Back during fall camp, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke about how hungry the 2017 football team is.
Though the Tigers, who moved up to No. 2 in Sunday’s Associated Press College Football Poll, still have a long way to go in 2017, it’s obvious their head coach was right. Clemson is coming off of a 47-21 win at Louisville on Saturday night, a game in which it dominated the then 14th-ranked Cardinals.
Now, three weeks into the season, the Tigers find themselves back at the top of college football, and with an opportunity to prove just how hungry they are.
“You might not think that because you have a team that is coming off of winning a national championship, but we are such a new team with so many new people, and we have enough leadership and enough experience to kind of guide us,” Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference with the media. “Gosh, we have so many new guys that I was really anxious to see how they would respond to different roles, bigger roles, and I’ve just been very encouraged to think that right now we are a close team. These guys like each other. We are a team, like I said, that is hungry.”
So far, Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC) has shown just how hungry it is. A week ago against Auburn, the Tigers held those Tigers to 117 total yards and recorded 11 sacks. The offense, when it needed to the most, made the plays against one of the better defenses in the SEC.
In Saturday’s win over Louisville, Clemson shut down Lamar Jackson for three quarters, allowing the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to really only gain any yards during scrub time. With Kelly Bryant at quarterback, the Tigers’ offense racked up 613 total yards while the junior threw for 316 yards and one touchdown on 22-of-32 passing.
Clemson’s running game also got back on track. The Tigers compiled 297 yards on the ground, while Tavien Feaster (10-92) and Travis Etienne (6-98) each displayed their breakaway speed. Adam Choice also had a 37-yard touchdown run.
“This is a team, they support and pull for each other,” Swinney said. “They practice the right way. They have a good edge to them, and I think we have the type of depth that as a coach you dream about having.”
Swinney’s depth definitely showed up at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville, Ky. Midway through the first quarter, Clemson lost strong safety Tanner Muse for a targeting foul on Jackson. That allowed reserve Isaiah Simmons to come into the game, along with K’Von Wallace, and get some valuable experience, and there was no drop-off.
“Isaiah goes out there and goes on and leads the team in tackles,” Swinney said. “Last week we had no Van Smith. He’s out of the game. In comes K’Von Wallace for his first-time start, and he plays well. So I’m just really pleased. I think we have some guys that are paying attention to detail, they are taking pride in preparation, because that’s always what it comes down to — how you prepare.”
Injury report. Swinney said the team came out of the Louisville game relatively healthy. However, tight end D.J. Greenlee has a sprained MCL in his knee. There is no timetable on when he might return.
The Clemson coach also mentioned that defensive back Marcus Edmond (knee) is doing well and they are hopeful to get him back soon.
Right tackle was right. Swinney reported that he saw much improvement from Tremayne Anchrum and Sean Pollard at right tackle. Anchrum graded out at 93 percent, and according to Swinney, Pollard did the same.
Players of the game. Swinney announced that Bryant and wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud were named offensive players of the game. Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel — who had a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown — and Dexter Lawrence, who Swinney said had his best game of the season, were the defensive players of the game. Punter Will Spiers and linebacker Jalen Williams were the special teams players of the game.