According to Chip Patterson of CBS Sports, cornerback Mackensie Alexander has committed to the Clemson Tigers. This comes after a long process in which he considered SEC schools Auburn and Mississippi State.
As a result of his choosing Clemson, the Tigers have constructed the ACC's top defensive class.
In a recruiting season in which defense was at a premium in the ACC, Clemson stole the show. They landed four defensive players in the ESPN 150 and improved in every area of their back 11.
Those improves all start with Alexander.
Prior to signing on with Clemson, Alexander was expected by many to sign with the Auburn Tigers. A major reason for this was Mackenro Alexander, who is Mackensie's twin brother.
Mackenro signed with Auburn, but the two ultimately decided they felt comfortable signing with different schools.
Since signing with Clemson, Alexander has made it clear that he has high expectations. With an offense that returns quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, it's not difficult to see why.
As for how good they could be, Alexander made that clear upon signing with Clemson (via ESPN):
“We’re going to win the national title,” Alexander said.
Don't count that out as a possibility.
The question is, how will Clemson's defense complement their high-powered offense? If these recruits can improve the nation's 48th-ranked scoring defense, will it actually be enough to win a national title?
It may be too soon to answer that question, but this defense has become elite.
Who is Mackensie Alexander?
For those unfamiliar with Mackensie Alexander, he is a 5-star cornerback according to ESPN and a 4-star per Rivals. Rivals ranks Alexander seventh by position, while ESPN has him as the second-ranked corner.
Alexander is also ranked fourth overall on the ESPN 150 rankings.
A major reason for this placement is Alexander's ability to dominate in man-to-man situations. With top-tier ball skills and phenomenal footwork, Alexander overcomes his average size with elite activity.
It doesn't hurt that Alexander is one of the best prospects in the nation at using his hands coming off of the line.
When he's not defending the pass, Alexander is active in the run. He tackles well for a corner and has strong enough hands to fight off blocks.
To top it all off, Alexander is capable in the return game and should become a household name before it's all said and done due to his big-play ability.
Improving the Front Seven
With Mackensie Alexander's elite abilities defined, one might be wondering what pushes Clemson's recruiting class beyond any other ACC team. The best phrase to define the Tigers' recruiting success is "depth along the front seven."
Whether via the acquisition of lineman or linebackers, Clemson hit the jackpot.
Boulware is No. 78 on the ESPN 150 rankings.
O'Daniel is also one of the most athletically gifted players in this class of recruits.
And it doesn't end there.
Scott Pagano is a 4-star defensive tackle who ranks 23rd by position according to ESPN and 22nd per Rivals. Shaquille Lawson and Dane Rogers are also 4-star defensive lineman, per ESPN, who offer further depth along the line.
Dangerous Defensive Backfield
Mackensie Alexander will significantly improve the Clemson Tigers' defensive backfield. His ability to lock down a receiver could potentially eliminate a quarterback's lead option.
Just don't think he's alone in the construction of a dangerous set of defensive backs.
Adrian Baker is a 4-star athlete who has the skill set to blossom into a force as a corner. The word most commonly associated with his play is "smooth."
Between him and Alexander, Clemson could have their cornerback tandem of the future.
Assuming he isn't made into a running back, 4-star athlete Wayne Gallman has the look of a game-changing safety. He displays fluid motion in the open field and is a physical player who plays on-ball as well as any.
Throw in 4-star athlete T.J. Green, and you have another potential standout safety.
Korrin Wiggins and Ryan Carter are 3-star safeties who could also make an impact. In other words, Clemson has constructed a class that thrives off of depth and athleticism.
As a result of coach Dabo Swinney's recruiting mastery, the Clemson Tigers have constructed the ACC's top defensive class.