Clemson closes strong with latest recruiting class

Clemson got a last-minute boost Wednesday in defensive back

Mackensie Alexander and offensive lineman Tyrone Crowder Jr. on

Wednesday to bolster what had been a fading class of recruits.

Alexander was rated the fourth overall best college prospect by

ESPN and was the highest rated player to sign with the Tigers since

defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, the No. 1 overall prospect that year,

joined Clemson in 2008.

Alexander, of Immokalee, Fla., was part of a late signing-day

charge by Clemson and coach Dabo Swinney that also included Crowder

and defensive backs Adrian Baker and Ryan Carter, the Grayson High

School player and talked up last summer by his teammate – and this

year’s No. 1 player – in defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.

Nkemdiche was a Clemson commitment back in July when he said

he’d also like the Tigers to sign Carter – and began a debate about

how far a school should go to land one of the nation’s best

players. Turns out, Clemson liked what it saw from Carter and

gladly brought him in, Swinney said.

The Tigers weren’t so fortunate with some of their other

high-profile commitments. Nkemdiche eventually decommitted and

signed with Ole Miss. Top defensive line prospects Elijah Daniel,

also committed to the Tigers, backed off too and signed with

Auburn. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson pledged to Clemson, but he

also changed his mind and enrolled with Florida.

”We had a few spots open, a little bit of attrition,” he

said.

Swinney is excited about who the Tigers added, particularly on

defense. They literally crisscrossed the United States to offset

the loss of Nkemdiche and Daniel along the defensive line with

Ebenezer Ogundeko from Brooklyn, N.Y. and Scott Pagano from

Honolulu, Hawaii.

Along with Alexander and Carter, Clemson added defensive backs

Adrian Baker, Marcus Edmond and Jayron Kearse, the nephew of former

Gators All-American linebacker Jevon Kearse.

Swinney wasn’t worried about the players who didn’t pick the

Tigers, only those who did.

”That mentality is like waking up at Chirstmas and getting a

lot of nice presents and going, `Oh, this is all I got?”’ he

said.

Swinney said what the Tigers got was a top-15 group of players

to add to an 11-2 squad from this past season. ”They could’ve gone

away from Southern Cal to Florida and anywhere in between,”

Swinney said. ”These kids had offers, but they chose

Clemson.”

Still, recruiting coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott

couldn’t help but think about how close the Tigers came to getting

the biggest prize of all in Nkemdiche, who chose to join his

brother with the Rebels.

Nkemdiche’s mother, Beverly, is a politician in Nigeria who was

not pleased with son Robert’s pick of Clemson last year. The Tiger

coaches were not able to make any inroads and Scott said they’d

never accept a player whose family was not behind them joining the

Tigers.

Scott, though, says Clemson will keep on pitching the game’s

best. ”I always like fishing in the pond with the chance to get

the big fish,” he said.

ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said Clemson made some

large splashes with its pledges last year from Nkemdiche, Robinson

and Daniel. But the trick is to keep them in the fold. ”It’s a

very long process,” Luginbill said. ”The chum is always in the

water and the sharks are always circling.”

Alexander, at 5-foot-11, had four interceptions, two forced

fumbles and a fumble recovery as his Immokalee High team reached

its championship game. Crowder, of Richmond Senior High in

Rockingham, N.C., is 6-2 and 325 pounds. He played in two all-star

games following his senior season and Swinney expects he’ll be a

foundation of Clemson’s line for several seasons.

Swinney said Clemson was able to rebound well from the

commitments that didn’t stick, evidenced by the quality players

they signed. Expect that to continue, he said.

”We’ve raised the bar and that’s a good thing. We’re going to

continue to do that,” he said. ”We’re beyond the point where

people should be surprised when Clemson signs a good player or a

good class.”