Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is one of the most respected coaches in college football, but he’s not down on his team despite missing out on this year’s College Football Playoff. He believes that what happened will make Clemson stronger and more determined as they return to battle for a national championship next season.
Dabo Swinney isn’t down on Clemson despite missing the College Football Playoff. He is confident that they will make it back to the playoffs next year and win the championship.
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Dabo Swinney is fully aware of what is being said about his program outside of Clemson, and they can speculate all they want about whether the end is close now that the Tigers have missed the College Football Playoff for the first time in seven years.
Swinney will tell you the following. He brought a list to a team meeting on Oct. 1. His squad had a 2-2 record. No one in the crowd had ever began their Clemson careers with two defeats in September.
Swinney’s list included more than 30 teams, all of whom had two defeats. “We’re going to find out a lot about who we are over the next two months,” he informed his teammates.
Clemson and Utah were the only two teams on the list to win nine games during the regular season. So, certainly, it was not the Clemson season that the Tigers are used to. Swinney, on the other hand, isn’t disappointed in his players, nor is he willing to admit that his program has taken a step back.
Because when Clemson (9-3) takes on Iowa State (7-5) in the Cheez-It Bowl on Wednesday night (5:45 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN app), the Tigers will be aiming for their 11th consecutive 10-win season. Only Florida State (14 from 1987 to 2000) and Alabama have ever won double digits in consecutive seasons (14 from 2008 to 2021).
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Swinney told ESPN, “You’re sitting there at 2-2 in September with a lot of disappointment, a lot of criticism, a lot of noise.” “And you witnessed our program’s basis shine through and win the day. I’m simply incredibly pleased with how it’s turned out and how these people have stuck together and improved.”
Swinney’s critics would argue that he’s just attempting to put a positive gloss on a season that began with a No. 3 preseason ranking but ended without a title for the first time since 2014. For extended periods, the offense looked distinctly un-Clemson, beginning with quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who battled to establish any kind of rhythm at times, throwing just nine touchdown passes and nine interceptions all season.
However, big injuries at running back and receiver might account for part of it. By the last week of the season, Clemson had lost seven scholarship receivers.
“Every young player I’ve ever had, from Deshaun [Watson] to Trevor [Lawrence], they all made errors,” Swinney said. “But we were much better around them, and it sort of covered those mistakes up.” “We weren’t nearly as good as we needed to be around D.J. early on, which amplified his errors. But it has sped up all those other things, which I believe will pay off for him as he progresses in his career.”
This season, the offense was not the only aspect of the club that was scrutinized. Swinney was chastised for not using the transfer link to help bolster up various areas that needed depth, the offensive line being one of them.
When questioned about transfers in October, Swinney stated, “I wouldn’t do anything differently.” “[Adding a transfer] implies that I would not have accepted one of the children here. You can only sign a certain number of players.”
Following the departures of offensive coordinator Tony Elliott (Virginia) and defensive coordinator Brent Venables (Oklahoma) for head coaching jobs in recent weeks, there was further criticism. Swinney promoted from within, rather than a complete transformation in attitude. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter and co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn will make their official debuts.
Swinney has gone to great efforts to defend his program and his methods, and he is certain that the hardship his players have encountered this season will benefit them in the long term.
“I believe certain things with these individuals have been reset,” Swinney said. “You win so often that you don’t always recognize it.”
“What kind of difficulties have they faced, particularly the seniors? You lose a game in the playoffs. That isn’t the definition of adversity. Six titles in a row, a slew of major triumphs along the road, and a rhythm of: ‘This is what we do.’ Because of some of the issues we had, particularly early on, it’s been amazing to connect with people in a new manner, and then to see the correct things pop up. ‘It either lights you up or grinds you up,’ as we say.”
Swinney brushes aside queries about whether this is a watershed moment in Clemson’s supremacy, citing Alabama as an example. Clemson won the national title in 2018 after defeating Alabama, while the Crimson Tide did not enter the playoffs this year, instead facing Michigan in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl.
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Swinney remarked, “I remember when it was going on.” “‘They’re done,’ they all said. No, no, no. It’s simply that each year presents a different problem. Because they are a solid program, they return the next year and win the national title. We are who we are. We have a great program. Every year we’ve been here, we’ve never won the ACC title. In the previous 11 years, we’ve won it seven times. I wish I could claim we won 11, but we just went back to work throughout those years. We’ll continue to be a contender because we have a fantastic program that is well embedded and well-established.”
Swinney can point to his seniors and draft-eligible guys as evidence. Despite the fact that they did not make the playoffs, no one opted out of the bowl game. Davis Allen, a tight end who just buried his grandpa but insisted on going to Orlando to participate in the game, is mentioned by Swinney.
During a pre-bowl press conference, sixth-year linebacker James Skalski remarked, “I believe it’s the culture of this club.” “We’ve played in the playoffs and on larger stages before, but this is our first chance to play a game again. Playing ball is something we all like doing. We like spending time together, so it wasn’t really an opt-out situation. That isn’t the case.”
Neither of them wanted to miss the playoffs. Clemson is aiming to prevent it from becoming “a thing” in the future.
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