by Nikki Hood - 2 years ago

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has an easy answer for fans who wonder how the Tigers’ annual recruiting classes are a smaller size than those of their rivals: Clemson doesn’t run players off, players don’t want to leave the program and Swinney doesn’t believe in over-signing and only recruits for the number of scholarships available.

Clemson signed 14 scholarship players Wednesday during National Signing Day, and will sign anywhere from 11-to-16 next year, and lead recruiter Brandon Streeter says Clemson keeps more players in the program than other schools.

“I don't know if I have the exact numbers or the exact history, but you have to look back on the retention of our players and guys that stay here at Clemson. The main reason they stay at Clemson is because of the culture and because of their experience here at Clemson University,” Streeter said in the team room of the new Clemson Football Complex. “I think that's where you're not losing guys and adding more numbers to that class or adding more numbers to the next class that you have to sign, so I do think that's a big part of it. There are schools out there that you see signing 25 every year and if you do the math, you're only getting 85 scholarships. If guys are leaving your program all of the time then that allows you to bring in more guys each and every class. That's my opinion. How it got this small - 14 guys - I'm not sure exactly other than we're retaining guys. We feel great about our kids, the ones that we have, and we do a great job, in our opinion, of developing them.”

Clemson’s numbers may be low this year and next, but a look back at the recent recruiting classes under Swinney show the Tigers have signed for than their fair share of players.

Clemson signed 22 in 2016, 26 in 2015, 22 in 2014, 23 in 2013, 20 in 2012, 29 in 2011, 23 in 2010 and the original Dandy Dozen in Swinney’s first recruiting class in 2009.

Swinney said Clemson’s class size comes down to simple math.

“It's simple math. I don't understand how you sign 25 every year. Twenty-five times four is 100. I don't think 25 freshmen play every year,” Swinney said. “I've never known 25 freshmen to play in a year. Usually, you redshirt a lot of those guys. If you've got 85 scholarships when you start the season and you lose 12, I don't know how you sign 25 unless you're running guys off or whatever.”

He then said he wouldn't run off players that don’t develop as fast as others.

“It's just not how we operate. We love our guys,” Swinney said. “We're committed to our guys. Our job is to develop them. It's til graduation do we part. We've got 14 spots, that's what we had, and we've got one spot left and that's going to be for whoever wins the punting job. We're going to have a heck of a little punting competition and whoever wins it is going to get that scholarship job in the fall. We have 14 to give, it's what we had. Like I said, next year we've got nine seniors and one guy leave the program. I've got 10 scholarships in my pocket for 2018.

“You evaluate your sophomore class that will be juniors. There are some guys in there that as time grows maybe will project to go sign 12, 13 or maybe 14. I don't know. Sometimes things happen that you don't know about. Sometimes a guy has a medical that you never saw coming. Sometimes a guy will just leave your program and you didn't see that coming. That can affect your number, but we don't project that. It's here's our number and that's what we recruit to, and we're very disciplined to that. We believe in developing our players. This is a developmental sport and we pour into these guys.”

Swinney said part of coaching is making sure that all players reach their potential, and he also wants all of his players to graduate.

“I always tell them, 'Good wood will burn once it's lit.' Sometimes it just takes a little longer to get it lit,” he said. “Marcus Edmond took a little longer to get lit a little big. There are a lot of guys like that - Ryan Carter, C.J. Fuller. Our roster is full of good wood that just takes a little longer, like Jadar Johnson. Sometimes you get some good kindling in here and it just blows up right out of the gate into a big flame. Other times it takes a little longer. Our job is to nurture that. We're very much a developmental program and that's why our guys graduate. That's why we've got an unbelievably uncommon graduation percentage here because guys stay.

“You just look at the draft this year - 103 juniors that have come out early for the draft and only eight of the 103 have a degree and four of the eight are from Clemson - Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams and Artavis Scott. Two of them graduated in three years. That's just the culture we have. Our guys graduate, they stay and that's awesome. A guy like Tyrone Crowder who could've left but comes back for his fifth year. Same thing with Carlos Watkins this past year. We have a culture like that here. That's the only way I know how to explain it. I don't know how to create more scholarships. Somebody teach me that math and maybe I can figure it out, but we're loyal to the guys that are here. That's who I'm committed and loyal to.”

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