When Dabo Swinney attended the 2017 ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., last month, he did not get one question about anyone on his offense except the quarterbacks.
No one asked about Deon Cain and how he was going to replace Mike Williams. No one asked about Ray-Ray McCloud and how he was going to replace Artavis Scott. No one asked about Milan Richard and how he was going to replace Jordan Leggett at tight end.
Instead, all the media wanted to talk about was last year’s team and last year’ players. Don’t think for a second Swinney isn’t using all of that as motivation.
“We have a whole lot of guys that feel like they have a lot to prove,” Clemson wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
So while the media is still celebrating the Tigers’ 2016 National Championship, Clemson has moved on to 2017, which will begin in earnest when the Tigers open fall camp on Thursday. There is no thinking about last year’s glory. Instead, the Tigers are focused on the future and what the new season can bring.
“I think Coach Swinney does a great job of really helping our guys think through that process,” Scott said. “When we won the national championship, he wanted our guys to really enjoy that moment. You hear some coaches say, ‘Hey, we are going to be back lifting tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. and the new season starts tomorrow.’ That is a lot of football talk and all that.
“Coach Swinney said, ‘Hey boys, let’s enjoy this. We worked extremely hard.’ We went to the White House and let’s enjoy this. There is a time and place. We have had our parade. We have had our time.”
Scott said the celebrations at Clemson actually ended this past February when the Tigers began spring practice.
“That was kind of the time to tie the bow on the 2016 season, put that on the shelf and that is something we are going to be able to look back and enjoy for a long time,” he said. “We have something big in front of us, and it is always about what’s next. It’s always about that next season. There are a lot of question marks. We have a lot of guys leaving.”
And that’s where the motivation sets in. That’s where Swinney uses the media’s inability to want to address the elephant in the room as a way to inspire his new starters on offense and defense to come together and find a way to do something special in 2017.
“We have a lot of guys that feel like they have a lot to prove because they have been on the sidelines watching all these other veteran guys that we lost,” Scott said. “To be honest, I think it was a little bit harder a year ago when we had so many talented guys coming back and have had a lot of success. I think that is a harder job as a coach to get those guys ready.
“They have kind of been through the fire. They know and it is easy for those guys (to relax). I spent a whole lot of time last summer watching those dynamics being sure those guys were not getting complacent and feeling like we have arrived and those types of things. This (year’s) group knows. They heard all the rhetoric from all those guys that left.”
And they’ve heard how no one in the media is talking about them, too.
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