Dabo Swinney has said it many times: If the Tigers can get a prospect on campus, then they have a chance to get him — no matter how slim the odds might appear to be.
There are plenty of instances in Clemson’s recruiting during Swinney’s tenure that validate his belief. But perhaps the two best examples have come in the last two recruiting cycles with five-star offensive lineman Jackson Carman and four-star running back Travis Etienne.
Clemson was considered a longshot to land both Carman and Etienne. The Tigers were competing with Ohio State for the state of Ohio’s top prospect in Carman, while they faced the tall task of beating out LSU for one of Louisiana’s best in Etienne.
But Clemson managed to get both Carman and Etienne on campus before they made their final decisions, and that was the difference in the end.
Carman visited Clemson only two times before signing with the Tigers on Wednesday, including an official visit this month, while he had been to nearby Ohio State numerous times. However, he saw all he needed to at Clemson during his brief time on campus.
Similarly, Etienne made just one visit to Clemson, less than two weeks before inking with the program, and did not attend a game in Death Valley as a recruit. Likewise, Carman won’t experience a game in Death Valley until he plays in one.
You hear recruits rave all the time about Clemson’s family atmosphere, how Clemson feels like home to them. Carman and Etienne certainly felt that culture and felt comfortable when they stepped foot on campus.
“It says a lot about what we’re about here,” Clemson recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter said. “When you’re beating teams like Ohio State for the No. 1 player in their state, that says a lot of good things. And Jackson Carman only came on campus a couple times. It was somewhat similar to Etienne last year. We got on him late. We had been recruiting Jackson for a while, but he was only on campus a couple times. Well Etienne came, and soon after that one weekend, he committed to us.
“So again, it says a lot about the people, and that’s the neatest thing about this place. If we can get guys to come on our campus and meet as many people as possible, it’s such an advantage because we don’t just talk it — people can feel it and sense it and touch it when they get on our campus. And obviously the facilities are the icing on the cake, but we’re second to none as far as that’s concerned, too. So that definitely helps.”
It says a lot about the people, and that’s the neatest thing about this place. If we can get guys to come on our campus and meet as many people as possible, it’s such an advantage because we don’t just talk it — people can feel it and sense it and touch it when they get on our campus.”
The Tigers continue to recruit at an elite level. Clemson’s 2018 class that contains four five-star prospects — and the top-ranked prospect in five different states — is currently ranked fifth nationally by ESPN. Clemson has finished in the top 10 of ESPN’s class rankings in each of the last three years.
There are a lot of reasons that the nation’s best recruits choose to play at Clemson. The top-notch facilities, opportunity to compete for championships on a yearly basis and atmosphere in Death Valley are just a few of those.
But Streeter cited the culture Swinney has created at Clemson, and the people in that culture, as the common denominators for why prospects most want to go there.
“I think if it came down to what was the number one reason, I think they just like to play for the people that are here,” Streeter said. “They love coach Swinney. I mean how do you not? The energy that you get… And they love the coaching staff and they love the people who are making that culture. Obviously that goes with the players that are here, too. That’s a big part of it. So I would say that would be the top thing.”
The key ingredient in Clemson’s recruiting success, Streeter said, is finding not only the most talented prospects but prospects that fit the culture at Clemson.
“The most exciting thing is those kids — all the kids that we got (Wednesday) — are a perfect fit for who we’re about,” Streeter said. “And that’s the secret sauce to our recruiting. We’re not just going and chasing five-star guys. We’re going and chasing the best guys that fit our program.”