CHARLOTTE, N.C. — All Dabo Swinney wanted to do on Thursday afternoon was talk about his 2017 team. All the media wanted to do was talk about the 2016 team and who the Tigers do not have on this year’s roster.
“Everybody keeps wanting to talk about last year and what we don’t have, but what I’m excited about is what we do have,” Swinney said on Thursday at the ACC Football Kickoff from The Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. “And we’ve got a football team that I think is committed, a football team that I think is focused, and a football team that I think is hungry.”
Swinney has a football team that returns seven starters back on defense from last year’s national champions, plus an offense that returns four starting offensive linemen plus wide receivers Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and Hunter Renfrow.
However, the Tigers still have to find a quarterback to replace Deshaun Watson, and 78 percent of its offensive production as well.
“What we going to do!? Oh man,” Swinney said jokingly. “You recruit. You go recruiting. That’s what you do. You don’t sit around and pout about it. That’s just the nature of college football. I think that’s what makes college football so exciting and so much fun. It’s different. Guys, there’s change every year. It’s a new team.
“You know, when Tajh Boyd was gone, it was, ‘how are you going to replace Tajh Boyd?’ Well, we went and got a guy named Deshaun Watson. He did okay. When Vic Beasley left, ‘oh my God, how are you going to replace Vic Beasley?’ Well, we got a guy named Clelin Ferrell, he did all right last year. Nobody knew about him this time last year. ‘How are you going to replace Grady Jarrett?’ Well, we went and got Christian Wilkins. You go recruit, and then you develop your players. And I think that’s probably one of the things that we do best is we develop our players, so when guys get their opportunity, they’re prepared.”
To make his point even more, Swinney brought up the fact no one asked him about Cain on Thursday. Last year, Cain scored nine touchdowns on 38 catches for 724 yards.
“I love the fact that you make a comment like that because that’s fuel,” Swinney said. “That’s that edge that some of those guys need. Nobody is asking me about Deon Cain yet. This is one of the best receivers in the country. He’s had unbelievable moments. Not one word. We’re talking about a guy that’s gone, and I’m focused on the guys that are here.
“It’s a very fair question because it’s a lot of production, and I think that’s the natural thing to do is you just look at a piece of paper and you say, wow, and you don’t know these guys. But come midseason, you’re going to know a lot of these guys, and by the end of the season, we’re not going to be talking about all those guys that aren’t here anymore. If we are, we’re going to be talking about how good they’re doing at the next level, because we’ve got good players that are ready to emerge.”
—Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
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