Clemson’s Dabo Swinney can recruit but can he coach?

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney is on fire on the recruiting trail.  Not only “is” he on fire recruiting, he’s been on fire and its been that way since he became the Clemson head coach in late 2008.

According cutigers.com, in 2009 he signed 6 players rated 4 stars or better. In 2010 he signed 5 players rated 4 stars or better. Then in 2011 the floodgates opened with 9 more 4 and 5 star players. So far in 2012 there have 7 such players and we aren’t even out of the summer. Martavis Bryant committed in 2010, but went to junior college so we’ll subtract 1 from 2010. Still that is 26 4/5 star players Swinney has convinced to play football at Clemson University.

Swinney has always been a noted recruiter and his recruiting hauls just keep getting more impressive. That’s the good news. The bad news is ask any ACC fan of another school, where Swinney ranks as a head coach among ACC coaches, and it will invariably be near the bottom of ACC. Ask which ACC coaches are on the hotseat, and Swinney’s is probably there too.

As good of a recruiter as Swinney is, nobody really knows if he’s a can coach at an elite level. I’ve said it here before here, but Swinney totally mishandled the Kyle Parker situation last season. He’s said things to the media like Kyle Parker was an NFL talent, and banking on Parker to lead the Tigers. It was a horrible mis-calculation by Swinney on both points.

Swinney preached that Clemson would be a tougher more physical team. Failures late in games last season pointed to a team that was not mentally or even physically tough in a hard to swallow 6-7 year.

What I do like is that Swinney made appropriate moves on his coaching staff by letting go of offensive coordinator Rob Spence and hiring Chad Morris. I’ve seen a lot recruiting victories, but also a lot of questionable coaching moves. He did win 9 games in 2009 largely on the NFL skills of C.J Spiller, but can he coach?

Now entering his 3rd full season as Clemson with over 30 games under his belt, Swinney can no longer be described as an inexperienced head coach. I don’t expect an ACC Championship in 2011. Florida State and Virginia Tech are still a notch above of the Tigers.

I do think even if the talent is young there’s enough there that a well coached Clemson team should win at least 8 games and probably 9. I don’t buy the waiting on the new offense excuse either. Clemson’s raw talent should be enough to win 5 or 6 games on their own. This year we find out if Swinney is more than just a recruiter.

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