Breaking down the 2015 recruiting class

by - Staff Writer -
Breaking down the 2015 recruiting class

CLEMSON – A quiet National Signing Day eve is a rare event in college football, so when all was quiet Tuesday night it took Kathleen Swinney a little by surprise, so much so that head coach Dabo Swinney Dabo Swinney
Head Coach
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didn’t want her to jinx it.

Most of Clemson’s 2015 recruiting class – 23 of the 26 signees – have been committed to the Tigers since last summer giving the Clemson coaching staff an uneventful Signing Day Wednesday afternoon.

Swinney told the media during a Signing Day wrap-up Wednesday afternoon that he didn’t want Kathleen to point out just how quiet it was at the Swinney house Tuesday night.

“That's what my wife said last night - she said, 'This is one of the quietest nights.' I said, 'Would you stop? What are you doing? Don't say that!' That's the way it ought to be,” Swinney said Tuesday afternoon. “We keep learning and getting better as far as our process and our evaluation and our relationships. We're all getting better. We're at a point where we can be very selective. We can bring in the right guys.”

Clemson’s head coach said that he was thrilled to welcome all 26 players and their families into the Clemson family and the football program.

“We definitely got better today as a team and as a program,” Swinney said. “That's what recruiting is all about - not just bringing in guys but the right guys into your program and I think we were able to do that. For me, it never gets old and it's always exciting to see guys buy in and choose to be a part of what you do and how you do it. All of these guys that chose to come to Clemson today, they had many, many, many options and for them to choose to come be a part of our program is just very exciting to me because I know they're coming for the right reasons. I can't wait to get started. I appreciate these guys but I also appreciate their parents and all of their families for buying into the vision of our program and just believing in Clemson and who we are. I'm really excited to welcome all of them to the Clemson family.”

Under Swinney, the Tigers have had four consecutive 10-win seasons and five consecutive Top 15 class – consistency that he has looked to build since taking the job in 2009.

“This is considered by most everybody out there to be a top-five class,” Swinney said. “It's our fifth Top 15 class in a row. What does that mean? I don't know but what I do know is that to me it represents consistency. We've become a very consistent program in all areas - on the field, in the classroom and in recruiting. I'm excited about that and I don't have any doubt that this group is going to be special. For me, I really measure them not what they do as freshmen or sophomores but what they do in their career.”

Swinney said that the 2015 class filled the needs of the program after graduating the most seniors in his tenure.

“We had 15 mid-years and 11 signees today - 26 total guys and one of them will be a grayshirt for us,” he said. “The thing that jumps out at me more than anything about this group is that 22 of the 26 were committed back in the summer and all signed with us. A couple of those guys made decisions later but 22 of the 26 were on board from a long, long time ago. When you look at our class and you look at our objective that we had going into this class, I think we knocked it out of the park. I'm really excited about we went about it and how we filled all of the needs plus we got a few preferred walk-on guys that will join us this summer - guys that will have a chance to play at Clemson and guys that had offers to go play at smaller levels but want to take a chance and play at this level.”

With 15 mid-year enrollees, the majority of Clemson’s team is currently on campus, which Swinney said will give the coaches a head start on installation during spring practice.

“The 15 mid-years in the spring is huge for us because if you look at college football, spring practice is a huge part of the development of your football team, but very rarely do you have the majority of your team out for spring practice,” he said. “The majority of our class is here so to have those guys on campus and to have them going through the offseason - the installation process, participating in spring ball, playing in the spring game - all of those things are huge as far as getting off to a good start and plugging some voids that we have, because some of these guys are going to have to help us.”

Swinney said that with the addition of the 2015 signees, he believes the Tigers have the opportunity to take the next step as a program.

“I'm excited about the whole group that will be on board this summer,” he said. “We've got a talented team returning - a good football team coming back, some really experienced players that have had a lot of success - and I think with this class it will give us the competitive depth that we really need to continue to take our program to another level. You have to have that year in and year out and I think this group brings that to the table.”

Breaking down the class by position and geography

"We signed 10 on offense and 16 on defense - four offensive linemen, one tight end, two quarterbacks and three wideouts. Defensively - seven defensive linemen, five defensive backs and four linebackers. We have 10 from the state of South Carolina, five from Florida, four from Georgia, four from North Carolina, two from Virginia and one from Connecticut/Massachusetts."

On Mark FieldsMark Fields
5-10, 185
Charlotte, NC

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flipping from South Carolina

"Mark reached out and said that he'd like to take another look at Clemson. We're really excited about him. He was the fastest guy out at Nike's The Opening. This guy is a special talent. He kind of handles himself like a pro already as far as his mentality - very focused young player, technically sound. I'm excited about adding Mark."

On the level of concern after Cain and McCloud's visit to Auburn

"McCloud never took a visit, for the record. He didn't take a visit. We had no concern. Those guys were straight up and forthright."

On when Christian WilkinsChristian Wilkins
Defensive Tackle
6-4, 290
Suffield, CT

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knew he was coming to Clemson

"Christian Wilkins - when he called me I thought he was going go break up with me and give me the, 'I love you but' speech. I asked when he knew he was coming to Clemson and he said, 'from the first moment when I stepped foot on that campus.' He knew all along where he was going to go."

On who in the class will have the opportunity to avoid a redshirt

"It's hard to single guys out at this point. They all are guys that we love and feel like have great potential and all of that. You can just look at the need. We lost six seniors up front on the defensive line, so we signed seven guys. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that we're probably going to need a little help there. Same thing along the offensive line. Y'all all lived through this year with us on the offensive line and it was musical chairs and we had about seven or eight guys that made 14 for us. Those guys will have an opportunity, especially coming in early. Offensive line is difficult position to play early but having them here for the off season and the type of players they are and the foundation they have coming in here, their learning curve will be shorter.

"The skill positions - we've got a need a receiver. We're still under a couple at wideout. Really excited about Shadell BellShadell Bell
Wide Receiver
6-3, 190
Decatur, GA

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, Ray-Ray McCloudRay-Ray McCloud
Wide Receiver
5-10, 180
Tampa, FL

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and Deon CainDeon Cain
Wide Receiver
6-2, 200
Tampa, FL

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coming in. I think those guys from a talent and athleticism standpoint have a chance to be in the mix there early. The quarterbacks, we're going to have to figure that out. With Deshaun Watson out, these guys are going to get a ton of work, so we've got to figure out that situation between now and fall camp. We have a couple of corners that might can come in and help us."

On the 2016 recruiting class

"We don't have a lot seniors so it won't be as big. We only have 11 seniors. Next year will be very different. It will be an elite class but from a numbers standpoint, so you always have to project a little bit. Sometimes guys transfer. Sometimes guys graduate early. Sometimes guys go pro early. Sometimes guys get hurt. It's a fluid situation but I would think somewhere in that 12-16 range."

See Bios and Rankings of Clemson's 2015 Class here

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