CLEMSON — Another swell Signing Day for Clemson prompted a debate among Tiger fans on talk shows and across social media: Which one of the 26 new guys will fare the best in the NFL?
Mark Fields, the polished cornerback once committed to South Carolina, the son of a former Pro Bowl linebacker?
Mitch Hyatt, the Parade All-American tackle already on campus pursuing an engineering degree?
Deon Cain, the versatile Tampa native Clemson will use as a wide receiver?
Of course, there are a lot of former all-world prospects trying to make ends meet in real-world jobs. Florida State, always the elephant in the ACC room, is No. 2 in the recruiting rankings.
But while most coaches use the Signing Day pedestal to pitch their programs and sell hope, few were able to match Swinney’s credibility Wednesday.
“I never dreamed of just trying to be relevant in the ACC,” Swinney said. “That’s important, but we want to be nationally relevant.”
For a long time, he added.
Things have come together splendidly for Clemson since Thanksgiving.
The Tigers finally snapped a haunting losing streak against arch-rival South Carolina.
Recent Clemson skill-position standouts Dwayne Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Jaron Brown completed NFL seasons that serve as recruiting currency.
Clemson added Oklahoma to a list of consecutive bowl victims that include LSU and Ohio State.
The Tigers rallied to finish No. 15 in the Associated Press poll with their fourth straight season of 10 wins or more.
Most impressively, Chad Morris, the 1.3 million-dollar offensive coordinator, left to become the head coach at SMU and none of 22 players committed to Clemson since last summer wavered.
“Clemson is bigger than one coach,” outgoing Clemson recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott said, after praising the impact Morris had on the program. “It was pretty seamless.”
Morris won’t be easy to replace on the sideline this fall, but the program continues to progress with new personalities. Brandon Streeter, a former Clemson quarterback and Charleston Southern assistant coach, takes over as recruiting coordinator. Scott moves to co-offensive coordinator with James Island High School graduate Tony Elliott, who adroitly called plays in the 40-6 Russell Athletic Bowl victory over Oklahoma.
Hyatt was Clemson’s high-profile junior commit a year ago.
“We don’t get guys to commit early, that’s on them,” Swinney insisted.
“I try to talk guys out of committing.”
The difference between now and when Swinney was scrambling for talent before his first Signing Day as head coach in 2009 is “night and day,” he said.
Well, sure. If the Clemson brand isn’t a magnet, it’s a lot more attractive than after the Tigers stumbled to a 6-7 season that ended with a Meineke Car Care Bowl loss to South Florida in 2010.
“It’s been fun because people see the paw, they know it’s Clemson,” Swinney said. “Whether they want to come here or not is one thing, but they want to come see it.
“They want to come see Clemson. And when people get on this campus, we have a great shot. Because it’s special. It just is.”
If you don’t believe Dabo Swinney, he just added 26 new ambassadors to help spread the orange word on and off the field.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff