Despite the recruiting restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dabo Swinney’s program is in a good spot from a recruiting standpoint with the early signing period coming up next month.
Clemson had the majority of its recruiting class wrapped up heading into the fall, as has typically been the case for Swinney’s program in recent years. The Tigers currently have 17 commitments in their 2021 class, which is ranked as the fifth-best class in the country right now according to the 247Sports Composite, and they are only pursuing a select few prospects as they look to round out the class.
Because the Tigers already have most of their 2021 class in place, the NCAA dead period – which prohibits prospects from making unofficial and official visits to college campuses, and coaches from visiting prospects – has not impacted Clemson’s program in the current recruiting cycle as much as many other programs in college football.
Where Clemson’s recruiting efforts have been more affected is with high school juniors in the 2022 class, as like everyone else, the Tigers are not allowed to host prospects on campus for visits or hit the recruiting trail to watch them play on Friday nights and evaluate them.
“Fortunately for us, over the past few years, the way recruiting has ramped up, we’ve been pretty fortunate that we’ve been able to really commit most of our class before we’ve really gotten into the season, outside of maybe a spot or two,” Swinney said on Tuesday. “So, I think the biggest challenge has been, in the past we would have had a lot of juniors on campus throughout the season, and we would have been able to go out and see them in person. So, I think that’s the biggest thing.”
The coronavirus pandemic and coinciding NCAA dead period has slowed down the recruiting process, something Swinney is not complaining about.
“I’ve always been trying to get it to slow down, and that’s kind of where I am,” he said. “And I think in a weird way, it will slow it down to where you’re actually going to be evaluating seniors a little bit more going into next year as opposed to kind of the way it’s been the last couple years where you pretty much have moved on to the junior class by the time you get into fall. The seniors pretty much, for us, have been done. But I hate it because there’s a lot of schools out there that are still recruiting seniors heavily, and not being able to get guys on campus and things like that is a challenge. But we’ve made the best of it.”
Although they can’t have in-person contact with recruits, Swinney and his staff are doing all they can within NCAA rules to stay in touch with prospects while continuing to evaluate them through game film.
“We’ve done everything that they allow us to do,” Swinney said. “We’ve spent a lot of time communicating virtually – Zoom, FaceTime, all that stuff. So, obviously you’re watching the tape, you just don’t get the personal part. It’s a little unique that you may have somebody coming to play for you that’s actually never been to campus. We have the potential for that to happen in this class.”
All things considered, the Tigers are in good shape with recruiting for the 2021 class with the early signing period (Dec. 16-18) right around the corner. Their recruiting for the 2022 class, on the other hand, is just progressing more slowly than it otherwise would be under normal circumstances.
“We’re in a good place for this class of ’21, but for ’22, compared to where we would normally be at this point… I’m not saying we’re behind, but it’s slowed down, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing,” Swinney said. “Certainly the process is slower now than it was, and we typically don’t offer a lot of guys anyway. So, just gives us a little more time to evaluate tape, and again, a little more get-to-know-each-other before they get on campus.”
The NCAA is expected to extend the dead period through April 15, but Swinney is hopeful that in-person recruiting will open back up this spring.
“Hopefully this spring, things will get back to some normalcy,” he said, “and we can get back out on the road and young people can get to the campuses and kind of add that piece to it.”
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