By Ed McGranahan.
This time it may be more than hubris, wishful thinking or a pipe dream.
Clemson returns many of the critical components from which champions are created, the clay which they are sculpted, and it’s evident in the air of confidence among the staff.
Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters and may a backup at every spot on the offensive line by kickoff.
Tony Elliott isn’t sure he has a horse at running back, but he’ll ride the pony Rod McDowell until freshman Tyshon Dye doesn’t kick in the paddock.
And Marion Hobby and Dan Brooks believe the pure talent and athleticism on the defensive line offers plenty of options and may be as good as they have seen in awhile.
“The reports are that our guys have worked really hard,” said Coach Dabo Swinney during his opening remarks today during the unofficial kick off to the 2013 season. “I’m anxious to kind of get out there and start evaluating them.”
Clemson returns everybody but 11 seniors and a junior, first-round NFL Draft pick to prepare for a season that doesn’t afford time to experiment.
Playing Georgia in Death Valley will quickly reveal the warts, and while there are questions at center, tight end, punter and the secondary there shouldn’t be any frantic rush to decision as long as quarterback Tajh Boyd remains upright and lucid.
This is Boyd’s team. He is the unquestionable leader.
He knows it. His teammates know it. The coaches know it.
Brooks, the teddy bear gruff old defensive line coach, described Boyd as “a warrior.”
Swinney can’t assemble enough superlatives to explain what it means to a) have a third-year starter at quarterback, but b) to have it be Tajh Boyd.
“He’s been in the big battles. He’s had failure. He had success,” Swinney said. “He understands the system to the Nth degree. He’s not a guy that’s just trying to go out and function. He’s functioning at a higher level now just because of his knowledge. His game management, his leadership abilities, all those things are special when you have a third-year starter.”
Reflecting on Boyd’s growth from saucer-eyed backup as a freshman at Auburn to All-
American and potential Heisman Trophy candidate, Swinney smiles.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Your conversations are different,” he said. “When you talk to him and you see the way he interacts with the players, when you see how he understands game planning and the preparation process, it’s very different.”
It is, and that’s why this year’s golf outing at The Reserve may be the beginning of something special.