CHARLOTTE– The Clemson Tigers kicked off talking season Thursday afternoon, as they closed out the opening day of the 2017 ACC Football Kickoff.
As always, the Tigers’ head coach Dabo Swinney was happy to stand in front of the hundreds of media in attendance at The Westin Charlotte’s Grand Ballroom because, for Swinney and the rest of the nation, it means that football season is upon us.
“It’s always fun for me to come to this event because that means that the season is upon us, and that’s my favorite time of year, getting back to where we’re around these guys every day and where we’re kind of all coming back together,” Swinney said. “Everybody has been working hard since spring to prepare for this season, so it’s getting closer by the minute.”
However, there was one thing that had Swinney perplexed—the fact the majority of the questions asked revolved around who was not on the current team, rather than the players who are on the 2017 Tiger squad.
“Everybody keeps wanting to talk about last year and what we don’t have, but what I’m excited about is what we do have,” Swinney continued. “And we’ve got a football team that I think is committed, a football team that I think is focused, and a football team that I think is hungry, because we’ve got a lot of guys that nobody talks about.
“Because again, we keep talking about those guys that aren’t with us anymore, which that’s kind of understandable, but we’ve got a lot of guys that are really hungry to go prove that they can get the job done.”
And getting the job done for the second straight season is exactly what his Tigers will be tasked, but for Swinney there is an appreciation for how difficult it will be to repeat—in part due to the pieces that will need to be replaced and in part due to the fact that the ACC is one tough league.
“Well, it ain’t real far from the penthouse to the outhouse,” Swinney said. “We all know that. It’s a few plays here and there, and that’s really where this league is. But, in particular, if you’re going to speak about our division, I have great respect for the coaches and the teams in our division. It is incredibly difficult.
“This division is tough. Boston College, man, you talk about a tough, hard-nosed, physical football team that you’re going to see when you line up and play Boston College, and then Syracuse and Dino, what a great football coach he is. So good for our league. It’s not going to take him long to get Syracuse where they want to be as a program. You just mark that down. They are a very, very difficult team to prepare for and play against.”
For Swinney and the Tigers, there is a belief that if they can weather a schedule that is currently ranked 12th in the nation in difficulty, according to Athlon, that they will once again find themselves in the conversation to make the playoffs for a third consecutive year and a chance for back-to-back national titles.
“I mean, even just this year, if you look at this league, there’s one conference that had a winning record versus Power Five teams, the ACC,” Swinney said. “One conference had a winning record versus ranked teams, the ACC. We had 11 bowl teams. We were 10-4 versus the SEC. There’s a reason why we have played so well. We’ve won five bowl games in a row, and you know, I mean, it’s not because I’m some great coach. I’ve got a good staff and all that. We’ve had good players. It’s what we practice against every day, and it’s what we play against week in and week out.”