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Clemson football cornerback explains decision to enter transfer portal

After playing two seasons with the Clemson football team, cornerback Toriano Pride Jr. knows what he’s looking for in his next school.

Opportunity.

That was the gist of an interview Pride did Monday as part of 247Sports’ Transfer Portal Palooza live show on YouTube, which marked his first public comments since announcing last week he’d be entering the NCAA transfer portal.

Pride appeared on the show with his former high school coach, Carl Reed Jr., who’s now a college football and recruiting analyst for 247Sports, to discuss his high school recruiting process, why he moved on from the Tigers and what’s next for him.

Pride, a former top 100 composite recruit out of St. Louis, was part of Clemson’s 2022 recruiting class and made a significant impact his true freshman year. He played in 14 games, made two starts and had 23 tackles, four pass breakups, a sack, an interception and a safety.

But the former four-star recruit’s playing time dropped in 2023 amid the emergence of other young defensive backs including Avieon Terrell and Shelton Lewis. Pride only had 145 snaps this season, compared to 333 snaps in 2022, and played exclusively on special teams during the last four games of the regular season.

Pride announced last week he’d be entering the portal and formally entered Monday, the first day undergraduate players can enter under NCAA rules. 247Sports ranks him as the No. 1 defensive back available in the portal and the No. 10 available transfer nationally.

So, why the change?

Clemson football’s Toriano Pride at spring practice March 2, 2022.
Clemson football’s Toriano Pride at spring practice March 2, 2022.

A ‘slight disconnect’ with coaches

Outside of a lack of playing time, Pride said the departure of former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to Oklahoma played a role in his eventual transfer. Pride said he built an excellent relationship with Venables in high school.

But Venables accepted Oklahoma’s head coaching job in December 2021, weeks before Pride was set to sign with Clemson. Venables made a point of encouraging his then-Clemson recruits to stay committed to the Tigers, something Pride also valued.

“I still wanted to put my trust in the staff,” Pride said. “But it was just different building a bond with them and the person that was recruiting me. … Going to the school building it right then and there, rather than building it over time like me and Brent Venables did.”

Reed, who coached Pride at Lutheran North High School in St. Louis, said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and his staff “did a tremendous job recruiting Toriano” despite Reed having “a little trepidation” about Pride attending Clemson over Missouri or Ohio State, two of his other top four schools.

Those two schools, Reed said, were more consistent in recruiting the St. Louis area as opposed to Clemson, which has more of a Southeast recruiting footprint.

“Clemson is not a place that recruits St. Louis, so the relationships aren’t as strong,” Reed said. “We don’t know them that well, and they don’t know us that well. … But at the same time, it’s not my job to make the decision. It’s my job to support him.”

Reed added that he felt like Swinney and his program did an “excellent job” communicating amid Venables’ departure but “there still is a slight disconnect when you take the coach who recruited you and saw the value in your game out of the middle of the picture. So, once again, my antennas were up. But he (Toriano) was very committed to going to Clemson.”

Pride said he felt “love” from Clemson coaches, teammates and fans throughout the recruiting process and didn’t regret his decision to commit to the Tigers.

But after two seasons and 26 games with the program, he said he felt like it was time for a change. Pride said in a post on the platform X (formerly Twitter) that he made the decision to transfer “after a lot of reflection and discussion with my family.”

“Thank you again to the fans, my brothers and the football staff that truly supported me during my time at Clemson,” he wrote.

Playing time will be top of mind for Pride at his next school. Amid the rise of Terrell and Lewis, plus the presence of star corner Nate Wiggins and veteran Sheridan Jones, Pride didn’t play a defensive snap for Clemson over the last four games of the regular season.

“It’s really just one word, in bold letters: Opportunity,” Pride told 247Sports. “To fulfill my dreams, I just need the opportunity. I can really just leave it at that. Opportunity.”