Clemson University’s football team came up short in its bid to repeat as national champions last season, but the Tigers are looking increasingly like the smart money bet to win it all next season.
How come? Two reasons …
First, head coach Dabo Swinney’s program has landed yet another top ten national recruiting class – led by No. 1 overall prospect Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. In addition to Lawrence, the Tigers scooped up two of the best defensive ends in the 2018 class – Xavier Thomas and KJ Henry – as well as the nation’s top offensive line recruit, Ohio’s Jackson Carman.
All are five-start recruits, according to 247 Sports.
The thinking was that Clemson would need all of those blue chip recruits to replace yet another exodus of talent to the National Football League (NFL).
Well guess what … Clemson’s 2017 stars (most of them, anyway) are staying put.
All-American defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant shocked college football observers when they announced their intention to return to Tigertown for the 2018 season.
A redshirt sophomore from Richmond, Virginia, Ferrell led the Tigers with 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss last year. A redshirt junior from Pavo, Georgia, Bryant (below) finished second on the team with 8.5 sacks.
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(Via John Byrum/ Travis Bell Photography)
Previously, All-American offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt announced his intention to come back to Clemson for his senior season.
The Tigers are waiting to hear if junior defensive tackle Christian Wilkins – a two-time All-American – will return for his senior year or whether he will join wide receiver Deon Cain, wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, safety Van Smith and offensive guard Taylor Hearn in declaring for the 2018 NFL draft.
Whatever Wilkins decides, the Tigers have already retained far more talent from their 2017 squad than anyone was expecting – and are bringing in arguably the best recruiting class of the Swinney era.
Over the past seven seasons, Clemson has posted an astounding 82-15 overall record – winning four Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships, one national title and appearing in three consecutive college football playoffs. Just as gratifying to Tiger fans, Swinney’s team has won four in a row over its arch-rival – the University of South Carolina.
Expect Clemson’s domination to continue as its recruiting pipeline now rivals that of defending national champion Alabama and perennial national title contender Ohio State.
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Banner: Travis Bell Photography