5 ways CU can improve recruiting

Although the Tigers have hit upon success in recent years in the recruiting arena, there is always room for improvement. In the second half of this series, we take a closer look at some of the things that could be improved in order to take Clemson recruiting to the next level.

1) Adjusting Instate Recruiting Territories: Clemson has had numerous longstanding relationships with the high school coaches around the Palmetto State. Much of this was simply a by-product of having coaching stability over the last decade. High school programs were familiar and quite comfortable with the Clemson staff members they had been seeing for years. However, much of this familiarity was lost as recruiting strategies were undergoing a change even before the Tiger regime was overhauled. Certain territories that had once been very friendly to the Orange and Purple were given to younger, higher energy recruiters. In some cases, this paid dividends, while in others it backfired.

The plethora of coaching changes that followed Bowden's departure has already begun impacting recruiting territories. Promotions, reassignments, and new hires called for territories to be reapportioned. While this may be a short-term setback, in the long run, if smart allocations are made, the eventual returns should be very profitable indeed. For instance, the new tact that had been taken at Byrnes High School, a fertile recruiting ground for the Tigers, failed to yield the results desired. However, changes have been made in responsibilities around the state in a hope to correct this. New recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott does need to temper some of his enthusiasm and not get too radical with the adjustments. For example, moving Brad Scott out of the midlands, an area he has spent a career working, may prove to not be the wisest of stratagems. In short, it was past due time for Clemson to take a look at instate recruiting responsibilities and make some adjustments.

While the coaching change has helped ease into this transition, it is a very thin line to traipse and the Tigers would be wise to maintain a fluid and adaptive strategy to ride out the early growing pains.

2) Out of State Focus: Though there is a good amount of talent to be had locally, there is no arguing that the Tigers must continue to capitalize on their ever expanding southeastern recruiting footprint. As was expounded upon in the previous article, Clemson has done a fantastic job in North Carolina. Contrarily, the efforts in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama have yielded inconsistent results. Each of these states is vital to the program as a whole and can provide the veritable lifeblood needed to fuel an ACC championship. Though, to claim that each of these states should be recruited similarly to each other would be a colossal mistake as each area represents its own challenge.

The Peach State should receive a much greater emphasis than it has in the past. As recently as last year, a single coach was responsible for not only the Atlanta Metro Area, but a sizeable portion of the state above and beyond that. This area is one of the most talent rich in the entire nation. With only one true recruiting power instate in Georgia, there is more than enough talent to go around, allowing Clemson to snag a few top tier prospects each year. The staff has already recognized this and has assigned 4 coaches to this area for the near future. Florida is a similar situation. While the Big 3 of Miami, FSU, and Florida will be tough to beat for a player they truly want, there is such an overabundance of talent that they simply can't take all the top flight recruits. In fact, the Sunshine State is so replete with talent, that you could make a BCS quality team out of the athletes the Big 3 don't ever even consider going after (see both West Virginia, who has made a living out of doing this, and, to lesser extent, South Florida). Clemson would do well to continue working this area and pocketing some of the gems that are left behind. Finally, Alabama needs a major readjustment. This is, in my opinion, the single hardest area to pull a recruit out of state. There is so much pressure to attend either Alabama or Auburn in an area that produces decent, but not overly plentiful talent that there are fairly slim pickings when push comes to shove. Now, there is no reason to pull out altogether as Clemson has had some success (most recently with mauler Antoine McClain), but scaling back efforts in the Yellowhammer State may be a wise course of action.

3) Training Table: Those that are familiar with the concept of a training table are likely having fond memories evoked by its mere mention. Those that are not privy to the concept are truly missing out. Let me explain: a training table is a once a day meal that is provided to athletes during the fall and spring semesters. Often, this contains better food than is commonly available to the average student-athlete. Moreover, it is a great way for the team's nutritionist to keep on eye on certain players intakes, monitor protein consumption, etc. Training tables are a mainstay of virtually every major football program in the country and the practice became a bastion of student-athlete diets everywhere in the 1980's.

So how does this pertain to Clemson and where can the Tigers improve? It is shocking at the minimum and probably bordering on reprehensible that there is no such formal training table available currently at Clemson. With the outrage that has accompanied various other facility contentions, be it the slow progress of the WestZone or the lack of an indoor practice facility, not a peep has been voiced about this massive oversight. Coach Swinney has already locked horns with the administration in an attempt to get funding for this vital cog, but has received mixed support. While there are banquets and special meals, there is no set, everyday, regular training table available. In this department, for a program that likes to think of itself as top tier, Clemson lags the vast majority of the nation by some twenty-five years.

4) Willingness to go Prep: This is a bit of a more controversial tact to take in recruiting. Clemson has maintained a very high standard indeed when it comes to academics and recruiting. In some instances, this has bordered on a bit excessive and has been taken to the extreme, but, all in all, the staff should be commended for the caliber of students being targeted in the recruiting process. However, prep schools are becoming more and more commonplace in the world of recruiting and the Tigers appear to be a bit behind the curve. Signing and placing top recruits is an extremely effective strategy that Clemson has yet to fully tap.

While the staff is willing to place one or two academic risks, Clemson often pulls off of targets at a much higher frequency than rival recruiting programs. Such a policy finds the Orange and Purple losing out on some rarely talented athletes. While formulating an entire class out of potential prep schoolers is a surefire recipe for disaster, it may behoove Clemson to stay the course a bit more often with prospects that have some work to do in the classroom. Without using a year of eligibility, athletes get an extra year of physical maturation and, usually, superior coaching, both of which allow them to be much more ready to compete once on campus. The Tigers have not completely ignored the prep ranks, but it is surprising to see how quickly the staff cools on excellent prospects that merely need a single year of prep in order to qualify.

5) Win: Finally, we arrive at the crux of the issue. When all the fripperies are stripped away and recruiting is boiled down to its most basic form, the overall success of recruiting relies solely upon the overall success of the program. This is fairly obvious and even the most casual of fans will be quick to point out the fact that success often breeds success. However, what is often overestimated by these same fans is the importance of any given season. An absolutely abysmal season will tank a class and a phenomenal season will boost it, but these gains are both fairly short lived and are often not dramatic, program changers. Rather, it is consistent, overarching success that builds up a recruiting portfolio. Continued success and an overall upward trend are imperative for any effective recruiting pitch.

Clemson has done a decent job over the last ten years of bettering the program and being a steady riser.

However, in the last two years, the Tigers have failed to take the next step and this stalling of progress, this lack of breaking through, has proven costly on the recruiting trail with key recruits. Coach Swinney is faced with a daunting task: not only is he in his first year as a head coach and thus needs to demonstrate on the field that he is more than capable, he will also be on a much shorter leash to produce the ultimate results that Bowden failed to deliver. Winning will cure all ills and Clemson is long overdue to live up to its full potential and put that magical season together. Should Dabo manage to craft a season that results in even just an appearance in the ACC championship game, the results should be noticeable on the recruiting trail not just for this season, but for those to come, so long as this momentum can be maintained.

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