The most common question I get these days from Clemson fans is what are my expectations for Clemson this coming football season? When I get asked this question, I like to turn it on them first and ask them what they think.
The most common answer I get is 9-3. I get a few 10-2 answers here and there, but very rarely. Not once I have been given a 12-0 or 11-1 answer. I have even been given a 7-5 answer, which caught me by surprise as they used Deshaun Watson as a big reason on why Clemson was able to win so many close games last year.
So you can see how a lot of Clemson fans are guarded. They really don’t know what to expect this season. When they hear my answer, it catches them off guard.
Worst case scenario for me is 10-2. Best case is 11-1.
When most fans here me say 11-1, they are a little surprised. I can understand their skepticism. The Tigers after all have to replace Watson as well as Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett, Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott. That’s 78 percent of their offensive production from the national championship team.
However, it’s not like Clemson has been sitting around like Steve Spurrier and South Carolina and doing nothing on the recruiting trail. Nope, Dabo Swinney and his staff have continued to recruit at a high level. And while they have been producing one 10-win season after another the last six years, they have been producing one top 10 recruiting class after another as well.
As Swinney has said many times already this preseason, “You don’t stop recruiting just because you won a national championship.”
“You replace Tajh Boyd, the winningest quarterback in school history at the time, with Deshaun Watson. He turned out to be pretty good,” Swinney said. “You replace Vic Beasley at defensive end with Clelin Ferrell. He is another good one.”
In other words, Clemson just reloads.
“We have a lot of talented guys on this football team,” Swinney said, “and it is their turn… They hear what is being said and it is just adding fuel. ‘Hey! I was recruited, too. I’m a good football player.’ And they are hungry to go prove it.”
A lot of people might say “it is Florida State’s turn” or “it is Louisville’s turn.” There might be something to that, but it does not mean Clemson is just going to roll over and let it happen. They are competitors after all and Clemson has recruited well.
Granted, the Tigers have a tough early schedule. They host Auburn, go to Louisville and play at Virginia Tech in the first month of the season. Many expect Clemson to come out of the first five weeks of the schedule no better than 3-2.
Why not 4-1? Why not 5-0? One thing I have learned while watching Swinney quietly build this sleeping giant in the northwest corner of the state of South Carolina is not to doubt what his program can accomplish.
There is something to say for having the will to succeed and when you have the talent to go with it there are no limitations on what you can accomplish.
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