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Recruiting Playbook: Clemson recruiting class ranked ninth in the nation, primed to make another playoff run

David Perez, Photo Editor

With Christian Wilkins’ announcement that he will return to Clemson next season, the Tiger defense is stacked with new and veteran talent.

While the end of the 2017 college football season left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Clemson fans, there is plenty of reason to be excited for the future. In the past few weeks, it was announced that Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Mitch Hyatt, all of whom were projected to be drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, will return to Clemson next year to play another season. The return of these veterans, along with the influx of new talent should result in another excellent year for the

Clemson Tigers.

The Clemson Football 2018 recruiting lass is currently ranked ninth in the nation, only second to Georgia, with four players with five-star ratings. Along with these five-star talents, Clemson will bring in six four-star players and five three-star players. For a team that is returning seven offensive starters and eight defensive starters, Coach Dabo Swinney knew that the team that made it to the 2017 College Football Playoff would largely remain in tact. 

The recruiting strategy clearly seemed to emphasize a focus on a few high quality prospects, instead of a plethora of mid-level prospects. Clemson is hoping that these incoming players can step up early and fill some of the voids left by players like Dorian O’Daniel, Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and Van Smith. 

Clemson’s 2018 class is headlined by perhaps the most hyped prospect of the class, 6’ 6”, 208 pound quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. Out of Cartersville, Georgia, Lawrence comes into Clemson as the number one overall prospect of the class. While the incoming freshman is unproven at the collegiate level, he has the raw talent to challenge both Kelly Bryant and Hunter Johnson for the starting quarterback job. The starting quarterback job is something that Clemson fans should keep an eye on as the offseason progresses with the team now having three solid candidates for the position. 

Perhaps the most dominant group of the 2017 Clemson team was the front seven. A few weeks ago, it looked as though Clemson would have a lot of rebuilding to do in the front seven as O’Daniel, Bryant, Wilkins and Ferrell all projected to either graduate or enter the 2018 NFL Draft. 

With the news that Bryant, Wilkins and Ferrell are coming back to school, along with the additions of incoming five-star defensive ends Xavier Thomas and KJ Henry, Clemson’s front seven is shaping up to be as dangerous as ever. 

Thomas and Henry will also be joined by four-star prospects Josh Belk and Justin Mascoll. While these four players will likely not see as much of the field as they thought a few weeks ago, they will all likely make some impact during the 2018 season. Perhaps most importantly, the youngsters will be able to learn from some of the best defensive linemen in the country as they prepare to become the new face of the Clemson defense. 

In Clemson’s loss to Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl this past season, their offensive line was dominated by the defensive line of Alabama. Hyatt recently elected to return to Clemson for his senior season. He will likely play opposite the five-star, 6’ 6”, 330 pound tackle, Jackson Carman, out of Fairfield, Ohio. 

When Carman signed his letter of intent to join the Tigers on Dec. 20, it came as a shock to many in the college football world. It seemed as though Carman, who is the number one tackle in the class, and the ninth best player overall, was all but destined to wear Buckeye red next season. 

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Carman decided to join the Tigers for the 2018 season. While the commitment was largely unexpected, the Tigers hope Carman slots in nicely to the offensive line that is looking to rebound from the disappointing close to the season. 

One of the biggest losses for the Tigers this offseason has been the departure of wide receivers McCloud and Cain. The two receivers combined for ninety-six receptions and seven offensive touchdowns this past season. 

The Tigers are hoping that they can replace this production by allowing former five-star prospect, Tee Higgins, to assume a larger role in the offense, while also incorporating incoming four-star freshman, Derion Kendrick, into the mix. Kendrick, who is a hometown kid out of Rock Hill, will line up at 6’ 1”, 184 pounds. Kendrick will join Higgins and the always reliable Hunter Renfrow, in what shapes up to be a formidable receiving corps. 

With the Tigers’ combination of veteran experience and incoming talent, Swinney’s men will enter the 2018 season as the team to beat in college football. 



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