Dabo Swinney's staff follows its own map on the recruiting trail

'I just know what we see and what we evaluate. That's just part of our process'

Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett celebrates sacking LSU's Zach Mettenberger during the second quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett celebrates sacking LSU's Zach Mettenberger during the second quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

For Dabo Swinney and his Clemson coaching staff, recruiting is no hit-or-miss affair.

Swinney puts his track record on the field each fall, and the results have been impressive - three top-of-the-mountain division finishes in four years, 21 victories over the last two seasons.

He doesn't know how Clemson's bottom line correlates to pre-signing recruiting rankings. And he really doesn't care.

Clemson's staff has been as likely to go their own way on a prospect as to follow the consensus opinion. Experience has taught Swinney that every case is unique.

"A lot of that stuff has to do with the media, where they live, how they're marketed by their school, or whatever," said Swinney recently. "I wouldn't take anything for Tig Willard. He was the MVP of our team defensively. But heck, he's from Loris. If you take him and put him at Dorman, probably everybody in the world knows about him and evaluates him differently."

Willard's case isn't one of a kind.

"People were saying that the only reason we signed Adam Humphries was to sign Charone Peake," Swinney said. "I remember that. And that's so unfair, and it's part of what ticks me off about some of the stories that get written during the recruiting process. So much of it is so far off from reality that it's not even funny.

"When we evaluated Adam, we felt that he was a great football player. I have no idea why other people didn't like him. I don't know - I can't answer that. I have no clue. Tyler Grisham just finished his fourth year of being paid in the NFL, and he had one offer. I don't know why. Grady Jarrett was a guy who was very lightly recruited. I don't know why.

"I just know what we see and what we evaluate. That's just part of our process. People have different opinions. That's the world we live in, and that's perfectly OK. What's important is what you believe in."

Nevertheless, recruiting misses occur. That's the human factor, Swinney said.

"If you have people involved, there are going to be mistakes and errors," he said. "You're projecting young people, and young people change. You take them and put them in a different environment, some of them adjust, some of them don't. Some take the next step, some of them don't. Some of them lose their focus and get distracted.

"There are girls and there are parties, and there are lot of good decisions that they have to make in order to take the next step to compete. So there are a lot of reasons why...

"The key is that you have to believe in your evaluations. You have criteria, and if you're going to get away from that criteria, there has to be certain intangibles. I think we've done a pretty good job evaluating."

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