Back Clemson’s Budding Dynasty

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Clemson’s Budding Dynasty

By Dave Holcomb
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Dabo Swinney and the Tigers are doing what they can in recruiting to ensure the next decade belongs to them.

Winning the national championship from Alabama for the second time in three years is enough to wonder whether Clemson is becoming the most dominant college football program in the country. Over the last four years, Clemson and Alabama each have 55 wins and two national championships, so at the very least, the Tigers are in the same class as the Crimson Tide.

But Dabo Swinney and the Tigers are doing what they can in recruiting to ensure the next decade belongs to them.

Clemson scored two huge victories on the recruiting trail last week, landing 5-star running back Demarkcus Bowman and 5-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. Bowman is the No. 2 running back while Uiagelelei is the top pro-style signal caller in the 2020 class according to 247Sports.

As expected, the 5-star quarterback is making the most noise around college football circles this week. Assuming Uiagelelei doesn’t rescind his verbal commitment before signing day, the Tigers are guaranteed to have a No. 1 rated quarterback from his respective recruiting class behind center until the end of at least 2022. Current starter Trevor Lawrence is required to stay in school for two more seasons, and if that time he departs for the NFL, Uiagelelei would presumably be ready as a redshirt freshman in 2021.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Uiagelelei has all the physical attributes to allow Clemson to seamlessly transition away from Lawrence in two years. CBS Sports personality Raja Bell claimed Monday that Uiagelelei is so gifted that he doesn’t even need another year of high school football, as he could step onto a college field this fall and start.

A lot can happen over the course of four years. An injury or decision to transfer could always destroy Clemson’s Lawrence-to-Uiagalelei plan. But there’s also a distinct possibility that the Tigers go a decade -- remember Deshaun Watson became the Clemson starting quarterback in 2014 -- with Heisman Trophy level play behind center.

That would be enough to get any college football fanbase excited. However, the Tigers are far from just a quarterback factory. They stockpile talent everywhere.

The commitments from Uiagelelei and Bowman have doubled Clemson’s number of 5-star prospects in next year’s class to four. That’s the same amount of 5-star players Alabama, Ohio State and LSU have combined to land in the 2020 class through the beginning of May.

After Uiageleli’s commitment, Clemson jumped to No. 1 on 247Sports’ team composite rankings for the 2020 class. That alone, though, probably doesn’t truly do Clemson’s dominance on the recruiting trail justice.

It’s obviously still very early. There’s still more than seven months until Early National Signing Day, but Clemson has also received verbal commitments from 10 4-star recruits. The only team with more in the entire nation is Alabama.

Offensively, Clemson is quickly becoming the top choice for NFL-caliber signal callers, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables loves landing long and athletic defensive linemen that dominant rushing the passer. The Tigers have three defensive tackles already in the 2020 class, including Bryan Bresee, who 247Sports ranks as the No. 2 player in the entire class.

Clemson’s dominance on the recruiting trail didn’t happen overnight; rather, it’s been building for a long time. And in today’s college football landscape, the rich just get richer, as recruiting leads to winning, which then has a major positive impact on recruiting

It appears as though the gap is widening even further between the very top programs and the other great football schools. At the rate Clemson is currently on, Alabama may even have difficulty keeping pace.