Re-Evaluating Clemson's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2014

5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle
5-star defensive tackle Tim SettleCredit: 247Sports

The beginning of the 2014 college football season is just a mere six weeks away for the Clemson Tigers. However, it's 2015 that has Clemson fans most excited. 

According to 247Sports, the Tigers currently have the nation's No. 3-ranked recruiting class. Clemson has commitments from 20 players, tied for most in the country.

Last week, some of the top prospects in the class of 2015 gathered in Beaverton, Oregon, at The Opening. Four Clemson commits were present: Mitch Hyatt, Chad Smith, Noah Green and Deon Cain. Hyatt is Clemson's only 5-star commit and arguably the best offensive line prospect in the country. 

There's a lot of time left in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Players haven't even started their senior season of high school yet. Some players will rise in the rankings, while others will fall. Some players took their opportunity at The Opening as a way to raise their individual profile before the 2014 season begins. 


Top Targets

Clemson's top targets are always the ones who have already committed. Head coach Dabo Swinney wants to keep players like Hyatt from jumping ship when another coach tries to poach him at the last second. 

But Clemson had some unfinished business at The Opening.

George Campbell, a 5-star wide receiver who is currently one of the Tigers' top remaining targets, was present at the event and put on a show. 247Sports currently has Clemson and Florida as Campbell's top choices. At 6'3", 184 pounds, Campbell has good size, speed and terrific ball skills. He has the potential to be a difference-maker early in his college career.

A former Michigan commit, Campbell is still undecided in his recruiting and doesn't plan to decide anytime soon. When asked to name a favorite, Campbell said, "I'm wide open," per Gary Laney of 

While Clemson didn't appear to gain any ground with Campbell, it did seemingly move one step closer to securing the services of one of the top defensive tackles in the country, Tim Settle of Manassas, Virginia. 

Settle said at The Opening, per Jamie Oakes of 247Sports (subscription required), that he was favoring three schools: Clemson, Penn State and Tennessee. The Tigers have been high on Settle's list throughout the recruiting process. One thing Swinney has to be encouraged about is Settle's insistence to leave the state of Virginia, therefore eliminating two ACC rivals in the chase for the talented defensive tackle. 

Defensive end Austin Bryant, of Thomasville, Georgia, stood out at The Opening. He is also high on the Tigers. While several other high-profile schools remain in the mix, Bryant was very impressed with Clemson and didn't rule out committing to the Tigers when he makes his second visit of the summer soon, per Chris Nee of 247Sports (h/t to Josh Newberg, who conducted the interview with Bryant):

"I don't know. It is just a matter of me talking to my family and making sure they are good with it. I might take some visits to other schools. I just have to take visits to make sure that I am sure about it."

All news out of The Opening wasn't positive for the Tigers. Running back A.J. Turner announced his decision to commit to Clemson's chief rival, South Carolina. 

Look for Swinney to continue to look for a running back in the class of 2015. 


Clemson's commits

Two of Clemson's four players performed well at The Opening.

Yes, Hyatt was impressive. He stood out in all of the pass-protection drills, per Tyler Donohue of Bleacher Report. 

Younger offensive tackles generally struggle with footwork. They win on athleticism and raw strength in high school. That changes at the next level. And no player understands fundamentals like Hyatt. He appears strong in his commitment to the Tigers.

The surprise for Clemson was running back/linebacker Chad Smith of Sterling, Virginia. 

Smith was outstanding in SPARQ testing. The SPARQ ranking consists of four tests: 40-yard dash, agility tests, vertical jump and a kneeling power ball toss, per Nike's official website.  

Out of 162 players tested, Smith finished No. 3 overall—in all positions—with a SPARQ rating of 140.97. Smith entered the weekend as a bit of an unheralded recruit.

However, he left Beaverton in a much different position and proved he belonged at The Opening with some of the nation's top recruits.

Smith even impressed himself, per Nikki Steele of "Being able to compete in the SPARQ Championship kind of opened my eyes to the fact that I can compete with these guys and with the best of the best in the nation. I can hang with them and some people even look at me with the best of the best as I do to them."

There's no doubt Smith is on the radar of coaches everywhere now. 

Overall, it was a quiet weekend for the Tigers. Most of Clemson's signees did not get invited to The Opening. But from all indications, Swinney is putting the touches on a special class and players likely sense that.

The Tigers' recent success on the field has put them in a position to be in the mix for some of the top players in the country. Players like Settle and Campbell likely won't decide until closer to signing day. Another 10-win season, with a new quarterback, would do wonders for Clemson in wrapping up what could be the best recruiting class in school history. 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. A subscription is required for most content. 


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