It’s natural and sensible for people to think that the Battle of the Palmetto State between Clemson and South Carolina each year is also a battle of the state on the recruiting trail with big implications for each school as far as in-state recruiting depending on the outcome.
However, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney doesn’t really see it that way.
“I don’t really think it matters as much as people think,” Swinney said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Foremost, that’s because the schools are unalike in many aspects, Swinney said.
“We really don’t compete with South Carolina as much in state as you would think, and the reason is we’re just so different,” Swinney said. “I mean you couldn’t have more differences in the program, the locations, the environments — you name it — conferences or whatever. So, usually if a kid just loves South Carolina, he’s probably not going to like Clemson too much.”
And when it comes to recruiting in South Carolina, Swinney believes the school a prospect grows up rooting for is of no minor importance.
In some instances throughout his nine years at Clemson, Swinney has found it difficult to recruit an in-state prospect who has been a fan of South Carolina his whole life.
“That’s just the way it is because of the state and the culture that we have here,” Swinney said. “Some of these kids that you’re going to love in the recruiting process and evaluate and really like, you know what, they grew up South Carolina, and that’s just hard to overcome. Or they grew up Clemson, and it’s hard to overcome unless you’ve just got bad people involved.”
The exception to that is some cases where a recruit who favors South Carolina isn’t offered by the school but is offered by Clemson, or vice versa.
“Sometimes there’s a kid that is a Clemson guy that maybe we don’t offer that has an opportunity to stay at home and go to South Carolina,” Swinney said. “Or there’s a kid that’s a South Carolina fan that grew up South Carolina, but maybe they didn’t offer that we really like. And we have both of those on our team. We have that situation, they have that situation.”
Swinney also noted that the pool of talent the rival schools vie for is relatively small compared to other states because of South Carolina’s population, and then it becomes even smaller when factoring in criteria such as academics that a prospect has to meet in order to be recruited by the schools.
So, Swinney has seen Clemson and South Carolina compete for more recruits out of state than those in it.
“The more recruiting that we do against each other will come out of state, kids that come in and are interested in looking at both programs in the state from out of state,” Swinney said. “But in state, it’s not as much as you would think.”
As always, a number of high-profile prospects will be watching when Clemson and South Carolina square off on Saturday in Death Valley.
Swinney didn’t fully discount the importance or impact of the game in recruiting — he simply thinks it’s not what it seems to be on the surface.
And in the end, he’s happy that recruits in South Carolina have the opportunity to stay and play in state.
“At the end of the day, it’s great to see the kids of our state have an opportunity to stay at home and play at two really good programs in front of their families and friends,” Swinney said. “So I think that’s a positive, but as far as just winning the game and that just makes somebody’s decision — or having a good year or bad year — I don’t really think that’s as big a deal as a lot of people may think.”