CLEMSON—The big question floating around the Clemson football program, since their victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in January, has been: Can they do it again?
Can they make it back to the championship game for the third straight year, a feat that has only been accomplished one time since the BCS-era and now the CFB Playoff (Florida State 1998-2000) and if they make it back to the national championship game can they win it in back-to-back seasons (only accomplished by Alabama—2011, 2012)?
“I just want to be a team that has a chance,” Swinney said following the Tigers’ annual Orange and White game. “That is really where we want to be every year. You are never going to hear me come out and say, ‘we are going to win it all.’ I just want to be one of those teams that will have a chance. That is all you can ask for.”
But for this team to have a chance to accomplish what has only been done once in the last 19 years, in either making a championship game three consecutive season, or in winning back-to-back championships, it will begin with starting over just as every team has before them.
And part of starting over for Swinney begins with the players understanding that the plays that won them the 2016 national title will have to be made once again in 2017.
“We are a new team. We are on a new journey,” Swinney said. “Our guys have a good mindset. For us, it is always about what’s next. That’s just how we approach it. We start over. Those plays that won last year, we have to go make them again to have a chance.”
That is all that Swinney has ever asked for for his Clemson Tigers—a chance.
In fact, when anyone enters the Clemson meeting room they are met with five goals—win the opener, win the division, win the ACC, win the state championship and win the closer—that Swinney designed to not win national titles, but to provide the Tigers with the opportunity to get to championships.
Those five goals, plus commitment are what he believes will continue to put Clemson in the best position to make history this season.
“There is a lot that goes into all the rest of it. I want to see a team whose goal is to never go win the national championship–ya’ll know our goals,” Swinney said. “That is just a byproduct of our goals and the commitment. I think we have a team that can compete and has a legitimate chance to accomplish the five goals that we have as a team. If we will be committed to being the best team we can be day in and day out, we will see a good team emerge.”
For the Tiger faithful, the 2017 squad’s ability to achieve those goals will hinge on who can emerge as the quarterback, replacing, arguably, the greatest quarterback in the history of the program.
However, Swinney views the quarterback battle differently than most because he recruited each of the four contenders for the coveted spot and he believes that each one of them can lead the Tigers back to the promised land.
“That’s why we recruited them. We recruited all four of them and sign them all for that reason,” Swinney said. “We would have never signed them if we didn’t believe in them. Sometimes some guys might be the backup, sometimes guys might be the starter or whatever. That’s where we want to be here every year.”