Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal between No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State will be replete with incredible storylines.
You have the rematch of last year’s controversial Fiesta Bowl, a narrow 29-23 win for Clemson; you have Dabo Swinney and Ryan Day pouring gasoline on the fire ahead of their Sugar Bowl meeting; and you have the quarterback rivalry between Trevor Lawrence and Justin FIelds, the top two players of their class and considered the consensus top two picks of the NFL draft.
Another story to add to that list: Jake and Tye Herbstreit, both redshirt freshman walk-ons on Swinney’s team — and twin sons of former Ohio State quarterback turned analyst Kirk Herbsteit.
That raises the question: Why did Herbstreit’s sons — whom the ESPN commentator said grew up Ohio State fans — shirk the Buckeyes for the Tigers? Kirk Herbstreit originally explained the decision during a December 2018 episode of “College GameDay,” saying it had a lot to do with the culture Swinney cultivated in Clemson:
“They’re going there as preferred walk-ons and a big part of that has to do with the culture,” Herbstreit said (via 247Sports). “As a dad and as a broadcaster, I’ve been lucky enough to get behind the scenes at Clemson the last few years. I’ve been blown away by the culture that Dabo has created. It’s not just Dabo. It’s the entire staff — the secretaries, the trainers, the team doctors, the SID. It’s different when you go to Clemson and you need to go there to really see it and understand it.
“And that’s a credit to him and his leadership. Another mark of a great coach to me, whether you’re the start quarterback or just a guy trying to make the team, you’re treated the same. I think it goes back to his own experience at Alabama as a player. He runs his program through the eyes of that player who was at Alabama.”
Kirk Herbstreit said Swinney first noticed his sons at a Clemson football camp they attended ahead of their senior year in high school.
“When it came time to go to school, they just happened to go to a Clemson camp going into their senior year and did pretty well, and Dabo kind of kept an eye on them and stayed in touch with them and offered them an opportunity to be preferred walk-ons,” Herbstreit said (via The State). “They decided to take him up on it. It was really as simple as that.”
CASES TO WIN THE CFP: Clemson | Ohio State
Even so, Kirk Herbstreit said his sons may have chosen Ohio State — if the Buckeyes had recruited them the same way the Tigers did. But coach Urban Meyer, who last coached Ohio State in 2018, neglected to offer them the preferred walk-on positions.
Had he done so, Kirk Herbstreit said, his sons very well would have considered becoming Buckeyes like their father.
“Urban felt awful on the back end of that. He apologized quite a bit — he and the recruiting coordinator,” Herbstreit said. “But listen … this is my kids’ lives and my kids’ path, and I would love to have seen them go to Ohio State, but I’m not going to tell them, ‘You have to go to Ohio State’ when Urban Meyer hasn’t offered you a preferred walk-on … it wasn’t really an option.”
Both of the Herbstreits redshirted in 2019, a season in which the team went 14-1 and secured a berth in the 2019 College Football Playoff championship game.
Per Clemson’s athletic site, Jake Herbstreit, a safety, played in four games last season, making his debut vs. Charlotte. He also played on special teams vs. Boston College, Wofford and Wake Forest. He has no stats listed for 2020.
Tye Herbstreit, a wide receiver, appeared in four games in 2019, debuting against Georgia Tech and playing against Charlotte, Boston College and Wofford. He is credited with a game appearance against Miami in 2020.
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