The Countdown Begins


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The home opener is Sept. 10th (Photo by Mark McInnis)
The home opener is Sept. 10th (Photo by Mark McInnis)

For many college football fans, the long days of summer have arrived. They anxiously count down the days until the first football game (104) and grind over the fact that the number is still in triple digits. Maybe I can help ease the angst a little.

One of my friends laughs at me because I tend to break up the long offseason into segments – how many days until National Signing Day or how many days until spring practice or how many days until the ACC Kickoff?

From that perspective, the wait until the Tigers kick off the season opener against Auburn seems a little closer, and hopefully, I can explain my thinking.

Part of the reason the offseason seems so long is that everybody runs out of a fresh perspective on things shortly after spring practice. Player interviews are no more, and the media will talk to the coaches only occasionally and the lack of new information forces a regurgitation of news that is almost unbearable during the long and hot days of summer.

Baseball can help out a little bit, and it appears the Tigers will play into at least early June after earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. From my perspective – staying busy and traveling a little bit with the diamond Tigers – it makes the time go by a little faster. For those who sit at their computers at work or home and open up all of the Clemson sites in different tabs and constantly hit refresh, it doesn’t help a lot.

However, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s high school camps always signal the start of a “new season” for me. It’s the first time we get to see the players and most of the coaches since the end of spring practice, and it’s really the first time we can look ahead to the new season. It’s also a busy two weeks jam packed with recruiting news and notes and even a few commitments along the way.

The first of the camps is 17 days from today. It runs from June 7-9, and the second week of camp is June 14-16. Once that camp is over, we have a little time to exhale, but not much.

Once the camps are over, we hit the one true dead period of the summer, at least from a collegiate athletics perspective. There are no active sports going on, but there is always something happening, and toward the end of June the players will begin their individual workouts and reports begin to sneak out of the indoor practice facility about who looks good and who looks fat and who looks fast. It merely whets the appetite, but this year the ACC Football Kickoff will take place in Charlotte a mere 34 days after the end of the second camp.

Prior to the kickoff – which will be held on Thursday, July 21 and Friday, July 22 – Swinney will host the media at his home for his annual media get-together, and a day or so later we will gather in Sunset, S.C., at The Reserve at Lake Keowee to meet officially with Swinney and all of the assistant coaches. That will likely be around the 31 or 32-day mark after the end of the second camp, so it’s just 49 days or so until the unofficial kickoff that begins the season. Once we have the media get-together at The Reserve, we have all new information and the preseason stories will flow in earnest.

As for the ACC Kickoff, it’s a different format this season and will more closely mirror what happens at the SEC Media Days. In the past, we’ve met at a resort (the Grandover Resort or Pinehurst) for three days of golf and interviews. The golf would be on the first day, player interviews on the second day and the head coaches on the third day (always a Tuesday).

This year, it’s being held at a hotel in Charlotte, and instead of players and coaches on different days we will get Swinney and two players (likely to be Deshaun Watson and Ben Boulware) on the same day. My guess is we will have the Atlantic Division on one day and the Coastal the next day. More preseason stories will flow, including preseason all-conference teams and the division and conference champion predictions.

Once the ACC Kickoff has concluded, it will be about ten days until the start of fall practice, and preparations for the new season will kick it up a notch.

Sure, the actual kickoff in Jordan-Hare Stadium is still 104 days away. But it won’t be long before we can have a ceremonial kickoff to the new football year with the start of the camps.

See, it’s closer than you think.

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