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Ranking Clemson's Last 10 Recruiting Classes

Clemson is getting this decade off to a great start with the No. 3 class nationally in 2020, but what about the previous 10 years? Here's a look at how each one stacked up, how impactful they were and what they accomplished.

Clemson’s 2020 recruiting class holds the distinction of being the best in school history in terms of recruiting service rankings.

It’s too early to know what their long-term impact will be, but here’s a quick profile of what head coach Dabo Swinney is getting with the 2020 class:

National rankings: 247Sports 3rd, Rivals 3rd

ACC rankings: 247Sports 1st, Rivals 1st

Highly-rated prospects: DL Bryan Bresee, QB D.J. Uiagalelei, RB Damarckus Bowman, DL Myles Murphy, LB Trenton Simpson, DT Demonte Capehart.

Class evaluation: It’s all speculation, but the talent level suggests this program isn’t going anywhere. When it’s all said and done, will it be ranked among the best at the end of this decade?

What about the previous 10 classes? Hindsight presents an opportunity to evaluate and rank them. A couple of lessons learned in this exercise: 1. It’s hard to rank great players and classes against each other. 2. Clemson got a lot better at limiting its misses and hitting more in the middle of the decade, which helped lead to two national titles.

Criteria was used. Yes, where teams were ranked by two of the top recruiting services was a factor, but it was compared to impact, how good the elite-rated players were, the 3-star or less players who developed into serious contributors and overall accomplishments.

Let’s get started from the top:

No. 1: 2018

National rankings: 247Sports 7th, Rivals 8th.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 1st, Rivals 2nd.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 17 commits, 5 5-stars, 7 4-stars, 5 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: QB Trevor Lawrence, DE Xavier Thomas, WR Justyn Ross, OL Jackson Carman, CB Derion Kendrick, RB Lyn-J Dixon.

Under-the-radar impacts: N/A

Trevor Lawrence

Trevor Lawrence

Class evaluation: This will be one of the most remembered classes in Clemson history when it’s all said and done. Lawrence is set to be the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and several others, like Carman and Ross, will be big-time pros with at least one national title ring to take with them. A handful of them, like OL Jordan McFadden and TE Braden Galloway, will become impact players in 2020 and beyond. There’s still work to do, and while this isn’t all about potential, it’s already an incredibly accomplished class.

No. 2: 2015

National rankings: 247Sports 9th, Rivals 4th.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 2nd, Rivals 2nd.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 26 commits, 3 5-stars, 9 4-stars, 12 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: DT Chrisitan Wilkins, DE Clelin Ferrell, DE Austin Bryant, OL Mitch Hyatt, WR Deon Cain, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, LB Chad Smith, DT Albert Huggins, CB Mark Fields.

Under-the-radar impacts: S Tanner Muse, OL Gage Cervenka, S Denzel Johnson.

Class evaluation: Three members of that stellar, historic defensive line from 2017-18 came from this class. Wilkins was as highly rated as anybody Clemson’s had who lived up to the hype and produced every season. One could argue some of the players in this class never met their full potential but Clemson doesn’t win two titles in three years without several of these names.

No. 3: 2016

National rankings: 247Sports 11th, Rivals 6th.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 2nd, Rivals 2nd.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 21 commits, 1 5-star, 11 4-stars, 8 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: DT Dexter Lawrence, CB Trayvon Mullen, RB Tavien Feaster, OL John Simpson, OL Sean Pollard,

Under-the-radar impacts: LB Isaiah Simmons, S K’Von Wallace, LB James Skalski, OL Tremayne Anchrum.

Class evaluation: This class can also boast two national championships, and many from this group played major roles in the 2018 national title run, including Lawrence, Simmons, Mullen and Simpson. Simmons had an amazing 2019 and will be a stellar pro. There were also five players who transferred out, like Feaster and Zerrick Cooper, but overall, this class produced some incredible talent.

No. 4: 2014

National rankings: 247Sports 16th, Rivals 13th.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 3rd, Rivals 2nd.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 20 commits, 0 5-stars, 10 4-stars, 9 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: QB Deshaun Watson, WR Artavis Scott, RB Adam Choice.

Under-the-radar impacts: WR Hunter Renfrow, OL Justin Falcinelli, LB Kendall Joseph, RB C.J. Fuller.

Class evaluation: Watson, one of the greatest Tigers ever, and Scott were obviously huge reasons Clemson began this CFP run and won a national title in 2016. There was also a kid named Renfrow in this class. He went on to make the biggest catch in school history and go from 2-star preferred walk-on to Raiders receiver in the NFL. There were also several misses in this group, like Korie Rogers, Kyrin Priester and Demarre Kitt.

No. 5: 2013 class

National rankings: 247Sports 15th, Rivals 14th.



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ACC rankings: 247Sports 3rd, Rivals 2nd.

Mike Williams

Mike Williams

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 23 commits, 1 5-star, 10 4-stars, 11 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: CB Mackensie Alexander, LB Dorian O’Daniel, LB Ben Boulware, OL Tyrone Crowder, WR Mike Williams, S Jayron Kearse, DE Shaq Lawson, RB Wayne Gallman.

Under-the-radar impacts: CB Cordrea Tankersley, TE Jordan Leggett, S Jadar Johnson, S T.J. Green, DB Ryan Carter.

Class evaluation: This was a loaded class filled with players who made huge impacts and helped lead Clemson to the 2016 national title. Six players saw action in 10 or more NFL games this past season. Williams, Leggett, Lawson and Gallman were stars. Boulware was, well, Boulware. It would take a lot more space to highlight this entire class, which feels underrated historically.

No. 6: 2011 

National rankings: 247Sports 10th, Rivals 8th.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 2nd, Rivals 2nd.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 30 commits, 3 5-stars, 6 4-stars, 20 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: WR Sammy Watkins, LB Stephone Anthony, LB Tony Steward, WR Martavis Bryant, WR Charone Peake, OL Eric Mac Lain, DE Corey Crawford.

Under-the-radar impacts: DT Grady Jarrett, WR Adam Humphries, LB B.J. Goodson, DT DeShawn Williams, DL Rod Byers, S Robert Smith.

Class evaluation: It’s quite a star-studded field with tons of pro talent. If you ranked this class just on the 3-star players, like Jarrett, alone, 2011 would be way up there. Add in all the 5-star guys and it gets pretty ridiculous. This group didn’t win a national title but it set the stage. Watkins was the highlight of the group. He was as dynamic a receiver as Clemson’s ever had, and he did it right away. Sure, there were some high-end players who didn’t work out, but the amount of players who hit easily makes up for that.

No. 7: 2017

National rankings: 247Sports 16th, Rivals 22nd.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 3rd, Rivals 3rd.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 14 commits, 2 5-stars, 8 4-stars, 4 3-stars.

Travis Etienne

Travis Etienne

Highly-rated impacts: WR Tee Higgins, CB A.J. Terrell, RB Travis Etienne, WR Amari Rodgers, DE Justin Foster.

Under-the-radar impacts: QB Chase Brice (transferred to Duke)

Class evaluation: This class brought the program’s all-time leader rusher in Etienne and one of the best receivers of the Swinney era in Higgins, but there are also several role players and others who still have time to make bigger impacts in this small, yet memorable, group.

No. 8: 2019

National rankings: 247Sports 10th, Rivals 9th.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 1st, Rivals 1st.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 29 commits, 1 5-star, 12 4-stars, 15 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: DT Tyler Davis, WR Frank Ladson, CB Andrew Booth, WR Joseph Ngata, OL Will Putnam.

Under-the-radar impacts: N/A

Class evaluation: It’s too early to evaluate this class from a long-term perspective, but this was a really nice haul full of players who have star potential. Davis had a huge freshman season and will impact Clemson for at least two more seasons. Eight players in this class could be starters this fall.

No. 9: 2010 

National rankings: 247Sports 27th, Rivals 18.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 4th, Rivals 2.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 24 commits, 0 5-stars, 6 4-stars, 15 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: WR DeAndre Hopkins, DL Josh Watson, CB Garry Peters, CB Darius Robinson.

Under-the-radar impacts: DE Vic Beasley, DL Tavaris Barnes, CB Bashaud Breeland, OL David Beasley, OL Kalon Davis.

Class evaluation: Hopkins certainly helps boost this class. He left Clemson a star and just became an even bigger one in the NFL after he was a first-round draft pick by the Texans. The other most impactful Tigers in this class came from the unheralded group. Beasley became the all-time sack leader after moving from tight end and went on to be a first-round draft pick. Barnes was a force up front in 2014. Breeland had a really solid career and won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs.

No. 10: 2012 

National rankings: 247Sports 20th, Rivals 17th.

ACC rankings: 247Sports 3rd, Rivals 3rd.

Class profile (according to 247Sports Composite): 20 commits, 0 5-stars, 10 4-stars, 10 3-stars.

Highly-rated impacts: DT Carlos Watkins, DT D.J. Reader, LB Travis Blanks, RB Zac Brooks.

Under-the-radar impacts: OL Jay Guillermo, DE Kevin Dodd, P Bradley Pinion.

Class evaluation: This was a bit of a buffer class for Swinney that didn’t hit as well as some others. It still ranked in the top 20 and had Watkins, who helped Clemson win a national title, Reader, who’s been a steady pro player, and the versatile Brooks. But this was the class with QB Chad Kelly, who had several documented issues and bounced around college football and the NFL. There were a couple other troubled players in this class, but recruiting really took off after this year.