Swinney says young defense has a lot of hunger and something to prove

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by - Senior Writer -
Sheridan Jones breaks up a pass Saturday
Sheridan Jones breaks up a pass Saturday

CLEMSON – The Clemson football team that played in front of 60,000 fans Saturday in Death Valley is not the same kind of team that won the National Championship three months ago in California. The winningest senior class in history is gone, along with several team leaders.

However, head coach Dabo Swinney doesn’t see a team lacking in experience and leadership. He sees a team that is hungry.

“I think that's a great intangible to this team. It's easy to see the measurables and intangibles,” Swinney said after Saturday’s spring game. “I think one of the greatest intangibles to this team is that there is a lot of hunger. A lot of guys with something to prove, and a lot of enthusiasm with all of these young guys. Nobody will be putting Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams on magazines this summer. That isn't going to happen. We have a lot of good players that have a lot to prove and a lot of players that are proven that are back that are going to be challenged. Those are good things to have on your football team when you're starting a new journey.”

The one group he wants to see improve the most this summer?

“The defensive line, no question. We will get Jordan and Nyles back and that is a game-changer, but they have to make a lot of improvement from now until August,” Swinney said. “And they will because they are talented and they want to. That is the biggest area where I think we have to transform.”

Clemson’s young defenders were on display Saturday – Xavier Thomas and Justin Foster showed an ability to pressure the quarterback freshman Sheridan Jones had a stellar first outing. A mid-year enrollee, Jones created the game’s first turnover, forcing a fumble that was recovered by fellow Virginia native K’Von Wallace. Jones forced his second takeaway of the day and added the exclamation point on the White team’s victory, scoring the final points of the contest on his 42-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minutes.

Those ingredients are the start of something special.

“Last year's team was just an incredible, veteran team. The cake was baked,” Swinney said. “We just had to kind of ice it and cut it and enjoy it. This team here, we've just heated the oven up. The ingredients are all there. We just have to put it in place. That was a bunch of veterans that knew exactly `what they had to do and what it takes and they were committed to that. This is a team that has a lot of guys that are figuring that out. Just in a different place with the youth. I love our team. We have good leadership, but we are a younger football team and with that comes a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”

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