A strong foundation 'in the trenches' has Dabo Swinney excited about 2013 Tigers

'I think our guys understand that the margin for error is small when you're trying to be elite. They get that'

Dabo Swinney, Clemson football head coach, talks to media representatives for an hour in the team room of the West end zone of Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Dabo Swinney, Clemson football head coach, talks to media representatives for an hour in the team room of the West end zone of Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

As recruiting continues and winter workouts begin, Dabo Swinney has a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

He's convinced he's got the ship headed in the right direction, and that best is still to come for the Tiger football program.

As Swinney surveys the landscape and begins putting the pieces together for Clemson's 2013 Tigers, he likes the foundation that he sees.

"I think we've got a good football team," Swinney said. "We're going to be as good in the trenches as we've been for a long time. This will probably be the first time, up front, that we're going to have the right combination of talent, depth and experience. To me, that's the most exciting thing.

"And we've still got some youth. We're not going to have any seniors on our defensive line. Zero. I'm excited about that. And we're only going to have two seniors on the offensive line ( Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley), and we're going to have a lot of guys who are going to be even better."

Is 2013 the year?

Stars aligning for big season

Swinney said the Tigers' defensive line developed and improved over the course of the season because of competition. He sees a similar process beginning to take place on the offensive line.

"Take a guy like Isaiah Battle, a true freshman, playing left tackle against LSU - he's just going to grow tremendously from that, and on through another off-season and another spring," Swinney said. "It's the same with Kalon Davis, Ryan Norton, Eric Mac Lain, (Patrick) Destefano and (Jay) Guillermo. We've got a lot of young players I'm really excited about.

"We had more competition in our defensive line this year, with all the freshmen and sophomores, it was very competitive and we were able to play a lot of guys. That was one of the things that helped us win 11 games. On the offensive line, we didn't quite have that. We had a pretty good first group and a couple of guys close, and then it was a pretty big drop - not in talent, but in dependability. I think that gap is going to close tremendously and that we're going to have a lot of competition in our offensive line, just like we have on the defensive line."

Swinney sees no personnel gaps when he looks at the Tigers' offensive skill positions and kicking game.

"I like our team," he said. "We've got a good quarterback, we've got a good group of backs. I thought Hot Rod (McDowell) had a great year this year, and proved that he can be a guy for you. We've got to replace Nuk (Hopkins), but we've got some quality people who've just been waiting for more opportunity. Charone Peake can play, and this is his chance to step up.

"We'll be fine at receiver and we'll be fine at tight end. We've got Sam (Cooper) coming back as a much more experienced player, and Darrell (Smith) coming back as a valuable part of our team. And we have Jay Jay McCullough and Jordan Leggett, who are two exciting young talents who'll have a chance to develop their strength, and we've got to figure roles out for them.

"And I like our kicking situation. We've got (Chandler) Catanzaro back, and he's gone from the least to the greatest throughout his career, and he'll continue to be a consistent performer. I'm excited about Bradley Pinion, and we've got our snappers back (Phillip Fajgenbaum and Michael Sobeski). There are just a lot of good things in place."

With a solid foundation in place, Swinney said the 2013 will define themselves by the way they work throughout the winter, spring and summer.

"I told them (during the team's first full-squad meeting) that every team is different and you've got to be willing to pay the price," Swinney said. "I think our guys understand that the margin for error is small when you're trying to be elite. They get that. And I think they have the right attitude of belief."

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Comments » 3

33dtb writes:

where have we heard this before ???

Same song, 2013 verse.

It should go without saying.
and the fact that we hear this every spring speaks volumes.

TigerNE writes:

in response to 33dtb:

where have we heard this before ???

Same song, 2013 verse.

It should go without saying.
and the fact that we hear this every spring speaks volumes.

Just curious, what would you prefer he say to the public?

My only beef with Swinney is that he has excused bad performance in the past and highlighted some kind of 'feelings' or another after bad games. If you lose in the last few plays, I buy it. When you get hammered, maybe you've focused too much on the 'feelings' part. The LSU game proved that at least his OC and DC know how to push beyond the 'feelings' and create hard, dedicated players. But what Swinney says to the press is pretty standard to me.

33dtb writes:

in response to TigerNE:

Just curious, what would you prefer he say to the public?

My only beef with Swinney is that he has excused bad performance in the past and highlighted some kind of 'feelings' or another after bad games. If you lose in the last few plays, I buy it. When you get hammered, maybe you've focused too much on the 'feelings' part. The LSU game proved that at least his OC and DC know how to push beyond the 'feelings' and create hard, dedicated players. But what Swinney says to the press is pretty standard to me.

like I said, the strong Clemson O-Line should, and used to, go with out saying.

I long for the days when we STARTED the season with a strong O-Line instead of hearing the same party line every year and hoping against hope that they would grow and meld into a cohesive unit and not lose what little we had to injuries.
Remember 2011 season when the starting Left Tackle started at Clemson as a walk-on ????

Someone rebuked me with his theory that a big strong line like some of Coach Ford's would not be fast enough for our current offense. Tell that to Saban and Malzan.
Tell that to Charlie Whitehurst and Tajh Boyd with 2 seconds to get off a pass and coming out of a game looking like they've been beat with a 2x4.

I realize that it takes a while to put together a cohesive O-Line complete with capable back-ups.
But it's been 5 years since the "late/great TB" thought he was too smart to even need an O-Lime. Did Arkansas ever call back? Heck, they had just fired a better coach WITH A BETTER RECORD.

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