By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC-As the Tigers’ completed their last practice for the Discover Orange Bowl before relocating to South Beach to continue their game plan, head coach Dabo Swinney couldn’t help but think of the teams’ seniors and how different the Clemson football program was when they first arrived compared to how they’ve left it. And before the seniors left their last practice several of them took a swim in the moat outside of Clemson’s practice facility, which has become a senior tradition.
“It’s been a bittersweet day,” Swinney said. “We finished up practice today, have meetings tomorrow but knowing that you’re not going to be on this field again with the seniors is pretty sad. I’m happy for them they’ve been a great bunch of seniors; no doubt they’ve left this place better than they’ve found it. They left a great legacy here, but they’re not done they’ve got one more game and it’s the type of finish they’d like to have. The challenge to them is to show back up on the 27th and be ready to lead one more time to another Orange Bowl victory and really go out in style.”
Besides the bittersweet day today with the seniors, practice has gone well for the Tigers.
“Yesterday we had to pull it out of them a little bit, it was nasty like today and they didn’t want to quite give it but they responded,” Swinney said. “The rest of the week has been great, today the seniors got to coach the JV that created a little more energy today. But our graduates weren’t here today we gave them the day off because graduation is tomorrow. There are nine guys that are graduating tomorrow and I’m really proud of them, that’s what it’s all about the football part makes it more fun but ultimately it’s about achieving that great goal. I couldn’t be happier for those guys knowing that they’re leaving here prepared for whatever heads their way. ”
How did Swinney approach the team on how to spend their Christmas breaks?
“I talk to them all the time about making good decisions, traveling safe, enjoying Christmas and the meaning of it, enjoying your family and the special time,” Swinney said. “I also told them that they’re not invincible, people know who you are and there are a lot of eyes on you. You represent Clemson all of the time, not just when you’re here. I’ve been a part of it, there’s nothing that rocks you to your core quite like losing one of your teammates or something like that just for something stupid.”
The team will meet again after a four day break on the 27th and Swinney is excited to have a few days in South Beach of just football without any Orange Bowl distractions.
“I’m excited to continue to work,” Swinney said. “And the first couple of days that we’ll be there will be all ball, meetings, practice, walk through, etc. Then we’ll kick the Bowl festivities off on the 29th.”
Swinney doesn’t have any confirmation right now as if all of the players are eligible for the bowl, however will receive that information tonight.
Rennie Moore earlier this season described next year’s defensive line as ruthless, what has Swinney seen out of them?
“We’ve got a good group, Malliciah will be coming back and obviously there’s another level for him,” Swinney said. “I’m very excited about Corey Crawford, I’m really excited about all of the guys playing inside at d-tackle, and I think they’ll really grow up a lot in the offseason. I think you’ll see us play a lot more guys next season which is where we’d like to be up front, it’s been a different year in that standpoint this season, we’re fortunate to keep the starters healthy all season and bring along the younger guys at our pace instead of throwing them in the fire. They’ve all learned a lot, I think we’ve got a really good group and we’re going to be signing some guys this year that can help us out. The future is bright on both sides of the line, we’ve got a lot of youth but that’s what makes it fun.”
As far as starting left tackle Philip Price, he’s continuing to heal from his knee injury that he retweaked in the ACC Championship game.
“He’s good, and we’ve been holding him the last few days,” Swinney said. “Now with the break coming up, he’ll have several days until he’s back in pads. I think he’ll be ready to go by the time we play, he’s responded well.”
Other than Price, the only other injured player for the Tigers’ is offensive lineman David Smith who hurt his toe but after holding him out of practice for a few days, Swinney believes he’ll also be good to go on January 4th.