I read somewhere this week that Dabo Swinney is on the hot seat.
I don’t think so.
It’s summer – the time of year when football-oriented sportswriters and broadcasters have a lot of time on their hands and nothing much to talk about.
But columns must be written, and the ‘hot-seat’ is always an easy mark.
I’ll opt for the ‘cooler heads’ approach and declare reports of Dabo’s imminent demise to be preposterous nonsense.
First, let’s check the record.
2008 - Admirable salvage job in his first half-season, which won him his full-time gig.
2009 - Armed with CJ Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer, Clemson’s first ACC division title.
2010 – Without before-mentioned offensive weapons, Andre Ellington on the sidelines, Kyle Parker on the field when he should probably have been on the sidelines, and field goal kickers who might as well have been shooting blindfolded, a season-long struggle to a 6-7 record.
That’s the record: OK, but nothing worth turning cartwheels about, with significant issues revealed on the offensive side of the ball.
So what did Swinney do about it?
After staff-evaluation and soul-searching, he lets go a talented but under-experienced coordinator in Billy Napier and rolls the dice on Chad Morris, who, although he’s just one year removed from the high school sidelines, is plugged-in on the cutting edge of what may well be an offensive juggernaut.
Then he goes out, aided by a relentless staff and well-conceived plan, and fashions a top-10 recruiting class, in the process making a statement that when it comes to competing for the state of Florida’s mother-lode of talent, all prospects are fair game for the Tigers – Seminoles, Gators and Hurricanes notwithstanding.
It should be noted that while Swinney’s recruiting class, when all the stars were added up, finished among the nation’s top 10, it was significantly better than that in terms of filling Clemson’s specific and most critical personnel gaps.
The Tigers needed wide receivers, and they signed the nation’s No. 1 class.
They needed linebackers, and…well, you get the picture.
Coming off the ugly, 6-7 season, Swinney had at least another year to show that he can get the job done.
His hiring of Chad Morris probably bought him another.
His 2011 recruiting class, maybe one more.
His work-in-progress 2012 recruiting class is shaping up as more money in the bank.
After a relatively quiet start, the Tigers have stated over the past two weeks that 2011 was no fluke: six commitments, including three four-star defensive backs (one rated as the nation’s No. 2 safety and No. 11 player overall by ESPN), the No. 1 punter prospect in the nation, and the quarterback that Morris wanted (who chose Clemson over Alabama and is currently ranked No. 5 nationally by ESPN).
In the space of a few days, the Tigers ascended to No. 7 in ESPN recruiting rankings.
Clemson hasn’t consistently recruited at this level since the 1980s.
Not one of those players in the 2011-12 cycle has done anything yet, of course.
And recruiting is only the front end of the equation – just as important is what a coaching staff does in developing players once they step on campus, and then in teaching talented athletes how to win.
As far as Dabo Swinney and on-field performance is concerned, the jury is still out and all questions are legitimate.
But he’s earned the right, and the time, to show if he can get it done.
So don’t believe a word of the ‘hot-seat’ jabber.
Dabo’s going to be here for a while. And time will truly tell.