SPARTANBURG, S.C. - When Eric MacLain first visited Clemson, he expected to stay one day and meet with defensive line coach Dan Brooks, the man who recruited him to Tennessee, where MacLain was originally committed.
Plans quickly changed.
MacLain spent four days of his spring break at Clemson and realized that it was the place for him. He met the coaches and some players, and toured the campus. Everything felt right. The four-star tight end from Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt has been committed to the Tigers since April 17.
"It really felt like a family there when I went and visited, and I got to hang out with all the players," said MacLain, who's preparing for Saturday's Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. "It was really comfortable when I went, moreso than all the other colleges I visited."
What has helped sustain MacLain's commitment and kept him so excited about Clemson's future is the outstanding recruiting class coach Dabo Swinney and his staff have compiled.
Five-star running back Mike Bellamy leads the group. Clemson has seven four-star commits, including MacLain, and could close out the class with a few other talented recruits.
Rivals.com rates Clemson's class second in the ACC behind only Florida State. The Tigers are fifth nationally, trailing only Texas, Alabama, the Seminoles and Oklahoma.
"I'm extremely excited about it," MacLain said. "We all have a really good relationship with each other and the amount of talent we have coming in will be really superb. It's going to be fun in Tiger Town.
"Most of them are on the South Carolina side this week so I see them in the hotel but I text all of them weekly if not daily. We already have a really good relationship."
Rated as the sixth-best tight end and No. 51 nationally by Rivals.com, MacLain committed to Tennessee early. But after former coach Lane Kiffin left for USC, MacLain's recruitment got turned upside-down and changes had to be made.
The Tigers are getting a superb talent who has the potential to be an outstanding contributor if used the right way, Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said.
"If they utilize him effectively, he can be a Jason Witten-type who can block, find soft spots in coverage, move the chains and become a five- or six-catch guy per game," Farrell said. "He has great hands, is very smart, uses his body to shield defenders and he's physical."
MacLain has proven multiple times at various events that he is an elite tight end. He was one of the top performers at the VTO Sports combine in April 2009. He stood out at the Charlottesville NIKE Camp that May. Then he looked good at the Badger Sports 7-on-7 event and at other showcases throughout his high school career.
In the Shrine Bowl this weekend, MacLain hopes to continue playing well, which could be a stepping stone for a promising college career just about 70 miles down the road at Clemson.