|by David Hood|
Conspicuous in their absence will be many of the team’s leaders from the past few seasons – quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Roderick McDowell, offensive linemen Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley and linebacker Spencer Shuey. Juniors like Sammy Watkins and Vic Beasley – should they opt to head to the NFL – will also no longer be in the meetings.
With all of that leadership heading into new chapters in their lives, who will be the leaders of the 2014 Clemson Tigers?
“That’s always interesting to see,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Friday. “I will have a team meeting the week they start back, and that is really the first time that it starts to set in that those guys (seniors) aren’t in the room anymore, and it’s a new team. There is recruiting going on, and there are mid-year guys coming in and new guys showing up. It takes a few weeks, I think, for it to start settling in and everybody to start adjusting to different roles. The guys they have been listening to are no longer there.”
Swinney said that he hopes leaders will begin to emerge once the off-season programs commence.
“Once they start to roll into that off-season program the next week, and when we get back with them and get to going on the mat drills and all that kind of stuff, that is when your football team starts to gel a little bit,” he said. “And then you carry that over into spring ball. It is a continual process. Even with this team this year – we changed drastically from January to the team we started with in August.
“Coach (Joey) Batson will have accountability teams and we will accountability leaders, and those guys will draft their teams. And it has nothing to do with football. It’s all about who they want on their team from an accountability standpoint, and we carry that all the way through the semester, whether it is academics or study hall, tutors, wearing the right things to workouts, everything counts. There is a point system, and everything counts. That is the way we develop our team within the team, and it’s kind of fun to see how all of that kind of comes together.”
I asked Swinney who he would like to see step into the leadership void, and the first name he mentioned was rising senior quarterback Cole Stoudt.
“We have a lot of guys. You want to see a guy like Cole Stoudt, who has been around here a long time, assert himself. I think he has good respect from all the players,” he said. “I think you look at the offensive line, and you have Ryan Norton, who isn’t a senior but he is a guy that has played and established himself. He has the great respect of his teammates. You look at the linebacker position and you have Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. In the secondary, you have Garry Peters and Robert Smith and Bashaud Breeland.”
Swinney has never had a large senior class during his tenure, and he said that he was excited about how many upperclassmen he will have next season.
“We have a really good junior and sophomore group on this football team that will be juniors and seniors next year, which will be fun because we will have the largest number of upperclassmen that we have had in a while. I am excited about that, because it means you have a lot of experience on your team. This senior group next year has won a lot of ballgames. I really like where we are from an upperclassmen standpoint. We are losing some good players, good people and good leaders, but I like the group that is moving up. “
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org