There may be no other program in the country that goes about recruiting the way Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers go about it.
Under Swinney’s guidance, the Tigers have evolved into one of the nation’s premier programs and recruit as well as anyone in the country. And they do it without throwing out hundreds of offers each cycle.
In fact, Clemson routinely hands out far fewer offers than most. The coaching staff has prided itself on making an offer from the Tigers mean something and have been highly successful at finding players they consider to be the right cultural fit for the program.
Finding that right fit might sound difficult on the surface but during an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s podcast, the Clemson head coach said many times he only needs a few minutes to know.
“I don’t even have to go on a trip,” Swinney said. “I mean I can spend five minutes with a guy. I think that’s something that has led to our success. I never, we never sign transfers or junior college players. Everything has been through the draft, if you will, to this point. We may have to change or adjust, who knows. But that’s been our philosophy from day one.”
Swinney said that he and the rest of his coaching staff make transparency one of the highest priorities, even if that means having to be brutally honest with potential recruits.
“The philosophy of our program is to serve their heart, not their talent,” he said. “That starts in the recruiting process to me. We’re incredibly transparent, like brutally. If you look at, I think we had three decommitments in six years. That’s because we’re incredibly transparent. I hate the term, sometimes people say we got to de-recruit them. If we have to de-recruit somebody, we weren’t authentic, we weren’t genuine. We didn’t tell them the truth. I don’t want to de-recruit nobody. I want them to know the way it’s going to be.”
The Tigers’ longtime head coach said that playing at Clemson isn’t for everyone and that being talented will never be enough to get any one player onto the field.
“If you don’t go to class here, you ain’t playing,” Swinney said. “If you’re not going to follow the rules and you’re not going to be a good citizen, if you’re going to be out smoking dope, whatever it is, you ain’t playing. It’s just that simple. Don’t come here. We’re not going to use you. We’re going to empower you, serve you hard. And it’s been like that since day one. That’s not for everybody. But we got to get the right guys. There’s been a ton of guys, a ton, who have all kind of offers that never get an offer from Clemson.”
It’s a process that has been extremely successful for Swinney and the Tigers. The program had won six consecutive ACC Championships, appeared in the College Football Playoff six straight times and won two national titles heading into the 2021 season. Not to mention the talent that Clemson is pumping into the NFL.
However, when Swinney speaks about the success of the program, those things aren’t always the first things that come to mind. To him, it’s about not only developing football players and having success on the field, but developing men, and that includes making sure his players get their degrees.
“We’ve been a developmental, relationship-driven program,” Swinney said. “And if that’s your philosophy, you better be right on the front end. Nine out of of ten years, Top-10 academically. You can’t have a lot of attrition and running guys off like that. Our kids graduate. We’re 98% graduation rate since I’ve been the head coach. That’s the No. 1 thing in our program.”