Iowa State has sporadically dipped into the transfer market during Matt Campbell’s six-year tenure as head coach, but it’s a lot compared to Clemson.
Of course, that’s not exactly a high bar.
Dabo Swinney’s preference to recruit high school prospects and develop them over their time at Clemson has been well-documented. During his 13 years as the Tigers’ head coach, Clemson has only brought in one transfer. That was former Stanford quarterback David Olson, a graduate transfer who served as a scout-team signal caller on the 2014 team.
Clemson has largely done fine without FBS transfers, ripping off 10 straight double-digit win seasons with seven ACC championships and six College Football Playoff appearances during that span. The Tigers will try to keep the string of 10-plus win seasons going Wednesday against Campbell’s team in the Cheez-It Bowl.
In Campbell’s opinion, it’s made Clemson’s recent run of success all the more impressive considering the sports’s current transfer climate.
“The rest of the college football landscape wants you to become transactional,” Campbell said. “To be honest with you, it’s why I have so much respect for Coach Swinney and really what Clemson has done because I really believe he’s built his program through transformational leadership and transformational value system. I think it’s really hard to find in our profession today and only getting harder and will continue to get harder.”
Campbell has used a mix of his own players and transfers to help turn around an Iowa State program that was in a much different place than Clemson in terms of talent when he took over the Cyclones’ program in 2016, though he’s been selective with his additions from outside the program. Iowa State, which has rebounded from a 3-9 season in 2016 with five straight winning campaigns, hasn’t signed more than three FBS transfers in any of Campbell’s recruiting classes so far.
Quarterback Brock Purdy, the Big 12’s leading passer, is a senior whom Campbell signed out of the prep ranks as part of his first recruiting class at Iowa State. The Big 12’s leading rusher (Breece Hall, who has opted out of the Cheez-It Bowl) and the Cyclones’ leading tackler (linebacker Jake Hummel) were also high school recruits. Iowa State’s leading receiver (Xavier Hutchinson) is in his second year with the program after transferring from junior college.
Transfers have always been a part of college football, but the one-time transfer rule the NCAA passed last year allowing players transferring for the first time to be immediately eligible at their next school has put the portal in overdrive. With players entering the transfer portal on nearly a daily basis, there’s plenty of movement on rosters nationwide.
And if players are looking for a new team to join, that means they’re leaving another. Iowa State has had more than 10 players enter the portal since the start of the season while the number of transfer defections for Clemson sits at nine as of Tuesday.
“It’s certainly an interesting time,” Campbell said.
Clemson has been active in seeking additions from the portal for next season, so the Tigers could soon join Iowa State and other FBS programs around the country in supplementing its roster with transfers. But Campbell said he and Swinney are similar in their thinking of how to primarily go about continuing to build their respective programs.
“I think whatever my opinions are on what this time is (in college football) are really irrelevant other than I still believe the college journey between 18 and 22 years old is transformational rather than transactional, and I’ve always believed it’s about the entire collegiate experience,” Campbell said.
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