With the landscape of college football rapidly changing, college football programs across the country have decided to embrace the idea of recruiting the transfer portal.
Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma, three of the four most successful teams in the College Football Playoff era, have all chosen, at times, to use the portal to their advantage. The other most successful program of this era, Clemson, has yet to add a transfer to the roster since the advent of the portal.
Dabo Swinney has spent more than a decade creating a family-first culture at Clemson that emphasizes a "bloom where you are planted" philosophy. It's a culture that has worked masterfully for the program, as the Tigers have made six straight appearances in the playoff, winning two national titles along the way.
Swinney's stance on the transfer portal is well-known, with the head coach stating on multiple occasions throughout the years that the Tigers prefer to focus on recruiting and developing high school talent.
However, it's a policy that's also a little misunderstood. Swinney isn't totally against the idea of bringing in transfers. He has stated on multiple occasions that he would be willing to look at the portal under certain scenarios.
With the team off to a 3-2 start and struggling mightily on the offensive side of the ball, those somewhat misunderstood views on the portal are now being more heavily scrutinized. But don't expect the head coach to change his stance because his team is now facing some adversity.
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"It’s not that you’re reluctant to do anything, but you don’t just change to change," Swinney recently said on his call-in show. "If there’s a strategic need for something, absolutely. Because as things change you have to adapt if needed. But you don’t just change to change. That’s silly."
Swinney will eventually use the portal. There's just no way around it. With the rules now allowing all players to transfer one time without penalty, the number of guys entering the portal is bound to increase, and Clemson has already seen its fair share of players transfer out.
Plus, it's not like Swinney has never brought in a transfer. The narrative out there that he is totally against the idea is easily debunked. In 2014, Swinney brought in quarterback David Olson, a graduate transfer from Stanford, when the team needed an extra arm. In 2012 linebacker Kellen Jones Jr. transferred in after playing his freshman season in Oklahoma. It has happened.
The simple truth is the Tigers have to be very careful about how they use the portal. There's a fine line that Swinney has to walk. Clemson can't just go out and recruit the portal the way some other programs can.
The culture Swinney has created inside the program is unique. It's just different. Every time the school gets a commitment from a high-profile recruit, that culture is one of the first things mentioned as the reasoning behind the decision, and it's not just lip service.
If Swinney were to start recruiting the portal just because there might be a more talented player available, he risks diminishing that very culture he has spent more than a decade cultivating.
Again, the Tigers will eventually use the portal, and probably sooner rather than later. Just probably not in the way that some are hoping for. Swinney is always going to reward hard work and loyalty rather than looking for a quick fix, and with the Clemson culture being what it is, that's exactly the way it should be.
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