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Dabo Swinney: When Clemson Finally Uses Transfer Portal, It'll be 'One of Greatest Days'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been reluctant to use the NCAA transfer portal, but he knows one day it'll be an inevitable need to help the Tigers' roster.

College football's system where players can get a one-time, free transfer without any penalty is sweeping the nation. Well, most of the nation. 

It hasn't hit home yet for Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney, who's been reluctant to use the college game's "free agent" pool to add to his roster. However, Swinney knows it's inevitable that one day, he will use the NCAA transfer portal. 

"When it finally happens, it'll be one of the greatest days in the history of Clemson," Swinney said during his Tuesday press conference. "We'll track his DNA and we'll meet his aunts and uncles. It'll be the greatest moment ever and he better be a player."

There might not be a single more discussed aspect of Clemson football right now, aside from the offense's struggles. Swinney played a game with the media several weeks ago when asked a portal question, saying somebody draws the assignment every week. And he's not exaggerating. It does seem like there's one every time he meets with the media. 

But he once again clarified that he's not against the transfer portal. He can't be in this era of college football. 

"There's not a school in the country that's not going to have to recruit the portal," Swinney said. "That's what's been created. There's not a school anywhere. Everybody in Divison I football is going to have to deal with the portal in some form or fashion because you're going to have gaps in your roster. (Players) have until May 1 to say, 'Hey, I'm out.' That's the world we've created now. That's just the way it is. I don't like it but that's the way the world is so deal with it." 

For Swinney, it's about roster structure and needs. He prefers using recruiting to build up his team, and because Clemson has had great success doing so, he hasn't had to go outside of those parameters in most years. 

This season is the first time players didn't have to sit out a year or obtain an NCAA waiver, so it was open season. Clemson has had injuries and depth issues, especially on the offensive line, so fans and media members have wondered why the Tigers didn't obtain more experience at that position group. 

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"I've never ruled it out," Swinney said about the portal. "We've just not had to use it. We haven't had a need. We've been at our number."

Things have changed. Swinney has lost four players off the 2021 roster to the transfer portal since the season began Sept. 4. He's expecting to sign a small 2022 recruiting class. Other current players could end up leaving between now and the early signing period in December. 

He's concerned about early enrollees taking off after two months on campus or players bolting after two games next fall or even guys on College Football Playoff squads giving up that opportunity. 

Exactly what he wants in a transfer-portal player is hard to define, but he pointed out how most of the players in there are looking to start. 

"Nobody wants to be the fourth-team running back at Clemson," Swinney said. 

Clemson hasn't had many of those kinds of spots available lately, but with this being the first full cycle of the wide-open version of the portal, Swinney could be forced to if the numbers don't add up. 

It's something that many people are anxiously awaiting. Swinney doesn't sound like one of them.

"There are no barriers anymore in college football," Swinney said. "There's no reason for pause. There just isn't. It's just ready, shoot, aim. You don't have any other choice so we'll deal with it like everybody but we won't be as affected as a lot of these programs because of who we are. (Using the portal will) be different for us. Hopefully, we don't have to, but we're not just going to do it to do it. It's got to be strategic, it's got to be the right fit, it's got to meet the criteria."

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