Pinky swear, relationships help Tigers land Alabama recruit with "freakish ball skills"


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Ross and his family pose with Clemson coaches during the in-home visit
Ross and his family pose with Clemson coaches during the in-home visit

CLEMSON – To get a top-ranked recruit out of the state Alabama, a coaching staff has to go above and beyond. A pinky swear and the ability to develop relationships is what helped Clemson land Justyn Ross.

Ross, one of the nation’s top receivers, hails from Phenix City, Alabama, which sits less than an hour drive from Auburn University and just a few hours down the road from the University of Alabama. On National Signing Day last week, Ross chose Clemson over both of his in-state schools, adding the proverbial cherry to the Tigers’ top-five recruiting class.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, and area recruiter Todd Bates conducted an in-home visit with Ross two weeks, and the Tigers’ head man left with a pinky swear from the state’s highest-ranked recruit.

“Justyn, I felt like for a long time was coming. The pinky swear on Thursday, that was it,” Swinney said last week. When he pinky sweared me, I was like alright, we are going to get him. When you break a pinky swear, then we probably don't want you. There was plenty of drama and uncertainty. When I left his house Thursday of that last week, I felt confident that we had done everything we possibly could.”

The 6’4, 201-pound pass-catcher ranks 45th nationally on the 247Sports Composite and seventh at his position, and it took the outstanding work of Scott and Bates to help close the deal.

“I am so proud of Todd Bates and Jeff Scott, let me just tell you. Todd Bates and Jeff Scott did an amazing job,” Swinney said. “I recruited the state of Alabama for forever, and when I was coaching at Alabama it's hard to sign players out of that state, even when you are there much less come from out of state. We've signed some players from Alabama, but that again shows you where we are as a program.

“To go into that state, you’re 30 minutes or so from Auburn and Alabama, with what they’ve been able to do, and to sign the No. 1 player in that state, it tells you the type of young man Justyn is and the strength his family has because there’s a lot of pressure on these guys. People don’t mean bad, but fans sometimes, they want kids to do what’s best for them (instead of the player).”

Swinney said the coaching staff made Ross its sole focus at the wide receiver position.

“We could have taken some other guys,” Swinney said. “We had some other guys that we could have taken, but we were all in on Justyn and he had given us enough of an indication to give us some hope to kind of hang in there with him. So this was a huge, huge get for us. There haven't been many number one players leave the state of Alabama and to get the number one player out of that state says a lot about our program, the young men here and the job that our coaching staff did. His mom (Charay Franklin) and Aunt Joy (Burts) were amazing in the process. They did it the right way and they took all of their trips because they weren't really sure. But in the end, they were very comfortable with Clemson and that speaks to the relationships we were able to build.”

What are the Tigers in getting in Ross?

“Justyn is a full-grown man. He is big, fast, and is vertical is way up there. He has freaky ball skills,” Swinney said. “He is in that Mike Williams mode, but an older version of Mike Williams, not the younger version of Mike Williams coming in. He has a very mature body for this stage. That is why he is who he is. He played in a great program and has been well-coached. He can do anything you want. He can play the 9-man, he can play the 5-man for us and he has the strength, explosiveness, ball skills and toughness to be a great player.”

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