When it comes to recruiting and evaluating prospects, Clemson takes much more than simply talent into consideration. Just ask head coach Dabo Swinney.
“I always tell everybody, being a good player is the minimum,” Swinney said. “And I think that’s why a lot of schools, they might have good talent on their roster, but you can’t just be talented — not at this level.”
Sure, it takes a certain level of talent to play for a big-time college football program like Clemson. But as Swinney and the Tigers scout prospects and decide which recruits to pursue, they don’t just look at a prospect’s skillset and ability – they assess the whole package.
“It’s talent plus intelligence plus work ethic plus passion plus commitment… It’s all those things,” Swinney said. “So yes, you have to be a good player, but that’s the bare minimum — at least it is to come here. We’re looking for a whole lot more. I’m much more interested in who the person is, because that’s ultimately going to determine what type of player you get.”
Of course, Clemson wants to get great players that can help the program win championships. And Swinney knows that talent is only one of the key ingredients in a great player.
“You can’t just be talented any more at this level. You can’t be great, that’s for sure,” he said. “You’ve got to put the work in and you’ve got to prepare and you’ve got to go above and beyond and study, because let me tell you – your opponent is, most of the time. It’s got to be important to you.”
Swinney cited junior cornerback Trayvon Mullen and sophomore corner A.J. Terrell as a pair of prime examples of the type of player that Clemson seeks after.
“A.J. and Trayvon, they’re as good as I’ve ever been around for their focus, their intensity, their love of preparation, their preparedness before they even show up for practice,” Swinney said. “It’s a very conscientious thing of those guys. But they’ve got a lot of great examples around them, too.”
According to Swinney, great players have “already played the game before the game even shows up.”
“When the game gets here, it’s just like it’s over,” he said. “I was just showing them a video of (Clayton) Kershaw, the pitcher for the Dodgers. It was like three days before… This is one of the best pitchers ever, and three days before he’s ever even on the mound, the stadium cam or whatever caught him, and he’s in there on the pitcher’s mound in the bullpen, and he’s basically playing the game and going through the motion — by himself.
“And that’s what the great ones do. They’re fanatical about their preparation. So when they get to the game, they’ve already played the game. The guys who just kind of show up and they’re here for that little time of football and they check back out… That was kind of Dorian (O’Daniel) for two and a half years. That’s why he wasn’t a great player. And he eventually figured out you know what, I’ve got to prepare, I’ve got to change how I do things. And then you saw the results that you got.”