CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret leaned over Dabo Swinney’s shoulder at about noon on Wednesday. “We have it in,” Bourret said. The National Letter of Intent from Jackson Carman, the 6'6", 330-pound offensive lineman from Fairfield, Ohio, had arrived. Per NCAA rules, Swinney now was allowed to utter Carman’s name with a camera rolling. And utter it he did.
“Jackson Carman!” Swinney yelled. “Action Jackson! Let’s go! Press conference, take two.”
Swinney compared Carman—the top-ranked recruit in Ohio and the No. 9 recruit in the nation according to the 247Sports.com composite—to recruits such as receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, who seemed to check every box for their position as high-schoolers and who were as good as advertised immediately when they set foot on campus. Swinney also touted Carman’s speed. “The guy is 350 and can move,” Swinney said. “There’s probably none of y’all here that can outrun him. I’d be willing to lay money on that. He can absolutely fly for a 350-pound man.”
But in announcing his intent to sign with Clemson, Carman had mentioned to reporters in Ohio a conversation with Swinney that was bound to tick off the people in Carman’s home state who assumed Carman would spend his college career singing “Carmen Ohio” after each game.
Did Swinney say that? Did he imply that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer—who at 53 is only five years older than Swinney—is on the end of his career? Swinney certainly didn’t deny it. Swinney read the above tweet Wednesday before answering a question about its contents.
“We might have had a lot of conversations,” Swinney said. “I have no idea. In recruiting, you evaluate everything and where you are in a program. … I cannot recall specifically, but it sounds like something that might have come up when we were maybe talking about coaches. I’ve been a guy that’s been here for 15 years. There are obviously differences when you compare coaches and things like that. Obviously different stages in life and things like that. But in recruiting, you talk about anything and everything that a recruit wants to talk about that seems relevant.”
So yes. Swinney probably said that. Is it negative recruiting? Maybe. It’s a fact that in spite of the closeness in age between Swinney and Meyer, Meyer resigned after six seasons as Florida’s head coach and just finished his sixth season as Ohio State’s head coach. But Carman’s in-person experiences with Meyer during the recruiting process would have shown him a coach in a much healthier place than he was at the end of his Florida tenure. So it’s up to Carman to decide what he believes.
The Internet pearl-clutching from the aggrieved fan base is especially rich in this case. A few years ago, Meyer found himself in the middle of one of the more hilarious instances of a recruit revealing a recruiting conversation that probably wasn’t meant to go public. Jevan Snead, a quarterback who committed to Meyer at Florida but then wound up signing with Texas (and subsequently transferring to Ole Miss) recounted a tale from his recruitment to SI colleague Bruce Feldman when Feldman was writing Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting. Here is the relevant passage from the book:
Then later that fall [in 2005], Snead clicked on ESPN’s Outside The Lines and caught a segment on Tim Tebow, a touted quarterback recruit from Florida. Interesting, he thought. Cool to see a guy going through the same stuff he’d gone through. But when the cameras panned up into the crowd at Tebow’s game and focused on Meyer and his offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, Snead was stunned.
Snead called Meyer the next day and asked about Tebow.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Meyer assured him. “We’re only recruiting him as a linebacker.”
History tells us what position Tebow was recruited to play. But recruiting is a funny business. And if every conversation between every coach and every recruit went public, the outrage would never end. But this particular episode deserved the laugh Swinney gave it after answering that question.
Besides, if Swinney truly wanted to negatively recruit against Ohio State relative to Clemson, all he needed to do was show Carman the box score from last year’s Fiesta Bowl.