|The following article appears in the November issue of CUTigers The Magazine. For more information on ordering a subscription to the largest independent magazine covering the Clemson Tigers, click here.|
DeAndre McDaniel remembers surfing the internet following last year's 13-12 loss to Maryland, and he remembers how what he saw almost caused him to change his mind about coming to Clemson.
McDaniel, who initially signed on to be a Tiger in 2006, at the time was attending Virginia's Hargrave Military Academy. He logged onto the super information highway to get a pulse of what was happening in Tiger nation.
He knew the Tigers had just dropped a second straight game, and he knew it cost them a shot at an ACC title, but what he didn't know he discovered soon after he signed onto a couple of Clemson message boards.
What McDaniel discovered were threads and threads of posts like "fire Bowden", "get rid of the coaching staff," and much, much more.
What he saw was disheartening, and what he saw almost caused him to go somewhere else. "That was the only time when I was thinking about not coming to Clemson." he said.
Luckily for Clemson, McDaniel stayed true to his commitment and has since become a major contributor at safety in the Tigers' secondary. But there are recruits that have allowed what was written on a message boards to persuade their actions.
This is just another challenge Clemson's coaches battle in the already competitive world of recruiting.
"You used to keep a kid a secret and information did not travel so fast, but with the internet era and the technology advances we are experiencing, it has just changed everything," Clemson wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney said. "Everybody knows everything. Information is just so readily available and people can get it so fast it is just instant.
But there are some good things that come from web sites like CUTigers.com.
"Recruits can talk to one another and find out different things so in a way it has kind of made everything like a small town," Swinney said.
And that's what helped McDaniel get through a difficult time when he considered going to another school. McDaniel said he always checked out the message boards when he was being recruited and he said he knew a lot of the other recruits that would do the same thing, proving internet chat rooms and message boards play a big part in where a potential recruit will go to school.
"Sometimes it can play a role in recruiting," McDaniel said. "You want people to like you. You don't want to go to a place where fans don't respect you or like you. So it is a big part of it."
McDaniel wasn't the only current Clemson Tiger to visit team sites while he was being recruited. Quarterback Cullen Harper did it quite often when he was in high school, but he didn't visit the message boards.
"If there was an article written by someone, I would go in there and check it out, especially when you are in high school," he said. "That's a big deal when you are in high school. You like to go in there and check and see what someone is writing about you on the internet."
But visiting message boards does not stop when an athlete starts playing for that particular school. In an unofficial poll by CUTigers, more than half of this year's Clemson football team visits web sites that pertain or have information about their team.
"I don't look at the message boards. Every now and then, maybe a couple of times during the week I will get on and checkout what is going on," Harper said. "I don't really get into it though. I stay away from the message boards and things like that.
"I have known some people in the past who were always seeing what people were saying. Now there are some people that still are, but I think for the most part people do a good job staying away from those kinds of things."
Not the freshman, Clemson safety Mike Hamlin said a lot of the younger players are always on the Clemson team sites.
"I feel like a lot of them do it," Hamlin said. "I know a lot of the freshmen that just came in, they were on it a lot. I think the newer generation coming up is taking it a whole lot more serious than we did."
Wide receiver Aaron Kelly said he doesn't get into the whole Internet craze like some of his teammates, but he said he doesn't have to. He says his mother does enough for the both of them and she reports to him on anything written about him – negative or positive.
"She reads everything. That's how she keeps a pulse on what is happening down here," he said. "Sometimes when she reads something and she doesn't like it she will tell me and try to motivate me sometimes."
Defensive end Ricky Sapp says he doesn't get on the Internet that much himself, but he has friends that played high school football with him that will email him what is being said about him.
He said he uses any negative commitments as motivation.
"I'm always looking for motivation," he said. "There are e-mails I get from people telling me what is being said about me out there so I will use that for motivation."
Running back James Davis doesn't want any negative feedback to motivate him. He said people can say what they want on message boards – that's there right. And though he doesn't have the passwords to get on any of the message boards, he took a different approach on what he would do if he did.
"I probably would visit them if I had the password," he said. "That would probably be after I had a big game, though, but that's the only time I would do it."