Make no mistake: Dabo Swinney would prefer to be selling his football program on the field this week rather than off it.
“I kind of like that advantage,” Swinney said with a grin.
Alas, that won’t be happening.
Instead, amid a championship week that will be much different than the Tigers are accustomed to, Swinney will be spending much more time with players he hopes will join his program in the future rather than the ones that are already on the Tigers’ roster.
For the first time since 2014, Clemson won’t be spending the first Saturday in December playing for an ACC championship. The Tigers kept their slim chances alive of doing so when they capped another unblemished season at Memorial Stadium two weeks ago by blasting then-No. 10 Wake Forest, remaining tied with North Carolina State and one game back of the Demon Deacons in the loss column atop the Atlantic Division standings.
But before the Tigers even got started on its shutout of rival South Carolina Saturday night, their hope of running their streak of consecutive conference titles to seven was officially dashed. Wake Forest beat Boston College earlier in the day to earn a date with Coastal Division champ Pittsburgh in Charlotte this weekend.
“Obviously disappointed to not make the ACC championship,” freshman running back Will Shipley said, “but it’s just a little bit of fuel for us for next year and the years to come.”
Addressing that future is starting a week earlier than usual for Swinney and his staff.
“We’re going recruiting,” he said.
Instead of recruits being able to watch the Tigers play for a conference championship, Swinney will be in their homes pitching to them how he believes they can help Clemson get back there again. He’s not wasting any time.
TCI has learned that Swinney is expected to be in Louisiana Monday night to visit with one of the Tigers’ top remaining uncommitted targets, four-star running back Trevor Etienne, the brother of former Clemson standout Travis Etienne. Clemson already has 14 verbal commitments in its 2022 recruiting class and plans to sign around 20 when it’s all said and done, Swinney said recently. College football’s early signing period begins Dec. 15.
“We haven’t been in this situation where we’ve been able to go out and recruit,” offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said of this particular week. “We’ve still got some positional needs that we got to go fill.”
As for Clemson’s current players, Swinney said they’ll be recuperating from the grind of the regular season while he and his coaches are on the road. The Tigers, who are entering the postseason on a five-game winning streak, won’t officially learn their destination and opponent for the bowl game until Sunday.
“They’ll kind of have some open gym this week, and they’ve got finals next week,” Swinney said. “They’ll kind of just work out, train, rest and recover these next couple of weeks while we recruit. By then, we’ll know who we’re playing, where and when. And we’ll get our bowl prep going and turn our eyes toward the next opponent.”
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