CLEMSON – New team, same dream.
That’s how Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney summarized his team’s mental state as the Tigers opened fall camp Thursday afternoon.
“We’re excited to get it going,” Swinney said before running 105 players through two-plus hours of drills at both the indoor and outdoor practice fields. “Let’s start this new journey and see what we can get done.”
As has been the case in each and every preseason, Swinney resembled a kid on Christmas morning.
“This is the best time of the year, man, for me,” Swinney said. “I’m excited to be able to get into our routine, in this building and have a day-to-day structure of being with the guys and coaching football.”
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Swinney and his staff did a fairly admirable job of that last season as the Tigers finished 14-1 and defeated Alabama in the national championship game to claim the school’s first football national title in 35 years.
Now comes the hard part – essentially maintaining the lofty status that the program has achieved in the past few years.That may be easier said than done considering the absence of its primary offensive playmakers, most of whom are now plying their trade in NFL camps, but it’s not as if Swinney’s program has a talent shortage.
Swinney has recruited well for the past several years, and that could be evident this fall as the Tigers stage a title defense.
“You get what you earn,” said Swinney, whose team was ranked No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll released on Thursday. “When it’s all said and done, we’ll look back and if we have the right type of commitment and work ethic and daily focus, we’ll be pleased with what type of results we get. There’s a lot that can go into a season. I’m just looking forward to great enthusiasm as we get started.
“This is a new team, but we’ve got the same dream. That doesn’t change. Nothing’s different there. We know that we all want the same thing.”
Swinney said his team has been focused on the heart and spirit of the program in preseason talks.
“We haven’t talked a lot of football – it’s more why we do what we do, what drives our program,” Swinney said.
That all changed on Thursday, with a season-opening game looming less than a month away.
“Today we get to go work on the what-we-do – and that’s play football and coach football,” Swinney said. “Everybody’s here. It’s fun to be a complete team again.”
Precisely how complete will be evident soon enough.
“I think our guys have prepared well throughout the summer,” Swinney said. “There’s something about being able to look guys in the eye and know they’ve put the work in. This is a team that has put the work in and paid the price. We’re a well-put-together team.
“We’ve just got new guys and have to get them all in the right spots and make sure we give our team the best chance to be successful.”