GREENSBORO, N.C. – Lies. All lies.
Ninety-five of them are one side and 105 on the other.
That’s how Clemson coach Dabo Swinney characterized the 95 votes out of 120 ballots first picking the Tigers to win the ACC and the 105 taking Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd being named Preseason ACC Player of the Year at Monday’s ACC Football Kickoff finale.
And that’s exactly what he will drive into his team going into next week’s fall camp.
Tigers had to work for Tajh Boyd
“We’ve beat that drum in trying to create the mentality of none of that stuff matters,” Swinney said. “Don’t buy the lie. Don’t buy the lie of how bad you are and the coaches stink…And don’t buy the lie that you’re the greatest thing ever and that you’re just going to roll through everybody and you the have the player of the year and you’re going to win the Heisman.”
Just 15 folks picked the reigning ACC champs Florida State and Boyd’s nearest competitor was sophomore Miami running back Duke Johnson, who managed to snag four votes.
Since the poll’s inception (1976), Clemson has been picked to finish first six times and won four, but have only been selected three times since 1991.
The Tigers’ senior QB is aiming to be the first-ever to win back-to-back ACC Player of the Year honors and the first since 2007 to win it preseason-and-postseason (Matt Ryan, Boston College).
“All that stuff is based on what we did last year,” said Swinney. “That’s all it is. Past performance is why people make predictions, but that has nothing to do with present day. You have to have the same commitment and the same fundamentals. You got to pay the price. You have to earn it again.
“Everybody has a clean slate. Everybody is starting over. We haven’t thrown a single touchdown pass.”
It’s hard to see this year’s media designation without thinking of the last time Clemson was pegged as the favorite – 2008.
Out of 65 ballots, Tommy Bowden’s team, as head coach, and Swinney’s, as a receiver coach, was picked to win the ACC on 78.5 percent of the ballots (just a tick below this year’s percentage, 79.2).
Preseason top player? It was also a Clemson quarterback: Cullen Harper.
When asked about that fateful season, where he eventually took over midseason – Swinney dismissed it quickly.
“A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then,” he said. “We’re a different program and a different team and that’s the last thing I’m worried about with what happened in 2008.”
Was there anything to draw upon from it?
“Yeah, don’t (start) 3-3. Win more,” Swinney said with a wry smile. “Make sure we have great preparation. Just stay true to what we believe in.”
The different program-different team idea and achieving that goal is something the coach has emphasized since he stepped in midweek to face Georgia Tech as interim coach five years ago.
The first players he pulled in, including some four-star quarterback named Tajh Boyd, are the upperclassmen leaders at the forefront of a conference favorite.
“I go back to my first class of seniors,” Swinney said. “I’m proud of all those guys. It’s tough when a new guy comes in and he didn’t recruit you, but all those guys made the decision to buy in and helped us build this program and change the culture through graduation and through recruiting.”
Scheduling, proud of senior class
Part of Swinney’s antsiness about preseason projections is just how hard it is to judge the strength of schedule at this time of the year.
“I don’t know that (Clemson is the best),” Swinney said. “We have a good team. We have a lot of guys back that have proven to me that they can play winning football.
“And they’ve proven to me that they’re committed and serious about being good. I have no idea what everybody else has. Until you get going, you just never really know.”
Using the depth and talent to improve defensively, however, is the true key to any postseason accolades.
“I think when it’s all said and done I really hope people will say Clemson’s front-seven was really the strength of the team,” said Swinney. “That’s what I hope is the major difference in our team is because that will mean some good things for us.”