CLEMSON— Schools out for summer, and that means that it is time for one of the biggest events on the campus of Clemson University—Dabo Swinney’s annual football camps.
The camps got underway last week with the youth camp. Which saw 1,000 boys and girls, all grades two through seven, decend onto the campus to learn the basics of football from the 2016 national champions.
After a quick two days of instruction, the next three weeks are the ones that everyone is talking about—the high school camps.
In a day and age where children are being recruited at younger and younger ages, Florida International head coach Lane Kiffin has already offered two 13-year-olds full scholarships, the purpose behind camps has become twofold—to develop talent and identify talent.
That is not the case for the defending national champions.
“Because, again, we’re run a football camp. We’ve not done a combine. We don’t do Senior Days and run 40s and jump verticals. We coach football,” Swinney said. “I think guys come and they don’t have the pressure on them and they can really improve in their craft.
“We’ve had an enormous amount of coaches, so guys have gotten a lot of work. We’ve tried to minimize O-lines (offensive lines) and things like that. We want guys getting a ton of reps.”
But do not let the fact that the Tigers are not running a combine fool you, they are constantly evaluating the talent that comes onto their campus—which is growing every year.
“The Paw is powerful,” Clemson’s Director of Recruiting and External Affairs, Thad Turnipseed said. “Nationally, the Paw is recognizable. Everybody wants to be a part of it. The culture in place here that Coach Swinney has created over the years, it recruits itself for the Clemson-type player that we want, a good kid where academics mean a lot. Those kids come here and see this culture. It recruits itself at that point.”
For Swinney and the Clemson program, the talent that has come through their camps has been seen for years on Saturdays inside Death Valley.
Names like Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams, among many others, were all participants of Swinney’s camps prior to wearing the orange and white. And many other future stars have attended, inlcuding current backup quarterbacks Hunter Johnson, Zerrick Cooper and Chase Brice, as well as incoming No. 1 player in the country Trevor Lawrence.
But the one thing that makes Swinney’s camps a breathe of fresh air in a world of high-stakes recruiting, is his genuine desire to see the players get the most out of their experience—regardless of where they are going to play football.
“Now, they are not all going to come to Clemson, but our big thing is we want to get guys better and help them be better prepared to go have a great season for their respective teams,” Swinney said. “I want to help these guys be the best they can be, but also help create opportunities for them. We have always had a lot of college coaches there just to give them a chance to scout a lot of these guys.”