CLEMSON, S.C. --- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney understands how important recruiting is to any team's future. And he knows that this week's game with No. 18 South Carolina could go a long way to ensuring that success.
The Tigers (6-5) will look to enhance their bowl prospects when they take on the Gamecocks (8-3) in the annual regular-season finale at Death Valley. South Carolina has bigger plans ahead as Southeastern Conference Eastern Division champs.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier landed two of the state's best players in receiver Alshon Jeffery and tailback Marcus Lattimore the past two seasons.
"They've got some special players," Swinney said. "It's all about recruiting."
Swinney sure doesn't want to give the Gamecocks additional fuel for a new group of prospects which include the country's top defensive lineman in Jadeveon Clowney, of South Pointe High in Rock Hill.
It was Swinney and the Tigers who seemed to have the edge in the rivalry and the recruiting momentum, Clemson winning 10 of the 13 past meetings.
The Tigers picked up highly regarded standouts like tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller, quarterback Willy Korn and defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.
Bowers, a junior who is a sack shy from the Tigers' single-season record of 16, played at Bamberg-Ehrhardt, less than an hour away from South Carolina's campus.
Still, Bowers said he selected Clemson for many other reasons than dominating the rival Gamecocks. Bowers spent as much if not more time at South Carolina during the recruiting process.
"Where I'm from, South Carolina is the home team," Bowers said. "It was tough."
Swinney acknowledge a win or a loss Saturday could effect players on the fence.
"It can be a factor, I guess, for a guy," he said. "Probably not the factor. Most of these guys are making decisions on what they are most comfortable with, when they will play and academics."
This result can play a big role in shaping the programs. A 63-17 Clemson blowout at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2003 was credited for then Tigers coach Tommy Bowden getting a contract extension.
Five years later, Clemson defeated South Carolina 31-14 and Swinney got the fulltime job a day later.
"We all know the magnitude of this game," Swinney said.
With national signing day more than two months away, both Clemson and South Carolina are among the top 20 recruiting classes for several recruiting services.
All it takes, Swinney says, are a few difference-makers like Jeffery and Lattimore this year -- or Spiller and receiver Jacoby Ford off the Tigers ACC Atlantic-winning squad of 2009.
"I know we were a lot better coaches last year with a few other pieces," Swinney said.