For Clemson, fans, the waiting is almost over

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney looks to the scoreboard.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney looks to the scoreboard.

— The great American philosopher Tom Petty had it right: the waaaiting, as he put it, is the hardest part.

We’re just days away from seeing the latest incarnation of Clemson football take the field, and, quite frankly, it can’t get here fast enough.

For eight months, we’ve examined every angle connected to Dabo Swinney’s program.

We’ve broken down Brent Venables’ hire as the new defensive coordinator.

We’ve shouted about the alleged move to the Big 12.

We’ve discussed Tajh Boyd’s footwork. His weight. His decision-making.

We’ve freaked out over Sammy Watkins’ arrest, speculated over his punishment, and discussed what his suspension means to the Tigers’ potent offense.

We’ve talked about Swinney’s new contract extension and Terry Don Phillips’ retirement.

We’ve watched the new indoor practice facility rise inside the football complex.

Quite frankly, it’s time to play some football.

I don’t hate the offseason. It gives us time to reflect. Relax. Opine.

But I do love the fact that it’s just about time to play some football.

Two weeks ago, Swinney pointed out that high schools have preseason jamborees and the NFL has preseason games.

Clemson has scrimmages, but they’re closed to the media and public, open to only a handful of IPTAY members and former lettermen.

The closed-door society serves its purpose, but it also builds anticipation. Those of us on the outside have an idea what the Tigers will look like in 2012, but we don’t know for certain.

Will a rebuilt offensive line be able to protect Tajh Boyd and give him time to find his receivers?

Will a young defensive line wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and stuff tailbacks?

We don’t know.

And we won’t know until toe meets leather just after 7 p.m. Saturday night in the Georgia Dome.

Opening against Auburn is intriguing for a number of reasons. It is a departure from the Sun Belt openers that have populated the pole position in recent years (although Troy showed it is no one’s pushover).

It is the rubber match of an excellent series which saw Clemson take the eventual national champions to overtime in 2010 before getting its revenge in Sammy Watkins’ national coming-out party last fall.

And it is a return to the scene of one of the program’s most embarrassing moments in recent history: Alabama’s 34-10 season-opening beatdown in 2008, which spelled the beginning of the end of Tommy Bowden’s decade at the program’s helm.

In short, fans, media and national pundits will know a lot more about Clemson by 11 p.m. Saturday night than they do right now.

A young team will look different in November than it does Saturday night, but we’ll have a measuring stick, something to build off, a general idea.

It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s what those involved with the program train and sweat all year for.

To quote another American treasure, Marvin Gaye: let’s get it on.

© 2012 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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