Even putting the best face on where Clemson stands in recruiting two days into summer camp week, it seems safe to say that the Tigers are behind the curve – the very pattern of early, and secure, commitments that they helped establish during the last two recruiting cycles.
Clemson currently has six commitments for its class of 2013, plus a transfer linebacker from Oklahoma who will sit out the 2012 season and be eligible in 2013.
The Tigers were looking at similar numbers this time a year ago, and then by mid-July, after a post-camp flurry of commitments, had nearly 15 players on board.
The difference is that last year Clemson was on the cutting edge in building its class by mid-summer. Today, the Tigers are lagging some of their most significant recruiting rivals, who’ve built the bulk of their classes in the spring, including some players that Clemson offered, and wanted.
Georgia already has 20 commitments, including 10 four-star prospects, according to Rivals. The Bulldogs’ list of early commitments includes Clemson targets Brandon Kublanow, an offensive lineman from Marietta, Ga., Tramel Terry, a wide receiver from Goose Creek, S.C., and Uriah LeMay, a wide receiver from Matthews, N.C.
Florida’s list of 16 commitments includes Clemson targets Ahmad Fullwood, a wide receiver from Jacksonville, Fla., defensive back Nick Washington, also from Jacksonville, and offensive lineman Joshua Outlaw, from Lithonia, Ga.
South Carolina has 17 commitments, mostly from three-star players, including in-state targets Gerald Turner, a linebacker from Goose Creek, Bryce King, an offensive lineman from Dillon, and D.J. Park, an offensive lineman from Dillon. All three were offered by Clemson.
Georgia’s class currently ranks second nationally to Michigan’s on Rivals’ list, while Florida is sixth and South Carolina 12th. Clemson is currently 37th.
ESPN has Florida second to Michigan, with Georgia fifth, Florida State 11th, South Carolina 15th and Clemson 19th.
Dabo Swinney and his coaches still believe they will assemble another elite recruiting class this year; but it hasn’t been easy so far, as Swinney pointed out emphatically prior to the beginning of his first camp session on Monday.
Uncertainty and misinformation about a possible move by Clemson to the Big 12 has proved to be a huge negative for the Tigers on the recruiting front, Swinney said.
"It has impacted and affected our recruiting,” Swinney said. “I’ve had to spend a lot of time re-recruiting guys and assuring them that we aren’t going to the Big 12. It has been a big distraction and it has been negative, quite frankly. I’m speaking from the front lines. My job is to coach the team, and we’ll coach them wherever.
"It has been irresponsible on a lot of people’s parts on some of the stuff that has been put out there. I know for a fact that we are committed to making this the best league that it can possibly be and committed to making Clemson the national champion.”
We’ll have a better idea over the next couple of weeks how much damage has actually been done.
For now, Swinney is back in his element, face-to-face with prospects on the field, showing off what Clemson has to offer.
There is some comfort in knowing that it’s one of the things he does best.