Tigers' recruiting makes them a "benefit of the doubt" program


by - Senior Writer -
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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson into a recruiting powerhouse

CHARLOTTE, NC – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney isn’t worried about replacing players like Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams and Ben Boulware. In fact, Swinney enters the 2017 season feeling good about the roster he has in place. That’s because of the way the Tigers have recruited over the past few years.

Swinney spoke with the media at the ACC Kickoff this week in Charlotte, and as he answered questions about having to replace those departed stars, he kept reminding everybody that Clemson is one of the nation’s recruiting powerhouses.

“You recruit. You go recruiting. That's what you do. You don't sit around and pout about it,” Swinney said about the personnel losses. “That's just the nature of college football. I think that's what makes college football so exciting and so much fun. It's different. Guys, there's change every year. It's a new team. You know, when Tajh Boyd was gone, it was, how are you going to replace Tajh Boyd. Well, we went and got a guy named Deshaun Watson. He did okay. When Vic Beasley left, oh my God, how are you going to replace Vic Beasley? Well, we got a guy named Clelin Ferrell, he did alright last year. Nobody knew about him this time last year. How are you going to replace Grady Jarrett? Well, we went and got Christian Wilkins.”

One national analyst said Clemson has become one of those teams that get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to roster turnover, lumping the Tigers in with Alabama, Florida St. and Ohio St. when it comes to replacing great players season after season. Swinney that shows how much recruiting has changed since his first recruiting class in 2009.

“It's changed a lot. You know, I had to beg Tajh Boyd to let me come see him, try to just get in his house and try to lay out a vision for what we were wanting to build at Clemson, whereas now, as our brand has grown and we've had success, we're going to at least get a conversation,” he said. “You know, they're going to at least take the call or we're going to get in the school and they're going to come and see us. That's really helped us a ton because we've got a special place here, and when people come and visit, it sells itself. That's the biggest thing. If we can get guys on campus, we know that we're going to get our fair share of the right guys.

“That's been the biggest change is a lot of people, not only do they take our call or we get the visit, a lot of people are calling us. We have young men from all over the country now that would have never called us that want to come see Clemson, and I think that's pretty cool. But at the end of the day, it's not just getting players and filling your class. It's getting the right guys. That's really where the success comes from is getting the right guys that fit your culture, the philosophy of the program, that love football, their heart is in it, and they're guys that you're not going to have to chase to the weight room, guys that are truly committed to being a young person of excellence in everything that they do.”

Getting in the door leads to recruiting success.

“You know, we wouldn't have got a Christian Wilkins seven years ago, but because of our success, you know, we reach out to a guy and he's like, yeah, I'd love to come see Clemson,” Swinney said. “And all of a sudden he comes and sees it, and he's like, 'Wow, I like this place' and then he goes to other schools, and he ends upcoming to Clemson.

“I think that's the biggest difference from where we were obviously when we started, because now we can go out and we can -- we've got some results that we can share about the vision of our program and the academic success, the athletic success, the development, as opposed to eight years ago it was, this is what we hope to go do and build.”

Once he gets them on campus, Swinney wants to make sure that the players get the proper development.

“You go recruit, and then you develop your players. And I think that's probably one of the things that we do best is we develop our players, so when guys get their opportunity, they're prepared,” Swinney said. “I can give you example after example after example, whether it was a Kevin Dodd, a guy like that, or a Vic Beasley who developed and as a redshirt junior becomes a starter for the first time. We prepare those guys. That's why Wayne Gallman has gone to the Giants now. But we've got three good backs that are ready. We lost Leggett, and Leggett was a mainstay for us, but we've got good tight ends. We lost Mike Williams, but we got some pretty good players coming back. I've got a guy named Deon Cain that's played at a high level for us. It's kind of his time. So it's just next man up.

“And if you recruit well and you develop well, then you can sustain consistency, which is really what we're trying to do is just be a consistently competitive program that's in position to compete for this conference, because if we can compete for this conference year in and year out, hey, we're going to have those years where we get it done.”

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