CHARLOTTE—Dabo Swinney has seen the highs and lows when it comes to the fickle nature of recruiting football players to Clemson.
From the days of begging a Tajh Boyd to come to Clemson, the Tigers recruiting philosophy has seen a dramatic shift to now, when Clemson calls—they are answering the phones. And once they get those four and five-star recruits on campus, more times than not, they are landing them.
“It’s changed a lot,” Swinney said. “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.
“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.”
The Tigers’ recent success has created another recruiting shift.
Now recruits are not only willing to answer the phone when Clemson calls, but recruits from across the country are now calling the Tigers. But even with an increase in the Tiger’s incoming phone calls, the Tigers are not about to compromise on the one thing that has led the Tigers to the top of college football—their culture.
“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,” Swinney said. “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.”
Only three years ago, Swinney recalled that a player by the name of Christian Wilkins–the No. 4 ranked defensive tackle recruit, who left Springfield, Mass to play for Swinney– who came to see what Clemson had to offer, and has ended up becoming a leader.
“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.”
For Swinney and the rest of the coaching staff, their success on the recruiting trail is a direct result of one thing and one thing only—the difference in results and hope.
“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,” Swinney said. “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.”