SUNSET, S.C. — With 17 starters and 62 lettermen back, expectations are high at Clemson for a fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and another trip to the College Football Playoff.
Normally one might think all of that pressure would weigh on a football coach. However, Dabo Swinney is not like most head coaches. Swinney was laid back, jovial and cutting up with the media on Tuesday as he hosted his annual media golf outing at The Reserve at Lake Keowee in Sunset, S.C.
“This is the most veteran team I’ve had since I’ve been the head coach and I’m excited about that,” he said. “Last year was the polar opposite and I embrace whatever challenge we have every year. I think that’s fun. I think that’s what makes college football so interesting.”
Last year, Swinney was fielding questions about the loss of superstars like Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett and Ben Boulware. People wondered if the Tigers had what it takes to make another push for an ACC title.
“Last year we had a complete makeover on offense, really starting over and spent the whole year like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ How are we going to score a touchdown?’’ Whereas this year it’s so different and I embrace that too because we have all of these guys back who’ve been there, they’ve played. So hopefully that leadership, that experience, will bode well for us and it already has from what I’ve seen in spring ball and what has taken place this summer.”
This year, the Tigers bring back experience and depth on both the offensive and defensive lines. They return their top passer, top two rushers and top wide receiver. They bring back two starters at linebacker with seven backups returning with game experience.
There is a lot of young talent, too with one of the nation’s best recruiting classes now on campus. In other words, there is a lot of reason for optimism.
“Then there’s a lot of things you don’t see, and as coaches we don’t see,” Swinney said. “What I know is just little things that I know our players are doing from a leadership standpoint. Whether it’s an older guy taking in a younger guy, coming back in the afternoon when they could be at the pool after their workout, but yet it’s an older guy taking young guys in on his own to go work some drills and I think that’s the type of leadership we have on this team.”
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!