By Ashley Denny.
PINEHURST, NC- Although Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers struggled last season ending the season with a 6-7 record, when asked by a member of the media at the ACC Football Kickoff this past weekend in Pinehurst, NC Swinney said that he believed in his players and thought that this could be Clemson’s year.
“We didn’t play very well last year and didn’t win enough games,” Swinney said. “People probably have a lot of questions which is understandable from the outside looking in. But I like our football team, I like our chances and our chemistry, I have faith in myself and my staff and in these players and I think we have a great opportunity to compete for our division and if we win our division we compete for the championship and if we win it you’ve got the opportunity to play for the National Championship or the Orange Bowl, so that’s our goal at Clemson.”
Swinney said the players have been hungry all off season, and have embraced the changes made to the team’s offense.
“There was some real enthusiasm coming out of spring ball and that carried over to summer workouts.” Swinney said. “Most of these guys they’ve had a glance at the penthouse and they’ve had a good smell of the outhouse over the past two years. So they’ve seen both extremes and I don’t think there’s any question which one they like better. The people are a lot nicer to you, girls like you more, people at church smile at you more, there are a lot of things that come along with winning so it’s been a long offseason for us and we’re anxious to get back to work.”
Swinney believes that there is a simple answer to keeping the Tigers from having another disappointing season and it’s scoring more.
“The year before we played for the championship and scored more points than any other team in Clemson history” Swinney said. “This past year we really struggled scoring, we did some good things and competed our butts off, you’ve got to give our guys credit they played hard and were in a position to win a lot of games, 5 losses by 6 points or less, didn’t play well on the road, but to me if we can score more points that’ll take pressure off our defense, and our defense played well enough to win the conference last season. So we’ve got to do better scoring and we’ll have a chance to win a lot of games.”
Swinney knows that Clemson’s offense will all start with Andre Ellington, who led the conference in yards per carry before he was injured last season and was forced to sit out the remainder of the season.
“Ellington will be our number one guy this year as far as touching the ball,” Swinney said. “Other guys have stepped up and will be playmakers but Ellington will be our top guy. With our new guys coming in, we’ve got more speed and that will take pressure off of Andre.”
Even though starting quarterback Tajh Boyd has two freshmen quarterbacks as his back-ups, Swinney said the Tigers will not be playing scared but playing to win football games.
As for the freshmen that arrived at Clemson in early July, Swinney is hoping to use 13-15 of them as true freshmen.
“I think there are definitely a few freshmen that I will be able to use in the return game,” Swinney said. “Sammy Watkins, Mike Bellamy, Martavius Bryant, we’ve got a lot of options which is something I couldn’t say last season.”
Swinney knows that the freshmen linebackers and wide receivers will get early playing time mainly because of depth issues at both positions and believes that these freshmen will be ready to step up when needed.
Although Clemson’s new spread offense, ran by new offensive coordinator Chad Morris may look similar to what is ran at Oregon or Auburn, Swinney reassured the media present that Clemson’s new offense is their own and very unique to their player’s skill sets.
“Our goal is to be the most explosive offense in the country,” Swinney said. “And hopefully when fans watch us play they’ll see uniqueness in our offense that they don’t see when other teams that use the spread play.”
Swinney believes that Clemson’s uniqueness will come from involving more than just a few guys in their offense.
“We’re still going to be a power football team,” Swinney said. “We’re going to be run oriented, that’s where it’s going to start but hopefully it’ll be where we involve a lot of different guys. You see a lot of these teams that run this offense that only involve one or two guys on their offense, but we’re going to be a team that from week to week will be involving multiple guys.”
So TCI readers, besides Ellington and Nuke Hopkins, which guys do you think will step up this season and become one of the multiple weapons that Swinney spoke of?