Keeping on as important as breaking through for Swinney's work-in-progress Tigers

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney greets strong safety Rashard Hall at the bottom of the hill on senior night.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney greets strong safety Rashard Hall at the bottom of the hill on senior night.

It's only two days into the bowl-season preseason, and I'm weary of some of the storylines already.

Can the Tigers, 10-2 and unhappy as they are, take advantage of another chance against the almighty SEC?

Can Clemson, after 'pulling a Clemson' or 'pulling an FSU' or 'pulling an ACC' or whatever they did against South Carolina, validate their season by finding some way to beat LSU?

Should Dabo Swinney be considered a coach on the 'hot seat' if his team has another poor bowl showing?

Can the Tigers take advantage of their chance to 'make a statement?'

I suppose, still nearly a month before kickoff, we have to talk, and write, about something.

And maybe I'm just a grumpy old man with a cold in my nose.

For what it's worth, here's my take:

Swinney's Tigers are an ongoing work-in-progress.

They're not 'there' yet, wherever 'there' is.

They're not quite good enough yet to beat South Carolina, which got at least a three-year jump on this serious improvement thing.

They may not be good enough to beat LSU, which played for the national championship a year ago, entered this season ranked No. 1, and is only a play or two away from playing for the national championship again.

But they're getting better.

Swinney needs more, and better, defensive linemen and defensive backs. And another year of seasoning on the offensive line. And he needs to win a recruiting war or two for the likes of Georgia's Todd Gurley, who appeared Clemson-bound for months before signing with the Bulldogs.

The Tigers won't magically arrive at their destination on New Year's Eve, even if they beat LSU.

Clemson's growth into a consistent national contender is not a one-and-done deal. To get where the program wants to go, Clemson has to start beating South Carolina again, it has to start beating the likes of LSU and Georgia. I offer no argument on those points.

But just as importantly, the Tigers have to keep doing the things they've done with increasing consistency over the past three seasons: compete for the ACC division and conference titles (that, in reality, is where the Tigers live), don't lose to teams that aren't as good as themselves (they laid no eggs this year, they had one stinker game last year, a couple in 2010, and one in 2009); recruit head-to-head and win their share against the nation's elite (which Swinney's staff has done and is doing); develop talent and execute a well-designed strategic plan under the guidance of highly-competent and correspondingly well-compensated coaches; use facility upgrades to their advantage in both recruiting and preparation; hold up their academic and social obligations in a manner congruent with the goals and objectives of the university and the community.

Swinney bristled a bit Monday when he was asked whether the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against LSU affords an opportunity for the Tigers to change the perception about Clemson's readiness to play 'Big Boy Football' on a national stage.

There's no need for that, either.

Swinney is the one who has set the standard, both in terms of expectations for his team and fan expectation, and he's stated both plainly on multiple occasions. And neither the fans, nor media, are necessarily dismissing or undervaluing what he's already done when questions are asked about the goals that have yet to be achieved.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl is the next opportunity for the Tigers to go do what Swinney has been growing them to do for the last three and a half years.

Nothing less, nothing more.

Either way, there will be a next time, when next time comes, it will be the Tigers' job to do it again.

This is, indeed, a 'statement game.'

Just like they all are.

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Comments » 5

Xander5000 writes:

We need to focus on re-inforcing the offense of line and the offense of lines of the future at Clemson. We need them tougher and stronger. Along with that we need about 2 bruising type running backs of our own at all times to mesh with the depth of our speed type running backs. Having a couple of bruisers running the ball some will just enhance the power of our offensive lines during the tough parts of games when we desperately need 4 or 5 tough yards. Defensively we need a stronger line and guys that can tackle. Coaches may need to tweek their philosophy, position-wise and scheme-wise a little to be able to compete toe to toe with anyone consistently thats ranked in the top 8. Everything else,.... we are on the right track.

TrevorT writes:

in response to jdl031287#282299:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow, Pessimistic much? For someone who says "go tigers", you certainly predict a lot of failure, even extending into next season. Realistically, I'm not going to guarantee a victory in any of those games, but guaranteeing defeat is just as silly and the mark of a weak fan. Maybe the "go tigers" was meant for LSU?

TrevorT writes:

Mr. Capps, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for probably the most balanced, well written article I've read all season about the state of Clemson Football. I agree with every word, especially the part about the improvement in consistency this season. I think a lot of fans aren't seeing the forest for the trees, mainly one big, ugly chicken tree. But facts are facts. We do need to start beating them again, but the gamecocks are probably the best team we've played for the last two years and I would rather lose a close game to a good team than get beat by Duke or Maryland like we have in the past. Bravo again on an excellent article.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

I hope you guys are pouring money into the program, because the 4th loss in a row to SC costs us in a big way. The check writers have have gotten tired (USC is and has been the game for actual contributers).Check out the crowd @ the bowl game, I doubt we sell out. I would be interested in knowing the actual costs of that loss.

cuGIZ82 writes:

Well written article. I agree with the author's opinion of CU needing to recruit better defensive players and improving the defensive scheme.

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