Clemson needed a late push to attract several highly rated defensive backs after three of its four starters in the secondary declared for the NFL draft last month



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CLEMSON, South Carolina — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney thought his team was filled up on defensive backs for next fall — until NFL dreams got involved.

Three of last year's starting secondary declared for the NFL draft shortly after the Tigers 45-40 loss to Alabama in the national championship game.

"We had to start making calls," Swinney said.

Whatever Tiger coaches said was persuasive as Clemson pulled in five defensive backs in a class of 23 signed Wednesday, including late pickups in K'von Wallace, Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Simmons. That trio should get long looks in fall camp with so many open spots in the defensive backfield.

Wallace picked Clemson over Ohio State and Michigan State among others. Mullen had offers from LSU and Florida State while Simmons' offers included Michigan and Nebraska.

Clemson's class ranked eighth overall in rankings by ESPN.com.

Swinney was not sure when the Tigers headed out to Arizona he'd have any turnover in the secondary. He said junior safety Jayron Kearse told him two days before the title game he would leave. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander and safety T.J. Green both decided after Clemson's loss.

The coach expected to concentrate on 2017 recruiting. Instead, the Tigers staff had to contact players they hadn't in some time. Swinney said Mullen, Simmons and Wallace were all eager to listen, even late in the process.

"The strength of our brand allowed us to finish strong in the DB spot," Swinney said.


Other things to know:

Top 25 Class: No. 8

Best in class: Dexter Lawrence, DE, Wake Forest, North Carolina. Lawrence picked Clemson over Florida State, Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame.

Best of the rest: Tavien Feaster, RB, Spartanburg, South Carolina; Tre Lamar, LB, Roswell, Georgia; Zerrick Cooper, QB, Jonesboro, Georgia; John Simpson, OL, North Charleston, South Carolina

Late addition: CB Isaiah Simmons of Olanthe, Kansas, also was considering Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri and Louisville.

One that got away: Defensive end Rashan Gary of Paramus, New Jersey. Gary, the nation's top prospect, had the Tigers has one of his two finalists before choosing Michigan.

How they'll fit in: Lawrence will bid for immediate playing time with linemen Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd off to the NFL. Feaster has speed like former Tiger great C.J. Spiller, Swinney says, and could be the home run hitter Clemson has missed in recent years.

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