Dabo Swinney's transfer portal stance shows why Clemson is falling behind

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney during Spring football practice at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney during Spring football practice at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

It's been five years since Clemson last played for a national title and before that, it seemed like Dabo Swinney was building a dynasty. He had won five straight conference titles (it became six in 2020) and made four national title games in five years, winning two of them.

Long story short, Swinney was a threat to overtake Nick Saban as the best coach in the sport and Clemson was looking like the next Alabama.

However, since the 2020 season, Clemson is 30-10 which, on paper, isn't bad, but it's not the standard that was build from about 2011 until COVID-19 hit. Something felt different. Clemson has only won more than 10 games one time in that span and it has one conference title in the past three years. Fans are growing increasingly frustrated, but Swinney remains even-keeled.

The transfer portal has been a huge topic with Dabo and he continues to stand firm on his stance which is that it's just not for Clemson.

In fact, Clemson has landed just two transfers over the past five classes and his lack of portal utilization has led to fans questioning if he's really doing everything to get the Tigers back to the top of college football.

There has to be a good reason he's avoiding the portal, right?

Well, according to Matt Connolly of On3, the reasoning is that he doesn't think the transfer portal players are good enough to play at Clemson.

"“I mean, it’s really pretty simple. Most of the guys in the portal aren’t good enough to play for us. That’s just the reality of it,” Dabo Swinney said. “I mean, we have guys that are backups at Clemson that go in the portal because they just want to have an opportunity, and most of them are graduates, by the way. But we have guys that are backups. They want a chance to go play. I’ve got no problem with that. So rarely do we have a starter leave Clemson."

Dabo Swinney, per Matt Connolly

That quote alone tells me that Swinney is out of touch with the current state of college football and his stubbornness is why Clemson has been a shell of itself for the past three seasons. It's why the Tigers are playing in Cheez-It and Gator bowls instead of national title games.

Saying that "most of the guys in the portal aren't good enough to play for us" is only accurate because there are thousands of players in the portal. But Clemson is an attractive enough landing spot that it would be able to sign top-10 transfer classes annually. Swinney would be able to have his pick of the top transfers and, yes, they would be good enough not only to play for Clemson but to also start.

Look at the past few seasons of national title contenders. Alabama had Jameson Williams and Jahmyr Gibbs, LSU had Jayden Daniels and Joe Burrow, Washington had Michael Penix Jr. and Jabbar Muhammad, Florida State had Keon Coleman, USC had Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison, Texas has Quinn Ewers, Ole Miss has Jaxson Dart. I could go on forever, but the point is this: transfers can make a huge difference.

Instead, Swinney's two transfer additions over the past five years have been below-average backup quarterbacks. So he truly has no room to talk.

Throw guys like Gibbs, Addison, or Williams on that 2022 Clemson team and they win a national title. Give Clemson Coleman or Daniels this past season and the offense actually has a pulse and contends for the College Football Playoff.

Swinney's stubbornness and "not good enough to play for us" mentality is why the rest of the nation is getting better each offseason and the Tigers are stuck in the mud.

Clemson fans better hope he changes his tune soon.

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