TigerNet.com
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 12:37 AM
Are the Tigers building for a championship run? Recruiting says yes
by David Hood
Senior Writer

The end of Dabo Swinney’s high school camp signals the end of another Clemson athletic year for most of us, especially with the drama of baseball and Jack Leggett now firmly in the rear view mirror (for now) and all of the athletic teams on summer break.

The football coaches are on vacation, and even though you may think that we have a million days until football season, we get all of the coaches in a mere four weeks at Swinney’s media outing and golf tournament. The ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro is later that week, and we are off to the races. Hold on for four more weeks……

However, I did want to catch up on some final camp thoughts before we are too far removed from the event itself, simply because there was a lot happening and a lot going on in what I consider the busiest camp that’s been held to date. Were there as many commitments as in the past? No, but that’s because this recruiting class is heading to the finish line, and it was a chance to firm up opinions or make first impressions on some solid targets for the 2015 class and to get a head start on the 2016 and 2017 classes.

The ‘WOW’ factor

I remember walking out onto the field a few years ago – to watch Charone Peake – and getting blown away by some kid from Fort Myers named Sammy Watkins. I’ve seen a lot of players come through the camps since then, and there have been more than a few wow moments but none that have impressed quite like Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud. The closest I can remember was seeing Todd Gurley at the Shrine Bowl after his senior season.

Deon Cain is silky smooth, and he will be a great fit for Chad Morris’ offense. So will McCloud, the kind of player that Morris can use all over the field. Was McCloud the same as Sammy Watkins? No, there was only one Sammy. But McCloud has “it” and “it” can’t be defined by stars or recruiting rankings.

Clemson’s coaches

It’s always fun to see Clemson’s coaches in their natural environment – we don’t get to attend practice during the season (except for stretching sessions) and this is really our only chance to see how these guys operate and how they react around recruits.

My favorites – simply for the sake of the one liners and not how they coach – are Tony Elliott, Danny Pearman and Marion Hobby.

During one session, Hobby was trying to explain a drill to his campers, explaining that he wanted them to hold the bag and face sideways. He took a few minutes to explain it, and the poor kid at the bag at the time just kept facing forward. Finally, you could see by the look on the kid’s face that he finally understood what Hobby wanted, and he turned sideways. With a straight face, Hobby pointed his finger in the air and said, “It was like, Eureka!”

Facilities and recruiting

One of my favorite movie quotes is from “Field of Dreams.” The voice tells Ray Kinsella, “If you build it, he will come.”

Well, Clemson has certainly built the facilities for the football program and top flight recruits are flocking to the campus. The WestZone, the indoor practice facility, the new locker rooms and the improvements to Death Valley have all helped recruiting.

As I mentioned during the week, one high school coach told me that in the past he brought his players to Clemson’s camp in the hopes that the coaches might take a flyer on one of them. However, he said that Clemson’s recruiting is on another level and the Tigers are going to head-to-head with Alabama, Florida St., and Auburn for a lot of these kids. In other words, the Tigers are going head-to-head with national championship contenders and winning a lot of these battles.

I had a long conversation with a long time college coach who had stopped by the camp, and he had an interesting observation: While the Tigers have had back-to-back years with 11 wins, and had bowl wins over LSU and Ohio St., the losses to Florida St. and South Carolina have stung. I mentioned that beating those two have to be at the top of Swinney’s list, and he shook his head and said Swinney can’t think that way.

With the talent on hand and the talent that is coming, he said that he thinks Clemson is in the beginning stages of a long run of excellence, and he thinks they can play for a national title at some point in the next three years. He said Swinney has to concentrate simply on winning and building a monster program – something he’s doing – and beating FSU and South Carolina will take care of itself. An interesting observation, and I’m not sure that most Clemson fans would agree with it – but interesting. And it’s interesting to see that people outside of the program think that what has happened over the past two seasons is just the tip of the iceberg.

And don’t forget that football has more facilities on the way – enhancements to the WestZone and the rest of the football facilities had coaches and recruits buzzing last week. One high school program tweeted from camp last week that Clemson is “about to change the game.”

Just an FYI #Clemson is about to change the game w the facilities they're about to build! #Crazy #ThemePark

— Cougar Nation (@CreekFootball1) June 14, 2014

As one high school coach told me – as he looked at Clemson commits Jake Fruhmorgen, Noah Green and Mitch Hyatt laughing and talking – building on the lines is how you build champions. Is Swinney building something special at Clemson? Only time will tell, but it’s hard to argue with the way Clemson is recruiting right now, and last week’s camp simply made that point hit home.


David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com