This ESPN analyst doesn’t agree with Dabo Swinney’s comments about the state of his program.
While some people who aren’t a part of Swinney’s program have questioned it from the outside looking in, Clemson’s head coach told ESPN this week that he feels it’s “never been better” and he’s confident the Tigers will be in contention for a return to the playoff in 2023.
ESPN’s Aaron Murray isn’t buying that the program’s never been better, though, and doesn’t believe Clemson is even the top team in its own conference entering the upcoming season.
“They’ve definitely been significantly better as they get ready for 2023, so this is him wishing and hoping and praying,” Murray said on SNAPS With Aaron and T-Bob. “I don’t think they’re the best team in the ACC. I think Florida State’s going to end up winning that conference this year.
A former Georgia quarterback, Murray isn’t confident in Clemson rising sophomore signal caller Cade Klubnik and doesn’t think he’s on the same level as former Tiger greats Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence. And Murray doesn’t think the Tigers have top-end talent at receiver to catch passes from Klubnik like Boyd, Watson and Lawrence had in years past.
“I don’t trust the quarterback,” Murray said. “He did not really prove a lot to me towards the end of the season. … He’s young, he’s green, and I’m excited to see what he looks like after spring and heading into next season, year two. So, be wary of judgement just yet. He has a new offensive coordinator as well. But I’m not like, ‘Oh my God, this guy is Trevor Lawrence or this guy is Deshaun Watson or Tajh Boyd.’ Like, he’s not that, and that’s what’s made them really good.
“What’s made Clemson elite since 2013, since Tajh, is great quarterback play along with elite receiver play. From Sammy Watkins on through, they’ve had that. All of a sudden for the past two years, they really haven’t hit on receivers, they haven’t hit on the quarterback position, and they’ve always been OK, good at offensive line, not great. … Will Shipley was great, but they have not been dominant up front to kind of help out with the passing game if it’s not going. So like I said, I don’t know who those elite receivers are going to be this year. I don’t think there’s any first- or second-round guys on that roster that we’re used to seeing, and I think Cade is like I said super green and needs a lot more playing before you feel really, really comfortable with him leading you to a championship.”
In 2022, the Tigers missed the College Football Playoff for the second straight season but still posted their 12th straight season with at least 10 wins, and the Tigers won their seventh ACC Championship in the last eight seasons.
Clemson won national championships in 2016 and 2018 as part of six consecutive CFP appearances, but Murray doesn’t think the current Tigers are anywhere close to those types of teams that contended for national titles in recent years.
“So, are they bad, are they in trouble of being a middle-of-the-pack ACC team? No, of course not. They’re more talented than 95 percent of the teams in that conference,” he said. “But they are nowhere, nowhere near as good as they’ve been in the past decade. Not even close.”
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