It’s exams week in Clemson. Spring football has been over for a couple weeks now. We’re still 120-odd days to kickoff in Georgia’s Sanford Stadium.
Going into his sixth full season, Dabo Swinney says the upcoming “off” time for players is as critical as anything to succss this fall – a time about self-discipline, on the field, in the film room and in the playbook.
Despite some big losses on offense, the expectations will still be high, locally and nationally this season – an early over/under set at 9.5 wins this week (despite a 7-point underdog status for Georgia).
“This has been a good spring as far as things that we’ve done,” Swinney said. “We challenged them physically and they responded. I think from a toughness standpoint and a chemistry standpoint we’ve made strides. They’re not where we want them to be and the leadership on the team can develop. We’ve seen some of that. We really have turn that corner this summer.
“That’s usually what happens in the summer. The great seasons and championships are won when nobody’s looking. Hopefully the leadership on our team will rise up.”
Swinney has lauded the leadership of new starting quarterback Cole Stoudt, but challenged him not rest on his laurels this summer.
“Coach Swinney told me that that you still have to have that edge,” Stoudt said. “Always have to strive to be better. I’m not going to lose the edge that I was going to have in the summer with Chad (Kelly). I’m still going to go out there and be the best I can be. Be hard on myself. Just make myself better to get the team better.”
Protecting Stoudt, the Tigers bring back five with starting experience, but just three with at least seven starts last season – projected left tackle Isaiah Battle getting on the field for four.
It’s been a competition-filled spring upfront – some linemen working two or three different positions and on either side of Stoudt and co. Leadership is another priority here, losing left tackle Brandon Thomas who led Clemson in snaps over the last two seasons.
“We have to have the leadership emerge,” Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “That’s probably the biggest thing on that offensive side of the ball. Who is that guy? Who is the leader who’s really going to emerge and bring that whole unit together? The defense is loaded with good leaders and veteran guys. We just don’t have that.
“That’s got to be a big point of emphasis out of spring and going into summer. Is who’s going to be that guy to bring them all together.”