Monday Morning Quarterback
Every year, Dabo Swinney embraces whatever challenge stands in his way and has fun with it.
Two years ago, he had to replace seven starters on Clemson’s defense and the Tigers went out and won the program its second national championship. Last year, he had to replace a record-setting quarterback, running back, tight end and wide receiver on offense and his team went on to win a third straight Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
This year, Swinney has a completely new challenge. One he and his coaches have never had in his 10 years as the head coach at Clemson.
The Tigers return a record 61 letterman from last year’s College Football Playoff team, including 17 starters, just one short of the record of 18 set by the 1977, ’81 and ’88 teams.
“It is well documented this the most veteran team I have had since I have been the head coach, and I am excited about that,” Swinney said. “Last year was the opposite. I embrace whatever challenge we have every year. I think that is fun. That is what makes college football so interesting.
“Last year, we were a complete makeover on offense, really starting over and we spent the whole year like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are we going to score a touchdown?’ This year is so different, but I embrace that too. We have all these guys back that have been here, that have played so hopefully, that leadership and that experience will bode well for us.”
Swinney already thinks it has. From what he saw in the spring and from the reports he has received this summer, he likes the maturity of his team and how driven they are. Veteran players are taking the younger players, after workouts have already been completed, and they are going on their own to do work on some skills and drills.
“That is the type of leadership we have on this team,” the Clemson coach said.
Swinney says his players are ready for the new season and are chopping at the bit to get started. The Tigers open fall camp on Aug. 1 with weigh-ins and then start practice on Aug. 2.
“We have a lot of veterans, but we have as much competition as we have ever had,” Swinney said. “Everybody on this team, they know and they accept that they have to go and earn it. Nobody is given anything. That is just the culture that we have. That is the mindset. It is very much workman like. There is nobody that has arrived.”
In other words, even All-Americans like Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Mitch Hyatt, all have to prove it again in camp if they want to keep their starting job.
“I don’t care how many years they have started,” Swinney said. “Mitch Hyatt is a very proven left tackle, but this is August of 2018. You have to prove it again. We have so much competition at every position because we do have good depth. We have good experienced depth. Everybody is working hard to earn the opportunity to play. Everybody can’t start, but it is not about starting. It is about how you play, when you play.
“That is where we are and with that comes a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. It will be exciting to watch them get out there and compete in camp.”
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