Dabo Swinney is accustomed to having multi-sport athletes on his roster, having coached two-sport stars such as C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Kyle Parker and DeAndre Hopkins throughout his tenure as Clemson’s head coach.
So, Swinney has a good handle on how to manage multi-sport athletes and how to help those players navigate the process of splitting time between football and another sport.
“Obviously everybody remembers C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford,” Swinney said. “They were track All-Americans, I think four years as well. So, balancing spring practice around their track schedule … And Nuk Hopkins, his first year or so he was a basketball player, as well. A lot of people don’t remember that. So, we’ve had different guys that we’ve had to manage. (Mark) Buchholz was a soccer player. We had to kind of coordinate around his schedule as well. So, we’ve got a good feel for how you have to manage that.”
The latest two-sport athletes to sign with Swinney’s program are Bubba Chandler and Will Taylor, both of whom inked with the Tigers during the early signing period in December.
Chandler and Taylor both signed as quarterbacks and will also suit up for head coach Monte Lee and his baseball program.
“I’m excited about Bubba and I’m excited about Will Taylor and happy for Coach Lee,” Swinney said. “Obviously, those guys are on football scholarships, so that frees up more money for our baseball team because he’s got two elite baseball players that are on football scholarships. So, I’m excited about it. I look forward to managing that process.”
Chandler and Taylor are both slated to enroll at Clemson this summer, and Swinney believes they can be impact players on the diamond in addition to the gridiron.
“Both of those guys will be guys that certainly can help the baseball team, and the good thing is the sports are different seasons,” Swinney said. “We’ll work around spring practice and manage that the best we can. They’ll be in season with baseball, and certainly we’ll do everything we can to help that and help them be very successful in that role.”
During the football season, Swinney will leave it up to Chandler and Taylor to manage their time around football while putting in work to be ready when the baseball season rolls around in the spring.
“Football season, they have to take it upon themselves to stay sharp – whether it be getting in the cage, throwing, fielding, whatever it is,” Swinney said. “That’s what you have to do. But here’s the good news for Will Taylor and Bubba Chandler – that’s their norm. That’s what they’ve always done. So, it’s not anything out of the norm for them, and they’ll have plenty of time to do that. The way things are structured in college, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to be ready to transition to baseball once our season is over.”
Chandler threw for 3,605 yards and 40 touchdowns while rushing for 983 yards and nine more scores in his high school career at North Oconee (Bogart, Ga.). A pitcher and shortstop on the baseball field, Chandler – who has been clocked in the low ‘90s on the mound – struck out 16 in seven innings while hitting .435 during his pandemic-shorted season last spring.
Taylor, meanwhile, passed for 2,237 yards and 21 touchdowns against just four interceptions in 10 games as a senior in 2020 while leading Dutch Fork (Irmo, S.C.) to the 5A state title. His junior baseball season in the spring of 2020 was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he batted .432 for Ben Lippen (Columbia, S.C.) as a sophomore the previous spring.
Taylor, who is expected to be an outfielder for the Tigers, played in the Baseball Factory All-Star Game in Frisco, Texas – an event that welcomes the top 40 high school players in the nation.
“Two talented guys,” Swinney said of Chandler and Taylor. “Will, he might be the fastest guy on the team when he gets here on the baseball team and one of the fastest on this football team. And Bubba will have probably one of the biggest arms, and as he likes to always remind me, he’s a really good hitter, too. So, two good ones, and it’ll be fun to watch them mature and develop into their careers.”