CLEMSON — For the first time in years, Clemson coaches will be holding their breath on National Signing Day. At least in recruiting terms, they’re playing with house money.
The Tigers are safely steering towards a sixth consecutive top-15 recruiting class, though single digits have become the new standard. After hauling in Rivals.com’s fourth-rated class in 2015, Clemson has already bolstered its defense with three of the top 16 national prospects — defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (No. 2 overall) and linebackers Rahshaun Smith (No. 6) and Tre Lamar (No. 16), who have all already enrolled at Clemson.
What more could Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables want? How might the consensus No. 1 overall prospect sound?
Rashan Gary, a 6-5, 290-pound defensive tackle out of Paramus, N.J., is rated atop the recruiting boards at Rivals, Scout.com, 247Sports and ESPN Recruiting. Gary reserved his final official visit for Clemson this past weekend. Reports indicate he has narrowed his choice to Clemson or Michigan, while he has also visited Auburn, Ole Miss and Southern Cal. Gary is scheduled to announce his decision at 1 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2.
Gary’s commitment would give Clemson an embarrassment of riches at the position, behind senior Carlos Watkins, junior Scott Pagano, sophomore Christian Wilkins, redshirt freshman Albert Huggins and Lawrence. It also would push the Tigers’ class over the top, and serve as a landmark coup for the program that just played in its first national championship game in 34 years.
For points of comparison: wide receiver Deon Cain was the No. 17 prospect in Rivals’ 2015 class, quarterback Deshaun Watson was No. 31 in 2014, cornerback Mackensie Alexander was No. 42 in 2013, wide receiver Sammy Watkins was No. 15 in 2011 and tailback C.J. Spiller was eighth in 2006.
Past No. 1 overall prospects who thrived at the college level include Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche in 2013, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney in 2011, Florida WR Percy Harvin in 2006, Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson in 2004 and Texas QB Vince Young in 2002.
Already, as Rivals’ No. 2 prospect, Lawrence’s commitment has represented Clemson’s highest-ever rated signee since defensive end Da’Quan Bowers in 2008.
Scout and 247Sports list Clemson’s second-best committed prospect (behind Lawrence) as Spartanburg running back Tavien Feaster, who is expected to sign with Clemson without drama on Wednesday.
Feaster, who verbally committed to the Tigers on last year’s Signing Day as a junior, is a 5-11, 195-pound USA Today first-team All-American and South Carolina’s 2015 Mr. Football. He rolled up 6,418 total yards (3,703 rushing, 2,715 receiving) and 75 total touchdowns over 37 games during a three-year varsity career, and is a track state champion in the 100- and 200-meter events.
Clemson is also expected to sign a trio of four-star receivers in T.J. Chase, Diondre Overton and Cornell Powell. Quarterback Zerrick Cooper and defensive end Xavier Kelly are also four-star prospects committed to the Tigers.
Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney and offensive linemen Sean Pollard and Tremayne Anchrum are already on campus, giving Clemson six early enrollees in 2016.
Head coach Dabo Swinney and recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter are expected to conduct a press conference at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Dexter Lawrence, DT, 6-5, 340, Wake Forest, NC
Nyles Pinckney, DT, 6-3, 290, Seabrook
Tavien Feaster, RB, 6-0, 202, Spartanburg
Tre Lamar, LB, 6-4, 240, Roswell, GA
T.J. Chase, WR, 6-2, 185, Plant City, FL
J.C. Chalk, TE, 6-4, 230, Argyle, TX
Sean Pollard, OG, 6-5, 295, Southern Pines, NC
Zerrick Cooper, QB, 6-4, 200, Jonesboro, GA
Rahshaun Smith, LB/DE, 6-3, 240, Bradenton, FL
Diondre Overton, WR, 6-5, 195, Greensboro, NC
Xavier Kelly, DE, 6-5, 255, Wichita, KS
Jamie Skalski, LB, 6-1, 230, Newnan, GA
Cornell Powell, WR, 6-1, 200, Greenville, NC
Tremayne Anchrum, OL, 6-3, 268, Powder Springs, GA
Chandler Reeves, OL, 6-6, 255, McDonough, GA
Brian Dawkins, CB, 5-8, 170, Parker, CO
Nolan Turner, S, 6-2, 190, Vestavia Hills, AL
Cade Stewart, OL, 6-4, 280, Central