Swinney says Tigers have all the pieces to be elite in 2018
|Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 7:01 AM- -|
CLEMSON – Clemson has made the College Football Playoff each of the last three seasons, playing for the National Championship in 2015 and winning it all in 2016. The Tigers lost to Alabama in this year’s Sugar Bowl, but head coach Dabo Swinney said the Tigers have all the pieces to make another playoff run.
They have all the pieces to be elite.
The coaching staff added a top-five recruiting class – filled with playmakers who can make an immediate impact – to a team that features 15 returning starters on offense and defense. That includes a defense that should be among the nation’s best.
“We've got a very talented team coming back. This time last year there were a lot of question marks and not a lot of experience from a senior standpoint,” head coach Dabo Swinney said recently. “This will be a senior and junior-led team. And so will next year. Our next two years will be junior-led and senior-led teams. A lot of seniors and a lot of juniors and a great group of sophomores to go work with this spring.”
Clemson returns starting quarterback Kelly Bryant, sophomore Hunter Johnson, and redshirt freshman Chase Brice while adding Trevor Lawrence, the nation’ top-rated player by many services – into the mix. In addition to Lawrence, Clemson signed what is arguably the nation’s best defensive line class with players like Xavier Thomas, Justin Mascoll, KJ Henry, Josh Belk, and Darnell Jefferies.
The Tigers also nabbed one of the nation’s top offensive linemen in Jackson Carman, a top-rated kicker in BT Potter, one of the nation’s top receivers in Justyn Ross and playmaker Derion Kendrick. Add in defensive backs like Kyler McMichael and Mario Goodrich and the other pieces to the class and it was among the nation’s best.
“With the addition of this class I think we can continue to have the type of talent and competitive depth it takes to be an elite team,” Swinney said. “It's just that simple. I think we have the makings of that.”
Clemson starts spring practice on February 28th with only a few players missing from the equation.
“The nine mid-years are big for us. Out of our whole roster - we usually have 120 on the roster - only 11 guys won't be with us this spring,” Swinney said. “What an opportunity for us as a coaching staff to help our team this spring. We will probably tweak a couple of things on our practice schedule, just a little bit, because we have a lot of guys that we have to get reps and take advantage of these 15 practices that we have coming up. I am excited about that.
“We are in a great spot and have a great group to go to work with in a few weeks.”