Swinney looking to piece together new puzzle en route to 'a very successful season'

'Change is a part of college football....Just about the time players get great, they have to move on'

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney addresses the media at his annual golf outing at The Reserve at Lake Keowee.

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney addresses the media at his annual golf outing at The Reserve at Lake Keowee.

SUNSET - Dabo Swinney fully embraces the puzzle-solving aspect of his job.

It's a good thing, given the nature of college football.

Swinney and his coaches officially kicked off the preseason run-up to the Georgia game with Clemson's annual media day and golf outing at The Reserve at Lake Keowee.

Swinney will spend much of this week talking about the season, capped by the ACC Kickoff this weekend, before the coaches settle in and prepare in earnest for the beginning of 'camp' 10 days later.

Stoudt responding to starting challenge

Swinney seeing what he expected

Swinney says it's always an exciting and challenging time of the year - especially when facing the task of replacing the likes of Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd.

"Change is a part of college football, and it's what makes our game so interesting and so exciting," Swinney said. "Just about the time players get great, they have to move on. You get to the point where having these great, intelligent situations, and they leave.

"You're starting over every year in college football with talented freshmen who don't know anything. But that's exciting and it's fun."

The Tigers came out of spring practice with senior Cole Stoudt installed as the starter at quarterback, and a large group of talented freshmen are waiting to step into the void left by the likes of Watkins, Nuk Hopkins, Jaron Brown and Martavis Bryant at wide receiver.

Swinney said Stoudt enjoys an advantage compared to the last time the Tigers handed the ball to a first-year starter at quarterback.

"With Cole, it's not quite like we're starting over," Swinney said. "He's a veteran player who has excellent experience and a very good track record of performance as a back. Now he's got to go win - it's just that simple.

Stoudt sees Watson's progress


"He has the respect of our team and he's earned that. He's got the street cred, if you will, with our guys. But that will only go so far. Now he's got to go win some games. At this point, it's all about his performance as a starter.

"I sleep good at night knowing we have a guy like him. Compared to the last time we were in this situation, I feel better now than I did then. Three years ago, Tajh Boyd was getting ready to take his first snap as a starter and he didn't have very much experience. And he had zero experience with what we do on offense.

"This is all Cole knows. He's been in the fire. And Deshaun Watson knows a lot more than Tajh did, too because he's done this for four years. I think it's just a very good situation."

Swinney said the Tigers are ready to put together the pieces of their puzzle and move on, with new players elevating their games and taking on new responsibilities.

"In 2011, we had 42 freshmen among our 85 scholarships, and we won the league," he said. "We had all kinds of questions, everywhere. But we got the team ready to play. We made a lot of mistakes along the way, but that was kind of the beginning of where we are now.

"Where we are now is that we've lost some very good players, but we've got some good experience coming back and we've recruited well. We have to develop them, come out of the gates ready to go, play to our strengths and I think we'll have a chance to have a very successful season."

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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