Relationships a key part of Clemson recruiting success

by - Senior Writer -
Dabo Swinney with Clemson signee Jayron Kearse

The Clemson coaching staff reeled in a Top 15 recruiting class for the third consecutive year this past Wednesday, an important steppingstone for a program that wants to win championships.

Recruiting – and the development of those recruits once they get on campus – are the lifeblood of all college football programs, and Clemson now has many of the facilities in place to sustain this level of success.

The WestZone, the locker rooms, the upgrades to Death Valley, expensive video boards and the new indoor practice facility are the kind of “bling” that recruits want to see when they walk on a college campus. Head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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cited the practice facility and its “wow” factor as one of the main reasons Clemson recruited so well this year.

Winning? That helps of course. It’s no surprise that teams like Alabama continue to reel in the nation’s top players – the chance to win a championship would be one of my first priorities if I was picking a school – but winning doesn’t guarantee success and losing doesn’t preclude that success.

If you need proof of that, look at the recruiting class Ole Miss signed this year. Look at Clemson’s recruiting class two years ago, just a month after the Tigers completed a 6-7 season and a loss to South Florida in a bowl game no one cared about.

So what brings in the top recruits? It’s a little bit of everything I’ve mentioned so far, sprinkled with educational opportunities and family wishes and various other factors that play small roles.

However, ESPN recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree stated this past week that his group polled high school prospects at the Under Armour All-America Game last month in Florida, and more than 60 percent cited relationships with head and assistant coaches as a reason they made their college choice.

I talk to a lot of recruits, and that is one of the first things mentioned by each recruit when describing why certain schools sit atop their leaderboard.

“I have a great relationship with the coaches.”

The good news for Clemson fans is that Dabo Swinney has assembled a staff of dedicated and successful recruiters, with recruiting coordinator Jeff ScottJeff Scott
Assistant Coach / WRs / Recruiting Coordinator
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leading the way. Tony ElliottTony Elliott
Assistant Coach / Running Backs
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draws high marks for his youthful energy. Marion HobbyMarion Hobby
Assistant Coach / Defensive Ends
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is old school, and has a great resume to go along with a quiet confidence. Dan BrooksDan Brooks
Assistant Coach / Defensive Line
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has built relationships with high school coaches across the region, and that comfort helps build relationships with players. Robbie CaldwellRobbie Caldwell
Assistant Coach / Offensive Line
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is personable and honest. Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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is a dynamo, the kind of coach a player wants to play for. Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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has expanded Clemson's reach with his Texas ties. Danny PearmanDanny Pearman
Assistant Head Coach / Tight Ends
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has recruited well in North Carolina. New defensive backs coach Mike ReedMike Reed
Defensive Backs Coach
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stepped into the game late in the recruiting process and was a pivotal part of Clemson’s solid class.

And then, there’s Swinney himself, a coach who built much of his reputation early on with his recruiting successes. That success has carried over into the present, and it’s no secret that his success as a recruiter ties directly into his personality. Tom O’Brien or Al Groh – two coaches who would never give anyone the warm fuzzies – he isn’t.

Scott said this week that Swinney is indeed different than many of the head coaches who hit the recruiting trail today.

"I think something that's happened in the college game is that you see a lot of head coaches we're recruiting against that have been doing it for so long that there's almost a shield that's up," Scott said. "If you ask them 'where are we right now' during a home visit, they don't even know what city they're in or who they're talking to. They're just there to give the same message. I think one of the strengths in our recruiting is our head coach. No. 1, he enjoys recruiting and is very involved in it. And the other thing is that he's very personable."

Scott said players learn very early in the recruiting process how to spot the fakes.

"Coach Swinney is just so real, and the players can feel that and they're attracted to that," Scott explained. "He may be similar to coaches they've had along the way throughout their high school careers. His personality and his energy and his passion for Clemson and this program really resonates with our prospects."

Once a recruit identifies with Swinney and his message, it usually ends with positive results.

"We can tell as we go through the process early-on if a young man is really going to like Coach Swinney and if he's a Clemson kind of guy," Scott said. "That's something that we try to determine early. Once we get them to that point where Coach Swinney is involved, it's usually pretty good for Clemson."

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