Because of COVID-19, the recruiting process has been much different – and more challenging – for Clemson and other college football programs across the country since last spring.
In March, the NCAA shut down all in-person recruiting due to coronavirus concerns, meaning prospects haven’t been allowed to hit the road for on-campus visits and coaches haven’t been able to hit the recruiting trail to scout prospects as they would under normal circumstances.
While those restrictions have made it more difficult for the Tigers to evaluate talent and build face-to-face relationships with recruits and their families, Swinney sees a possible silver lining in the NCAA dead period, which has been extended several times since last spring – most recently through April 15, 2021.
“It’s a challenge,” Swinney said. “Hopefully it slows recruiting down, to be honest with you. I hope that’s a positive. I’m always trying to pump the brakes, anyway. I’m always trying to slow it down. Everything gets sped up, and I’m kind of the opposite. I love evaluating seniors, to be honest with you, because this is a developmental game.”
Clemson has always been selective with its scholarship offers under Swinney, but is even more judicious now in the current recruiting landscape without the luxury of being able to check out prospects in person and get to know them personally on campus.
So, the relatively small number of offers Clemson has dished out for the 2022 recruiting cycle have gone to prospects whom the Tigers know without a doubt they would love to have in their program.
“I think that anybody that we offer early in that ’22 class, we know that we know that we know that we know,” Swinney said. “That’s kind of where we are right now in our evaluation of those guys. We don’t offer many guys, anyway, and I think it will probably be an even smaller number, early, in the ’22 class until we can get back out.”
While in-person contact has been suspended since last spring, Swinney and his staff have been doing everything they can to stay in touch with prospects through text messaging, phone calls, Zoom, FaceTime and other forms of communication.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have used virtual tours to host recruits remotely and show off what they have to offer that way, while taking it upon themselves to watch extra film of prospects to help identify potential targets in the 2022 class and future classes.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to do that in the spring and get back out and start doing some in-person evaluation and having camps and things like that, but we’ll see how all that goes,” Swinney said. “But we have to do a great job evaluating and really trying to do everything we would do in person, virtually, in our communication – once we decide who fits the criteria that we’re looking for, really do a great job of bringing them to Clemson even though they may not physically be able to be here right away.”
Moving forward, Swinney is hopeful the recruiting process will start looking a little bit more like it used to before COVID-19.
“It’s tough, but hopefully the worst is behind us,” he said. “And with the vaccine coming out and things like that, hopefully we can get back to some normalcy here later on this year.”