By Trey McCurry.
It’s finally here! With the first game of the season quickly approaching, third-year Head Coach Dabo Swinney held his first weekly press conference of the season to discuss the Troy Trojans.
“I’m anxious for us to play somebody else,” said Swinney. “And I know our players are anxious to get out there as well.”
As far as the Troy, the Trojans have won at least a share of five straight Sun Belt titles while winning at least eight games a year during that time span.
“We have a ton of respect for Troy and the tremendous program they have built. I have known Coach Blakeney for a long time. It is a big challenge for us as a season opener because there are a lot of unknowns.”
The Trojans are led on offense by sophomore quarterback Corey Robinson. As the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year last season, he threw for 3,726 yards and 28 touchdowns.
“Offensively, Troy has an old Kentucky type of system. They play a lot of wide zone, play-action, shovel passes, and screen passes; and primarily rely on yards after the catch. We have to line up correctly and tackle well. They will play their backup QB some, who is more of a runner, so they do a lot of good things. They love to scramble and get rid of the ball quickly.”
On defense, Jonathan Massaquoi has garnered a lot of preseason attention as he had 13.5 sacks last season, just two behind national leader and former Tiger Da’Quan Bowers 15.5 sacks. Xavier Lamb is the top returning tackler for the Trojans with 91 stops last season.
“The defense is typical Troy. They are tough and play fast, hard, and will be much improved from last season. #94 (Massaquoi) may be as good a DE as we will see all year and I expect them to bring some pressure early. But offensively, it is about us. We are our biggest opponent. We have to take care of the ball and don’t commit stupid penalties.”
As for his team, the third-year head coach is excited. “I just want to see them execute like they have in practice and not beat yourself. We want to execute at a high level and not see the typical little mistakes you normally see in an opener.”
Swinney also continued to heap praise on freshman receiver Sammy Watkins. “He is all business, all the time,” said Swinney. “He is starting in his first college game and that is very unusual. He is a special player and has been electrifying since he got here.”
Swinney also spoke very highly of Charone Peake and Martavious Bryant, as well as returner Andre Ellington. “Ellington is just a difference maker and a special player. I really believe he has the ability to be the player of the year in this conference and has all the ability to be extremely successful.”
The Tigers will be facing a Sun Belt opponent for the sixth time and second straight season opener, as Clemson defeated North Texas 35-10 to open last season. Overall, Clemson is 5-0 against the Sun Belt and has outscored their opponents 212-70 (42-14 average) in those previous five contests.
Clemson has won 21 of its last 27 season openers, including 2-0 under Swinney. The Tigers are 85-22-8 (.775), regardless of site, in their first game of the previous 115 seasons and are 85-17-8 (.810) all-time in home openers. Clemson will open their 116th season of football on Saturday with a 3:34PM kickoff against the Troy Trojans.