The strength of Clemson’s brand has continued to grow in recent years, and that has been evidenced by its expanding reach on the recruiting trail.
Thanks in part to the “power of the Paw”, Clemson has had increasing success recruiting on a national level over the past few years. More than ever, the Tigers are proving they can go outside of their regional footprint and get top talent from across the country.
“The strength of our brand right now and the power of the Paw is definitely the strongest it’s ever been,” Clemson recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter told TCI. “That’s obvious. Just when we go out on the road, it’s obvious.”
Streeter can recall plenty of times when he’s been on the road visiting recruits in faraway places and noticed the power of the Paw on full display.
“You just go into places that Clemson really hadn’t been before, but you get that immediate, positive response from coaches across the country that have never been to Clemson before and say that they’ve watched us on TV a lot and just love what we’re doing as a program and love how are culture is,” Streeter said. “They see it from that far away, and it’s pretty special.
“It’s neat to see posters or quotes from Dabo at their high school, and I’ve never even heard of the high school before, let alone been in that city before. And then whenever a coach introduces you to a prospect and the coach says that we’re from Clemson, you see them perk up real quick, and they become interested a lot faster just because it’s Clemson. So, there’s definitely a lot of times that happens on the road.”
Clemson’s 2019 recruiting class is shaping up to be arguably the best example yet of its expanding recruiting reach. With February’s National Signing Day still seven months away, the Tigers already hold commitments from prospects in 11 different states, including Michigan, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Maryland and Alabama.
Clemson is starting to see more interest from top prospects as far away as California. The Tigers are squarely in contention for California recruits such as three-star linebacker Spencer Lytle, four-star wide receiver Joseph Ngata and 2020 five-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.
Clemson’s on-field success — three straight trips to the College Football Playoff, a national title two years ago and the exposure that comes with it all — has no doubt helped Clemson become a national brand.
“The word is spreading more from further out,” Streeter said. “I know there’s some guys in California… We’ve been out in California a little bit more, but it’s not like we’ve gone out there to get them — they’ve come and shown interest in us first, and then we’ve reciprocated it and gone out there.”
Added Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott: “I do think the exposure that we’ve gotten over the last four or five years has definitely strengthened our brand. Now we’re having players from California call us and say that Clemson’s their dream school, that they’ve been watching guys like Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins and these guys play for the last four or five years growing up, and they’d love to come out and visit.”
So, exactly how strong is the power of the Paw right now?
Well, a recent survey of recruits by Pick Six Previews named Clemson the No. 1 brand in college football. The survey asked 224 recruits to rate their “interest and desire” in each program as if they were the nation’s top-ranked recruit.
Clemson was given an 8.71 rating, ahead of Ohio State (8.68), Penn State (8.48) and Georgia (8.31).
“It’s the number-one brand in America right now,” Clemson defensive tackles coach Todd Bates said. “People recognize that Paw. They’ve recognized Clemson, what we’ve been able to accomplish under Coach Swinney, having 10-plus wins the last seven years and also academic success, being one of the four teams that can claim during that same timeframe being in the top 10 percent APR wise.
“So, I think it’s the best of both worlds, and guys are graduating. We’ve had 196 seniors, 192 graduates under Coach Swinney. So, guys are going to get what they came for here — not just an opportunity on the field, but a degree and a high-quality degree.”
While Clemson has made strides recruiting nationally, it hasn’t lost sight of the importance of recruiting regionally and inside the state of South Carolina.
“For us, it starts from the inside out,” Scott said. “Coach Swinney reminds our coaches of that every day. It starts inside of our state. We want to be sure that we know who the top freshmen, sophomores and juniors are in our state. The guys we feel like can help us win championships at Clemson, then we want to go get those guys. And then it goes to that next level, which is kind of that four- to five-hour radius driving distance. We want to do a great job inside of that, and that’s really where the bulk of our roster has been made.
“So for us, if we’re going to go out of our footprint, then it really needs to be a home run for us — not just as a player, skill set, but also the person as a student, the character. They need to have all the intangibles. So, we’re not going out just trying to find the best players all over the country. We’re very specific in the guys that we’re going to go and recruit outside of our footprint.”
Because of the power of the Paw, a scholarship offer from Clemson carries more weight than ever. In some cases, it even serves as validation for recruits.
“I think that’s really what the brand recognition is right now, is that a lot of guys may even validate themselves by saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got a Clemson offer,'” Clemson running backs coach Tonny Elliott said. “Meaning that whether it came early or whether it came late, I’ve got a Clemson offer and that means that I’m doing something right.”
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