CLEMSON – Christmas comes Monday, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney confessed that his Wednesday sure felt like Christmas.
Suffice to say the debut of the early signing period for college football went quite well for Swinney and his staff.
“Christmas came a little early,” Swinney said. “This is exciting; it really is. This is the first time we’ve had an early signing period, and I love it.”
What wasn’t to love?
Swinney’s 2018 recruiting class, which will finish taking shape during the regular signing period come February, flashed plenty of star power on Wednesday, the first day of a three-day signing period that is being held for the first time.
In a nutshell, the Tigers signed a small but star-studded group that includes the nation’s top-rated quarterback, defensive end and offensive lineman.
The latter was a true signing-day surprise, as massive Jackson Carman, a 6-foot-6, 350-pound tackle from Fairfield, Ohio, cast his lot with the Tigers over Ohio State and Southern California.
“It shows the strength of our brand,” Swinney said. “We just signed up a group of unbelievable young men to come to Clemson. It never gets old when guys choose to come be a part of our program.”
Late in the day another five-star prospect, K.J. Henry of West Forsyth High in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, picked the Tigers. Alongside Carman, Trevor Lawrence, Xavier Thomas and Derion Kendrick, Henry, a 6-foot-6, 235-pounder, gives the Tigers prospects ranked No. 1 overall in five states by one of the major recruiting services: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Ohio.
Foremost among Swinney’s signees was probably Lawrence, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound quarterback from Cartersville, Georgia. Regarded as the nation’s top overall prospect by most analysts, Lawrence on Tuesday was named USA Today’s All-USA Offensive Player of the Year.
He passed for 3,296 yards and 41 touchdowns against one interception last season, helping Cartersville to an 11-1 record.
He broke Georgia’s career records for yards (13,908) and touchdowns (161) previously held by former Clemson standout Deshaun Watson of Gainesville, Georgia.
“Trevor committed last December, and he’s been one of the most low-maintenance recruits I’ve ever been around,” Swinney said. “He’s known for a long time what he wanted to do, and he’s excited about having the opportunity to come in here and compete.”
Thomas, a 260-pound defensive end, is a Florence native who played his final season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Kendrick is a 6-foot-1, 181-pound athlete out of Rock Hill's South Pointe High who's expected to play receiver at Clemson.