'Talent, people, families' make Dabo Swinney's signing day special

Clemson's 22-man signing class is program's fourth straight top-15 talent haul

Clemson football recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott points to a board listing the Tigers' 2014 NCAA college football class on national signing day at a press conference in Clemson, S.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson football recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott points to a board listing the Tigers' 2014 NCAA college football class on national signing day at a press conference in Clemson, S.C. on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

As Wednesday's signing day drama fueled a web and social media frenzy, Dabo Swinney was quite happy with his spot on the sidelines.

A no-surprise signing day was mostly good news for the Clemson football program, which reloaded with a 22-man signing class that Swinney described as "the lifeblood of the program that more than met our needs."

"Most of these guys have been committed for a long time," Swinney said. "There was no drama today, and I love no drama. I couldn't be more excited about the players, and the people and families, that are joining our program."

The Tigers' class includes five early enrollees, 13 players who signed National Letters of Intent, and four more who signed Financial Aid Agreements as 'grayshirts.'

Headlining the class is the nation's top-rated dual-threat quarterback in Deshaun Watson, who, after enrolling in January, will compete with Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly for the Tigers' starting quarterback spot this spring.

Describing Watson as "the real deal," Swinney said that enrolling early gives the Gainesville, Ga. star "a realistic opportunity" to win the competition.

"Cole and Chad are elite, next-level players," Swinney said. "And Deshaun comes in as an elite talent and an elite person. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Clemson's group of signees includes four wide receivers, three running backs, two defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, six linebackers, two tight ends, one defensive back and a kicker.

2014 class breakdown, pt. 1

Swinney breaks it down

The Tigers picked up one signing day addition in Richard Yeargin III, a defensive end from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. who announced for Clemson on Wednesday over Notre Dame and Texas. A long-time commitment to Notre Dame, he contacted the Tiger coaching staff recently about making an official visit, and, when he arrived, "fell in love with Clemson," Swinney said. Yeargin grew up in South Carolina, has family ties in the Upstate, and his father played at S.C. State.

Clemson struck out on Cory Thomas, a defensive tackle from McCalla, Ala. long-committed to Tennessee who surprised everyone by signing with Mississippi State, and on defensive end Andrew Williams of McDonough, Ga., who chose Auburn over Clemson and Georgia.

Clemson's class is currently ranked 13th nationally by Rivals and ESPN, 27th by Scout and 17th in the 247Sports composite ratings, and is widely considered the ACC's third best after Florida State and Miami.

It marks the fourth straight year that Clemson's recruiting class has been ranked in the top 15 nationally by Rivals and ESPN.

"Everything in college football is about personnel," Swinney said. "When you lose good guys, you have to bring in good guys...This is our fourth top-15 class in a row, and only seven other programs can say that. We've played four of those teams, and we're 3-1 in those games. So we're recruiting and playing at the highest level."

'14 class relatively stress-free


Clemson's recruiting haul included nine in-state players, highlighted by two-time Independent Mail area player of the year Jae'lon Oglesby and Belton-Honea Path linebacker Kendall Joseph.

Other in-state additions include Columbia tight end Cannon Smith, the son of former Clemson defensive end and current board of trustee member Bill Smith, linebacker Jalen Williams from Blythewood, placekicker Alex Spence from Florence, running back C.J. Fuller from Easley, offensive lineman Taylor Hearn from Williston-Elko, and linebackers J.D. and Judah Davis, the twin sons of former Tiger All-American Jeff Davis.

The Davis twins, Williams and Spence all signed as grayshirts.

Clemson had an exceptionally successful year in Georgia, where it signed five of the state's top 15 players, including Watson, linebacker Korie Rogers, wide receiver Demarre Kitt, tight end Milan Richard, and running back Adam Choice. Richard is the nephew of former Georgia star Herschel Walker and then son of Bulldog track All-Americans Bill and Veronica Richard.

The Tigers also picked up four players from North Carolina, two from Florida and one from Maryland.

"We signed more top-15 players than any other school recruiting the state of Georgia," Swinney said. "We recruit South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia like it's all in-state, from top to bottom. We've built great relationships, and we think we'll always be welcome there."

Overall, Swinney said this class lays a foundation for replacing a large group of seniors and juniors who'll cycle out of the program over the next two years.

"Next season we'll have 19 scholarship seniors, with at least as many juniors," Swinney said. "It's taken a while to get here, but we've developed very good quality depth. It's always easier to replace talent than to replace experience, but as long as we keep bringing in this type of talent, we'll be fine."

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