," Jones said. "The facilities are great and the fans are so loud. Who wouldn't want to play for Clemson?"

Like Jones, Bowers also decided on the Tigers long before the start of his last year in high school.

"I knew around the summer, but I wanted to make sure and weigh out my options," Bowers said. "I think that right now it would help the recruiting out for this year and next year and maybe I can help bring some guys in. I wanted to go ahead and get it over and focus on my team."

While its obvious both of these players have an affinity for the school and the football program, it's important to note that a large role in their decision to commit to Clemson was based on their relationships with the coaching staff.

And those relationships have been built over the course of time as coaches like David Blackwell, Dabo Swinney, Ron West and Brad Scott and chosen to remain at Clemson despite entertaining job offers from just about everywhere.

In addition, it should also be said the Tigers hold the early lead for many of the state's top juniors, including Pelion OL Dalton Freeman, Greenville DT Arterio Arnold, A.C. Flora OL Kenneth Page, and Union DE Sam Hammond.

The list is actually quite longer, and even extends to several top prospects out of state.

The Tigers also look to be in excellent shape with a top junior quarterback in Jacksonville, Fla. native Kyle Parker and Jefferson County (Ga.) offensive lineman A.J. Harmon- the No. 1 player in the state of Georgia.

And there are more.

While no one should confuse this article as saying Clemson will finish with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2008.

In all likelihood that's probably not going to happen, however, the last three years have shown steady progress when it comes to recruiting and by all accounts, 2008 will be no different.

So while many fans are focused the 2007 class, which may or may not end with a bang, it's important to remember the foundation for 2008 has already been built.

And building that foundation, this far in advance, only helps build a more solid team on the field for the future.

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