Swinney: Buckle up for Tigers' early-season rocket ship ride


by - Senior Writer -
Swinney talks to the media after Wednesday's practice.
Swinney talks to the media after Wednesday's practice.

CLEMSON – Buckle up and take a ride on the rocket ship.

Top-ranked Clemson is in the middle game of a tough three-game set to start the season, hosting No. 11 Texas A&M Saturday in Death Valley. Clemson opened with ACC foe Georgia Tech and will spend week three at Syracuse, which also stands as Syracuse’s homecoming and their first home game.

Buckle up.

“We are in a rocket ship, man. We are not in a hot air balloon, slowly lifting up and enjoying the view. You better buckle up and here we go,” head coach Dabo Swinney told TigerNet Wednesday evening. “It's good. It will make us better. We have one conference game under our belt and then we get into division play next week. This is one of the best teams in the country - they have us ranked No. 1 and I don't know that we've earned that. We don't know what we are. That is just what people have nominated us.

“Nobody knows about any team right now, but I think we are one of the better teams in the country and I think they are one of the better teams in the country, so it's a really good matchup early in the year. Not a lot of room for error. You can lose these games. This is a hard game. A few plays can decide this game. But that's OK. You have a chance to get better when you expose yourself to good competition early in the season.”

Temperatures expected to be in the mid-90’s Saturday, continuing a trend that saw a hot August camp and start to September. Swinney hopes the scrimmages the Tigers endured in August – with temperatures in triple digits more than once – will be helpful Saturday.

“It's helpful, as opposed to being in Maine. I assume it's cool in Maine. I don't know, I've never been to Maine, but I am assuming it's cool in Maine,” Swinney said. “Being able to practice in it helps simulate the game environment. So no doubt about it. These are tough days. Saturday is going to be a tough day. Our Tuesday and Wednesday practices are tough. And that's part of really growing our team and teaching them how to practice and how to strain.

“We have 80 freshmen and sophomores and 40 first-year guys that haven't been through a true game week. So, learn how to practice and strain on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday is a two-minute day and we have a two-minute drill at the end of practice like it's the end of the game, 4th quarter, it's been a long game and you're tired. So yes, the heat helps you simulate the elements but at the end of the day, you have to be ready to put it together on Saturday.”

Wide receiver Amari Rodgers tore his ACL during the spring but donned a helmet and pads for last Thursday’s pregame warmups. Rodgers changed prior to the game, but Swinney is hopeful the Tennessee native can play against the Aggies.

“No injuries, everybody is in a good spot. Amari is in a good spot, so I'm hopeful,” he said. “Work ethic and DNA are why he’s where he is. He's just grinding. He has surprised all of us. He is unbelievably driven and motivated and put the work in above and beyond. And then I guess the DNA and his body - everybody responds differently. He has worked hard and his body has responded. He looks good. He is really close.”

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