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It’s been a season to forget thus far for Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to make changes to his philosophy.
Swinney has long relied on building a strong culture and recruiting top-end talent for his program, and it’s hard to argue with the results. Six straight College Football Playoff appearances and two national championships speaks for itself and is the standard bearer for success alongside Alabama.
With a 3-2 start to the season and statistically one of the worst offenses in the nation, ESPN College Gameday analyst David Pollack suggested that Swinney’s resistance to use the transfer portal could be holding the Tigers back. Swinney was asked about this during his call-in show on Monday and explained why he doesn’t take part in the transfer portal.
“We’ve always been a developmental program,” Swinney said. “The game has changed this past year for freshmen and sophomores and all that. We’ve had guys here who were backups who wanted to go somewhere and start. Kids that enter the portal — 99 percent of them are in the portal — well for multiple reasons but most of them want to go somewhere to start. There’s nobody in there that we felt like that fit that for us.”
Swinney doubled down on his comments, citing the success of the program before this season.
“But I think who we’ve been and the way we’ve been doing things — I can’t tell you how many times in 13 years I’ve been told that I got to do this and got to do that and got to do this and gotta to do that, and what we’ve done is do it the Clemson way,” Swinney said. “It’s led us to many playoffs and multiple national championships and we’ve beat the best of the best of the best to do it.”
It’s hard to disagree with Swinney, who has done something previously unthinkable at a school like Clemson. The Tigers floundered in the mid-tier of college football for nearly 30 years until Swinney’s arrival as head coach in 2008 and now the program is the class of the ACC. Nobody would have ever thought Florida State would take a backseat to Clemson, but we’re now on a run of six consecutive years of seeing that happen.
And who can deny the amount of talent Swinney has produced over the years from recruiting? Look no further than quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, who were recruited by Swinney and brought the program to new heights. But that’s not to say there aren’t other ways to win, like utilizing the transfer portal.
Oklahoma under both Bob Stoops and Lincoln Reilly dipped into the portal for three impressive quarterbacks, all who brought success to the Sooners. That would be Baker Mayfield from Texas Tech, Kyler Murray from Texas A&M and Jalen Hurts from Alabama. And so, it works for some programs, and it does not for others.
Swinney will not change what he’s been doing for a decade plus, which might be the best thing to hear if you’re a Clemson fan.
“It’s not that you’re reluctant to do anything, but you don’t just change to change,” said Swinney. “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,” Swinney said. “That’s silly. People say, well we got beat by a transfer quarterback. Well, ok, do we want to get rid of Trevor Lawrence? I mean, c’mon.
“We love our running backs. We love every position that we have. We love the offensive linemen that we have. We’ve evaluated everything. We got one of the top guys in the country in Tristan Leigh this past year — and he’s gonna turn out to be a great one. Marcus Tate is a true freshman who’s gonna be great one.”