Though his football team has struggled at times in each of their first two games this season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is proud of the way his team has found a way to win both.
The third-ranked Tigers did not look sharp in their win over Auburn in the season opener, and last week’s performance over Troy can be viewed as sloppy at best.
“We are 2-0 and we did beat Auburn, and for some reason, all of sudden, that is an easy thing to do, I guess, so we don’t get much credit for that,” Swinney said during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference call with the media. “Our team has not played it best football or up to its best potential right now, but they are still finding a way to win.
“I have a great appreciation for that in a big away.”
With that said, Swinney still wants to see his team show some improvement when Clemson hosts S.C. State this Saturday at high noon on the Fox Sports Regional Network. In particular, he wants to see his wide receivers catch the football.
In two games, the Tigers (2-0) have 12 drops, including eight against Troy. Clemson did not reach eight total drops last year until the fifth game of the season.
Swinney says the drops have played a big role in why the offense has sputtered in its first two games.
“We can’t catch the ball. I mean it is really that simple,” the Clemson head coach said laughing. “Everybody wants some kind of conspiracy theory or something, but the bottom line is we are not catching the ball.”
Of the Tigers’ eight drops on Saturday, three would have gone for touchdowns, and the eight would have covered 178 yards.
“We didn’t have eight drops until the fifth game of the year last year. I went back and looked at it,” Swinney said. “We had four drops in the Notre Dame game in a hurricane. We did not have eight drops total until the fifth game of the year. Yet, we had eight in one game and that does not count the four drops in the Auburn game so we have had twelve drops in two games.
“That’s a problem. We dropped touchdowns. We dropped easy plays. Now, we have done a lot of good too, but we just can’t seem to ever really get in a rhythm, but we will because we are too talented and we are just kind of in a little funk right now. We are working through that and we are practicing hard.”
Swinney said the receivers’ issues are just a lack of concentration and focus, but he promises they will get that corrected. However, it will not help that Clemson will be without sure-handed receiver, Hunter Renfrow for the next four games. He is out after breaking a small bone in his right hand in last week’s game.
“If we do a better job of catching the ball, we would have two games with 500 plus yards and I’m not getting these questions. But at the end of the day, we have to execute. The plays are there. It is really that simple,” Swinney said. “I know everybody wants to look for some underlining theme, but I don’t know how else to say it.
“I have coached wideouts my whole life. I’m tough on those guys, but we had eight drops in one game for one hundred and seventy yards on Saturday. I’m sorry, but that affects everything involved. It affects the defense. It affects field position. It affects third down. It affects the psyche and energy. It affects your quarterback. It affects your left guard and so it is really as simple as that. When we start pitching and catching a little bit better all the rest of it will come together.”
Swinney clarified there will still be some issues to fix each and every week because, after all, they are still human. But right now, his wide receivers dropping passes is a problem.
“It is ‘the major problem’ and we have to get that turned around,” he said. “The good news is we will because these guys are too talented and they have pride in their performance.”