While most coaches might be concerned just six scholarship seniors are on his roster, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney isn’t worried at all.
Well, his 27 juniors are basically seniors and have played in 30 games in their first two years in Tigertown, including four playoff games and two national championship games.
“That junior class is basically like juniors and a half because they played 30 games in two years,” Swinney said Tuesday evening after wrapping up his annual media golf outing at The Reserve on Lake Keowee in Sunset, S.C. “They have a lot of experience in big-time games and they understand what it takes. There is a bunch of good players in that group.”
Players in this year’s junior class include Mitch Hyatt, Taylor Hearn, Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud, Hunter Renfrow, Greg Huegel, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and Van Smith.
“That will definitely be the group that leads the way, along with those few seniors that we have, but we have a lot of great guys in that sophomore class,” Swinney said.
Speaking of those sophomores that have a lot of experience, guys like Sean Pollard, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence all started as freshmen and played huge roles in the Tigers’ run to the national championship in 2016.
There are other guys in the sophomore class—players like Tanner Muse, Tre Lamar, Chad Smith and Tremayne Anchrum—that are itching to prove they belong and they can be impactful players as well.
“We have a lot of great guys in that sophomore class, some guys that got a ton of experience like Cle,” Swinney said. “But then we also have some other guys that are choppin’ at the bit to prove they can be an elite player, like Tanner Muse for example. They’re guys that play. They’re guys that make an impact.
“Tanner blocks a punt. He had a pick-six last year. He had some moments, but he learned how to play. He came out of the season with a different mindset. So now he wants a bigger role and so there is a hunger. Yeah, he was happy he was on a national championship team, but he wants to be the guy and he wants to be an every-down player. He wants to play more snaps so I love that sense of urgency that we have that is scattered all throughout the roster. I think that is something that bods well for us.”
In all, Clemson has 109 players on its 2017 roster. And though the Tigers have to replace superstars like Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett and Artavis Scott on the offensive side of the ball, Swinney feels there is plenty of experience and depth throughout the roster to help carry his team while they fill those voids.
“I love the makeup of our team because we have a bunch of guys that have some great experience over the last couple of years,” he said. “We did not have a lot of seniors last year. We had 22 juniors and seniors combined, hence the small group of seniors this year, which means we have a lot of guys on this roster that have played a lot of games.”
And they all know what it takes to win.
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