State of the Union

While the discussions involving the overall success of the 2003 recruiting campaign will continue through the months leading up to fall practice, only one thing right now can be said with absolute certainity. The Tigers have 17 solid prospects that want to play for Clemson. Oh, and did I mention that these guys have talent too?

Let's set the facts straight from the very beginning without sugar coating anything.

Did the Tigers sign every prospect on their board this year? No.

Did the Tigers sign the top prospect on their board this year? No.

Did the Tigers lose out on some of the top players in the state of South Carolina this year? Yes.

Did South Carolina win the instate recruiting war this year? Yes they did, there's no doubt about it.

Once you allow yourself to accept these facts, you can then focus on who the Tigers actually DID sign.

Headlined by players like C.J. Gaddis, Maurice Nelson, and Brian Staley, Clemson picked up several key additions that should pay significant dividends over the course of the next 3-4 seasons.

You've read their bios by now, you know who is coming in with high expectations and who is coming in hoping to be a surprise, so I'm not going to slam the same information into your head for the thirteenth time today.

The good news with the guys that are coming in next season is that Clemson is in their blood. In some circumstances, it's been their dream to play football at Clemson University for quite some time.

Nelson, Dean, Gaddis, Staley, Gilliam, and several other big names in this class have commented more often than not about their dream of running down the hill and winning championships in Death Valley.

That's right, championships. These guys aren't coming here hoping for something good to happen, they are expecting it.

And while the talent level may not be there in the eyes of every single recruiting expert in the country, the 2003 class will be happy to know that they'll step onto the field next season side by side with a very talented group of upperclassmen.

And maybe that's not a bad thing- maybe that will actually help promote chemistry on a team that has seemingly been lacking it the last two seasons.

Or maybe not. We really won't know to expect until we see the results on the field over the course of the next few seasons.

That statement is not meant to downplay the kids that did sign with Clemson today, because there isn't one player on that list that I can say a bad thing about. Make no mistake; all of these kids have talent, but it will be up to the coaching staff to develop that talent once they arrive on campus in August.

Chris Capote, Clint LaTray, and Marion Dukes are monsters on the offensive line, and these guys are going to help this team out tremendously in the coming years. Nick Watkins and Tremaine Billie are two vastly underrated players in their own right that will also have the chance to contribute at some point in the next two seasons.

And then there's Maurice Nelson, who is already throwing verbal jabs at the Gamecocks' Syvelle Newton for throwing a Clemson hat on the floor at his press conference earlier this week. Isn't that great? If he could get on the field today and line up against South Carolina he would do it in a heartbeat.

So before you jump off a building because the Tigers didn't sign Eric Young or Syvelle Newton- all is not lost here. It's really not.

Clemson had the luxury of redshirting all of the 2002 class with the exception of Justin Miller and JUCO transfers Kelvin Morris and Brandon Jamison. In fact, most of the key ingredients on both sides of the ball return next season.

Sure there are issues that need addressing, and they are probably being addressed right now as I type this article. Things could be better in Tiger Town- Clemson could have beaten Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl, or played better against Maryland or N.C. State on ESPN this past season, but things could also be worse.

The Tigers could have lost to South Carolina, and could have finished with a losing record- but that didn't happen.

Tommy Bowden just hired David Blackwell and he's looking hard at some of the mistakes that have been made in his first four years as the Tigers' head coach. And with the players he has returning next season, as well as the players coming off their redshirt year, he'll have a very nice pool of talent available at his disposal.

Does that translate into wins next season? No it doesn't, but it should provide us all with some optimism headed into spring ball and on into the fall.

Speaking of optimism, did I mention the only thing that really matters in this in-state rivalry is who wins the game in late November?

How many of you would rather beat the Gamecocks in November as opposed to February?

That's what I thought.

South Carolina may have won round one, but the most important round comes when these two teams actually line it up against each on the field.

Last time I checked, that doesn't happen for another 10 months. Top Stories