There hasn't been this kind of turnover to this many critical players in a couple of years.
After the 2009 Music City Bowl win over Kentucky, Clemson fans said their goodbyes to C.J. Spiller
, Jacoby Ford
, Michael Palmer
and Ricky Sapp
. Following the ACC Championship winning 2011 season, Dwayne Allen
, Andre Branch
, Coty Sensabaugh
and Brandon Thompson
, were gone.
With the exception of Allen, all of those guys were seniors.
This year's exodus of critical seniors includes Tajh Boyd
, Quandon Christian
, Roderick McDowell
, Spencer Shuey
and Brandon Thomas
But, unlike the 2009 and 2011 teams, the 2013 squad could see multiple key juniors leave school early for the NFL.
and Bashaud Breeland
announced their intentions to turn pro. Sammy Watkins
is expected to go, too. Many believe Vic Beasley
will join them. Though the odds may not seem to be as high, Stephone Anthony
is also considering a jump to the NFL.
All five have been key contributors in this three-year run that's matched by no other in Clemson history. The Tigers have won 11 games in each of the last two seasons -- that's never happened in school history.
And Clemson is the only in the nation to beat a Top 10 team in a bowl game each of the last two years. Friday's win is also the fifth win over a Top 10 team in the last three years. Alabama and Baylor are the only other programs to accomplish that.
So it's no wonder Tigers supporters will bid farewell to several impact players who still have time left on the clock.
It comes with the territory. You know -- the kind of territory that's entered after winning 32 games in three years, the first ACC title in two decade and the first and only BCS in school history.
If these early departures by the current batch of superstars stings, get used to it. The programs lose their best players to the NFL early. It comes with the territory.
But that's why Dabo Swinney
this the recruiting trail with the kind of vigor that he has since, well, before any of us even knew who the guy was. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football.
Clemson has finished in the Top 25 in Scout.com
recruiting rankings since 2010, the first full calendar year that Swinney was head coach. The class was 23rd best that year. It's been 12th in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Those stars do have a little something to do with success. Combined with the right direction, development and system, they can translate to back-to-back-to-back double-digit win seasons.
While Clemson ranks 33rd in the 2014 rankings, their average star rating of 3.29 is 20th. The sheer size of the class has taken a bit from the Scout.com
ranking. But Swinney & Co. are getting a bang for their buck.
, Korie Rogers
, Artavis Scott
, Chris Register
and Demarre Kitt
all of whom are four-star prospects, were some of the country's most highly sought after players at their respective positions.
They'll be among the next wave of talent that will be counted on to keep Clemson in the conversation with the nation's top teams.
And there are plenty of once high-level high school prospects on the roster, including former four stars like Josh Watson, Corey Crawford
, Tony Steward
, Charone Peake
, Eric MacLain
, Carlos Watkins
, Martin Aiken
, Zac Brooks
, Travis Blanks
, Ronald Geohaghan
, Cordrea Tankersley
, Germone Hopper
, Isaiah Battle
, Tyrone Crowder
, Mackensie Alexander
, Jayron Kearse
, Mike Williams
, Tyshon Dye
, Wayne Gallman
, Shaquille Lawson
, Scott Pagano
, Dorian O'Daniel
and Ben Boulware
While there might a few unknowns in the immediate future, there's plenty reason to believe it's going to be a bright one. A strong finish on the 2014 recruiting trail will help make an already stocked cupboard look even better.
If Clemson keeps winning 10 and 11 games a season, go ahead and get used to early January being like this one is starting to look like.
If Clemson keeps winning 10 and 11 games a season, go ahead and get used to early January being...