CLEMSON — To his detractors, Dabo Swinney can come off as spontaneous to a fault, spur-of-the-moment and far too excitable – with his Ric Flair-esque postgame interview following 2011’s breakthrough upset of defending national champion Auburn as proof.
Clemson’s recruiting efforts over the last six weeks suggest otherwise.
In mid-June, the Tigers’ class of 2013 was stagnant.
Clemson had only six verbal commitments, and only one – linebacker Dorian O’Daniel – was considered as high as a four-star prospect.
Meeting with a group of reporters before his annual prospect camp opened, Swinney blasted blogger-fueled rumors that Clemson was about to jump to the Big 12, calling CU “1,000 percent committed to the ACC.”
Two days later, the nation’s top recruit, Loganville, Ga., defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, committed to Clemson.
The Tigers’ recruiting momentum has only built from there. Clemson now has 15 verbal commitments and is in the process of building one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.
Rivals.com rates CU as the nation’s No.14 class, while Scout has CU as No.12 nationally. And it’s worth noting that Rivals does not have a star rating for offensive line commit Maverick Morris, who Scout considers a three-star player. Once Rivals assigns a rating to Morris, the Tigers’ class could climb even higher.
Of the nine players who have committed since Swinney’s comments, five are rated four stars or higher: Nkemdiche, Avon, Ind., defensive end Elijah Daniel, Elbert County (Ga.) tailback Tyshon Dye, Peach County (Ga.) wideout Demarcus Robinson and Honolulu, Hi., defensive tackle Scott Pagano.
And if you think that’s a coincidence, you’re crazy. Swinney is many things, among them a carefully planning, calculating recruiter.
The Big 12 talk was hurting Clemson badly on the recruiting trail, with ACC and SEC rivals telling players and their parents that they’d have to travel to exotic locales like Ames, Ia., Lubbock, Tex., and Manhattan, Ks., to play road games.
“It had no basis in reality, made no sense and was a major distraction for our program,” he said this week.
Assured that they would play their careers close to home, recruits felt at ease and commitments rolled in.
Before Swinney’s comments, the Tigers hadn’t had a commitment in two months and garnered only six since taking their first commitment from D.W. Daniel linebacker D.J. Greenlee on Feb. 1.
Over the last 46 days, Clemson has received a commitment approximately every five days, on average.
And they aren’t done yet. Sunday, five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller, rated as the No.3 recruit in America by Rivals.com, will pick between Clemson and Virginia Tech.
The Tigers are in the lead group for a number of highly-touted recruits and are in the enviable position of being able to cherry-pick to fill their class – expected to be between 20 and 22 players – well before national signing day in February.
You might say Dabo Swinney is crazy.
I’d suggest he’s crazy like a fox.