In Clemson’s meeting rooms, and on the practice fields, there is a new level of focus heading into the 2016 season that begins at Auburn on Saturday night.
In fact, Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott can’t remember a team during his tenure that has been more dialed into what the Tigers are trying to accomplish this year, than this year’s team.
“I feel our entire team is more mature and more focused than any time that I can remember in the past,” Scott said on Monday. “There’s definitely a different feeling among the guys in the meeting room and on the practice field. So, hopefully that will continue and translate into success on Saturday.”
Clemson coming up just short in the national title game against Alabama has fueled some of that focus, and the coaching staff doesn’t have to remind the players of the pain they felt following the loss.
It speaks for itself, driving the team to fulfill its goal of returning to the College Football Playoff championship game and leaving with a trophy.
“The bad taste in our mouth that we didn’t finish the last game is something that definitely fuels our guys,” Scott said. “That’s not something we have to talk a lot about, but it’s definitely in the back of everyone’s mind.”
Scott said the focus is also a product of the leadership that Clemson has at every position on offense and defense, with players such as Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, Jay Guillermo, Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, Ben Boulware and Cordrea Tankersley.
“I think it’s a combination of experienced guys coming back at key positions,” Scott said. “You really look at every position on this offense, and there’s a very talented, experienced guy returning in that room. I think each of those guys are leaders for their rooms, and they kind of set the environment and the culture for the room.”
Clemson’s focused approach is exemplified by Watson, who isn’t worried about the expectations for Clemson or what people outside the program think about the team.
“In reality, I don’t really care what other people think about me,” Watson said. “I have my own expectations, and I know what I can do and I know what I can’t do, and my teammates know that, too. At the end of the day, people are going to have their own opinions, and I just do what I have to do. There’s no pressure for me or this team. We just do as we do.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney instills an emphasis on focus in the culture of the program. He preaches that each game is Clemson’s biggest of the season, and that each week Clemson is playing a “nameless, faceless” opponent.
That holds true for Auburn this weekend, and Clemson is excited to start the season after an offseason of unparalleled focus and preparation for it.
“A few years ago, one of our slogans was to dream the dream. Now, there’s a difference between dreaming the dream and actually experiencing the dream,” Scott said. “I think the experience these guys returning from last year’s team is very valuable, and you can’t put a price tag on that. I think it’s definitely affected the way they’ve approached the offseason and the season.”