By Andy Staples
February 06, 2008

Life was pretty good for Tommy Bowden before Wednesday. The Clemson coach recently signed a seven-year contract extension -- after a flirtation with Arkansas -- that could pay him as much as $2.2 million a year. He already had defensive end DaQuan Bowers, the player some believe is the best prospect in the class of 2008, on campus and attending classes.

Then the faxes rolled in.

Bowden and his staff pulled off three signing day shockers. For the second time in three years, they wrestled the top back in Florida (C.J. Spiller in 2006, Jacksonville Trinity Christian's Jamie Harper in 2008) away from the Sunshine State's Big Three. Then they swiped a player previously committed to Georgia (Fayetteville, N.C., tight end Dwayne Allen). For their last trick, they plucked a player out of Alabama (Anniston offensive tackle Antoine McClain) who had been offered scholarships by Alabama and Auburn. Of the three, securing McClain's signature may have been the greatest feat.

"We haven't done it since I've been here, and I doubt they did it before. I've coached at Alabama and at Auburn, so I'm very familiar with that state," Bowden said. "It's tough to go into Alabama and get one if they want him. ... You just don't pull 'em out of that state if they want them."

And just to prove Bowden is a coach on a hot streak and not a miracle worker, his final target, Gadsden, Ala., linebacker Jerrell Harris, signed with Alabama. Still, Bowden will take a .750 signing day batting average and a 26-player class close to cracking the top 10 nationally.

Bowden said Tigers receivers coach Dabo Swinney, a former Alabama player and assistant who led the recruitment of McClain, deserves plenty of credit. It was Swinney who talked Spiller out of Lake Butler, Fla., two years ago, and it was Swinney who convinced Harper to give Clemson a chance. The playbook and depth chart probably helped with Harper, though.

"We've got an offensive system right now that's geared toward the running back," Bowden said. "The timing was pretty good for Jamie. We've got James [Davis] coming out [after this season], possibly C.J. We just don't have a lot of backs in the fold right now."

Bowden believes the extension he signed helped him convince recruits and their parents that he would be at Clemson for the players' entire careers. He made sure to mention his contract status on the recruiting trail, he said.

"If it's not very good, I don't bring it up," he said. "But the opponents do."

Bowden also said he had nothing to do with the recruiting renaissance at the program run by his legendary father. Bobby Bowden's Florida State class likely will wind up in most recruiting services' top 10, but Tommy Bowden said he offered no recruiting tips. He did, however, use his family ties to glean valuable information about an ACC rival.

"Tips? Zero. I don't talk to him at all," Bowden said. "I used to be able to call him and say, 'Daddy, where are you going today?' and he'd say, 'I'm going to Jacksonville.' I knew who he was seeing. He doesn't give that information now.

I call mother. I say, "Mother, where's daddy going today?' She'll say, 'Well, he's going to Thomasville [Ga.],' and I'll know he's going to see that defensive lineman. I can still trick her. I can't trick him anymore."

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