CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Trevor Lawrence was already a national commodity when he visited Clemson after his freshman year in high school, with the expectation that a face-to-face meeting with Dabo Swinney would result in the latest addition to a rapidly growing pile of scholarship offers from programs across the Bowl Subdivision. He would leave disappointed.
It worked out in the end: Lawrence would land an offer as a sophomore, eventually sign with Clemson and put together a remarkable debut season as the Tigers marched to the national championship. At the time, however, Lawrence fell victim to a unique quirk for a program with Clemson’s level of prestige among prospective student-athletes — Swinney and the Tigers shy away from issuing immediate, no-questions-asked scholarships to the top recruits in any given year, even one with Lawrence’s obvious gifts.
“That’s my personal philosophy. I want our offers to mean something,” Swinney said. “I just like to have more information. I want to see guys grow and mature, drive a car, have a girlfriend, go the prom. Is it too much to ask to play two years of varsity football?”
At a time when recruiting has reached a fever pitch, with a buzzing drumbeat of attention around top prospects throughout their high school careers, and as many programs extend offers earlier and earlier to hundreds of potential student-athletes across an individual recruiting class, Swinney’s program has opted for a largely different approach.
The Tigers’ relative pickiness hasn’t impacted the program’s growth into a powerhouse. Clemson for the first time in school history sits atop the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on Thursday, one spot ahead of Alabama. The Crimson Tide had been ranked No. 1 in the preseason in each of the past three years.