New Clemson majors may open the door for Tigers to pursue juco prospects

Dabo Swinney says that in the past NCAA transfer requirements have clashed with Clemson's academic curriculum

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney will lead his team into spring practice on Wednesday.

Photo by Ken Ruinard, Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.

INDEPENDENT MAIL FILE PHOTO Clemson’s Dabo Swinney will lead his team into spring practice on Wednesday.

In the best of scenarios, junior college recruiting is tricky business.

It will remain so under new Clemson president Jim Clements. But for now, the door is at least cracked for the Tiger football staff to pursue mid-career transfers.

Clemson hasn't signed a player out of junior college in eight years, but that may change because of some additions to the university's list of academic majors.

Just this week, the Tiger coaching staff extended offers to two junior college defensive linemen with in-state backgrounds - D.J. Jones, who attended Daniel High, Carolina Academy and Wren High, and Marquavious Lewis of Greenwood.

"We have some new majors that have been added here," Swinney said during his pre-spring press conference on Tuesday. "We're never going to be a school as far as going out and signing a bunch of jucos - it's not our philosophy."

Swinney said that the NCAA requires that junior college transfers have a specified number of credits that will transfer into a particular major. That requirement eliminates most junior college applicants, who usually take a more general course of study before transferring to four-year colleges. In many Clemson majors, degree-specific course work begins during the first year of study.

"It's hard for us to recruit a junior college guy unless you place them there and are on them there early, because we don't have the degree programs here that can meet the NCAA rule," he said. "It's not that Clemson says no, but with the curriculum we have in place, it would be hard for them to meet NCAA rules."

The 'new majors' that Swinney referred to presumably would be more transfer-friendly, thus opening the door for the Tigers to pursue juco players.

That would help put Clemson on a level playing field with many of its peers and rivals, including Florida State, Georgia and South Carolina, which have recently taken junior college players who have gone on to successful careers.

On signing day last month, Swinney noted the disparity when asked about the emphasis many schools place on filling needs with more experienced junior college players.

"They're an emphasis everywhere but here," Swinney said. "Junior college guys sign everywhere. I don't know when the last time we signed a junior college guy here."

The last junior college transfer to play for the Tigers was defensive back Chris Russell in 2006. He originally signed with Colorado, then transferred to Coffeyville Junior College in Kansas before ending up at Clemson.

Swinney welcomes the option of looking at junior college prospects, but said Clemson's overall recruiting track won't change.

"I definitely believe in developing through the draft, if you will, as opposed to the free agent market " Swinney said.

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter at @oandwkc

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