Clemson has consistently recruited at a high level since Dabo Swinney took the reigns of the program in 2008.
Only once since then has a Clemson signing class been ranked outside of the top 25 nationally, according to Rivals, and that was Swinney’s first class in 2009. Six of Clemson’s nine classes under Swinney have been ranked in the top 15.
Furthermore, with the nation’s top two prospects committed for 2018, Clemson is well positioned to ink a top-10 class for the third time in four years according to Rivals.
So, the Tigers are bringing in some of the nation’s top talent year in and year out. How do they go about doing it?
For one, Swinney and his staff have a lot to sell to prospective student-athletes, from the university’s academic prestige to the football program’s culture, rich tradition and topflight facilities.
“Because of everything that Clemson has to offer, we can recruit at a very high level,” Clemson assistant Jeff Scott said in an interview with the Playced Recruiting Network this spring.
Clemson’s formula for success on the recruiting trail encompasses much more than simply a good sales pitch, though.
It starts with evaluating talent, something that Clemson has done a good job of over the years through a careful approach.
Clemson generally knows who its top targets are by the time they’re upperclassmen.
“Typically speaking, we start identifying the young men we have interest in either freshman or sophomore year of high school,” Scott said. “That’s when we really get serious about getting names on our recruiting boards and into our database. We’ll start watching film on those guys and make those initial evaluations that are so important.”
Just as important to Clemson is evaluating a prospect’s character. Clemson prides itself on recruiting quality individuals that fit the established culture.
“We don’t go very far with any recruit before we get a transcript to see where they stand academically. The academic transcript tells us a lot about them as a person,” Scott said. “We believe that grades are indicative of character and a commitment to be great. We are not just trying to find the best players we can find. We want the kids that are elite, high achievers on and off the field.”
As the staff goes through the evaluation process, it is also mindful of the team’s needs that must be addressed or the holes that need to be filled.
“That can change from year-to-year, so that also plays a factor into who we are recruiting,” Scott said. “If we’re losing two 6’4” receivers and we don’t have any more guys on the roster that are over 6’3”, then we may only be looking for 6’3”-plus receivers during that recruiting cycle. Much of the attention a recruit will receive from us is based on what we are looking for out of that particular recruiting class.”
All the while, social media plays a major role in Clemson’s recruiting efforts, helping promote the brand and making it easier for the Tigers to communicate with prospects and find out more about them.
Social media helps Clemson weed out prospects with potential character issues, as well.
“At Clemson, we have an entire office whose sole duty is to go through the social media of our prospects,” Scott said. “It’s extremely important for us to understand who we are dealing with. That office will look through the content and report to our coaching staff on what they are finding.
“Every year, we will eliminate prospects on our board because of questionable content. We’ve eliminated guys for inappropriate language, images, re-tweets or anything that we see as a red flag. Conversely, guys have moved up on our board because of the positive things we are able to learn through the various social media channels. It serves as a tremendous resource for us.”
When Clemson extends a scholarship offer to a recruit, it means he has met the program’s criteria and standard for an offer following in-depth evaluation.
And when recruits commit to Swinney and Clemson, they stay committed more times than not.
“We’re just not a school that throws out a bunch of verbal offers,” Scott said. “You know, the times have changed and it seems you’re always hearing about athletes de-committing these days. Coach Swinney has a different policy than many of the other schools across the country in that once a player makes a commitment to Clemson, his recruiting process is over. He’s not going to be talking to any other coaches and won’t be going on any other visits. He’s a Clemson Tiger.
“In return, that young man that accepts our offer has a reciprocated commitment from us. That means we are fully invested and committed to him, his roster spot is secure and all recruiting for the need he just filled, stops.”
Clemson has become an elite-recruiting program, and as you can tell, it hasn’t happened by accident.
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