ATLANTA — The recruiting class of 2009, Dabo Swinney’s first as Clemson head coach, has presented an interesting dichotomy: it has both helped and hindered the program.
It has helped Clemson because it contained quarterback Tajh Boyd. The junior has won 20 games in his two years as a starting quarterback and owns a significant number of program offensive records.
If Boyd had signed with another program, it seems unlikely Clemson would be meeting LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at 7:30 p.m. today. The Clemson staff might also look much different had Boyd chosen finalists Oregon or Ohio State over Clemson.
“I’ll never forget sitting up there in his house,” Swinney said. “(Oregon) coach (Mike) Bellotti goes out one day, (Ohio State) coach (Jim) Tressel is coming in next. And here comes coach Swinney. I’m like ‘Listen, man, I need a quarterback. I don’t have anything to offer you. I’ve got no resume. I’ve never coached. I’ve coached just a few games as an interim guy here, but, man, I think we can do some great things.
“So four years later, it’s very fulfilling to see the progress we’ve made.”
The class has produced other contributors like Brandon Thomas, Spencer Shuey, Malliciah Goodman, Jonathan Meeks and Tyler Shatley.
But that class has also hindered Clemson.
Due to injury and attrition, the 12-member signing class Swinney dubbed “the dandy dozen” has only nine members remaining on the roster.
The small numbers place Clemson at a disadvantage, robbing the team of experienced depth and of senior and redshirt junior leaders. Over a five-year period (2008-2012), LSU has signed 15 more players than Clemson, in part because of the small class.
The class was eroded because of the coaching transition from Tommy Bowden to Swinney. Swinney said it was also a “conscious” decision to push scholarships forward and focus on the 2010 and 2011 classes.
“I’m very thankful for those guys for choosing to stick with us,” Swinney said.
The Terry Don Phillips Bowl
Former Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips plays a prominent role in this year’s Chick-fil-Bowl, even though he retired earlier this year.
Phillips gave both LSU coach Les Miles, at Oklahoma State, and Swinney their first head coaching jobs. Miles says he and Swinney are “indebted” to Phillips, who has been inducted into the Chick-fil-A Bowl Hall of Fame.
Blanks on the move
Freshman defensive back Travis Blanks has worked at safety during Clemson’s bowl practice and will rotate in at the position along with Rashard Hall and Meeks against LSU. Clemson safeties have struggled in pass coverage and tackling this season. Blanks was used at Clemson’s linebacker/defensive back hybrid position in the regular season. Blanks will remain at safety next season.
Can Clemson join 300 club?
Though LSU’s defense is ranked in the top 10 nationally in fewest yards allowed, it has surrendered three straight 300-yard passing games to opposing quarterbacks.
He said it
Sunday’s final pre-bowl press conference turned into a lovefest between Swinney and Miles, who praised each other and their teams repeatedly. Said Swinney: “I like Les, as long as he does not kiss me.”