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Dabo Swinney’s transfer portal stubbornness magnified in Clemson loss to Duke

IMG_0985by:Griffin McVeigh09/04/23

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Roddy Jones from the ACC Network Previews Clemson's Upcoming Season

Clemson took a big loss on Monday, opening the 2023 season with a dud. Duke pulled off a program-changing upset at home, taking down Dabo Swinney. A season when questions need to be answered only brings more confusion to the program, especially when it comes to Swinney’s use of the NCAA transfer portal.

How Swinney feels about the portal is well-known. The only kind of players coming to Clemson on a yearly basis join via recruiting classes. Just three transfers have ever been on the Tigers’ roster, with two of them being backup quarterbacks.

On3’s Andy Staples believes the word to describe the relationship Swinney has with the portal is stubborn.

“The portal stubbornness is the key thing right here,” Staples said during his postgame show on Monday night. “This is what we keep coming back to is Dabo not adjusting to today’s college football.”

A certain position, in particular, stands out when talking about Swinney being stubborn in the transfer portal. Wide receiver has been a weakness for a couple of years now. Clemson has not recruited the position at a high level, something they have done in the past.

“One of the things we’ve noticed about Clemson the last few years is an inability for receivers to separate. Remember, this is a program that had the best of the best receivers. (DeAndre) Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Tee Higgins. They haven’t had a dynamic receiver like that in quite a while.”

Three of the receivers mentioned by Staples were first-round picks. You may as well count Higgins as one too, being the No. 33 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Clemson has seen a ton of players drafted since Swinney took over but wide receiver may be the proudest of them all.

Dabo Swinney had options at wide receiver in the transfer portal

Plenty of elite options were available this offseason and wound up at other schools competing on the national level. As far as we know, Swinney did not even swing at landing an elite wide receiver to help out Cade Klubnik, a quarterback entering his first full season of being the starter.

“Their ACC rival, Florida State, when they want a dynamic receiver, they just go get one — Keon Coleman, who was at Michigan State last year,” Staples said. “Clemson doesn’t do that… AD Mitchell, last seen catching touchdown passes in the national title game last year. Now he plays for Texas.

Dorian Singer broke out at Arizona, now he’s catching passes for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams, at USC. J. Michael Sturdivant, did you see him catch that pass from Dante Moore for UCLA to beat Coastal Carolina? Dominic Lovett was Missouri‘s best receiver, now he’s Georgia‘s best receiver.”

Nine different Clemson receivers caught a pass from Klubnik on Monday. Antonio Williams was the leader, going for 56 yards on seven receptions. Running back Will Shipley caught the lone receiving touchdown. It’s pretty obvious a star was missing against Duke.

Questions were there about the skill position players from the beginning but Swinney chose to not answer them through the portal.