CLEMSON— “The boys are back in town” was blaring from the speakers inside the indoor facility signaled one thing to all of those that have been waiting patiently since the early morning hours of Jan. 10–It is officially football season again in Clemson, South Carolina.
The wait is over, and the 2017 season is just around the corner as the 2017 Clemson Tigers took to the field for their first practice of the fall season. And just as the players and the fans are excited that the 2017 season is upon us, so too is the Tigers head coach.
“Excited to get going man,” Dabo Swinney said before the Tigers took the field. “It’s been a lot the last couple of days. Just a lot of, really just program installation. We spent five days as a staff over the last couple of weeks just reinstalling our program—everything about it A-to-Z, and then we’ve taken the last couple of days with our team and really have not talked a lot of football. It’s really been why we do what we do. What drives our program? How we do those things. And now today we get to go work on the what we do and that’s coach football, play football. So, really excited to get back out on the field with these guys.”
While much of the fanbase is already counting down the days until the Tigers take the field for their opening game against Kent State, Sept. 2. Swinney is focusing on just enjoying getting back on the field with his team, and getting to work on where they are as a team—because the opponent will get here soon enough.
“This is the best time of year man. This is the best time of the year for me,” Swinney said. “I’m excited to be able to get in our routine in this building and really just have a day-to-day structure of being with the guys, coaching football and start right now focusing on our team and preparing Clemson, and then somewhere down the road we’ll turn the page and start preparing for an opponent. Man, I look forward to that, but we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
While the head coach would not go so far as to label his fifth-ranked (Coaches Poll) Tiger teams as a contender for a return trip to the national championship game, he did state that he like how his team is put together.
Even though there will not be any mention of a repeat around the locker rooms or on the practice fields at Clemson, for Swinney there is a sense that this team has the makeup of something special.
“I can’t be more proud of this team, and how they handled themselves. How they prepared throughout the summer. The weigh in is kind of a formality, it really is, but there’s something about just being able to look a guy in the eye and just see him and know that they’ve put the work in—it’s great. And this is a football team that has put the work in, they’ve paid the price. We’re a well put together team.
“Guys look good. I think our conditioning is very good, the guys weights and where we want them to be—guys have done a great job…We’re going to start this new journey and see what we can get done.”
Three players unavailable:
The Tigers were without Richard Yeargin– who will miss the 2017 season after suffering a neck injury prior to the start camp, Garrett Williams—who suffered an ACL tear during the spring and Tucker Israel—who has been battling a series of health issues since last season.
“Garrett is still rehabbing with his knee,” Swinney said. “Then Tucker, he’s not really injured but he’s had some sickness stuff that he’s dealt with. So, his weight is up, it’s actually improving, but it’s still not where it needs to be. We don’t need him out there losing 5 pounds. So, we’re going to try to just keep bringing him back. Hopefully, at some point between now and when school starts he’ll be getting his weight back up there where he can physically go do what he needs to do.
“Mentally he knows what to do—he’s sharp. He knows this offense as good as anybody, but I’m really pleased with him.”