Clemson begins defense of its national championship today as it starts fall camp on the practice fields behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
In all, the Tigers return 48 lettermen and 12 starters from last year’s 15-0 team that ended the season with a 44-16 route of Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Clemson will practice 14 times over the next 18 days before wrapping up camp on Aug. 20 and beginning preparation for its season opener on Aug. 29 against Georgia Tech.
“We are excited to get this thing going,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
For the first time in the program’s history, the Tigers will begin a football season as the top-ranked team in the country. On Thursday, the coaches released their preseason poll and had Clemson No. 1. It also marks the fourth straight year the Tigers open a season ranked inside the top five – a Clemson record as well.
“I know all of Clemson Nation and everybody is excited to get back on the field,” Swinney said. “Our players are ready to get back to work on the field. Everybody has been grinding since January. There is always a little bit of a misperception, ‘Okay, we’re beginning right now.’
“We really are not beginning right now. We are heading into the third phase of our journey as we break our year down into four phases. For our players this is the third phase and for our coaches. We get ready, we transform, then we head into prime time.”
Clemson heads into prime loaded on offense as eight starters return from a unit that averaged 44.3 points and 527.2 yards a game in 2018. All eight of those offensive players where named to the All-ACC Preseason team, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The sophomore was the media’s pick for ACC Player of the Year honors, while the current ACC Player of the Year, running back Travis Etienne, is also back after he rushed for 1,658 yards and scored 26 touchdowns in 2018.
The other starters back on offense are wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross and four starters on the offensive line…Sean Pollard (center), John Simpson (left guard), Gage Cervenka (right guard) and Tremayne Anchrum (right tackle).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers bring back four starters in linebacker Isaiah Simmons, safeties K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse and cornerback A.J. Terrell.
Though they have to replace all four starters on the defensive line, the Tigers are still expected to be pretty good on the defensive line. Defensive end Xavier Thomas and defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney joined Simmons, Muse and Terrell on the All-ACC preseason team.
“Everybody has a visual in their mind of that team last year because we have not played a game since then, but this is a very different team and everybody is ready to turn the page,” Swinney said. “Until you play a game, it is hard to do that for a lot of our fans.
“So, August 29 will be here before you know it. We have a lot of work to do with this team. We have a lot of work. We are a true work in progress, but it has been a good summer. The guys have really handled themselves well. The accountability and the leadership have been excellent.”