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For the first time in seven years, Clemson football coaches got a jump on recruiting during this week after Thanksgiving.
They’re usually busy working a game plan for the ACC championship.
The Tigers (9-3), who finished the regular season last week with a 30-0 win at South Carolina, will not have a chance to defend their six straight conference titles. Instead, Pitt and Wake Forest meet at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve not had to go to work this week,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’re going recruiting now.”
Coaches went their separate ways Monday night and hit their respective recruiting trails. They’ll be on the road for the next couple of weeks and try to use this extra week to their advantage. But playing for the ACC title, Swinney admitted, is the best way to attract the high school players.
“I’d much rather be in Charlotte. I kind of like that advantage, to be honest with you,” he said. “That’s the best recruiting when you’re in Charlotte playing for the championship. But it is what it is.”
After a sluggish start to the season and ACC road losses to N.C. State and Pitt, the Tigers won five straight. Their offense averaged 14 points in regulation against the first six FBS opponents, never reaching 20 points in any game, but has averaged 36.4 in the last five games. That includes 48 against Wake Forest.
Clemson was still in contention for a berth in the ACC championship game until N.C. State beat North Carolina last Friday night. Then on Saturday afternoon, Wake Forest beat Boston College to claim the Atlantic Division.
“We’re playing our best football,” Swinney said. “I’m just really proud of our staff and these young men. To start off 2-2 (with a 10-3 loss to now No. 1-ranked Georgia in the season-opener at Charlotte) and just to battle every single week, figure it out, and here we are 9-3, undefeated in November, five in a row and seven out of eight.”
Bowl matchups will fall into place Saturday night and Sunday. The Tigers are expected to play Dec. 31 in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, against Texas A&M. Swinney said the players can use this time to rest and concentrate on final exams.
“They’ll work out, train, rest and recover the next couple of weeks while we recruit,” he said. “By then, we’ll know who we’re playing and where and when. We’ll get our bowl prep going and turn our eyes to the next opponent.”
Unlike last year, Swinney will have a chance to watch his son, Daniel High School wide receiver Clay Swinney, play for the AAA state championship as the Lions (13-0) take on Camden (11-2) in a 2 p.m. Friday kickoff at Benedict College in Columbia.
“You bet I’m going to be there,” Swinney said “I know I’ll be on the road all week, but I won’t be on Friday. I’m going to be there for the state championship, pulling for them Daniel Lions and being a dad. I’m so happy for Clay and his team, Coach Fru (Jeff Fruster) and all those guys. Pretty special for them to have a chance to go back-to-back in state championships. So I look forward to that. I’ll get my popcorn and kick back and root for the lions. I’m excited.”
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Without ACC title game, Clemson coaches get early jump on recruiting