Monday Morning Quarterback: Tigers’ head coach expects to play for next year’s national championship
Dabo Swinney sent a direct message to his coaches, his team and the Clemson fans at halftime of the basketball team’s win over Notre Dame Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum. His expectations for the 2018 Clemson Tigers is to play for another national championship.
“What an awesome, awesome nine years it has been to be your head coach,” Swinney said to the packed house at Littlejohn as the 2017 ACC Champions were honored at halftime. “We have won fifty games in four years, forty in three years and eighty-two in seven years. It has been an unbelievable journey.
“We have had some failure. We have had some success. We will have some more failure. We will have some more success. But it has been one year since we played for the national championship and it will not be much longer. Okay!”
Swinney isn’t the only one who thinks the Tigers can compete for it all again next year. ESPN ranks Clemson No. 1 in its Way Too Early top 25 rankings, while everyone else has the program no worse than No. 2.
Of course it helps perception when 18 players return that started at least four games in 2017, while 22 others have experience after playing significant snaps in big-time games. In other words, the Tigers are loaded to have another big season.
Last week’s news that defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant are all returning to a defense that ranked second nationally in scoring defense and fourth in total defense, while also leading the ACC in scoring, total, rushing and passing defense for the first time in Clemson history, only elevates the Tigers’ prospects.
Swinney knows what it takes to have a championship caliber team, and with so many starters and leaders returning, he knows he has assembled another team that will have a chance to compete for another title.
Not only will the Tigers be seeking a second national title in three years, but also a fourth straight ACC Championship … something that has never been accomplished at Clemson. Next year’s favorable schedule should also aid in the Tigers’ chances as they once again will not play back-to-back road games and have no Thursday or Friday night games to play in the ACC for the first time since 2011.
Everything is in place for Clemson to have another great year on the gridiron. Now it just has to go and execute it, which isn’t always easy to do.