Recruiting for Dabo Swinney and Clemson is a whole lot easier now than it was eight years ago when the head coach took over.
Having appeared in a BCS or College Football Playoff game three of the last four seasons, Swinney and the coaching staff are simply selling results on the recruiting trail.
Eight years ago, they were selling hope and their vision for the program to players such as Tajh Boyd, Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward.
“That’s really the biggest change,” Swinney said this week. “In eight years to see it where we are now, it’s special.”
Swinney pointed to developments in recruiting after last season’s run to the national title game as the biggest example of Clemson’s elevated stature as a program and in recruiting.
Following the decisions of Mackensie Alexander, T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse to depart for the NFL following the national championship game, Clemson found itself looking for multiple defensive backs after initially not having any scholarships for DBs heading into the season and thus not planning to take any in the 2016 class.
Three weeks before signing day, Clemson moved quickly to do research on various recruits before reaching out to players it hadn’t been in contact with before.
“I can’t go sign scholarships that I don’t have, so we really weren’t in the DB business last year, and now all of a sudden we had guys that moved on and now we’re getting in the DB business,” Swinney said.
One of the first players Swinney got on the phone with was four-star safety Isaiah Simmons from Olath, Kansas, who had narrowed his recruitment down to Michigan and Nebraska, and who was talking to Swinney for the first time.
“I get on the phone with him, and I say, ‘Are you interested?’” Swinney remembered. “I think he had like one (official) visit left, and he’s like, ‘Yeah. I’d love to come visit Clemson.’”
On Feb. 3, Simmons signed with Clemson. So did Coconut Creek (Fla.) cornerback Trayvon Mullen and Highland Springs (Va.) safety K’Von Wallace, the latter of whom Swinney hadn’t heard of until after last season.
“That’s what success does,” Swinney said. “That’s what our brand has done for us.”
“Eight years ago, he wouldn’t have taken my phone call,” Swinney added of Mullen. “So, that’s the biggest change.”
The most recent example is the commitment Clemson garnered on Thursday from the nation’s top prospect in the 2018 class, Cartersville (Ga.) five-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Expected to make a decision between Clemson and Georgia at some point in the spring, Lawrence pulled the trigger earlier than anticipated.
The pitch for Clemson in recruiting is just easier to make now with the program firmly established among the nation’s elite. And the expansion of Clemson’s brand on a national scale has extended its reach in recruiting to around the globe.
More prospects want to visit Clemson. And Swinney has always been a believer that if he gets a prospect on campus, then he has a chance.
“We get in more homes,” Swinney said. “It’s easier to get people to save a visit for Clemson because our brand has grown so much.”
Apart from the evidence of superior results on the field, Clemson’s message to prospects has remained consistent.
With the Tigers at the top of the totem pole in college football, though, that message just resonates more emphatically now.
“As far as everything else, it’s the same because we’re still selling the same core values of our program and what we’re about, the philosophy of the program,” Swinney said. “None of that has changed. That’s all the same.
“It’s just backed up by some pretty good results.”