Swinney, who went from receivers coach to interim coach to the permanent job over the past three months, brought in a group of 12 players for his first recruiting class Wednesday.
The newcomers won't get Clemson into the top 25 among most tracking services. But they more than earned Swinney's gratitude: He practically thanked each of the 12 individually.
"They believed in Clemson when there was really no reason to," he said Wednesday, hours after the signed letters of intent came rolling off the fax machine. "We signed what I'm calling a dandy dozen."
Swinney was tabbed as interim coach Oct. 13 when Tommy Bowden walked away after 9 1/2 seasons. Over the final six games, along with guiding the Tigers, Swinney and the remaining staff had to try and talk prospects back into the fold. Swinney was introduced as head coach on Dec. 1.
"As you might imagine, it was not easy to be put in that situation for that length of time," said Billy Napier, the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
It didn't always work. Former Clemson pledges such as safety Craig Loston and running back Ben Axon wound up signing elsewhere.
Also, Swinney said Clemson didn't have scholarships available for more than 15 signees, 10 fewer than the rules allow, because of the 85 scholarship limit for the team. Plus, junior standouts tailback C.J. Spiller and defensive end Ricky Sapp returned for their final years, filling two otherwise available scholarships.
Swinney said the Tigers used the limited number of offers to target specific players to improve depth at linebacker, quarterback, and in the secondary. "There's a little bit of a misconception out there," he said. "Sometimes people feel we're supposed to sign 25."
By late afternoon, the Tigers were rated 37th by Rivals.com and 42nd by Scout.com, two of the better-known Internet recruit tracking services.
Among the highly regarded prep players who did pledge to Clemson were quarterback Tajh Boyd of Hampton, Va., and receiver Byrce McNeal of Minneapolis.
Clemson enters next season without an experienced quarterback and Boyd, who turned down Ohio State and Oregon, figures to mix it up with returnees Willy Korn and Kyle Parker.
The Tigers did not plan to sign a quarterback this winter. But with Korn coming off surgery and Parker playing both baseball and football, Swinney and his staff thought they'd better add to the position's depth.
That's what attracted Boyd, an MVP in the U.S. Army All-American game for standout seniors.
"I think I have a chance to play," Boyd said.
Boyd injured a knee ligament last season but said he'll be ready by summer workouts.
McNeal, from the heart of Big Ten country, was originally a Michigan commitment. Swinney said he remembers a visit to McNeal's Minnesota home when the Alabama-born coach was so tightly bundled against the cold he was unrecognizeable.
"All I know is you better catch a lot of TDs to get me up here," Swinney recalled telling his new wideout.
Two of the 12, offensive lineman J.K. Jay and defensive end Malliciah Goodman, have been enrolled at Clemson since last month and will go fullspeed in the team's spring practice starting in March.
That probably gives them the strongest chance to see playing time next season, Swinney said.
Swinney also announced Wednesday he was making assistant Jeff Scott, a former Clemson player and son of offensive line coach Brad Scott, the Tigers' recruiting coordinator. Napier, who held the title the previous few seasons, will concentrate his new role as offensive coordinator and playcalling.
Football signees announced Wednesday by Clemson, with name, position, height, weight, school and hometown:
Tajh Boyd, qb, 6-1, 210, Phoebus HS, Hampton, Va.
Quandon Christian, lb, 6-2, 215, Lake View HS, Lake View, S.C.
Malliciah Goodman, de, 6-4, 255, West Florence HS, Florence, S.C.
Corico Hawkins, lb, 6-0, 225, Baldwin HS, Milledgeville, Ga.
J.K. Jay, ol, 6-5, 285, Christ Church Episcopal School, Greenville, S.C.
Roderick McDowell, rb, 5-10, 175, Sumter HS, Sumter, S.C.
Bryce McNeal, wr, 6-2, 175, Breck HS, Minneapolis, Minn.
Jonathan Meeks, s, 6-2, 185, Rock Hill HS, Rock Hill, S.C.
Tyler Shatley, fb, 6-3, 265, East Burke HS, Icard, N.C.
Spencer Shuey, lb, 6-3, 240, South Mecklenburg HS, Charlotte, N.C.
Darrell Smith, te/de, 6-3, 235, Gadsden City HS, Gadsden, Ala.
Brandon Thomas, ol, 6-4, 280, Dorman HS, Spartanburg, S.C.