Enough with practice, enough with all the talk, enough with all the analyzing, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is ready to set the football on the tee and kick the new season off.
“I’m just ready to get going,” he said following Wednesday’s practice.
However, Swinney is going to have to wait two more days. The Clemson coach is ready to see how his second-ranked football team responds to all the hype and the big-game atmosphere right off the bat as the Tigers open the 2016 season at Auburn on Saturday night down of the Plains.
“The biggest thing for me is where are we? I don’t know. You think you know, but you can only get so far in this game in practice,” Swinney said. “At some point you have to go see somebody that is different and is not as familiar to you. That’s something we are going to find out.”
One thing Swinney does know is that his team will be focused.
“It’s been that way really since the spring. They have been a focused group since Day 1,” he said. “It’s been an easy group to coach. It’s not that you don’t have a day here or a day there where you have to get your foot out, but they have been locked in. I’m very pleased with how they have prepared.
“Hopefully, we’re going to play well.”
No matter what happens on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Swinney knows his team will be better for it and will improve as the season moves along.
“We are going to make a lot of improvement, especially in the first half of this season as we grow some guys up and just kind of settle in a little bit,” he said. “It has been a long time since we have played.”
It’s been almost eight months since the Tigers fell to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship Game in Arizona. Since then, a lot has changed for the Clemson football program. From a national standpoint it is considered one of the elite programs in the country, but from a team standpoint it’s mixed with a lot of young players and veteran players alike.
On offense, the Tigers are loaded as quarterback Deshaun Watson and just about every single offensive weapon from last season is back. The offensive line is bigger, stronger and deeper than at any point in the Swinney era.
It’s just the opposite on defense. Though talented and deep at most positions, Brent Venables unit is very young as it will play at least 10 freshmen or sophomores in Saturday’s season opener.
“That’s the big thing for me. Where are we? Then I kind of know what we need to do from there,” Swinney said. “How are we going to respond? How are some of these young guys we are counting on like a Clelin (Ferrell), how is he going to handle that moment? I think he is going to do great, but all I can base it on is what I have seen in practice.
“You never really know until you get in that type of situation and then you just go from there.”