Author’s Note: These opinions do not in any way reflect those of this site. They are solely mine.
There’s always a reason for everything. After Clemson’s recent de-commitments, a few questions beg for answers. Here are a few observations on the possible reasons.
I’ve praised and reveled in Dabo Swinney’s unwavering commitment to his culture because it worked, well. However, that might just be at issue with the painful recent realities of Clemson’s perceived, stalled and shrinking 2023 recruiting class. While a few more offers have been handed out, it’s yet to be seen how many will be accepted.
Today’s recruits are savvy but still very impressionable. They know, they are no longer the pawns of the football chessboard, they are now the crafty, stealthy Rook.
I believe, that a Clemson offer certainly adds value to a recruit’s resume and one could honestly ask if some are even intersted in playing for Swinney and Clemson. Some might be using Clemson to increase their potential NIL bottom line for those unscrupulous, deep-pocket boosters of other programs. When it boils down to it, how can anyone, with the high stakes recruiting bonanza, place absolute faith in anything 17-year-olds says these days? Clemson knows that all too well.
I know my words might seem foolish, reactionary, and lack reason but even those with cooler heads than I can see things are just, different. Maybe, faith, family, and the preparation for a successful life after football are no longer in fashion in the minds of a completely different and more easily distracted generation of recruits.
Maybe today, somehow a quality education matters less, maybe an off-year has sullied Clemson’s reputation in the minds of current recruits. Maybe Swinney waited too long to accept the inevitability of change, most know, he can be very stubborn. Maybe it’s the hurling of life-changing money at those highly valued recruits that were once attracted to the things that made Clemson different than others. Any and all of these might be affecting Swinney’s program.
It’s strange, like so many other programs before it, Clemson seems to be out of rhythm, a program possibly stuck in the glories of its past. Kids that live in this instant gratification society don’t care about what happened in 2016 and 2018. To them, that’s old news that happened when they were but eleven and thirteen years old. Honestly, they could care less about “ancient” history. Today, in this fickle world we live, it’s all about whomever twitter says is trending upward and at this moment it’s hard to admit but it isn’t Clemson.
I’m sounding like a doomsday profit. My words might give that impression but that’s not my intention. Unlike the bluebloods of the sport who are constantly given the benefit of the doubt, Clemson is always under suspicion of being a fraud. The Tigers place at the top of college football will remain precarious, until they (and must do so every year) prove it’s deserved.
We can all dance around the white elephant in the room but let’s be completely honest, another disaster like the 2021 season and this ride, God forbid, could be over. Don’t draw false comfort in the outcome of the 10-3, 2021 season, no matter how it’s spun. Just look at the sheer ugliness of that putrid, inept offense. Most recruit’s doubts are warranted, and even amongst some in Tiger Nation.
It’s sad, the world seems more impressed by the success at any cost recruiting model than it is by something they see as seemingly out of touch as integrity. If that’s the case, and I hope it is not, Clemson’s future could be far less successful than its past. Swinney and Clemson completely embodies integrity. As an Alumnus, I want it no other way.
When a program gets caught up in past greatness, the world can change, quickly. No amount of pontificating about the virtues of what you have done is going to matter in a world where you can no longer compete. Winds change direction, mountains crumble into the sea and even the greatest of dynasties die. It’s inevitable. If you think that’s outlandish, take pause and think of Florida State. It’s unfathomable and sad to see how far the once-mighty Seminole dynasty has fallen. It’s proof that anything can happen to any program, including Clemson’s.
I have to acknowledge there have already been a few positive tweaks. However, I believe with just a few more small changes in Swinney culture, Clemson will roar again on the recruiting trail. But those few, slight changes have to begin soon, like yesterday.
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One thought on “Opinion: Clemson’s Bumpy Ride, the Recruitment of 2023 Class”
Great article Sam. It may not be appreciated by all, and even infuriate some hardcore fans, but your words ring true.