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Sep 17, 2022

The Clemson Culture

By: Jere Drummond

Note: The following appears in the Louisiana Tech football gameday program.

In the world of college football, to be an elite team, you have to field a team of elite players. The best way to field an elite team is to recruit at an elite level.

Over the years, Head Coach Dabo Swinney and staff have been relentless on the recruiting trail, not just in the Palmetto State, where the Tigers have seen South Carolina natives, such as DeAndre Hopkins, Shaq Lawson and Andre Ellington, don the orange and white and play in Death Valley, but also nationally.

Clemson legends C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins opened up a pipeline of blue-chip talent from the Sunshine State that allowed for Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud to venture up to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Tigers have been on the national scene for quite some time and have had the chance to play in primetime games and give prospects a showcase of what they can achieve in Clemson through the lens of their television sets. Winning six ACC championships in a row, appearing in six College Football Playoffs and winning two national championships since 2015 allows for quite the momentum on the recruiting trail.

Most elite programs in college football cast a wide net in the recruiting process by playing the law of averages in hopes of landing blue-chip talent. Clemson takes a different approach than the other elite programs in the sport. The Tigers are very selective in the recruitment process and try to find not just great football players, but great young men who fit the program’s established culture.

“Obviously, a guy has to be a good player,” said Jordan Sorrells, the architect of Clemson’s recruiting operations. “The good news for us is the pool of those good-enough players is large enough so that we can still find those guys who fit who we are culturally as well.”

“Once we determine that this guy is good enough from a football standpoint, then we are really able to dive into what I would say is the crux of the talent evaluation process, which is who are you as person? Who are you are a student? You recruit a guy, but you also recruit his entire family, so our program wants to have a full understanding of who that guy is.”

To be great in the world of recruiting, coaches have to build and maintain relationships with high school coaches, not just in the state of South Carolina, but the entire country.

“We are really grateful to have Coach (Robbie) Caldwell,” continued Sorrells. “It seems like there is not a person on this planet who he does not know, and if he has not met them, within two minutes it will feel like he has known you for your whole life. He is a tremendous asset to our department. Coach Caldwell does a really good job in reaching out to coaches, and he helps us out in that process.

“Our coaching staff as a whole does a great job of reaching out to coaches, and that is a big part of the process. You want to develop those relationships and maintain those relationships. It is important for those high school coaches to know that we are not just there to get your player, we are here as a resource to help, assist and aid you.

“We want to get to know you and help develop your program. In doing that, they have the ability to call us when they do have a prospect. We want to make sure, especially in our geographic footprint here in the Southeast, that we do a great job building those relationships with high school coaches and we are not just walking in when they have a prospect. We want to be in the schools as much as we can and talk to those coaches as much as possible.”

In the ever-changing world of college football, Swinney and his staff remain true to what got Clemson to an elite level.

“The more chaotic it’s gotten, the more attractive we’ve become to the people who really value what we offer, and that is a true, holistic approach to developing as a man, not just a football player, and the long-term value of education,” said Swinney.

Swinney and his staff have built a talented roster without sacrificing the culture of the program.