Clemson Football has seen more success over the past fifteen years than at any other point in the program’s long history. As such, their profile has elevated.
With more people nationally knowing about the university and the football program, it has naturally led to the Tigers being able to successfully recruit prospects from around the country.
This has led to less of an emphasis on in-state prospects. The Tigers have had far fewer South Carolina players in their recent classes than they had before their success in the College Football playoff.
This doesn’t mean they have always strayed far from home to find their players. Georgia and Florida have always been sources of talent for all southeastern programs. The Tigers still recruit their fair share of North Carolina, Virginia, and other Mid-Atlantic prospects.
Clemson simply didn’t prioritize South Carolina unless the individual warranted it.
Lately, things have shifted a bit for the Tigers, and a perfect example is Marquise Henderson.
Henderson is a prospect from Belton-Honea Path High School. He is personally responsible for shorting out at least half a dozen scoreboards throughout the upstate this past football season.
That’s sarcasm, of course, but you get the point: Henderson has been electric, but fans didn’t know if he would get the Clemson offer he wanted.
In the past, the Tigers would often pursue higher-profile players nationally before circling back to offer in-state or local prospects if they still had spots open in their class.
The Tigers prioritized a handful of wide receiver targets in the Class of 2022, including Andre Greene Jr., who eventually chose North Carolina. It was only after Green and others committed elsewhere that Clemson circled back to offer Antonio Williams from Dutch Fork High School.
Today, Williams has been an overall success for the Tigers, while Green is in the transfer portal because he couldn’t break through the depth chart.
In the Class of 2023, Clemson prioritized players like Brandon Inniss and Noah Rogers. Only after they went elsewhere did Clemson offer Greenville’s Tyler Brown.
Brown, like Williams, made an immediate impact on the Tigers wide receiver group.
Something else became apparent as well. South Carolina did boast three highly rated offensive linemen in the Class of 2024 that almost every program in the country would love to have. Naturally, Clemson recruited them. All three committed to the Gamecocks.
More balance between national and in-state recruiting will benefit Clemson Football
One could infer that Clemson has built a reputation of not prioritizing in-state prospects, and it was starting to hurt their image in the state.
The offering of Henderson this early in the 2025 cycle shows that Clemson has started to learn their lesson about local talent.
I do not doubt that the Tigers held Henderson up to the same standards they have for every player they offer. Fit is still important to them.
I do think they have shifted their mindset of rolling the dice and assuming that someone like Henderson will always be there if they strike out on other regional or national prospects.
I like this apparent shift in thinking. I think this is also a sign that the days of COVID are starting to melt away. The coaches are evaluating and trusting their instincts on ‘the right guys’.