National Signing Day is in the books, but that hasn’t changed who ESPN believes should be ranked No. 1 in the 2018 preseason. On yet another college football ranking, the Clemson Tigers came out on top.
This week, ESPN released the third edition of its “way-too-early” 2018 rankings with this one being the ‘post-Signing Day’ version. And yet again, Clemson was ranked at No. 1.
The Tigers finished with the sixth-best recruiting class for 2018 according to 247Sports. Clemson landed 17 prospects, including five 5-star players, which was the second-most among all FBS schools. Georgia was the only program that successfully recruited more 5-star players than Clemson.
With that new crop of talented players and the group coming back, it’s very easy to see why the Tigers are an early favorite to be No. 1 at ESPN.
The good news keeps coming for the Tigers, who signed a fourth straight top-10 recruiting class, after a handful of their draft-eligible juniors decided to return for another college season.
Five-star prospect Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville, Georgia, the No. 1 pocket passer in the ESPN 300, is already enrolled and will have a chance to battle incumbent Kelly Bryant this spring. The Tigers also signed 4-star receiver Justyn Ross, the No. 1 prospect in Alabama, who might be able to help right away.
Clemson signed two of the country’s highest-rated defensive ends — K.J. Henry of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Xavier Thomas of Florence, S.C., — and defensive coordinator Brent Venables can bring them along slowly with Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins deciding to come back.
After falling short of winning back-to-back national championships, the Tigers should enter 2018 as a heavy favorite to win the ACC and make their fourth straight appearance in the CFP. The Tigers will play nonconference games against two SEC foes — at Texas A&M on Sept. 8 and at home against South Carolina on Nov. 24. They’ll play Florida State on the road on Oct. 27 and will avoid Miami and Virginia Tech during the regular season.
The two national champion participants from this past season — Alabama and Georgia — were just behind Clemson at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Miami was the closest ACC team to Clemson at No. 8.