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Tigers fill holes in roster with studded 2019 recruiting class

The Clemson Tigers wrapped up their 2019 recruiting class on Feb. 6 with National Signing Day. While most of Dabo Swinney’s work was completed before this week, the Tigers did add two in-state players in Mikey Dukes and Mason Trotter on Wednesday. With the addition of Dukes and Trotter, the Tigers finished off their second straight top-ten recruiting class.

The Tigers will address some of their greatest needs with this year’s class, while also adding depth to some of their most talented positions. The class is headlined by five star cornerback Andrew Booth. After the departure of National Championship defensive MVP Trayvon Mullen, Booth will have an opportunity to compete for a starting job this offseason. The Clemson secondary will likely be losing its remaining three starters following the 2019 season with K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse running out of eligibility while AJ Terrell could look to the NFL. The Tigers added four safeties including four-star Joseph Charleston and a pair of cornerbacks in Booth and four-star Sheridan Jones. While the Tiger secondary looked porous at times in 2018, Swinney and the Tiger coaching staff looked to patch the holes with the 2019 recruiting class.

The Tigers reeled in two more elite receivers in Frank Ladson and Joe Ngata. With Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Derion Kendrick and Amari Rodgers all returning in 2019, Ladson and Ngata will join perhaps the most talented receiving core in the nation. The Tigers’ quarterback room will also be more crowded in 2019 with the addition of four-star dual-threat quarterback Taisun Phommachanh. While Phommachanh will play behind Trevor Lawrence for at least two seasons, his presence gives the Tigers more depth at the position. Phommachanh’s mobility does allow for the possibility of playing time in wildcard packages, but expect most of his playing time in 2019 to come late in blowout games.

The Tigers also added depth at running back with the additions of Dukes and four-star Chez Mellusi. The Tigers were in the running for the No. 3 running back in the class, Jerrion Ealy, before his decision to join Ole Miss. While Tiger fans were disappointed with the decision, Ealy will likely start right away for the Rebels. Had he come to Clemson, he would have played behind Heisman candidate Travis Etienne, senior Tavien Feaster and Lyn-J Dixon. Even without Ealy, the Tigers’ running attack is primed for success in 2019 and beyond.

After the departure of six of the Tigers’ front seven following the 2018 season, Swinney and his staff knew they would have to bring in a plethora of young talent to fill the holes left by last year’s dominant group. While the Tigers have in-house replacements in Xavier Thomas, KJ Henry, Shaq Smith and Nyles Pinckney amongst others, several freshmen will have a chance to earn a starting spot. Four-star defensive tackle Tyler Davis will be thrown into the mix early in spring practice with Pinckney battling an injury. Brent Venables will have his work cut out for him trying to piece together a front seven that stands to feature several young players.

The 2018 Tigers paved their path to success with a perfect combination of experienced veterans and young talent. Without players like Trevor Lawrence, Justyn Ross and Xavier Thomas, the 2018 season may have gone very differently. Swinney and the Tigers are hoping that this year’s group of freshmen can have the same impact.  

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