SC, Clemson football teams adjust to recruiting changes
Shane Beamer’s card is filling up.
Speaking to reporters last Wednesday, Beamer laughed as he browsed his recent travel itinerary. There have been stops in Florida and Georgia. Virginia and South Carolina are also on the list.
The first-year USC head coach had visited seven different states in recent weeks for recruiting. He was on his way to an eighth place finish after a bowl press conference ended.
“Busy time,” Beamer joked.
In the space of five years, recruiting for college football has rocked. The early signing period shifted the recruitment schedule by almost two months. The Transfer Portal has added a free agency variant to a sport that has been trying to avoid modernization for decades.
How are these changes affecting the state’s largest football programs? It’s a mixed bag, but Clemson and South Carolina are adjusting to the changing landscape.
“We both have the same issues when it comes to our recruiting base,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said at a press conference on Nov. 23. The state of South Carolina has “a small population when it comes to soccer players.” Atlanta has more people than the entire state of South Carolina. Then you have to win in the SEC and the ACC – you have to be a fairly good player for that level of competition. Then you launch a need for a position, academics, a form, all that, this pool becomes even smaller.
A signing period in December
The early signing period, at its core, was developed to allow players who have been involved in schools for long periods of time to sign well in advance of the traditional National Signing Day in February.
With the shift from 2017 until an early signing period in mid-december, coaches and players stepped up their recruiting clocks to accommodate both sides. The first period of this year begins on Wednesday.
The busy recruiting season only gets more complicated when it comes up against changes in coaches in the sport.
“I don’t know what the right decision is,” Rivals national recruiting analyst Sam Spiegelman told The State. “But if the Coaching Carousel is to look like 2021 again, that certainly mitigates somehow the positives of the first signing period as the kids are either going to make a rash decision or end up in the transfer portal because they were rushed to make a decision.
Schools are currently allowed to sign 25 players per signing class under NCAA rules. On Sunday, South Carolina’s class included 19 high school engagements and one player whose transfer will count towards this year’s total. Assuming all 19 of those high school applicants sign, that will only leave five spots for USC to fill by February.
A week ago, Beamer declared himself a big fan of the early signing period – largely because coaches no longer have to spend so much energy in December and January to ensure rookies stay on. initiated and signed in February.
“I love it,” he said. “I don’t know if all coaches feel that, but I think so. “
Clemson, on the other hand, has taken a different recruiting approach than most schools. Swinney and his staff are notorious for not offering players until their junior years. The Tigers in some recruiting rounds remain well below that maximum of 25 signatories. And they took few transfers – junior college or otherwise – under Swinney.
That said, Clemson compared himself to the best in the ongoing college football recruiting war. The Tigers have signed the top five consecutive classes nationwide, according to the 247Sports Composite. Clemson has also signed only one class below 11th nationally since 2015.
That stability, however, has been called into question of late after the departures of offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Brent Venables, who held head coaching positions in Virginia and Oklahoma, respectively.
The Tigers 2022 class currently has 12 entries after Daylen Everette’s IMG Academy contingent, Keon Sabb and Jihaad Campbell all reopened their hires last week. The class ranks No.14 nationally – which would be Clemson’s lowest recruiting result since 2017.
On top of that, nine Tigers have entered the transfer portal since the start of the season, including a quarterback, two running backs and two receivers.
“YesYou hear things about the guys on the roster, you hear things about the players who’ve signed up at this point, ”Rivals nAdam Friedman, international recruiting analyst and director of rankings, told The State when asked how the coaching changes might affect Clemson. “And I think Wednesday will be interesting to see which (prospects) end up signing up with all these rumors swirling around. Things can get a little weird this time of year.
Why the transfer portal matters to South Carolina
While Swinney and his team have chosen not to accept transfers, Beamer and South Carolina have attacked the transfer portal as harshly as any school in the country.
247Sport unveiled a new series of rankings last week, which included notes for transfers and how those are factored into a signing class as a whole. The company did so, in part, in response to Beamer’s comments on USC’s 2021 class of 13, ranked No.79 nationally – a finish that didn’t take into account the heavy transfer of school.
“When you look at our signature class numbers and rankings, yes, it’s small. It’s low. It was on purpose, ”Beamer said at his National Signing Day press conference in February. “Nobody is talking – when you talk about the signing class and the rankings and things like that – guys who have been transferred from other places who are fantastic football players who are going to help this team immediately.
A player capable of transferring is not new to the sport, but the launch of the transfer portal in 2018 added some formality – and a lot more publicity – to the process. The NCAA’s decision last offseason to allow athletes to transfer once without having to be absent for a year makes the portal an even more attractive option for players and schools.
The Gamecocks made 10 transfers a season ago and look set to bring in a lot of outside imports again. Of those 10, six were found to be contributors.
Carlins Platel (Assumption University) and David Spaulding (Georgia Southern) both played numerous snaps in high school. Defensive lineman Jordan Strachan – who tied for the FBS lead in backpacks at Georgia State in 2020 – added a nice complementary piece in the trenches for the Gamecocks.
St. Francis (Pa.) Transfers Jason Brown and EJ Jenkins also had their moments following their transfer from the FCS level to the Southeastern Conference. Brown, in particular, has helped South Carolina advance to the bowl with wins over Florida and Auburn in all of their four starts this season.
“I can’t even express how I’m feeling right now,” Brown said after the win over Florida. “It’s just an unreal feeling. Think about it: I was on the third team for a while and continued to prepare like I was the starter.
There is one additional item this year intended to help with the management of the list: College football teams can replace up to seven transfers at the start with incoming transfers. South Carolina has lost four players on the portal since the end of the regular season and six in total since the start of the season.
Swinney – who has long opposed transfers – seems more open to using the transfer portal. The Tigers have lost five players per transfer since the end of the season, including QB Taisun Phommachanh and receivers Frank Ladson and Ajou Ajou.
“Like I’ve said a number of times, we’ll use the portal if it’s necessary,” Swinney said after Clemson’s 30-0 win over South Carolina. “It hasn’t been a need for us at this point. If it ever becomes a need, we will respond strategically, perfectly fit and all that.
… We’re still going to be a developmental program, and if we can’t meet a need through high school students and there’s a gap somewhere, we’ll always look at that as an option. But only if it’s something we need.
South Carolina, Clemson nears early signing period
Clemson and South Carolina are putting the finishing touches on their respective recruiting classes ahead of the first signing period.
The Tigers are working to stop the fallout from the departures of Venables and Elliott and hope to add some more prospects before the period ends on Friday.
Beamer’s staff remain on a handful of top prospects and feel poised to add a few more names this week. Their 2022 class ranks No.16 nationally and eighth in the SEC following recent engagements from defensive lineman D’Andre Martin and linebacker Jaishawn Barham – the latter being the highest-rated rookie to commit to North Carolina. South since Beamer took over.
“Being able to come out and hear so many people who just stopped by and congratulated us on the season we’ve had and the way we’re playing (has been great),” Beamer said after the Carolina bowl announcement. South on December 5. “Really cool to hear from other college coaches that I have met or high school coaches who have talked about how hard we play in the fight our guys play and the passion our guys play with.
It remains to be seen how these classes are formed. The transfer portal continues to swirl. High school prospects who don’t sign early can still ink with schools in February.
Meanwhile, Beamer and Swinney added a few more states to their trips across the country as they chased down the next wave of elite college football prospects.