Clemson is up to No. 4 in the latest ESPN Recruiting Nation class rankings, and a big reason why is the way the Tigers have emphasized getting athletes out of Tampa and the entire West Coast of Florida.
So far for the 2015 class, Clemson has commitments from two players in Tampa, and both are highly rated at their positions -- ESPN 300 athlete Deon Cain and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen. That should not come as a surprise considering the inroads the Tigers have made in this area of the state. Clemson has signed more players from the West Coast of Florida under Dabo Swinney than it has from South Florida, often regarded as one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the entire nation.
The biggest name, of course, is Sammy Watkins out of Fort Myers, about two hours south of Tampa. Watkins signed in 2011, and that decision helped bolster the Tigers' efforts in that area of the state. In his first two recruiting classes, Swinney signed zero players from the West Coast of Florida. Since then, he has signed five -- with two more commitments for next year. Another player in Tampa, Ray-Ray McCloud III, is scheduled to visit Clemson this month, though he is reportedly a Florida lean.
Clemson is not the only program doing well in the Tampa area. Miami, at No. 10 in the latest rankings, has picked up four commitments from there, including ESPN 300 players Bowman Archibald and Dwayne Lawson. The significance of this should not be understated. While Miami was under the dark NCAA investigation cloud, it was difficult for the coaching staff to convince players from the West Coast to come down to campus for a visit. Given all the uncertainty, many recruits felt it was not worth the drive.
As proof, Miami signed zero players from the West Coast of Florida in 2013 and 2014. This has traditionally been an area where Miami has been able to sign talent, so to get back into the Tampa mix has to be encouraging for Al Golden and his staff.
Two other ACC schools have commitments from the West Coast area, too: Boston College and Virginia Tech.