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What We Heard: Clemson at the ACC Kickoff

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The ACC Football Kickoff’s 14 head coaches, 28 football student athletes chosen by the ACC’s 14 league schools, and media have produced a day full of nonstop predictions, constant reflections, and setting high expectations for the upcoming 2017 college football season.

The Tigers were the last team to wrap up the first day of the 2017 ACC Kickoff. The Coastal Division interviews will be held on Friday.

After losing to Alabama in the 2015 National Championship, the conversation surrounding Clemson’s football program in 2016 was about how it was going to make it back to the 2016 National Championship for redemption.

They did just that.

The talk revolving around the Tigers’ program now is how do they make it back to a national championship game?

Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, and offensive guard Tyrone Crowder spoke to the media about how Clemson will be able to translate the 2016 National Championship mantra to its 2017 roster.

Here is what we heard:

After losing nine key players to the 2017 NFL draft, Clemson’s 2017 football roster is unquestionably different than last season’s. For Swinney, getting back to another national championship game starts with recruiting.

“You recruit. You go recruiting. That’s what you do,” Swinney said. “You don`t sit around and pout about it. That’s just the nature of college football. I think that’s what makes college football so exciting and so much fun. It’s different. Guys, there’s change every year. It’s a new team.

And if you recruit well and you develop well, then you can sustain consistency, which is really what we’re trying to do is just be a consistently competitive program that’s in position to compete for this conference, because if we can compete for this conference year in and year out, hey, we’re going to have those years where we get it done.”

Many in the sea of young players on Clemson’s 2017 roster have not experienced the demanding road to a national championship.

Wilkins, a leader on and off the field, believes the young players must understand that winning doesn’t just happen.

“You’ve got to let them know early that we didn’t just luck up on a National Championship,” Wilkins said. “It’s not an easy route. It’s not an easy path. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of preparation in and out, each and every day, and you’ve got to be ready for each and every game, and this is a tough league, too. The ACC is the best league in college football, and you can get bet each and every day, so you’ve really got to be on it because you never know.”

As a quiet, lead-by-example guy, Crowder’s leadership style might be different than that of Christian Wilkins’. Though different, Crowder also grasps the importance of bringing the young guys along.

“Just having been there before, just it brings a lot of experience, and we know what to expect,” Crowder said. “We have other guys like Mitch Hyatt, Taylor Hearn, and we just keep on going, and we take these younger guys under our wings.”

Despite losing key cogs such as Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, and many more, Swinney assures everyone that his team will live up to its name.

“Come mid-season, you’re going to know a lot of these guys, and by the end of the season, we’re not going to be talking about all those guys that aren’t here anymore,” Swinney said. “If we are, we’re going to be talking about how good they’re doing at the next level, because we’ve got good players that are ready to emerge, and we’ll be a team that’s led in the trenches. We’ve got everybody back in the offensive line except one guy. We’ve got all of our starters back up front except Carlos (Watkins). We’ll be all right. We’ll be just fine.”

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