Swinney excited about getting the new season started
For the first time in four years, Dabo Swinney will not see Christian Wilkins face when he meets with the current members of the 2019 Clemson team on Friday.
That’s right, the 2019 season starts taking shape on Friday when the returning Tigers meet with Swinney and the rest of the coaching staff at the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
“Oh, man, I’m excited about (the meeting). I love that,” Swinney said. “I can’t wait to have that meeting on Friday. It’s always a fun meeting for me to kind of reset the room, if you will, and kind of paint a picture of what this new journey is going to look like and what we’ve got to do.
“Every year is a new challenge, and you don’t carry anything over.”
The Tigers, who just wrapped up their second national championship in the last three years with Monday night’s win over Alabama, will not carry much at all over on defense, at least when it comes to the starters.
Besides Wilkins, there will be no Austin Bryant either or Dexter Lawrence. Wilkins and Bryant have exhausted their eligibility, while Lawrence decided to forgo his senior year and put his name into the NFL Draft pool on Wednesday. Fellow defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell, announced his plans to turn professional on Thursday.
Those four players have been a fixture on the Clemson teams the last three or four seasons and have played a big role in why Clemson has been a top 5 defense the last three seasons and led the nation in scoring this year.
The Tigers are also losing cornerback Trayvon Mullen, as well as linebacker Tre Lamar. Both announced their intentions to turn pro on Wednesday. As of Thursday night, there is still no word on if safety Tanner Muse or linebacker Isaiah Simmons are coming back.
Right now, the only guarantees returning from a Clemson defense that led the nation in scoring defense, rush yards allowed per carry, sacks and tackles for loss is sophomore corner A.J. Terrell and safety K’Von Wallace, who announced on Thursday he is returning for his senior year.
But Swinney is not worried. He likes who he has coming back and the guys he signed in December.
“I think what we’re going to be able to put on the field up front, we’ve got a lot of guys that nobody – y’all don’t have no idea who they are right now, but this time next year everybody is going to know who they are,” Swinney said.
The guys Swinney is talking about are Xavier Thomas, Justin Foster, K.J. Henry, Justin Macoll, Nyles Pinckney, Jordan Williams, Darnell Jefferies, Mario Goodrich and Kyler McMichel to name a few.
“That’s the fun part about what I do. We get to start over every year and plug guys in and let them go play,” Swinney said. “So, it’s exciting to know that Xavier Thomas has got a chance to be an every-down player and K. J. Henry and Mascoll and we’ve got I think five mid-years that just moved into Clemson yesterday that will be in that meeting.
“So, it’s going to be an exciting spring, a lot of fun to pull it all together and get that group ready to go next year.”
It also helps Swinney to know he has quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, wide receivers Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers and four senior offensive linemen returning from an offense that ranked third nationally in total offense (527.2 yds/game) and fourth in scoring (44.3 points/game).
“We start over, and it’s exciting,” Swinney said. “I know we’ve got a bunch of guys back on offense and we are going be a very experienced offense. We’ll have four seniors in that offensive line. We only lost two guys. We’re going to be experienced at running back, experienced at quarterback with Trevor and Chase, experienced at receiver. I think we’ve got a chance to be dynamic at tight end. So, I’m excited about that.”