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Tigers catch a break at the right time

Oct 15, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (34) carries the ball while being defended by North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback Jack Tocho (29) during the first half at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

This time last year, Clemson was in the middle of its 10-week stretch without a break. The Tigers bye week came following its Week 3 win at Louisville on a Thursday night. They had a 16-day rest before hosting Notre Dame, and then after that it was 10 straight weeks of football.

“Last year, in my mind, I’m like, okay, we’re going to have to play ten straight games, and we were a team that didn’t have a lot of depth on defense last year, competitive depth,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “So it was a grind and we kind of limped to the finish line a little bit. We were on empty.”

The Tigers fueled up just enough after the ACC Championship Game to make a run at the national championship as they took down Big 12 Champion Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, before losing in a shootout to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

When Clemson’s 2016 schedule was released last February, the first thing Swinney looked for was where the bye week falls.

“As a coach, I think whenever you get the schedule, that’s one of the things you look for – I know I do, I’m sure everybody does,” he said. “You kind of visualize and map out your year as far as how you’re going to manage the season.”

The Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) have managed things pretty well to this point. Despite a few hiccups, they’re undefeated and in the thick of the national championship race for a second straight year. But unlike last year, their break falls in the middle of the stretch run as they have this Saturday off to charge their batteries.

Instead of playing 10 straight games to close the year, Clemson has to play just five beginning on Oct. 29 at Florida State.

“I think it sets up great for us, because we’ve played seven games. Now we get a nice open date, and just like I said, a little time to get some guys a little wind back in their sails, and fill the tanks backup,” Swinney said.

It also gives them time to heal some of the wounds that have been collected over the first seven games. Swinney said earlier this week guys like linebacker Jalen Williams, who injured his knee on Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech, gets an extra week to recover. He is expected to play against the 15th-ranked Seminoles in Tallahassee, Florida next week.

The Tigers are also expected to get back defensive back Adrian Baker, who has been out since tearing his ACL during the first week of spring practice last March. Also, running back Wayne Gallman will play against the Seminoles after suffering a concussion in last week’s overtime win over NC State.

Had Clemson played the Seminoles this week, Gallman more than likely would not have been cleared to play because of the concussion protocol he had to go through this past week. He did not practice at all this week.

“You get to play five straight games and hopefully an opportunity to play in the (ACC) championship, as well, if we can earn our way there. I think (the break) is coming at a great time for us,” Swinney said.

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