(Mackensie Alexander chooses Clemson on ESPNU – USA Today/Robert Mayer)
Flash back to June 14th, 2012 – that was the day the nation's No. 1 recruit, Robert Nkemdiche, announced his verbal commitment to…. Clemson. To say it left the college football world stunned was a little bit of an understatement and it vaulted the Tigers into the conversation of having the best class in all of America. Flash forward to National Signing Day and Nkemdiche wasn't part of the Tigers 2013 class and Clemson wasn't the No. 1 class in the country. Instead Clemson found themselves ranked 12th by Scout, 13th by 247sports and ESPN Recruiting Nation, and 14th by Rivals.
Ironically, in that same article back in June we also warned that a verbal commitment wasn't the end of the road here, especially in SEC country. Boy were we right, as Nkemdiche signed on the dotted line with yet another name that's usually not pulling in national No. 1 players – Ole Miss, yesterday. Helping them to a Top 5 class in the country.
It has left some people wondering what might have been for the Tigers. It's also left some to forget about yet another Top 15 class for Dabo Sweeney and to some a class that shouldn't be slept on in the least. So, which one is it – a class that's far too slept on or a case of what could've been?
ESPNU did check in on Dabo Sweeney and Clemson throughout their 11 hours of wall-to-wall National Signing Day coverage, so one could argue that they were hardly a group that were totally forgotten about. But, if you paid closer attention to what actually was being discussed it had a lot more to do with Sweeney's personality than it did about the actual class at hand.
Then there's the fact that Mackenzie Alexander did the hat dance and chose the Tigers live on ESPNU as well – so they were on the U to a level that you could say the general public could've been aware of them.
However, you could say that overall this class is as equally impressive as any Clemson has put together in quite some time and is slept on in terms of what it is – a class capable of being in the discussion as one of the best outside of the SEC (who occupied at least 6 spots in the Rivals Top 10).
Let's be clear here – a consensus Top 15 class puts Clemson in the top 12% of all of the FBS schools – yet when all was said and done on Wednesday night the name of the Tigers wasn't really mentioned outside of the pick up of Alexander. To me, that smacks of being slept on.
After all, this was a class that included 10 four star recruits (by Rivals), and 9 players rated in the Top 15 at their position (once again by Rivals). Names like Alexander (7th CB), Ben Boulware (8th LB), and Dorian O'Daniel (8th LB) dot the top of the class and show the strength of what Sweeney put together on the defensive side of the ball. Switch to the offensive side and it's equally impressive, adding Tyrone Crowder (11th OL), Tyshone Dye (16th RB), and Mike Williams (27th WR).
That's just the tip of the iceberg for the depth of this class as well, especially on the defensive side of the football where they've added a ton of talent and depth to their front seven – an area that needed some help admittedly after a few failings last season.
Would Sweeney have loved to have had Nkemdiche in the fold – well, duh? I'm sure there are 126 FBS football coaches all over America that would've welcomed him with open arms, but it's not as if they swung for the fences and missed. Instead all they managed to do was add 3 four star defensive lineman and 4 Top 30 players at their positions along the defensive line. Ya, I think Sweeney and Co. aren't losing much sleep with that kind of a haul in front of them.
Perhaps we're splitting hairs a bit here, but isn't that what rankings and National Signing Day are all about in the first place? There were those that saw Nkemdiche's decommitment as a sign that the class was going to fall apart, yet here we sit a day after National Signing Day and Clemson has taken up a spot in the Top 15 classes in the country once again. Sleep on Sweeney and the Tigers if you want, but don't think they are looking back and asking "what could've been" either and ultimately that's the answer we need to consider the most.