Clemson Football: Hottest Question of Offseason

After an apparent, purge and/or cleansing of Dabo Swinney’s staff, there will surely be many questions in the next few weeks leading up to the Cheese-It Bowl on December 29th.

As usual, Dabo Swinney has hit the ground running with regards to finding the best candidates to complete his staff. I’m sure there will be questions about the specific changes in scheme, philosophy and personnel but those won’t be the hottest, constant question asked during this off-season.

No, the sizzling question this off season? Will Swinney venture into the transfer portal to beef up depth at certain positions? Now, with the numbers dwindling with the recent decommitments in the 2022 recruiting class, fans are left to wait and wait and wait.

Most understand Swinney’s commitment and his belief in the culture, the foundation of the program that he has built board by board. He has been, some might say stubborn, while others might say hesitant and cautious, in using the portal. Or as I call it “the human vacuum cleaner.” Could this be a direction Swinney might consider to fill certain needs going forward? Maybe.

One has to understand two of the most important reasons why Swinney has been, except for a few times several years ago, resistant to tap into the portal process as of yet.

First, Swinney doesn’t think they’ve needed to as of yet. All of the injuries in the 2021 season might have the staff rethinking that assessment.

Second, Clemson has a very precise recruiting process. They’re just different. Each recruit goes through an extensive vetting process. Clemson, like Stanford, handles the offering of scholarships differently. They don’t throw their net over a large number of recruits picking through the many to get their desired numbers.

These programs, Alabama and Georgia for instance, while successful, “cheapen” the value of each offer by the sheer numbers they hand out. They are ubiquitous, all over the place. Who could argue with their success. However, if you look at Clemson’s approach, it’s much different and yet has been equally as successful. Clemson specifically targets recruits and offers scholarships sparingly, for those lucky enough to receive one, it’s special.

By using the economic principle of supply and demand, by being deliberate, their offers are viewed by many recruits, as valuable, coveted and desired. They’re not just invited to play football on a championship team, they’re invited to join a life changing family. Hence the programs guiding philosophy of faith, family, football, a hallmark of what Swinney stands for.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most difficult to understand from a fan perspective is commitment. The portal is filled with those young men that, for whatever reason, have decommitted from a place they were initially recruited and were once firmly committed to. Therein lies the problem.

Clemson is different. Those that have started in one place and now for a myriad of reasons decide to leave speaks volumes to Swinney. He’s looking at their lack of commitment and has a hard time getting past that. As we know, commitment is a huge deal with Swinney, hence the “All-In” philosophy.

Today, as the landscape of college football changes, some feel it’s imperative for Swinney to use this process. Like the brilliant tactician he is, I suspect, Swinney is biding his time, waiting on a specific need to arise before jumping headlong into the fray. This portal isn’t an exact science, the numbers alone say it’s anything but a complete success. Far from it in fact. Sure, some point a precious few success stories but all in all, it’s a flawed system, with far to many players going in never to come back out.

While intended as a good thing, allowing a one time transfer without penalty is become something else. In this instant gratification, participation trophy generation of student athletes, everyone believes they’re NFL material. They want to see immediate playing time and when that isn’t quite the reality, they search for an escape, their next spot.

At this point, these young men should avail themselves to a support system of family, former coaches, trusted friends for real advice not just another sycophantic cheerleader. I suggest, the athlete enter into a mandatory reconciliation period with their current team. Then, armed with the best information available and after a cooling off period, they can be better equipped to make a life changing choice.

At this moment there are around 2200 young men waiting for that new opportunity and few will ever find their chance. It goes without saying, each person has the right to a life of their own choosing but they must understand with choice often comes with unforeseen consequences. Those 2200 young men are victims of their on choosing. This system and their support systems are failing them.

Back to that sizzling question, though, is Swinney ever going to use the transfer portal? I say yes, but it won’t be how others have used it. He will apply the same vetting process he uses in recruiting to this new process of re-recruiting.

These young men will be chosen by Clemson and if accepted will do so with a complete understanding of what is expected of them in becoming a part of something special. It won’t work any other way and I suspect, in time, most of those 2200 athletes stuck in the portal will have a sense of regret.

I’m going to end by saying, like go-go boots of the 1960’s and leisure suits of the 1970’s, both being little more than momentary fads, so will it be with the transfer portal of the 2020’s. It will need tweaking or scrapping all together but the process as it currently exists will change. Just my thoughts for whatever it’s worth.

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