By Will Vandervort.
The last few weeks have been like a whirlwind tour for the Clemson football program, especially for head coach Dabo Swinney.
Since the 17th-ranked Tigers knocked off archrival South Carolina on Nov. 29th, Swinney lost offensive coordinator Chad Morris to a head coaching job, promoted Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott to replace him and hired Brandon Streeter from Richmond to be his new quarterbacks coach.
In between, he learned a lot about his recruits coming in, he fed a pig named Jules a grape during an in-home-visit, was involved in a car crash on an Orlando Interstate on his way home Thursday night and then a tire blew on the plane during their landing in Clemson.
“It has been quite a ride,” Swinney said to the media on Friday as he tried to talk about playing Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29.
But other than what he said about the Sooners in his opening statement, not one question was about the upcoming football game and instead all anyone inquired about was the coaching situation, new quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter and the decision behind quarterback Deshaun Watson having surgery on Friday to repair his torn ACL.
Swinney even talked about recruiting where he talked about his in-home-visit to one prospect who had three dogs, a bunch of fish and a pig named Jules.
“It was the darndest thing I have ever seen in my life. They all live in the house and everyone is happy. I fed grapes to the pig,” Swinney said. “There are a lot of good experiences out on the road. I learned a lot. I can’t wait to share some of the things I have learned about all of our players when I get all of these guys here in February.”
Swinney also talked about getting the FAA from Orangeburg-Wilkinson defensive tackle Albert Huggins, who declared for Clemson on Friday over Georgia. Huggins was the top recruit in the state of South Carolina for the 2015 Class.
“There has been a lot going on, but Albert is a guy that I think is going to impact us right away,” Swinney said. “Clemson people are going to love Albert Huggins. He is not just a great football player, but he is a dynamic, big personality that comes from a great mom and daddy and he just gets its. He will embrace the Clemson experience and I don’t have any doubt he will be one of those guys that will now become the face of our program as he grows and matures into what we know he can be.”
Let’s just say the Huggins’ news already made Friday better than what happened on Thursday night.
With defensive tackles coach Marion Hobby driving, Swinney in the passenger’s seat and Scott and two others in the back seat with defensive end Vic Beasley, a small car smashed into their SUV while they were on their way back from the Home Depot Awards Show in Orlando, Fla.
“We are cruising down the interstate, I’m on the phone, and I’m like ‘That car is coming over’ and the car comes over and smashes right into us,” Swinney said. “Thank goodness we were in a big SUV. That’s why you have a bigger car. He was a like a little car and he smashes right into us and runs us off the road.
“Marion did a great job not freaking out and we went flying off the road and into the gravel and the grass. We get the car stopped and I’m thinking, ‘Holy cow! What just happened?’ Is everyone alright?’ The car just kind of slows down and then he takes off. He takes off. The Alabama came out in me and I’m like, ‘Let’s go get him!’ If I was driving we would have went.”
So after shaking themselves off and getting to the airport, everything seemed okay until it is time to land in Clemson.
“It was like the biggest noise you have ever heard. We had a complete blowout on the right tire,” Swinney said. “It was literally nothing but metal. It was an awful sound. We were okay, but we knew something was not right.
“Our pilots, all they could do what was get the plane off the main part of the runway and we just had to park it. It was about 12:30 and we were out walking in the cold about a mile trying to get to our car. It was a crazy day.”
When asked if it could have been a Gamecock fan that smashed into them, Swinney said he did not see any Gamecocks tags or anything like that.
“That was a first for me,” he said. “A first (car) crash in recruiting and the first blown tire on an airplane.”