Dabo Swinney has made his stance on the NCAA transfer portal clear, and that stance has not changed – at least, not for now.
Clemson’s head coach is a firm believer in addressing the needs of his team through recruiting high school prospects, and that is evidenced by the fact the Tigers have never tapped into the transfer portal to add talent.
However, prior to Clemson’s first spring practice on Wednesday, Swinney left the door open a little bit when discussing the transfer portal and said while his philosophy about it remains the same, he understands the current landscape of college football and is making sure his program has a plan in place should it need to adjust to the transfer climate.
That plan involves former tight ends coach Danny Pearman, whom Swinney has moved into the new position of director of football scouting, as well as Zach Fulmer, who will assist Pearman as the Tigers prepare for what the future might hold.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “But I just know that the landscape is different, and I want to be well positioned and I want to have an infrastructure in place that’s going to help us continue to compete to be the best.
“Our philosophy has always been to recruit high school kids. … We haven’t gone the transfer route – now the portal – ever, to address the needs of our team. We’ve just always taken a lot of pride in our evaluation of high school kids, and then our development of those kids. We’ve always been a developmental program. That’s not ever going to change. That philosophy’s always going to be in place.”
With that said, Swinney knows he can’t sign a high school player to fill a void on his roster if a college player decides to transfer out in the spring, which is why he wants his program to be prepared in the event that it needs to use the portal in the future.
“If we have gaps in our roster – all of the sudden, we get some guys that decide to leave in May – well, guess what, you can’t go recruit high school kids in May, so you better have a plan in place,” Swinney said. “So, we’ve created the right type of structure. It’s really kind of an NFL-type model from a high school scouting, a college scouting (standpoint), and I love what we’ve been able to do so far as far as building the infrastructure and the information base the way I want it to be. It’s been really, really good.
“And if we have to go that route at some point, well guess what, we’ll get the best. But our criteria, our process, will be the exact same as it is for our high school kids.”
Right now, only graduate student-athletes are allowed to transfer without having to sit out a season, though the NCAA is expected to approve a one-time blanket waiver that would allow players the opportunity to transfer once without being forced to miss a year.
While Swinney expects this change to impact his program, he does not expect Clemson to be impacted by it as much as other programs may be.
“The transfer deal was always grads could transfer, and we’ve never gotten into that market,” Swinney said. “In the past, if you transferred, you had to sit. But now, you can be a freshman and leave and go be eligible, you can be a sophomore and go be eligible, you can be a junior and go be eligible – whatever. So, the rules have changed, and so we just have to make sure that we’re prepared if we have gaps in our roster. It’s really that simple.
“And I think we’ll be one of the least impacted. I really believe that. I don’t think it’s going to impact us a ton. But we will be impacted, just like everybody else.”
Swinney has no way of knowing for sure what the future holds for his program regarding transfers. But at least for now, he plans to go to his own locker room – and not the transfer portal – to address the needs of his team.
“We’ll see how it all plays out,” Swinney said. “But as far as guys that have left our program, I’m going to the locker room, not to the portal. We’ve got a great roster that I really am excited about, and it’s our job as coaches to develop them, and again, that’s what we’ll continue to do. But if we have some need or some big gap that is a result of this portal world that’s out there, then we’ll respond accordingly. We’re always going to do what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to be successful. Always have and always will.”
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