Raiders' Clemson-heavy draft class shows their ‘championship mindset'


The Raiders coaching staff ran Sunday’s final rookie minicamp practice in the unmistakable, all-too-bright orange of Clemson University. The signature paw print was everywhere in Alameda as homage to the three Tigers taken in the Raiders' nine-player NFL draft class this year, the largest total from a single school in franchise history.

“We will have a staff photo wearing Clemson shirts and Raiders hats, so it will be a new tradition that we do every year (honoring the school with the most alums in the rookie class),” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Friday, prior to Clemson day. “I’ve got this to say about Clemson -- you have to watch all their tape, because they are the best team in college football and they got a lot of good players at every position, and some of the underclassmen will keep us wearing that orange color next year I hope because they are loaded.”

That’s a lot from one school, a match foreshadowed some before the NFL draft’s first round. Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney participated in a NFL-draft version of Plinko during the first-round festivities in Nashville, and his chip landed on the Raiders.

The Raiders drafted defensive end Clelin Ferrell shortly after at No. 4 overall. Then they took cornerback Trayvon Mullen in the second round and traded up to get receiver Hunter Renfrow in the fifth.

The Clemson guys enjoyed the orange nod, and had some fun with it in the press.

“Just to be honest, he didn’t put in the work that we put in at Clemson to wear that stuff,” Ferrell said with a laugh. “I’m just playing. I mean, I guess that’s kind of the joke around here. We just added a bunch of Clemson guys and [defensive line] Coach [Brentson] Buckner was a Clemson guy. I mean, I wouldn’t doubt it. I wouldn’t be mad if I see some more around here, that’s for sure.”

There was plenty of orange in Alameda, as you can see below.

The Tigers had six players drafted this year, with tons of talent coming in future seasons. Having three former teammates together again in Alameda eases the transition to the pros.

“Being with two guys that I’m familiar and comfortable with, having relationships with them already,” Mullen said. “I still have to build relationships with other guys on the team, but just having two guys I can kind of hang around, just stay close with and then branch off with other guys, that was a big deal.”

The Raiders made a point to select players with talent, clean backgrounds and full health this season, the first NFL draft influenced by general manager Mike Mayock.

They also added several from top programs, including Alabama alums in first-round running back Josh Jacobs and undrafted guard Lester Cotton Sr.

“Championship mindset is what we are after here,” Gruden said. “We are interested in guys that have won certainly. We are also more interested in winners. I got a real good feeling about all these players. They have a winning culture that they have grown up with.

"They have a competitive spirit that I admire, and to come from Clemson, or come from Alabama, or come from a championship program, at least they know what it’s like to be on top and how hard it is to get there.”

[RELATED: How Clelin Ferrell plans to earn respect]

Players had fun with the Clemson gear, though Jacobs voiced some light discontent seeing colors from the team Alabama has played in the national title game three of the last four years.

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