By Will Vandervort.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says the 17th-ranked Tigers are really excited about playing in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29 and being in Orlando, Fla.
“I have had the opportunity to play in the Blockbuster Bowl one year and that game eventually moved up that way. I have been in the former Champs Bowl. I have been a part of the Citrus Bowl as a player and as a coach and it has been one of the best trips that I have even been a part of,” Swinney said. “To have an opportunity to participate in the festivities in a great city like Orlando, Fla. – we have a great staff and we have a bunch of kids on our staff, not to mention 158 players that will be real excited to have an opportunity to experience all Orlando has to offer as well as have a chance to play a great football game against a great opponent.
“We are really appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the bowl game and we look forward to getting to Orlando and hopefully bringing a bunch of Tiger Paws with us.”
Clemson of course will play Oklahoma of the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners come into the game with an 8-4 record and with one of the best offenses in the country. They rank 20 nationally in total offense (480.5 yds/gm) and 11th in scoring (38.9 pts/gm).
The Sooners are coached by Bob Stoops who has won a national championship and played for it two more times in his 16 years as head coach there. He has a 168-43 record overall.
“This is a huge challenge for us. There were a lot of people that had them picked No. 1 in the country,” Swinney said. “I think this game is always just a few plays. They had two overtime losses and another really, really close loss.
“They had some injuries just like we did. They will be a team that is as good as anybody that is out there and we will have to play a great ballgame to be able to beat these guys.”
This will be Clemson’s first game without Chad Morris as the offensive coordinator. Morris, of course, took the head job at SMU last week. Swinney has since promoted Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott as co-offensive coordinators.
He says he hopes to round out the rest of his staff soon. With Morris gone, Swinney has to hire a coach to fill out his offensive staff.
Elliott will be responsible for calling the plays against an Oklahoma defense that ranks 10th against the run (109.6 yds/gm).
“I think this is a great opportunity because, obviously, bowl practice is a great opportunity to develop your team every year, but this is also a great opportunity for us to develop our staff and to get a head start going into spring practice next year,” Swinney said. “I’m really looking forward to it. There will be a lot of great energy for bowl practice and once we kind of get it finalized here in the near future, we will kind of come together.
“This is a great opportunity to get a head start on spring ball and next season with the chemistry for our team and our staff, while ironing a few things out.”