The long-anticipated transfer of rising redshirt senior defensive tackle Scott Pagano from Clemson finally came to fruition this week. Not long after the Tigers claimed the national title, Pagano announced his intentions to play his final season of eligibility elsewhere in the hopes of earning more playing time, which served as a dosage of reality regarding the current state of the Clemson football program.
Once upon a time, the former 104th-ranked player in the nation announcing his intentions to leave the program for his senior year would send shockwaves through the Clemson community, but the riches boasted by the Tigers nowadays has caused it to be nothing more than an understandable byproduct of being flooded with superior talent.
After making nine starts as a sophomore, Pagano was expected to become a major contributor for the Tigers during his junior campaign this past fall. However, due to the addition of future NFL defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence to the mix, Pagano found himself as the odd man out on Clemson’s stacked defensive line.
Hampered by a foot injury late in the season, Pagano did not experience the level of success that he had assuredly hoped for upon entering the 2016 season, but it was far from his fault. One of the many consistencies of Dabo Swinney during his tenure as head coach has been his ultra-committed recruiting style, choosing to bring in as much talent to mold and craft as possible and not shying away from recruiting anyone due to potential depth issues.
As a result, in recent years, there has been a plethora of players (on the defensive side of the ball, in particular) who have experienced only one or two seasons in the starting lineup before becoming high draft picks. While many top-tier programs may choose the route of chasing after the best prospects with aspirations of having them start for three or four years, Clemson has not strayed from the crux of collegiate athletics: training up a player in the way he should go.
While the occasional freshman phenom has worked his way into the starting lineup (such as generational talents Deshaun Watson, Sammy Watkins and the aforementioned Lawrence), many of Clemson’s notable recruits have been put to the test in an effort to earn playing time while underclassmen, not receiving any preferential treatment due to their recruiting standing.
Therefore, the level of depth and talent at each spot on the depth chart is as high at Clemson as it is anywhere in the nation, and, although it certainly is not positive for such a talented player like Pagano to transfer, Pagano’s transfer is just further proof that Clemson is teeming with talent like never before.
For the player formerly considered the sixth-ranked defensive tackle in the country when coming out of high school to later find himself as the odd man out on a defensive line, that speaks volumes on the level of depth being dealt with in Tiger Town.
A denizen of Hawaii, Pagano chose to play much closer to home by opting to suit up for the Oregon Ducks this coming fall, for whom he is expected to make immediate contributions on the defensive line. After a few months of the rumor mill swirling regarding where Pagano would end up, he chose Oregon over Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Clemson.
Yes, there were even talks last week that Pagano could potentially choose to return to the Tigers, a decision that Swinney publicly said he would gladly welcome. A further testament to the power of the paw, Pagano’s cold feet over leaving Clemson symbolize all of the valuable tutelage that can be gleaned from Clemson’s one-of-a-kind coaching staff.
Scott Pagano’s contributions will certainly missed on the Clemson defensive line this year, as his veteran presence would definitely be of value. An excellent run-stopper, Pagano is poised to cap off his college career with a marvelous season in Eugene. Pagano’s transferal was simply a byproduct of Clemson’s ascension to the top, signifying the incredible degree of talent boasted by the Tiger program.
Clemson is as hot of a destination for notable recruits right now as any, and it likely will be for as long as Coach Swinney is at the helm. A team can never have too much talent to work with, and Clemson’s 2016-2017 national title is proof positive of that. And, interestingly enough, so is the transferring of Scott Pagano.