SUNSET, S.C.—For the Clemson Tigers time for remembrance has come and gone—in fact, it was gone the day after the national championship as they began the process of preparing to once again climb up the college football mountain in the hopes of a third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff.
As the Tigers’ head coach met with the media for his annual golf outing, Dabo Swinney wasted little time letting those in attendance know that he is excited about this season—not last.
“We moved on back in February, and turned the age and had a good spring,” Swinney said. “We’re in the process right now of figuring out who we’re going to be and that’s ongoing. We’re almost finished with our transformation phase and then Aug. 1 we start with our prime time.
“It all builds—the teams’ identity, the personality of the team, the leadership of the team, the chemistry, the depth, new rolls. All of that stuff is still kind of coming together and I don’t think you really ever complete that until you get to that next phase, and you start playing and you get some games under your belt. Throughout the course of the season is when you really see the identity of who you’re going to be—that’s the fun part.”
That fun part, however, does not include the preseason rankings—not because they aren’t great fodder for the fanbase, but because it is one more thing to distract a young Tiger team.
“All this preseason stuff, I know it’s necessary and it’s awesome to be able to have a job where people are really interested in it and everybody wants to talk about it and everybody’s excited about the season to come,” Swinney said. “That’s the cool part, but for me, when this is what you do and you’re dealing with a bunch of young people, it’s just such a waste of time for my players to worry about any of that stuff because it just doesn’t matter.
“The preseason stuff is all based on who left, potential and what other people think. None of that really matters. What matters is what we think and how we prepare and how we develop. It’s fun to hear opinions, but it’s really so irrelevant in what we’ve got to do. We’ve been picked to win the league and we’ve won it. We’ve been picked not to win the league and we’ve won it. We’ve been picked to win the league and we’ve lost it. We’ve been all across the board.”
Even as the excitement around the 2017 Clemson Tigers is at an all-time high, with many national pundits already prepping for Clemson/ Alabama part three—Swinney is not yet ready to have Tiger fan’s book their tickets to Atlanta.
In part, due to the fact that repeating at national champions is something that has not been done since Alabama accomplished the feat in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. And, in part, due to the fact that even the head coach of the defending national champions has some questions about his roster.
“Not many people really know what has happened or really know our roster or really know our mentality or psyche of our team,” Swinney said. “I don’t think we’re going to be preseason No. 2 so maybe we’ve got a chance to keep that streak going. At the end of the day, that’s not our focus point. We want to be the best version of us each and every year. What that looks like, I don’t know.
“Personnel side, we’ve got some questions, some legitimate questions on paper that are good questions and fair questions.”