CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney has a message for his football staff every time the coaches hit the recruiting trail and every time they evaluate future prospects.
The college football cycle never ends these days and Swinney, who a month ago won his second national championship in three years as Clemson's head coach, is clearly doing something right when it comes to recruiting.
Over the last 10 years, Swinney has developed somewhat of a formula he now imparts on assistants. It goes something like this:
"You can't be afraid to let a good player go."
"You better be right because we're not going to ever sign (someone) and then figure out who we like and run them off."
"Don't ever complain about your players. You recruited them.
"If they're not good enough, that's our fault."
The Tigers will wrap up their 2019 recruiting class Wednesday on National Signing Day. Clemson will add only a few players then after hauling in a load of talent during the early signing period in December.
This class is further proof that Swinney's philosophy is working. Under Swinney, Clemson has worked its way up from a No. 19 national ranking by ESPN for its recruiting classes in 2009 and 2010 to a top-five class in 2018. This year's class is projected to be in the top 10.
By turning down talented players that don't fit the culture of Swinney's program, he has hand-picked who he wants at Clemson.
By essentially demanding that his assistants stick to his policy, he has fostered an environment where Clemson can be, and is, selective with its offers.
It was gut instincts by coaches that led to Clemson grabbing rising star linebacker Isaiah Simmons at the last minute before the 2016 season. The same holds true for starting safety K'Von Wallace in 2016 and running back Travis Etienne before the 2017 season.
Add that to the reality that Clemson now has a national brand, which gives the Tigers a recruiting edge in South Carolina and around the country. Etienne is from Louisiana. Wallace is from Virginia. Simmons is from Kansas. Star receiver Justyn Ross is from Alabama. Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers are from Tennessee.
Jackson Carman was poached right out of Urban Meyer's backyard in Ohio.
"It just shows that our brand is getting stronger and stronger," said quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter. "Getting the No. 1 guy in six different states (in the past), I don't know if anybody else can say that, but that's strong ... it's exciting. Really is. Fired up about it."
Of Clemson's 17 enrollees already in class, Florida wide receiver Frank Ladson leads the group, and of the 10 who have already signed, cornerback Andrew Booth out of Georgia is the headliner.
Michel Dukes, a running back at First Baptist expected to sign Wednesday, is another player Swinney hopes will help Clemson keep its streak of College Football Playoff appearances going for years to come.
"Whenever I was a little kid, and I’d go fishing with my dad, he’d give me two options," said wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. "He’d say we can go over here and we can catch the small brim, and we’d catch a bunch of them. It’d be really easy. Or we can go over to this end of the lake and try to catch these big bass and you may catch one every hour."
Clemson has chosen the latter. And it's paying off like never before.