To say Dabo Swinney was excited about the start of fall practice was an understatement.
“It just never gets old,” Swinney said Friday before the defending national champions took the practice fields at the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
Friday marked the beginning of Swinney’s 17th season at Clemson and is 11th as the Tigers’ head coach.
“We got 27 days and we are going to bring some life to Death Valley,” he said. “We are really excited about that. We are really excited to get started. This is always so much fun to be able to get back on the field and doing what we love to do.”
Swinney welcomed back 48 lettermen from last year’s national championship team. The Tigers, who will open the season as the nation’s top-ranked team in the Amway Coaches Poll, which was released earlier this week, are made up of 80 combined freshmen and sophomores.
However, some of those sophomores include quarterback Trevor Lawrence, wide receiver Justyn Ross and defensive end Xavier Thomas, as well as others who played a big role in Clemson’s run to a second national championship in three years.
Last year, the Tigers led all Associated Press Top 25 teams by playing an average of 72.5 players per game.
“Everybody is on the same page and understands who we are and what we do and why we do things the way we do it,” Swinney said. “We are ready to go attack the season and accept a new challenge. This is a brand new opportunity and a brand new challenge.
“This team has not done anything. This team has not won a single game. This team has won zero games. We are right there with everybody else in the rest of the country that is playing football, prepping, practicing, planning and putting the work in. Hopefully, we can have a great season, but there is a lot of work to be done.”
Swinney says all the preseason talk about how potentially good the Tigers can be is over.
“It is time to be about it and not talk about it,” he said. “That is what today is about. Getting back on the field and getting to work.
“This team is going to be a lot of fun. I can already tell you that. A lot of our fans and stuff get excited about today because for them this is when it kind of starts, but this is just the halfway point for us. We have a journey every year and it starts in January and we are kind of getting into the third quarter of our journey.”
Clemson will open the 2019 season on Aug. 29 against ACC rival Georgia Tech at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, marking the earliest opener in the program’s 124-year history. The game will be a 7 p.m. kick and will be the first live football game on ESPN’s new ACC Network.
There are still more than 2,000 tickets available for the season opener.