With limited scholarships, Clemson won’t lead National Signing Day coverage, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers did poorly with the 2014 recruiting class. Far from it, actually. While recruiting is never a sure thing, Clemson signed arguably the top quarterback in America and an elite corps of receivers. Entering the 2014 season, those two positions will be considered question marks, but Dabo Swinney brings in a group that could make a significant impact on the Tigers this year.
It’s always a plus when your headline recruit plays QB. That’s the case with Clemson and Deshaun Watson. He will draw comparisons to Tajh Boyd, although that is not particularly apt. To the naked eye, Watson is a lanky 6’3”, unlike the short, compact Boyd. Both possess the arm talent that coaches covet, but Watson has superior accuracy. Watson fits well into Chad Morris’ offense because of that pin-point accuracy and his prowess in the read-option game. Quicker than fast, Watson has experience running the read-option at the high school level, another bonus in his transition to college.
Of course, the traits I like best in Watson have little to do with his physical potential. He accomplished everything imaginable at the high school level. He accumulated over 17,000 yards of offense and 218 touchdowns. As a four year starter, he led Gainesville (GA) High School to a cumulative record of 46-10, including the class 5A state championship in 2012. Lastly, by all accounts, Watson is an intelligent, mature young man. He graduated high school and enrolled at Clemson in January, which is a good sign for your quarterback and leader.
Those intangible traits (intelligence, leadership, etc.) made Boyd a great player and Watson seems cut from the same cloth. Watson will compete for the starting job with senior Cole Stoudt and sophomore Chad Kelly this spring. I don’t know who will win it, but Deshaun Watson makes Clemson a better football team next year and beyond.
Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant bypassed their final year of eligibility to jump to the NFL, making the wide receiver position a critical need for the Tigers. Clemson signed four highly-touted receivers, each of which will push for immediate playing time.
As they did with Watkins, Clemson dipped into the rich talent pool of Florida and secured a commitment from Artavis Scott of East Lake HS in Tarpon Springs, FL. Scott is a playmaker possessing astounding quickness and agility. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better fit for Clemson’s spread attack. At 5’10”, 175 pounds he lacks Watkins’ size, but remains a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He’ll be an asset on the screens and jet plays that Chad Morris loves. Moreover, Scott could be an asset in the return game next year.
The Tigers went north to garner a pledge from Trevion Thompson of Durham (NC) Hillside High School. I’ve seen Thompson play live several times and he always impresses. He’s the most complete receiver among the four signees. He may lack one elite trait, but he does everything at a high level. He’s tall (6’3”) and fast enough to be a deep threat and athletic enough to be effective in the screen game.
Rounding out the four are Georgia prospects Demarre Kitt and Kyrin Priester. Like Scott, both enrolled early, giving them a better chance to contribute in the fall. Priester actually signed with Clemson last year, but failed to qualify, so he spent a semester at Fork Union Military Academy (VA) getting his academics in order. He’s another big receiver, who can stretch the defense. Kitt hails from Sandy Creek HS, the same school that produced Calvin Johnson. Recruiting analysts praise Kitt for his quickness and route-running ability, making him an ideal fit in the slot.
In all, Clemson added 20 new players today. Due to the relatively small total, the Tigers aren’t ranked amongst the top 10 classes, but rest assured that the quality of player coming to Death Valley remains elite. I highlighted five prospects that will likely lead the Clemson offense in the ensuing years. While Tiger fans will miss the Boyd and Watkins era, Clemson football remains in good hands with the likes of Deshaun Watson and Artavis Scott coming to Memorial Stadium.