Chris Fowler: Clemson is elite and isn't going anywhere
|Friday, January 6, 2017, 1:55 PM- -|
TAMPA, FL – There is no disputing the fact that the Clemson football is in great shape. Let’s face it, it’s a good time to be a Tiger fan.
The program will be appearing in its second consecutive title game Monday night against Alabama, recruiting is off the charts and the new football operations center is a game-changer that will make other programs across the country look at their facilities and the way they operate.
But can Clemson sustain that success, or will they fall off? Michigan St. stumbled to 3-9 this season after an appearance in the playoff last season. Oregon? They have a new head coach. Texas? They are on their second head coach in the last four seasons. It isn’t always easy to stay at the top, so TigerNet asked ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler this question earlier in the week – can the Tigers sustain this success?
They both said yes, and Fowler said part of the reason is that Clemson has a little something different than other schools.
“Clemson's program, you watch how Clemson is recruiting. You watch how they recruit in the region. Even to get into recruits somewhat nationally. They have a fertile recruiting area around there,” Fowler told TigerNet. “What they have to sell is a little bit different. They sell it in a different way than some programs. It really is this people-first, family, loving environment. Yes, you can win a championship. Yes, you can get to the NFL. But you're not going to come here and be a cog in the wheel. You're not going to be a piece in the process. You're going to be an individual that we look after and take care of and nurture.”
He then said that is the key to Clemson’s recruiting success.
“I think that's a message that seems to resonate really well to parents and players. Clemson has a whole lot to sell,” Fowler said. “I think he (head coach Dabo Swinney) and his staff are recruiting as well as just about anybody. I don't see why it wouldn't be sustainable.”
Herbstreit went a step further and called Clemson’s program “elite.”
“I think they've reached that status of an elite program. It's been five or six years now that they've been able to recruit consistently,” Herbstreit said. “They have a brand-new, multi-million dollar facility which they're moving over to which will be great to kind of continue. You know how it is with facilities, kind of showing the commitment to the program.
“The big thing will be just continuing to get quarterbacks, which they've done. They have some guys that already signed, a guy who is a junior, a verbal.”
Herbstreit said he understands that Swinney has a reputation as a rah-rah guy, but parents see Swinney in a different light.
“Dabo has a way about him. It's very, very real. I think parents feel that when they talk to him. I think he has a pretty good track record of recruiting at a very high level, graduating kids, taking care of them,” Herbstreit said. “For him, if you bust your tail, aren't a five-star recruit, you're a walk-on, you do everything right on and off the field, he's going to play you. He does it. That word gets out. So it's not just about the Deshaun Watsons. It's about the entire roster. It's hard to keep an entire roster happy and win at the same time.
“I think because of his personality and appreciation for top to bottom on the roster, being a former walk-on, he has a really unique ability to relate to every single guy on the team. That to me, with the resources that they have, the facilities that they now have, there's no reason that Clemson is going to go away anytime soon.”
Fowler then said that Clemson’s success not only has to do with the 5-star recruits, but with the players who are walk-ons and weren’t highly recruited that develop into contributors.
“That's a great example. Look at this year's team. I'll give you a couple quick examples. (Wayne) Gallman, not highly recruited. Jordan Leggett, not highly recruited. (Ben) Boulware, barely recruited. (Hunter) Renfrow, walk-on. Mike Williams wasn't a five-star guy either. His talent is obvious. Deshaun, obviously everybody wanted.
“The team is built around guys with different kinds of backgrounds. Yeah, they have plenty of the five-star guys, they'll continue to get them. They'll also continue to get guys that maybe aren't as heralded and just really developing. I think those guys will always have a place in Clemson's program.”
It also helps that the Tigers graduate their players.
“Then you look at what happened with Watson graduating in three years, Williams graduating, Leggett graduating all in December, all as juniors,” Fowler said. “You just throw that out there to parents and players and say, This isn't spin, this is reality. It's a very strong selling point.”