After CFP championship, Clemson keeps winning on signing day
Clemson just keeps on winning — on the football field, and in recruiting.
Less than a month after the Tigers won their second national championship in three years, they polished off the best class in the Atlantic Coast Conference on Wednesday, the first day of the traditional signing period.
“To me it’s the turning of the page, and putting our eyes on this next team,” coach Dabo Swinney said.
The Tigers’ class grew to 29 players with the addition of two players — including instate three-star running back Michel Dukes — but they missed out on five-star running back Jerrion Ealy, who donned a Mississippi cap during his nationally televised signing ceremony and picked his home state school.
Even without him, they did plenty to remain ranked first in the ACC and in the top 10 nationally by 247sports.com and Rivals.com.
Signing day came 30 days after Clemson completed its perfect season by routing Alabama 44-16 in the title game behind the gem of its 2018 recruiting class — quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
While the Tigers were out in the Bay Area winning that title, 17 of the December signees enrolled in school early with the goal of getting them jump-started toward a fifth consecutive College Football Playoff appearance.
Some other things to know about Wednesday’s signing day:
This was the second academic year with an early signing period for college football, and in the ACC, the numbers of signees were virtually identical to those from last February. About 17 percent of the roughly 300 signees waited until Wednesday to make their decisions official, the same percentage as last year. “The process has really speeded up. I am uncomfortable with how fast it moves, but you’d better get used to it because it’s moving faster and faster,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “You need to get on board because the train is moving. We have already met on our 2020 and 2021 recruitment. It’s always going to be that way from now on. It may even come to a point where the February signing day is not even here anymore.”
NO QBS FOR FSU
Florida State’s list of scholarship quarterbacks who can play this year begins — and ends — with James Blackman. The Seminoles failed to sign a quarterback for the second straight year under Willie Taggart, but the coach insisted he and his staff “have a plan — I think a pretty good plan.” Their depth at QB took a hit when Deondre Francois was kicked off the team last weekend. Sam Howell flipped to North Carolina during the December signing period and four-star recruit Lance LeGendre picked Maryland on Wednesday. Louisville transfer Jordan Travis isn’t eligible until 2020.
Louisville was by far the busiest ACC school, after the Cardinals signed only four players in December, with the early period beginning two weeks after the hiring of Scott Satterfield. They announced 11 more signings, the best of which appears to be four-star DE Ja’Darien Boykin from Gray, Georgia.
Wide receiver Tabari Hines is back in the ACC — and at a new school after a year on the West Coast. The former Wake Forest receiver signed with North Carolina State as a graduate transfer hoping to help the Wolfpack replace NFL draft-bound wideouts Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers. Hines played for the Demon Deacons from 2015-17 before transferring to Oregon. He played in only one game in 2018 before leaving the program during the season. In three games against N.C. State, he caught 22 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns — his best totals against any single opponent.
HELP FOR HOKIES
Virginia Tech also found itself shopping for quarterbacks after two of them — including Josh Jackson, a two-year starter whose 2018 season ended early due to injury — transferred out. “We knew there was a chance we might find ourselves in this situation,” coach Justin Fuente said. The Hokies signed QB Knox Kadum, who had been committed to James Madison, and they still have Kansas transfer Ryan Willis, who finished last season as the starter.
Miami signed a punter who immediately became a social media sensation. He’s a 25-year-old native Australian who’s 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and covered in tattoos. Louis Hedley worked as a scaffolder in his home country, according to The Miami Herald, and he played Australian rules football there before giving the American version of the sport a try. He is transferring from City College of San Francisco and has three seasons of eligibility.
AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, South Carolina, and John Kekis in Syracuse, New York, and AP freelancer Bob Ferrante in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.