|by David Hood|
The 2015 recruiting class has a chance to be even better as Swinney tries to change the perception of the program – everybody knows that Clemson has been able to draw in spectacular skill players, but the perception has been that a lack of dominant linemen has hurt the Tigers in big games.
Swinney is out to change that perception, and it got a big boost Wednesday night when 5-star tackle Mitch Hyatt of Suwanee (GA) North Gwinnett gave his verbal commitment during a signing ceremony at his school. If he does indeed sign on the dotted line a year from now, he will become the highest-ranked offensive tackle the Tigers have ever signed.
Hyatt joins 3-star prospect Noah Green out of Boiling Springs (SC) as verbals for the next recruiting cycle, and Swinney said the focus for this cycle will be finding depth along both lines.
“Offensively, losing Gifford Timothy, who had another year left, and losing (Patrick) DeStefano—who had three years left—that has really hurt us at that position depth wise,” Swinney said. “I like the guys we have on campus, but we have to go and sign some tackles in this next group.”
The defensive line will also be a priority.
“The defensive line was not a big priority for us this year because we didn’t lose a defensive lineman,” Swinney said. “But we have six seniors, so next year that becomes a major priority. Building the offensive and defensive lines will be a major priority in the 2015 class, without question.”
Hyatt was Clemson’s sixth commitment of the 2015 class, and Swinney said that next year’s class will more than likely be the biggest of his tenure as he hopes to sign as many as 25 players.
Many of those will be players who toil in the trenches.
“There is no question those are the critical needs,” he said. “You are always trying to feel spots all across the roster, but we have to hit it. We will project out a full class, because you always have attrition. I would say that we will be in line for 20-to-25 guys. Offensive tackle and defensive line. Those are the critical needs.”
Swinney said he thinks the program has gotten to the point that they can graduate great players and plug in another great player, especially on the defensive line.
“We have only had one senior around here in the last two years and that was Malliciah (Goodman),” Swinney said. “We have been growing these guys up and they have developed into really good players. The guys that are here are going to have to develop because when we lose Vic (Beasley), BOOM! We can plug another guy in. When we lose Grady Jarrett, Boom, we have another guy ready. That’s important. But we have to go out with this class and do a really, really great job signing defensive ends and defensive tackles.”
Besides Hyatt’s commitment on Wednesday, Clemson got the signatures of Taylor Hearn—a 6-3, 305-pound offensive lineman from Williston, S.C.—and Justin Falcinelli—a 6-5, 300-pound offensive lineman from Middletown, Md.
“Taylor Hearn and Justin Falcinelli, and I mean this in a nice way, they are dirt bags,” Swinney said. “Those guys are what you want, and (2013 signee) Tyrone Crowder is going to be a great player, so I think we hit a home run on the guys that we brought in here.”
Now the Tigers have to continue to bring in a few more.
2015 Clemson Football commitments
Name POS Ht/Wt Hometown Mitch Hyatt OT 6-6/270 Suwannee, GA Shadell Bell WR 6-3/190 Decatur, GA Tanner Muse LB/S 6-4/205 Belmont, NC Noah Green OT 6-5/275 Boiling Springs, SC Van Smith RB/ATH 6-0/170 Charlotte, NC Tucker Israel QB 6-1/195 Orlando, FL
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org