Dabo Swinney is entering his third full season as the head coach at Clemson. During that time he has compiled a 19-15 record with his best season coming in 2009 when a Music City Bowl win closed out a 9-5 campaign. His coaching skills may be still in doubt, but his prowess as a recruiter is not.
In February, Clemson signed the eighth best class in the country in the ESPN rankings despite their 6-7 season last fall. As of this moment their 2012 class is ranked No. 7 and they reached that point by nabbing three stars in the past week.
Chad Kelly is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound quarterback from Buffalo, N.Y., the city where his uncle Jim led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances. Kelly is the No. 5 quarterback prospect in the land according to ESPN, who also has him as the No. 80 overall recruit. Last fall he ran for 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns and threw for 2,159 yards and 25 touchdowns. He picked the Tigers over Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, and Syracuse.
Zac Brooks is a highly regarded receiver that will also be heading to Clemson in 2012. The 6-foot-0, 180-pounder from Jonesboro, Ark. has played mostly running back in high school, but his receiving skills are evident and there is little doubt that he will be a wide out in college. Arkansas, Ole Miss, Stanford, and Notre Dame were some of the other programs chasing Brooks.
Some recruiting services list T.J. Burrell as a safety while ESPN and others list him as a linebacker. He is a great athlete that can play the run, drop into coverage, and put pressure on the quarterback. At 6-foot-0, 200-pounds he will have to add bulk to play linebacker in the ACC. The Goose Creek, S.C. product went with Clemson over South Carolina, Duke, and Vanderbilt.
Clemson’s rivals down I-26 went into Georgia to claim a couple of recruits this past week. Rico McWilliams is a 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete from Hampton, Ga. that will be going to South Carolina next year. As a junior, McWilliams scored six touchdowns offensively as a receiver and running back and intercepted two passes from his cornerback position. McWilliams also considered South Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Mississippi State.
The Gamecocks also secured the commitment of defensive end Darius English of Powder Springs, Ga. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound English will rejoin Rory Anderson and Marquis Roberts, former teammates at McEachern High School, at South Carolina. English has not yet been given a star rating by ESPN, but his talent shows through in an offer list that includes Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Michigan State, and Kentucky.
The team that claimed the top spot in the recruiting rankings last year, Florida State, is at No. 2 right now thanks in part to the two most recent commitments: defensive tackle James Hamilton and tight end Chris Kourtzidis. Hamilton is a massive presence at 6-foot-4, 335-pounds and should prove to be a space-eater at defensive tackle. It is possible that Hamilton could play on offense and if that is the case, he will be a guard. The Orlando native was also pursued by South Florida, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Texas A&M.
Kourtzidis will make his way from Orange, Calif. to Tallahassee in 2012. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder is not a speed demon by any means, but he is a solid receiver that will be able to handle himself as a blocker. He selected Florida State over Nebraska and California.
Miami and Michigan State both added big-time defensive ends that will help their pass rush in the coming years. 6-foot-4, 245-pound Jelani Hamilton of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale has decided on the U as his college destination. Hamilton is quick off the ball and depending how much size he adds, could play on the strong or weak side at Miami. His other college options included Florida, Florida State, LSU, and Georgia.
The Spartans landed ESPN 150 star Se’Von Pittman from the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Pittman has to add some size, but he is very quick and plays with a lot of passion. Pittman had to have been influenced by the problems at Ohio State, a school that went after him hard. His other offers included Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, Louisville, and Auburn.
Texas Tech may have landed the most decorated prospect to commit in the past week. Wide receiver Dominique Wheeler from Crockett, Texas will be a Red Raider come 2012. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder caught 71 passes last fall for 1,164 yards and 16 touchdowns. ESPN lists him as the No. 6 receiver and No. 45 prospect regardless of position. His offer list was long and included Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas A&M, Michigan, Auburn, and that school in Austin.