Early bird or ace closer? Both strategies working for Dabo Swinney on recruiting trail

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemson Recruiting Coordinator Jeff Scott speaks at the National Signing Day press conference to discuss the players who committed to play football at the school next year.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson Recruiting Coordinator Jeff Scott speaks at the National Signing Day press conference to discuss the players who committed to play football at the school next year.

Early bird or ace closer?

For Dabo Swinney, it’s been a lot of the first and a healthy dose of the second as he’s assembled a string of highly-rated recruiting classes.

With less than a week to go before National Signing Day, Clemson is working on its second straight top-10 class (depending on whose rankings you prefer), which would be a first for the program since the Danny Ford era.

Currently, ESPN ranks Clemson’s class 6th nationally, while Rivals ranks the Tigers’ collection of 20 committed players (including eight who’ve already enrolled) as the eighth best in the nation. The same group is ranked 13th by Scout and 17th by 247Sports.

Swinney and his staff – a year ago led by a Florida coup pulled off by the father-and-son team of Brad Scott and Jeff Scott – grabbed headlines with five signing-day additions, including five-star linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward.

This year, the Tigers have finished as runners-up for a trio of late-deciding players (Florida-bound defensive end Jonathan Bullard and Georgia-bound running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley), and are still in the mix for several late-deciding players, including five-star cornerback Ronald Darby, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, defensive end JaMichael Winston and defensive tackle D.J. Reader.

Clemson’s overall recruiting trend, however, has been to focus on building its classes early in the recruiting cycle.

Of Swinney’s current group of commitments, 17 had made their decisions before the start of their 2011 playing seasons, including eight who committed in June after attending a session of Swinney’s summer camp.

Last summer, recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott talked about the prominent role that summer camp has come to play in Clemson’s recruiting blueprint:

“It’s almost as if summer camp has become the new ‘official visit,’” said Scott. “Camp has taken on a much more important part in the whole process. Most of these guys have been here for junior days, and they may have visited in the fall. The summer has become decision-time for a lot of guys who want to get things settled so that they can go out and enjoy their senior seasons…

“Some people try to get a guy on campus for maybe one day, but we’ve had a lot of success getting guys here and letting them spend three days in Clemson. We feel like if we can get a prospect to come in and spend some time with our coaches – maybe walk to practice with them or eat lunch with them at the cafeteria – they really get a chance to get to know us. I think that helps Clemson, and helps our chances with that young man. We’ve had a lot of success with guys who’ve come to camp.”

Scott said that of Clemson’s 29 signees in 2011, 21 spent three days at one of Swinney’s camp sessions.

The same trend has held during the 2012 cycle, to the degree that any dramatic signing-day surprises will be icing on the cake for the Tigers.

When They Committed, 2009-2012


February, 2011: OL Jay Guillermo

March: DE Shaq Lawson

April: WR Germone Hopper

May: OL Patrick DeStefano

June: DE Martin Aiken, DB Travis Blanks, RB Zac Brooks, LB T.J. Burrell, DB Ronald Geohagan, QB Chad Kelly, P Bradley Pinion, DB Cordrea Tankersley

July: OL Oliver Jones, OL Javarius Leamon

August: TE Jay Jay McCullough

September: DB Marty Williams

October: DT Josh Brown, DT Carlos Watkins


June, 2009: DT DeShawn Williams

December, 2009: OL Shaq Anthony

January, 2010: QB Tony McNeal, DB Robert Smith

April: TE Eric MacLain

May: DT Jerome Maybank, OL Ryan Norton

June: OL Isaiah Battle, RB Mike Bellamy, OL Joe Gore, WR Adam Humphries, DT Grady Jarrett, WR Charone Peake

July: DB Cortez Davis

October: DT Kevin Dodd, LB B.J. Goodson, QB Cole Stoudt

November: WR Sammy Watkins, WR Stanton Seckinger

January: PK Ammon Lakip, LB Lateek Townsend

February: LB Stephone Anthony, LB Tony Steward, DE Roderick Byers, OL Spencer Region, QB Morgan Roberts


February, 2008: WR Martavis Bryant

February, 2009: LB Jake Nicolopulos

March: WR Joe Craig, WR DeAndre Hopkins

May: LB Ricky Chaney

June: OL Reid Webster

July: OL David Beasley, TE Sam Cooper, DE Corey Crawford, OL Kalon Davis, DB Martin Jenkins, DB Darius Robinson, DB Desmond Brown

August: DE Vic Beasley, RB Demont Buice, DB Garry Peters, OL Gifford Timothy

December: DT Josh Watson, DT Tra Thomas

January: DT Tavaris Barnes

February: RB D.J. Howard, LB Justin Parker


February: DE Malliciah Goodman, RB Rod McDowell

April: OL J.K. Jay, DT Tyler Shatley

June: LB Quandon Christian

July: OL Brandon Thomas

August: LB Corico Hawkins

December: DB Jonathan Meeks

January: QB Tajh Boyd, WR Bryce McNeal, LB Spencer Chuey

February: TE Darrell Smith

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