Clemson flipped on the lights to its practice fields for the first time this season on Sunday night.
“That was pretty cool,” Swinney said.
On Thursday, the top-ranked Tigers will flip on the lights to Memorial Stadium for the first time when they host ACC rival Georgia Tech (8 p.m., ACCN) to open the 2019 football season. When they do, it will be a celebration of not only the arrival of a new season, but also celebrating the accomplishments of last year’s national championship.
Clemson will unveil the new championship signage at Death Valley on the south side of the stadium to commemorate the Tigers’ fourth straight trip to the College Football Playoff and their second national championship in the previous three seasons.
But most importantly, Thursday is about playing the Yellow Jackets and making sure they start the new season off on the right foot.
“We have to figure out where we are,” Swinney said. “I’m excited to go see us play and see what we need to do to improve. That is really are focus. To get better one week at a time, one day at a time. That is really just that simple.
“This is a team that whatever happens on Thursday night, we are going to have a lot of work to do. You can believe that. We got a long way to go. But we have to start somewhere. So, this is a great opportunity for us to certainly to be at home and at the end of the day it is just one of twelve.”
However, it is also a conference game, marking the first time in 12 years Clemson is opening the season against an ACC opponent.
“We have to try to accomplish our first goal which is to win the opener,” Swinney said. “It is not going to be easy. This is an ACC game.”
And to make it even more complicated, the Tigers don’t know a whole lot about Georgia Tech. For the first time since 2008, the Yellow Jackets will have someone new walking the sidelines as head coach. Paul Johnson retired at the end of last season and former Temple head coach Geoff Collins took his place.
Collins brings a brand-new philosophy to Atlanta. Gone is Johnson’s triple-option offense and in is Collins’ spread offense, which is up tempo and throws the ball all over the field.
It also will not help that the Tigers have 40 new members to this year’s team and then about 40 other guys who are playing new roles than they were the year before.
“There is a lot of moving parts and a lot of things you have to cover to get ready for the first game and kind of get in rhythm for the season,” Swinney said. “Right now, there really is no rhythm. There is just a lot of preparation going into this first game.
“So, openers are always tough, and then through in the fact you are playing an ACC opponent like Georgia Tech, which has good players, number one. And then number two, it is a whole new staff. That is a challenge.”
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