Despite being unable to finish spring practice and despite his players spending the last three weeks, and no one knows how much longer, in isolation, Dabo Swinney says the 2020 Clemson Tigers are ahead of his 2019 team at this point in time.
Unlike most football programs around the country, Clemson was able to get in nine of the 15 practices the NCAA allows for spring practice prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. In those nine practices, the Tigers were able to get in a mini-scrimmage and a full stadium scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
After Clemson broke for spring break on March 12, the university closed the campus through the rest of the spring semester and the ACC canceled all organized activities for the rest of the 2019-’20 academic year.
However, if there is a year to have a shutdown in practice and it not hurt a team too much, this is the year for the Clemson football team. Though the Tigers bring back just 12 starters on offense and defense, they return 52 lettermen overall.
Led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence and two-time ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne at running back, Clemson has one of the more experienced teams in not just the ACC, but in the entire country.
“This team, without question, is further ahead of where we were last year at this time. I don’t think there is any question about that,” Swinney said. “We just have a lot more functional players in our first groups.
“Last year, our first group, defensively, especially up front, they were as green as they come. But our first groups on both sides, and even on several of our twos, really can go play winning football for us.”
Swinney added he feels good about where the Tigers are as a team and admits they still have a long way to go. And, like all programs across the country, they are being challenged during this quarantine period.
“We have a lot to do, but this whole deal we are going through right now has created a unique challenge for us as a football team,” he said. “I will tell you. I knew that we had great people, but to see everyone rise up and adapt and find a way to still be great, it has been really special to be a part of it.”
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