For decades, the bread-and-butter Clemson football recruiting base has been a collection of towns so small the “Entering” and “Leaving” signs often are on the same post.
Coaches, unable to locate lucky locals on maps and struggling to get cell service, had to navigate by compass.
A “big city” Clemson signee?
That kid came from Greenwood, a legit three-McDonald’s town.
But head coach Dabo Swinney and staff no longer restrict themselves to villages in which the best fast food franchise is Doritos.
Or to the South.
The Clemson list of Class of 2020 signees officially celebrated Wednesday, and its projected Class of 2021 signees include three top prospects from the Los Angeles area, three from in or just outside Washington, D.C., and another from Philadelphia.
That’s just so far.
If it’s all part of a Swinney plot to seize America’s largest markets, it’s working.
The 2020 signing class is No. 1 or No. 2; doesn’t matter, it’s stellar.
The next signing class looks about as good.
Clemson coaches might still hum along to John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” on recruiting trips; habits die hard. But they’ve also updated files with tunes appropriate for major markets:
Theme: “I Love L.A.” by Randy Newman
As the Tigers were finishing up with wide receiver Joseph Ngata of Folsom, Calif., near Sacramento, last year, they were going strong into Southern California for the Class of 2020 (quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei from Bellflower) and Class of 2021 (defensive end Korey Foreman from Corona and wide receiver Beaux Collins from Bellflower).
Oh, and the 2023 national championship game is set for the new NFL stadium in L.A.
California dreaming became a Clemson thing with the 2016 national championship. Between the 2018 ACC Championship Game and Swinney’s second national title (won in Santa Clara), coaches were off to SoCal with former co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott saying “the brand and the Tiger paw has never been stronger.”
And now defensive end Logan Rudolph has decided to quit football and is considering a move to Hollywood in pursuit of an acting career.
Hey, Logan, here’s a tip if you want to get serious: Become the next Bradley Cooper and wear a Tiger paw on your lapel while accepting the Academy Award, but only after finding your way into The Actors Studio in New York.
New York City
Theme: “New York, New York” the Frank Sinatra version
Former Clemson standout players Wayne Gallman and Dexter Lawrence are New York Giants. A lot of 2020 NFL mock drafts have the Giants taking Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons with the fourth overall pick.
That’s not recruiting news, but defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, the Miami Dolphins’ 2019 first-round pick, went to high school in Suffield, Conn., just 130 miles from Manhattan.
The new ACC Network headquarters are in Bristol, Conn., even closer.
It all adds up to prime Clemson exposure in The Big Apple.
Theme: “Crabs for Christmas” by David DeBoy
The DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia area) has been good to Clemson: highly-rated defensive end Bryan Bresee (Class of 2020) and center Ryan Linthicum (Class of 2021) from Damascus, Md.; defensive tackle Tre Williams of Washington, D.C., in the 2020 class.
Two White House visits.
That was just pre-Roaring ‘20s.
Theme: “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson
When Notre Dame made its odd, semi-commitment to ACC football, it was looked upon as the Irish gaining access to the conference footprint.
But with two games at Notre Dame coming up over the next three seasons (2020 and 2022), maybe Clemson benefits big-time from exposure in nearby Chicago.
And if the Tigers make the College Football Playoff national championship game in January of 2022 down the road in Indianapolis?
Clemson fans might put orange dye in the Chicago River as part of a clean-up project.
Theme song: “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti
With a few exceptions, it's hard to get a really good cheesesteak in rural South Carolina.
But can’t you just see Swinney dancing upon the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, doing his best Rocky Balboa?
Clemson has a commitment from blue-chip linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. of Philadelphia. He’s the son of former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.
Atop the recruiting rankings for 2021, two of Trotter’s St. Joseph’s Prep School teammates, including Marvin Harrison Jr., son of the Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver, are committed to Ohio State.
That makes it more likely that the Clemson-Ohio State playoff rivalry will continue, though perhaps without enough sequels to impress Sylvester Stallone.
But with an edge to little ol' Clemson and its big-market swagger.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff