Wednesday’s Thoughts: There should be a whole lot of fun in the future as well
A day later, it is easy to reflect on the type of season we all just witnessed at Clemson.
Granted, the Tigers performance in the Sugar Bowl Monday night was disappointing and we will talk more about what happened and why throughout the day and rest of the week. However, now is the time to reflect on the kind of season we all just witnessed, and let’s be honest, it was not what we all expected.
At the beginning of the season there were so many questions surrounding the offense, few picked Clemson to even win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Kelly Bryant had thrown just nine passes his entire career prior to 2017 and there were questions about how the Tigers would move the football against some of the better teams on their schedule after losing guys like Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett, Artavis Scott and Wayne Gallman.
But the Tigers overcame that, and led by a strong running game and a dominant defense, Clemson won its third straight ACC Championship, earned another No. 1 ranking against one of the toughest schedules in the country and advanced to the College Football Playoff for a third straight year.
“At the end of the day, when you take a deep breath and you step back a little bit, this will be one of the best teams that we have had,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I mean, this has been a remarkable team. It really has. You look at what Kelly Bryant has done this year, his first year playing quarterback. We had a lot of young guys step up. I thought our defense had a chance to be really, really special and they were. And, offensively, it was going to be a group that was going to have to grow and get better.
“And we, obviously, lost a lot of guys. But this has been a fun team to coach. I have thoroughly enjoyed being around this group of guys.”
Swinney has said all year that this team has been the easiest one he had to coach. He said they have come to work all year. They have had an unbelievable attitude and work ethic and belief.
“And it’s been fun. They really have — again, (Monday) was a bad night,” he said. “But that doesn’t change how I feel about the type of season. It’s hard to win 12 games. And certainly with 130 teams, it’s hard to make it to the playoff. And these guys earned that.
“We earned a butt-whipping (Monday) as well. But we also earned 12 wins and three ACC championships in a row, and especially those seniors. To see those guys win 50 games in their career and 40 in the last three years, it’s been a heck of a run. So we have not lost a lot of games.”
Actually, Clemson’s six scholarship seniors leave Tigertown with a 50-7 overall record, the best mark by a senior class in school history and the first group in school history to have three ACC Championships and a national championship in hand as well.
Granted, the 2017 season did not end the way the Tigers and its fans would have liked it to, but there still is a lot to celebrate. As you turn the page on 2017 and start looking to the future, it’s clear to see that when Swinney says “the best is yet to come,” he means it.
The 2017 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but instead the Tigers reloaded and accomplished more than most ever imagined. Just think about what that means for the future of a program that is going to keep getting better and better.
“I tell our guys all the time, it’s always about what is next,” Swinney said. “And we’re going to learn and grow and always get better. And my expectation is to be right back here next year, right back in the middle of it, right back in the thick of it.
“We have got a heck of a team coming back. We’re going to have a much more experienced team next year than we had this year. And they will be eager to get back to work.”