Charlotte, NC–A poised and confident head football coach, Dabo Swinney, approached his time at ACC Media Days with optimism. Yes, he was only a few minutes a way from a national title that just slipped out of reach but he’s still upbeat about his team and his chances in this upcoming season.
“This team has an experience that’s different from any team that I have had in the past,” Swinney said. He was referring to to how much more equipped this team would be based on knowing what it takes to win it all. ” The failures are just as important as the success.’
Swinney talked about Clemson’s first national championship in the 1980s, that team had to win 12 games. Now in the College Football Playoff era, you have play at least 15 games to win a national championship and you don’t have much room for era in order to get there.
Nevertheless, Clemson now bears the burden of being the conference’s ‘hunted’ team. They’ll get everyone’s toughest game. That mantle was passed on from Atlantic Division Rival, Florida State. The Tigers will be highlighted on every schedule, rowdy crowds filling opposing teams stadiums will be waiting to upset the Tigers. And every error or misstep will be scrutinized.
“I think that the guys coming back…they know what it takes. It’s one thing to think you’re good enough, it’s another thing to know that you are good enough.”
Last year Clemson was good enough, almost. They came within five points of winning a national championship. Some might argue if it were not for a successful onside kick by Alabama they’d be national champs. Oddly enough, the use of the kickoff in football has been a ‘hot topic’ of sorts this off season. Without it, the Tigers would possibly be champs. But, as Coach Swinney said today, they did not win the game.
“We have a highly motivated team, I think that’s the culture of our team. It’s always about what’s next. What we did last year is not going to win for us this year. We’ve got to go out there and prove it and earn it all over again.”
He didn’t stop there with the motivation, seemingly targeted at his team.
“We didn’t win the game, we finished with some regrets, we want to finish with no regrets. Even had we won the game, for us, we’re going to start over. We’re going to go back to the basics and kind of reinstall our program, the core values, and go grind.”
This is what the tenure of Dabo Swinney has been about since arrival at Clemson. Now, he has an easier time letting people know what Clemson really stands for.
“The total buy in from our players, the validation of what we do in our program, how we train…eat…everything just creates a little more buy in and we’ve been working toward that for a little while now.’
It’s helped in recruiting also, though Swinney says, though likely not completely true, that he doesn’t put much focus onto recruiting.
“I don’t really focus much on the recruits to be honest with you, I focus on our players and our staff.” He continued by explaining why. “Seven years ago, when we got the program…we were out there talking about what we were going to do. Now we’re selling results.”
It won’t take long to see how things are shaping up this season for the Clemson Tigers. They open the season on the road at Auburn, an SEC opponent. And though they had a forgettable year in 2015, they are still a team to be taken seriously in college football.
Swinney isn’t worried about external factors, however. He’s focused on his team and his coaches.
“I just focus on us, I don’t worry about other schools,” he said.
He’s got the swagger early in a season that from an outsiders perspective, seemingly shows he’s ready to make another title run.