Too early to knight a champion, Swinney says

Too early to knight a champion, Swinney says

Football

Too early to knight a champion, Swinney says

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Clemson, Boyd sweep ACC preseason honors

Ed McGranahan

GREENSBORO, N.C. – In Dabo Swinney’s mind preseason polls are like the proverbial cart before the horse.

Clemson was the overwhelming choice Monday in a poll of the media at the annual ACC Kickoff to win the ACC Championship. Quarterback Tajh Boyd was chosen to repeat as conference player of the year.

“It’s so not even worth having a conversation about,” Swinney said firmly but politely. “I know its fun for people to make predictions.

“All the preseason stuff, as I tell our folks, is based on past performance. Come November, that’s when it’s based on reality and based
on present performance,” he said. “That’s when it means something to me.”

Of the 120 voters, 95 chose Clemson to win a 15th ACC conference championship. Defending champion was named on 15 ballots. Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech split the other 10.

Clemson was the pick by 102 voters to in the Atlantic Division followed by Florida State, which received the remaining first-place votes, then N.C. State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Syracuse and Boston College.

Miami as the pick in the Coastal Division by 65 voters followed by Virginia Tech (27), North Carolina (22), Georgia Tech (6), Pitt,
Virginia and Duke.

“I appreciate people having high expectations for us, but I can assure you they’re not any higher than we have for ourselves,” he said. “Our fans base expects us to win the league every year, so it’s really no different for us.

“If we’re going to get where we need to be, we have to consistently win and put good seasons together. So that when people sit down and try to decide who’s in their top 10, top 15, Clemson’s always there.”

This was the seventh occasion that Clemson was the media favorite. The Tigers won in 1978, 1987, 1988 and 1991 when they were picked to do so.

“Maybe we’ve made a little progress, but we’re not there yet,” Swinney said. “We need to go out and have another great year. We’ve got a good team coming back and I think you’ve got the ACC Player of the Year returning, third-year starter at quarterback. So that’s easy to see but it’s so much more than that.”

Boyd, a fifth-year senior from Hampton Roads, Va., broke the single-season ACC records for touchdown passes (36) and touchdown
responsibility (46). Entering the 2013 season he has an opportunity to rewrite more records, starting from 8,053 career passing yards and 73 touchdown passes.

“This year it’s all about improving the little things,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris wants him to command the Clemson playbook. Boyd said that’s a goal. “This is my fifth year at Clemson and for me it comes down to five months, so it’s about embracing every opportunity, every workout, every practice.”

A chance to enter the NFL passed with reasoned consideration including counsel from pro quarterback Michael Vick, also a product of the Hampton Roads area.

“I personally want to be the best player. I want us to be the best team we possibly can, so why not go out there for one last shot at it,” he said. “I don’t want any regrets. I didn’t want to make that step and regret not coming back.”

During the summer he visited quarterback coach George Whitfield in California for a technical tweak then served as a counselor at the Elite 11 camp in Oregon.

“This year it’s all about improving the little things,” he said. “Every time I step on that field I’m trying to become the best player I

can possibly be. I’m trying to live in the moment and enjoy it.”

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