Dabo Swinney held court with reporters during his weekly media availability on Tuesday.
Clemson’s head coach answered questions from the local media for around 25 minutes, before national reporters chimed in via Zoom and asked Swinney broader questions about the current landscape of college football.
There’s a lot more parity in college football right now. There’s been a lot of upsets and surely, there will be a whole lot more as the season goes on. There’s plenty of factors that go into that, but one of the main components is the fact that this season is succeeding a season like no other.
Last season was deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and because of that, the NCAA granted a free year of eligibility, so there are plenty of sixth-year seniors, like James Skalski and Nolan Turner, all around the country.
“I think there’s a lot of good teams. There’s a lot of seniors, a lot of sixth-year seniors,” Swinney said Tuesday. “The experience that everybody had last year, everybody kind of getting used to playing in front of crowds again. I don’t know, there’s probably a lot of things that you could talk about, scheduling, some tough matchups with some teams along the way across the country. A lot of good players, transfer portal, you name it.”
Swinney was then asked about roster turnover, specifically how he deals with losing a generational talent under center in Trevor Lawrence, who has since left for the NFL, and is now the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“That’s college football.“That’s just the way it is,” Swinney said. “Tajh Boyd left here the winningest quarterback in school history. Deshaun Watson came in here and tied him. Trevor Lawrence came here and set a new record.
“You’re always kind of starting over. You can have a couple of years here or there where you have an experienced group, like where we are defensively this year, we’re incredibly experienced. Last couple of years we’ve been very inexperienced and this year, we’re deep in experience and it shows. Flipside offensively, we’re very inexperienced in some key spots. That’s just college football. That’s just the way it is. Everybody deals with that. That’s why recruiting is so important and not just recruiting, but evaluation and development…you have some years where you’re more experienced than others and that’s the same for everybody, everywhere in the country.”
That level of experience or lack thereof could be why some of the blue bloods have struggled early on.
A reporter from a national outlet brought to Swinney’s attention, the hiccups that schools like Ohio State, Notre Dame and even to a lesser degree, Oklahoma. For context, Ohio State lost at home to No. 3 Oregon, while Notre Dame struggled to put away teams like Florida State and Toledo. Then, Oklahoma had its bouts with lesser opponents like Tulane and Nebraska.
The reporter also mentioned Alabama being pushed around at the line of scrimmage during its 31-29 win over Florida this past Saturday, which got a laugh out of Swinney.
“I think other teams need to have a little credit every now and then,” Swinney said. “Maybe Oregon’s pretty good? I don’t know if you’ve ever gone down and tried to play football down in The Swamp. Been there, done that. That’s a really tough place to go play, especially early in the season. Team’s are still figuring out a lot: who they are and who their opponents are. They don’t have a lot of tape on a lot of these teams. I don’t know who Florida played the first couple games (FAU and USF), but Florida, they recruit well. They’re well-coached. That’s an incredibly difficult place to play.
“There’s an expectation that everybody’s gonna blow out everybody every week is disrespectful to the other teams and the coaches. Everybody’s got, good players. Maybe Oregon’s pretty good? Sometimes you don’t have your best day or whatever, but it doesn’t mean you stink. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have a terrible year or anything like that. Every week is a season of its own.”
Clemson dealt with its own struggles this past week after narrowly defeating Georgia Tech, 14-8, at home. And with that, this season is certainly shaping up to be unlike any other.
“If you know anything about college football, you go back and look at where things are in September, it doesn’t always end up the way you think it does in September and a lot of people buy into that,” Swinney added.