When Dabo Swinney became head coach at Clemson, he had a vision and a long term plan on how to turn that vision into a reality. A little more than a decade later his program is reaping the rewards of that vision.
The Tigers have made five consecutive CFP appearances, winning an ACC Championship in each of those seasons, as well as winning two national titles over that span.
One of the areas that has benefited the most from the success has been recruiting. The Tigers 2020 class was the programs best yet, something Swinney credits to a lot of hard work.
"I think we've earned it," Swinney said. "That didn't just happen. We didn't just show up and say, hey, we're Clemson, come to Clemson and kids want to come. That's been earned through years of consistency. Nine, 10-plus win seasons, National Championships, conference championships, those type of things, big, big wins, big, big moments over the last decade."
Those big moments over the last decade have expanded the programs recruiting footprint. They no longer have to focus solely on a handful of states in the southeast. Swinney and his staff are recruiting on a national level these days.
"But now, 10 years, 11 years later," Swinney said, "we signed kids from 14 states this year, and last year was like 14 or 15 or something. And when we've gotten one, we've signed back-to-back players out of California for the first time in the history of the school. We've signed — Travis was my first guy from Louisiana. Then we came back right here in Baton Rouge and got Bryton Constantin, linebacker."
For the Tigers, the formula is simple. There is no big secret. Swinney says the message is simple, and it's honest, and that is something recruits, along with their families, appreciate.
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"I just think the consistency," Swinney said. "The culture of who we are and how transparent we are in the recruiting process of hey, this is what the expectations are, and you don't need to come here if you're not all in with that, all right, because we're going to go to class, we're going to be great citizens, we're going to hold you accountable, those type of things.
While the Tigers may have just signed their best class on paper, Swinney doesn't concern himself with how many stars any one player may have beside his name. While the talent level of a player is certainly a factor, it isn't the only one.
"So you know, we have to be smart," Swinney said. "The thing for us is the right fit. Not the so-called, highest-rated player, but the best player in our eyes and the best fit for our program."
While Clemson may now be recruiting on a national level, Swinney says they will not forget their roots. Locking down the state, as well as the surrounding areas, will always be a priority.
"We always start inside out," Swinney said. "We're always, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Maryland, that's our base, and then we try to scout out the best guys that fit our program from all over the country. So it's pretty cool for me to see a bunch of really, really talented young people that really want that, and they're coming a long ways to come be a part of it."
Most would consider the evolution of the Clemson football program under Swinney's guidance nothing short of remarkable. For Swinney however, he always knew the potential was there.
"As our brand has grown through our consistency, kids want to come see Clemson," Swinney said. "It's become a place- and what I already knew, what I knew when I took the job was that if we could get guys on campus, people were going to see what a special place this is. And that's what's happened. That's how we started the program."