Recruiting has Tigers set up for an extended run of success


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Recruits like Amari Rodgers, Hunter Johnson and Tee Higgins should keep Clemson in the conversation for years to come.
Recruits like Amari Rodgers, Hunter Johnson and Tee Higgins should keep Clemson in the conversation for years to come.

CLEMSON – The national narrative in many places is that when Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson takes his last snap in a Clemson uniform and takes his many talents to the NFL, the success that the Clemson program has had in recent seasons will go along with him.

The national narrative couldn’t be more wrong.

The Tigers were already on the upswing before Watson arrived on campus, and head coach Dabo Swinney has his program on a run of six consecutive 10-win seasons. The Tigers have appeared in BCS bowl games and are making a second appearance in the College Football Playoff this season.

Sure, Watson has been a major factor in Clemson’s success the past two season, but if one player made an entire team, then Louisville would be spending the holidays in the playoff and not in a mediocre bowl in Florida.

The Tigers are winning because of success across the board in recruiting, and the addition of 5-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence this weekend to the 2018 recruiting class sends a message to the rest of the country that the Tigers aren’t going anywhere.

It all starts at the top, according to co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott.

“This is my eighth or ninth year at Clemson, I think the leadership here at Clemson starting with President Clements and then Dan Radakovich and then Coach Swinney, that alignment along with the Board of Trustees, everybody at Clemson is on the same page,” Scott told TigerNet Friday. “It's just unbelievable how far we've come in a few years. I think recruits see that and families see that. We have something special at Clemson. They can see it when they are watching a game on TV, or maybe they see people from their school who are students at Clemson. The brand has improved tremendously over the last few years.”

It also helps to have a dynamic head coach.

“And then Coach Swinney and his philosophy in recruiting, he's one of the best-recruiting head coaches in the entire country,” Scott said. “One reason is because of how genuine he is and how honest he is and how normal he is. That is something that resonates with recruits and their families.”

The Tigers also have a track record – on the field, in the classroom and with the players’ themselves.

“I think the next piece is that Clemson has been here long enough that we have a track record. They see a guy like Deshaun Watson, who had an opportunity to go anywhere in the country and he chooses to come to Clemson and then three years later everything he has accomplished on the football field and then walking out with a degree in six semesters, that means something,” Scott said. “We say all the time in recruiting that actions speak louder than words. Sometimes in recruiting there are a lot of words that are said but I think the actions and the facts that are out there with the guys that come to Clemson, not only are they being very successful not only on the football field and in the classroom but they are having a great experience.

“That is something your current players can say, and they talk to these recruits. They aren't going to lie to recruits and tell them just what you want to tell them. Coach Swinney says our best recruiters are our players and if we are keeping our players as our main focus then the recruiting will take care of itself. That is just part of the philosophy we've had here at Clemson and why we continue to get better and better here.”

Landing Lawrence – the top-ranked player for the 2018 recruiting cycle – was a major coup for the coaching staff, and Swinney and Scott and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will get a lot of the credit. Behind the scenes, however, new assistant coach Kyle Richardson had a say in landing Lawrence.

Richardson was hired by Swinney in the spring to be an offensive analyst. Richardson had a strong track record working in the spread offense at Northwester, and the move seemed to be a perfect fit from an X’s and O’s standpoint.

But Richardson also understands high school players, and while he can’t leave the campus and recruit, he can host recruits while they are on campus, and Swinney’s move last March helped land Lawrence nine months later.

“Kyle is a guy that I've had an opportunity to get to know the last five or six years while he was at Northwestern,” Scott said. “He was actually one of my schools that I was personally assigned to recruit in this state. I watched him do an excellent job there at Northwestern, and I watched the way that he related to his players and how hard his players played for him and his genuine interest in his players' lives both on and off the field. And Coach Swinney saw the same thing, so when we had an opportunity to go hire a new coach in that role, his name was a name that came up.

“He does a great job for us behind the scenes in the things that he is allowed to do in the football building and in our offensive room. But whenever recruits come on campus he is able to engage with them, and he does an excellent job. Coming right out of high school he knows exactly where these guys and their parents are in the recruiting process and he's able to relate to them very well in a very first-class way.”

In other words, the Tigers have all the pieces in place to remain one of the nation’s top programs.

“When you build your program the right way, and you have a strong foundation, and you consistently recruit at a high level then you have an opportunity to sustain success like we've been able to do,” Scott said. “There is no doubt we will miss those guys, but we are also excited to see that next group walk through the door.”

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