There’s always an “it” team in recruiting. Clemson is currently that team.
The “it” team is in most every elite prospect’s list of finalists, no matter where they live. Region doesn’t matter. There’s a swagger that comes with being the “it” team. Clemson has it, with some hometown humbleness.
Oregon held the “it” trophy with its snazzy uniforms not that long ago. Alabama claimed the prize with its recent run of success. The Crimson Tide keeps racking up No. 1 classes, but the Alabama machine has become a little boring.
Now, the mantle has been passed to the Tigers, the hottest college football program in recruiting.
It takes a lot to become a team that SEC recruiters have to be concerned about. Clemson has done it. Just ask a few prospects what they think about the Tigers.
“It’s because they’re like a family,” four-star athlete Malcom Askew from McAdory High School (McCalla, Ala.) said. “Anytime they come in, they’re going to treat you like you’re their son. That’s what I like about them. Every (Clemson) coach can be like a dad to me. That’s just the great thing about it.”
Pay attention. That’s a top-flight Alabama prospect extolling the virtues of the Tigers, not just some two-star prospect from the low country. Would that have happened just a few years ago? Not likely. Clemson currently has the No. 4 class in the nation for 2017. The Tigers were ranked No. 10 in 2016 and No. 9 in 2015.
That’s a vast improvement from the times when Clemson ranked No. 17 in 2014 after two No. 15 rankings in 2013 and 2012. Those rankings were far from an embarrassment but certainly didn’t match the top schools in the SEC. Now, thanks in part to a run to the national championship game, the Tigers have some clout with any prospect and can stand toe-to-toe with any SEC school.
“Clemson, for some kids, it’s because they’re up right now,” four-star cornerback Jamyest Williams from Archer High School (Lawrenceville, Ga.) said. “They just went to the national championship game. They had a great season.”
Success, however, isn’t the reason Williams is so interested in Clemson. He’s all about relationships, which is a common theme among prospects considering the Tigers.
“It’s just when you go there, it’s just an awesome place,” receiver Amari Rodgers from Catholic High School (Knoxville, Tenn.) said. “It’s family oriented. They’re all about one big family. They love each other. Other people say it, but they’re not really about it. At Clemson, when you go there, you can feel it, their friendship for each for.
“It’s all about business too, but they have fun. At the end of the day, you get the job done so that’s what I love about it.”
Rodgers is one of Clemson’s most impressive commitments. The four-star prospect lives a short drive from Tennessee and his father, Tee Martin, is the offensive coordinator at Southern California. Most people might remember Martin as the guy who followed Peyton Manning at quarterback and led Tennessee to a national title in 1998.
Still, the Tigers convinced Rodgers to commit last month. Much of the credit should go to the always affable Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
“Dabo is a great guy,” Rodgers said. “He’s funny. You can relate to him really good. He jokes around. He knows all the hip hop music, all the stuff a young kid like me knows. It’s good talking to him. He gets along with everybody.”
Apparently so. Despite regaining its national championship standing, the SEC had better take note. Clemson’s rise may just be beginning.