As we hit the homestretch on this recruiting cycle, SB Nation analyzed the five toughest positions to find top talents.
Some of them, Clemson's had great success, and one in particular, has been the center of discussion for a while in TigerTown.
5. Defensive Line
SB Nation excerpt: Edge-rushers aren't that hard to find, but strong-side defensive ends, nose tackles, or three-tech defensive tackles? The bigger a player's body needs to be to play his position at the college level, the smaller the reservoir of available talent. Consequently, defensive linemen are one of the hardest positions for recruiters to find, let alone project.
How Clemson's done: Not bad at all when you look at the NFL and future NFL talent the Tigers are producing. Sure, there's plenty of four-star-plus prospects, but they've also discovered guys like Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley. Clemson will likely have the top d-line in the ACC and they have depth for years to come.
National notes (2011-14 Scout unit rankings, star average): What's interesting is Clemson hasn't had a top-five ranked unit in the last four years. They've gone under the radar and plucked some top-rated guys here and there. In the span, Michigan has actually signed three top-five d-line units by star average, while Ohio State, LSU and Alabama signed two.
4. Tight End
SB Nation excerpt: The big tight end who comes on the field when the offense wants to double team the edge and run the ball isn't a difficult player to find. But if you want that player to be especially mean-spirited and to stand at 6'5, 260, don't expect him to grow on a tree.
How Clemson's done: This has been an interesting area for the program. For the '14 class, their two-commit TE unit of Milan Richard (4-star; 6-2 232) and Cannon Smith (3-star; 6-5 235) is rated No. 4 nationally by 247Sports. Recently, they haven't reeled them in, but they have also been moving guys around, transitioning a pair of receivers to TE (Brandon Ford, Stanton Seckinger). In the last year or so, they moved a previous 4-star TE to the o-line in Eric Mac Lain. Chad Morris will tell you that the tight end is one of the toughest and most critical elements to his offense, and they're looking pretty good going forward.
SB Nation excerpt: Every team needs more than two starter-quality cornerbacks these days, but that doesn't mean that the ideal cornerback is a common type of human. Despite his smaller size, the elite cornerback often has traits that don't show up in the genetic lottery in combination very often.
How Clemson's done: After signing eight DBs last year, the Tigers technically don't have a corner in the mix for 2014 (though RB C.J. Fuller is a rumored candidate). Of the eight-man '13 group, Mackensie Alexander was the prize, a five-star, who never got off the ground to do injury last season. Three more DBs also redshirted in Adrian Baker, Ryan Carter and Marcus Edmond. Alexander's play in the next few years will certainly be the bellwether for Tiger recruiting in this area, but they could have a few more hits than misses in that last class. Losing both starting CBs, Bashaud Breeland and Darius Robinson, there will be plenty of competition this spring and fall to get on the field.
SB Nation excerpt: Most college offenses are designed to be less-dependent on having transcendent passers than NFL offenses are, but every team is still hoping to land one. That makes competition for the promising ones exceptionally fierce.
How Clemson's done: Goes without saying here, Clemson's done exceptionally well in QB recruiting. Tajh Boyd, Chad Kelly, Deshaun Watson - and we'll see how this three-star from Ohio, Cole Stoudt, can compete coming up real soon.
National notes (2011-14 Scout unit rankings, star average): For '14, Clemson has the No. 3 QB class with Watson, but over the last four cycles, four teams have had two top-five pulls at QB: Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M and Southern California.
1. Offensive Line
SB Nation excerpt: Every offense is designed to involve at least five players from one of the world's smallest gene pools: the tall, heavy, and quick-footed. Defensive linemen are often more athletic and sometimes similarly sized, but their responsibilities on the football field are considerably different. An offensive lineman has to have the agility to get in front of blitzing linebackers along with the powerful base necessary to stand his ground when facing a defensive tackle with an explosive first step and 310-pound frame.
How Clemson's done: So, here we are, the o-line and Clemson. We examined in-depth the Tigers' lack of elite recruiting in this spot. Last season, four-star and top-100 offensive guard Tyrone Crowder came on board, while rising junior Isaiah Battle has shown some promise coming from a prep school background. Going back a bit to Dabo Swinney's "Dandy Dozen," Brandon Thomas is proving to be one of the best o-lineman signed at Clemson in a long time. But the jury is out from there, and with a couple on board this cycle, it appears the Tigers' resources are being poured into hauling in highly-rated 2015 prospects.
National notes (2011-14 Scout unit rankings, star average): Four of the last five national title winners have had two top-five units here (Auburn and Alabama). Last year's, Florida State, was a top-five in 2011. Clemson has placed in the top-15 nationally once in the last six cycles and only three times in the last 13.