By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Considering his pace since the bowl game, is it any surprise that Dabo Swinney looked tired.
Securing the 23 prospects that comprised a third straight top 15 recruiting class required travel from the far Eastern U.S. to the far, far West.
In case you wondered, its 5,574 miles from Clemson to Scott Pagano’s home in Honolulu, Hawaii and 783 miles from Clemson to Ebenezer Ogundeko’s home in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Swinney visited both players and their families during a month-long tour of the 19 others that signed National Letters of Intent with Clemson on Wednesday plus several others who chose alternative routes.
The visit to Brooklyn with assistant coach Dan Brooks was his first though not to New York City. Rather than try to negotiate the traffic, they hired a car and driver. Swinney joked, implying it was like country come to the city, Brooks probably in his favorite hand-tooled boots and Swinney staring at the tall buildings.
“It’s pretty different from Pelham, Alabama and Clemson,” Swinney said.
A fight broke out in Ogundeko’s school when they visited. Swinney suggested they look for cover but the kid didn’t flinch, which bodes well when he starts facing big-time teams in front of huge crowds. The highlight may have been meeting his mother and forming the kind of bond he didn’t have the chance to achieve with Robert Nkemdiche’s mom.
Joking again, Swinney said he was batting .500 with Nigerian mothers. It was unfortunate jab because it wasn’t necessary. The point was made by his ability to close a class that has the opportunity to fill the few chinks left by graduation, migration and abdication.
Most of the key components return to a team likely to enter the season in the top 10 with a bullet including a new center, enough depth at receiver to mask the loss of Nuk Hopkins and some interesting possibilities at tight end. Signing two running backs layered talent where Andre Ellington once held court.
This was defensive coordinator Brent Venables turn to harvest, so 15 of the 23 players signed Wednesday, including seven defensive backs, a couple of potential playmakers at defensive end and a linebacker with a motor that never idles.
“We more than met our needs with this class,” he said. “This is a group that joins a very talented team, and I don’t have any doubt that’s going to help us build the competitive depth we need to compete at the highest level.”
The two most interesting intersections of Swinney’s news conference were the discussion of the NCAA plans to create a monster through deregulation. He doesn’t like it because of the potential for further widening the gap between the “haves and have nots” and the burden it could create for the young men, their families and coaches.
The other was Swinney’s response to questions about the players Clemson did not sign like Nkemdiche and a few others that might have elevated this top 15 team to top 10 amongst the SEC horde.
“That mentality is like waking up at Christmas and having a lot of nice presents, and then going ‘is this all I got?’” he said. “We are ridiculously blessed here at Clemson. I don’t spend any time worrying about those we don’t get.
“There is a difference between need and greed. And sometimes we all get a little greedy.”
Swinney scoffs at the suggestion that players flock to SEC teams and disregard most of the others. And who needs them anyway? Clemson won two of three games with SEC opponents last season and starts this year with Georgia, finishes with South Carolina and would probably welcome a crack at his alma mater in a bowl game.
“We’ve raised the bar,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do that, continue to recruit the best player. Listen, we’re beyond the point where people are surprised when we sign a great player or a great class
“It’s been quite a journey over the last four years getting us to where we want to be, but we’re certainly at a point now where we can request the best of the best,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of people that wish we’d go away, but we’re not going anywhere.”