Posted: 7:00 a.m. Wednesday, May 1, 2013
This is divergence from the normal recruiting routine but it is the gap between spring and fall camp so I thought I would throw this out there now. This is a bit of a 'thought-piece' about recruiting and I would love any feedback you might be inclined to share. Forgive some of my disorganized thoughts but I wanted to put it all out there.
I have been thinking a lot about the nature of being 'All In' and Dabo's general approach to recruiting. This has come on the heels of a series of rather high profile de-commitments. Particularly Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Cook among others (we seem to have a tough time ever getting back into it with recruits who de-commit). This isn't meant to tear down our current recruiting but trying to think through how best to articulate to recruits and the fan base what it means to be 'All In'. First let me say that I generally really like Dabo's ideas about being 'all in'. Being 'All In' to me is first and foremost a recruiting strategy (it then gets translated into a motivational tool and then a broader slogan the fanbase latches on to).
Dabo tells every recruit that recruitment is like a courtship and committing is like a marriage. He lays out in great detail what being 'All In' means to him and even tells recruits not to commit unless they are 'all in'. When you are 'all in' that is the end of visits and flirtation with other schools and you receive the 'all in' poker chip (something I will return to later).
This philosophy has helped Clemson, in my mind, to gain a small competitive advantage over non-SEC schools in the south. We have successfully recruited in places like Florida where no one gave us much of a chance ten years ago. This is also in conjunction with good recruiters on the staff and an investment in facilities but the overall philosophy has to be considered as well. We have been able to convince many players that there is a type of Clemson recruit (not everyone can/will be a Clemson guy) who has high standards, good person, etc. (religion also factors in here but that is another post).
We were able to lock down much of the 2010 and 2011 classes this way. Make a commitment, your word is your bond, don't flirt with other schools and don't stab us in the back when it comes closer to signing day. Cases where players strayed in their recruitment like Darius Robinson (who apologized) and Marlin Lane (cut bait) were dealt with swiftly and effectively. However, when you recruit a higher level of consensus 5* players like the number one player in the nation--you almost need a double standard and things get complicated.
I have even argued that you must treat some players a little differently. At least to the point that you can't just cut them off if they visit anywhere or want to take officials after they commit a full year or two years in advance. You just can't consistently recruit elite talent that way (it is a lot more difficult). It works better when you are dealing with a little lower caliber of player that can be replaced a little easier without a huge drop off in talent. The staff seemed to respond to this and last year it appeared they were more relaxed with the top talent taking occasional visits that were previewed/run by the coaches beforehand. DeShaun Watson was even doing this recently before publicly coming out as %100 Clemson.
Players taking visits hasn't gone over very well, particularly with fans, and speaks to just how public recruiting has become. We can all watch on Twitter as the decommitment happens and we have unprecedented access to the players themselves through social media. Clemson fans have bought in completely to the Dabo way of recruiting. It is now a moral affront to the fanbase to have a kid go against his word. Nevermind that coaches are jumping around all over the place and schools will cut you if you get injured (or just not have room for you) just days before signing day (but this is another matter). The reality is that our fans take it very hard when a recruit de-commits. We get after it on Twitter and have even been accused of death threats and racial slurs after recruits go other places (I still contend that almost all of that is from Coots posing as Tigers but I am sure it happens somewhat). Thinking of ways to defuse this raging powder keg are productive.
My suggestion to Coach Swinney is simple. Tweak the definition of 'all in'. You only get that chip when you are 'all in'. You can commit and be on the commitment list but not be 'all in'. Go and take the visits, but don't take the chip. The whole fanbase will know who has a chip and is 'all in' or not. This still creates the desired effect of locking down recruits but gives fans a realistic approach to recruiting. Take the example of DSG--he commits early but then wants to take some visits. Out of respect to Dabo he de-commits, the fans explode and he feels hurt. He quickly commits to A&M.; This situation could be changed to look like this. DSG commits early and takes 'all in' chip. Wants to take visits so he gives back chip and fan base doesn't freak out as much. He takes visits but stays a commit to Clemson. Comes to Spring game where he again gets chip and goes 'all in'. Dabo tells him if the chip comes back to him again, his spot is gone (something like that).
You get a middle tier and don't put so much pressure on that initial commitment to be 'all in' as well. This would work well with players who are worth oversigning. In the cases where you only want to have a limited number of players for a specific position, you then privately tell the recruits you are only accepting guys who can effectively be 'all in'. Clemson is completely committed to those guys who reciprocate. That sounds fair to me.
I could be entirely over-thinking this but thought I would throw it out there. What say you? What might be an even better solution?