Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is well aware of how common it has become in the current college football landscape, with the NCAA transfer portal, for players – especially at the quarterback position – to choose to pack up and play for another program.
Transfers are up in college football, not only at quarterback but across the board, and it appears that trend will continue to rise as proposed NCAA legislation says athletes will be afforded a one-time transfer during their athletic careers without having to sit out a year. The Division I council is slated to vote in January for an effective date of Aug. 1, 2021.
However, Swinney says the increase in the number of transfers doesn’t impact his program’s philosophy when it comes to recruiting quarterbacks. At least, not right now.
Swinney was asked during a Zoom conference call with reporters this week if he has a philosophy on the proper way to stack quarterbacks on his roster and build a quarterback room in this era of the transfer portal, considering all of the attrition teams suffer at the position. In other words, Swinney was asked if he has to put thought into whether the Tigers should try to recruit five-star quarterbacks every single year when they could get stacked on the roster and one might leave; if the Tigers should try to intentionally recruit a backup-caliber prospect from time to time to ensure the quarterback room stays intact for longer periods of time.
“Am I cognizant of how easy it is (for players to transfer)? Yeah, it’s about to get a lot easier – adios, out the gate,” Swinney said. “So, our philosophy is we try to just sign one great one every year. I think that’s just basic philosophy is we want to sign a quarterback every year. That’s our mindset, and I think if you don’t, you’re in trouble. And then we try to develop those guys.
”But some years, we’ve had to sign two just because somebody may leave, or whatever they do. If you don’t have a quarterback, you’ve got no chance. I don’t care what level of football it is. From Wilson Junior High to the Kansas City Chiefs, if you don’t have a quarterback, it’s hard to win in this game. So, we try to sign one a year, for sure, but depending on what happens with attrition and things like that… But yeah, absolutely, I’m very much aware of how easy it is for guys to pack up and leave, and it’s about to get a lot easier. If we have to change our philosophy, we’ll have to change it.”
Swinney pointed out that if his philosophy wasn’t simply to go out and get the best guy they possibly can at the quarterback position each year, then Clemson wouldn’t have gotten the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, Trevor Lawrence.
“I’m going to sign the best player I can get every year. That’s just the way it is,” Swinney said. “If that wasn’t my philosophy, we would have never signed Trevor Lawrence. We had signed (current Northwestern quarterback) Hunter Johnson. He’s a great quarterback. We had signed (current Jacksonville State quarterback) Zerrick Cooper. I love Zerrick. I think he’s the leading guy ever at Jacksonville State. And of course, Hunter went on to Northwestern, and we signed Chase (current Duke quarterback Chase Brice). We had signed all those guys.
“So, if that was my philosophy, I wouldn’t have signed Trevor. I’m glad I signed Trevor. At the end of the day, my job is to sign the best players every year. So, that’s what we do.”
Swinney is glad his program is able to compile top talent through recruiting, unlike teams in the NFL that have to construct their roster through the draft.
“Fortunately, we can go recruit every year,” Swinney said. “If I was in the NFL, then it’s a different philosophy. If you’ve got a guy like Trevor in the NFL, then it’s a different philosophy because you obviously know you’ve got a great, great quarterback, and you don’t get to go recruit. You’re going to get like, whatever, three or four picks. So, you have to build your roster in a different way. But in college football, my opinion is you go recruit the best players every year that you can.”
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