The defending national champions put their shoulders down this off-season in preparation for a season that seemed to be an eternity away. But now, the wait is over. On Tuesday, Dabo Swinney held his first weekly press conference of the year in Clemson’s new football facility as the fifth-ranked Tigers get set to host Kent State in the season opener this Saturday.
Following the press conference, the media spoke to many players and coaches including head coach Dabo Swinney, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
Here is what we heard:
It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again, including Dabo Swinney’s.
“Game week. There’s nothing better,” Swinney said. “I’m excited to kick it off and see us play and see what the identity of this team is going to be and how it’s going to shape up as we go through the course of the season. I think it’s going to be fun.
“It’s been a long camp, but productive. I’m really proud of how the guys worked. I think we got a lot accomplished and we’re as ready to play as we could possibly be for an opener. You can only bring them so far, and then they have to go play. And that’s the next step of the process.”
Looking forward to entering a new chapter in his career, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow hopes his team can translate their hard work to game day for the fans.
“We’re really just ready to get over the hump of last year,” Renfrow said. “This is a new team, but we talk about the same dream. So, just ready to get back in front of our fans. I feel like we have some of the best in the country and play hard for them.”
Quarterback Kelly Bryant will make his first start for the Tigers on Saturday, and Swinney wants the junior to do just one thing.
“See him do what he’s done on the practice field,” the Clemson coach said. “Be the same guy he’s been in practice. If he just does seventy-five percent of what he’s done on the practice field, he’s going to be a good player. But that’s really it, just translate it to game day.”
Many players including Christian Wilkins have outwardly shown their support and confidence in Bryant delivering for the Tigers.
“I’m really excited that he’s our starter, and I think that if Clemson Nation really gets behind Kelly or whoever the quarterback is throughout the course of the season, then they’re going to do a great job,” Wilkins said. “That’s my challenge to Clemson Nation and everybody else too, just to show support and give that same love that (Deshaun Watson) got last year and the years before.
“I know it’s going to have to be earned, but definitely Tiger Nation should give that same love and respect to whoever our starting quarterback is, because whoever he is he is going to be able to get the job done.”
The talk of the off-season has been revolving around this year’s defensive unit meeting or exceeding the feats that the 2014 defense achieved.
“They hear about it a lot because we throw it in their face,” Venables said. “But also it’s because that’s all of our teach tapes where we are looking at them. They were just relentless. That group, you couldn’t satisfy them enough. That group was special, man. They all had a chip on their shoulder. The leadership as just unbelievable. I know our guys respect that unit and those players for all the things you would want to be respected for.”
Returning seven starters from last season’s unit which ranked eighth national in total defense and 10th in scoring, this year’s defense’s goal is to chase after the feats achieved by the 2014 defense and rank as the nation’s number one unit yet again.