Clemson Football: Dabo Swinney's Biggest National Signing Day Battles
One week from now, the fruits of the 2014 recruiting class roll in.
Coaching staffs across America will gather around fax machines, waiting for signed national letters of intent to roll off, officially welcoming new recruits to their respective programs.
Clemson is no different. With a week left before national signing day, the Tigers and Dabo Swinney’s staff have 19 verbal commitments. 247Sports ranks the class No.14 nationally and third in the ACC behind Florida State (No. 5) and Miami (No. 11).
Most of Clemson’s work is done. The Tigers graduated only 11 scholarship seniors in 2013, which forced Swinney’s staff to be very careful with the scholarship offers it extended and subsequently accepted.
As we head towards next Wednesday, the Tigers have only a handful of spots left, but room remains for signing day drama. Here is a look at the few players who will give Swinney and Co. something to think about on Feb. 5.
Defensive end is one of Clemson’s biggest position needs. When rising senior Vic Beasley, a consensus All-American, turned down a second-round NFL draft projection to return for his final season of college football, it was a giant boost for the Tigers’ defensive line and 2014 hopes in general.
However, need remains. Beasley is entering his final season of college football; so are starters Corey Crawford and backup Tavaris Barnes. Freshman All-American Shaq Lawson will be a super sub again next fall, and rising junior Kevin Dodd and redshirt freshman Ebenezer Ogundeko provide depth.
Clemson needs to win a battle against an SEC program for a defensive end, and Andrew Williams provides the perfect opportunity.
The 6’4”, 247-pound prospect is one of the top defensive ends in the nation. The McDonough, Ga., product is rated by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 12 weak-side defensive end and a 4-star prospect.
With an excellent frame, he is a talented player at the line of scrimmage with great speed, capable of terrorizing opposing quarterbacks and moving past overmatched tackles and guards.
Williams visited Auburn on Jan. 17 and Clemson last weekend. He was considering Ole Miss but recently eliminated Hugh Freeze’s Rebels from the running, meaning that Auburn and Clemson will face off for his signature. He has not disclosed a favorite.
Auburn has two former Clemson commitments as defensive ends. Both Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson were CU pledges before decommitting and signing with Auburn last February.
Williams is expected to announce his choice on signing day, which will give the winning program a major last-minute boost.
Richard Yeargin III
Richard Yeargin III made an official visit in late November but then reaffirmed his commitment to Notre Dame. His recruitment was relatively quiet until last week, when he decommitted from the Irish.
Yeargin stands 6’4”, 225 pounds and is rated by 247Sports as a 4-star prospect and the nation’s No.21 outside linebacker. He could play as either a linebacker or defensive end in college but figures to play defensive end should he sign at Clemson.
He has great quickness, athleticism, pursuit ability and tackling ability.
Yeargin’s father played at South Carolina State, and he has family ties to Greenville and Spartanburg as well. He’d be an excellent add to the 2014 recruiting class. He will announce his decision on national signing day, and it’d be a surprise if he didn’t pick Clemson.
As mentioned, Clemson has defensive line needs. Along with the aforementioned defensive ends, defensive tackles Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams and Josh Watson are rising seniors, and top reserve D.J. Reader is a rising junior. Freshman Scott Pagano and sophomore Carlos Watkins redshirted, but the Tigers could use more bodies.
Enter Cory Thomas, who stands 6’6”, 270 pounds and could fit in as a defensive end or tackle. He is rated by 247Sports as a 3-star prospect and the nation’s No. 24 strong-side defensive end. The McCalla, Ala., native is a Tennessee commitment but is exploring his options.
He visited Clemson on Jan. 17 and took a trip to Mississippi State last weekend. He will visit Tennessee this weekend, giving the Vols the final word. He is also expected to announce his decision on national signing day.
Thomas has solid size, quickness and athleticism and would be a great addition to the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class. He’ll be worth watching next Wednesday.
Clemson has four wide receiver commitments for 2014, thanks to the recent commitment of Durham, N.C., wideout Trevion Thompson. However, the Tigers still need more with the NFL departures of Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Plus, Adam Humphries is a rising senior and redshirt junior Charone Peake is coming off an ACL tear.
Trey Quinn would be a great addition to the group. The Lake Charles, La., native stands 6’1”, 200 pounds and is rated by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 10 wide receiver and a 4-star prospect. He had 108 receptions for 1,967 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior.
He is committed to LSU, but Clemson and Ole Miss have continued to pursue him. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and has excellent speed, size, hands, route running and agility. Quinn does not have a visit planned, so a turn away from the Bayou Bengals would be a surprise but a nice signing day add for Clemson.
Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace