All in all, it’s been a pretty good week, after a pretty good season for Dabo Swinney and Clemson.
Wednesday, All-American quarterback Tajh Boyd announced he is returning for his senior campaign, after becoming the first player in ACC history to post back-to-back 4,000-yard total offense seasons.
Thursday evening, junior wide receiver and D.W. Daniel product DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins instead made the NFL-draft jump, but from arguably the deepest spot on the Clemson roster.
Friday, Swinney found out part of his Atlantic Coast Conference schedule for the upcoming season, which fortuitously left off the previously-scheduled trip to Georgia Tech. The Tigers had lost their last four games at Grant Field, and instead have the Yellow Jackets at home, where they’ve won three of their last four.
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And it didn’t hurt the theme of the week, capping it off by hosting a pair of Georgia five-star defensive lineman this weekend for official visits, in defensive tackle Montravius Adams and defensive end Carl Lawson, for the fast-approaching 2013 signing class.
Swinney got an opportunity Friday to pause and reflect on the Tigers’ 11-2 season, finishing strong with a win over No. 9 LSU, 25-24.
"I think this year was a culmination of steady progress from the last four years,” Swinney said. “I told our team that four years ago, we'd never won our division; and now we've won three of them, two outright. We talked four years ago about wanting to compete for this conference, consistently.
“I'm proud of what we've done there.”
As far as he’s concerned now, the celebration is over and the preparation for the season opener with a likely top-10 Georgia has begun.
“We had our first (2013) team meeting yesterday and we just kinda turned the page,” Swinney said. “We enjoyed this last game for a few days. Now it’s all about 2013 – it’s a new football team.”
The 2013 season is one Swinney, going into his fourth full-year as head coach, has had circled from the start in how he has developed the program.
“It’s always about the next game – always about the next season,” said Swinney. “Four years ago, we’ve been looking ahead at personnel and where we are. We’ve had to navigate through some waters here.”
The personnel group he pointed to the most, returning 10 scholarship seniors overall, was the offensive line.
“I think we’ve got a good football team,” he said. “We’re going to be about as good in the trenches as we have in a long time. It’s probably going to be the first time upfront that we’ve had a combination of talent, depth and experience.
“To me, that’s the most exciting thing.”
But Swinney gushed about the rest of his 2013 squad as well, with position-by-position positives for each, and even noted in the spot he saw the most weakness, the secondary, players coming back from injury (rising seniors Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins) to bolster it.
“We’ve got a lot of good things in place, but every team is different,” he said. “You have to be willing to pay the price…I think our guys understand that the margin of error is small if you want to be elite.
“They get that. They have the right attitude of belief. We’ll see whether we deserve it or not with how we work this offseason, this spring and this summer.”
Friday, Clemson got a glimpse, without dates, of the conference schedule. The Tigers host Atlantic Division foes Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest, along with cross-divisional rival Georgia Tech.
On the road, they face Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia and new-ACC-member Syracuse.
Swinney said the road “is only getting tougher” for the Tigers, especially traveling to Syracuse’s Carrier Dome for the first time in school history and dropping a home date with Duke for a road trip to Virginia, because of the conference-realignment shakeup.
Those worries, though, are far off this time of year.
“The only thing I’m really focused on is getting this team ready for offseason and spring ball and Georgia,” Swinney said. “That’s about as far as I can look.”