I’m writing this purposely before this afternoon’s Cheez-It Bowl because regardless of the outcome for the Clemson Tigers, the New Year actually begins at midnight. In 2022, there is a lot to learn from, a lot to prove and yes, a lot in which to be excited. It will be one of the most pivotal years of Dabo Swinney’s coaching career.
Among the plethora of questions to be answered, one stands out. Will the Tigers re-claim their place near the top of College Football? The simple answer is, YES!
In his final bowl press conference, Swinney was asked about the state of his program. In a way that only he can do, Dabo confidently proclaimed Clemson isn’t going anywhere.
“We got a great young nucleus of players,” Swinney said on Tuesday. “Got just about everybody (coming) back.”
H“There’s not a single lineman that’s gonna play (in the Cheez-It Bowl) that won’t be back,” Swinney said. “The running backs are back and initially we’ll get all these receivers back. We got an unbelievable tight end room. We got a great young quarterback that’s gotten better and better through the year we got a great recruiting class coming in, with nine midyears.”
“We gotta pretty good defensive line, we might lose one, but they could all be back. Everybody inside is back. We may lose a corner, definitely lose one. Lose a safety, a couple of linebackers but we got all those great young guys that have gained a lot of experience. We got our kicker back. He’s pretty good. We got a couple good young snappers nobody knows about that zip that sucker back there, and still got another Swinney to hold the ball.”
His optimism isn’t anything new for 2022. That’s in large part, why his Tigers are who and what they’ve become, an elite program. He’s excited about what he sees as he looks over the horizon to next season, and who can blame him. He has a new yet, still experienced and energetic staff. Add to that, his Tigers are loaded, everywhere. Sure there are depth issues, there’s always going to be depth issues. There are issues with lost players through graduation and entry into the portal. As we know, there will always be personnel issues. The cupboard is not bare though, not by a long shot.
A small but very talented 2022 recruiting class will surely have an impact, and their arrival is exciting. There are immensely talented players returning from season ending injuries and their return to the field in and of itself, is cause for celebration. Several experienced fifth year seniors will return. Jordan McFadden, BT Potter, Tyler Davis just to name a few. Hopeful, very hopeful.
As one conditioned to find silver linings, I believe 2021, with all the angst, concern, injuries and questions, will be viewed as a year that ultimately catapulted Clemson towards another run of sustained greatness. They’ve tasted the sweet fruit of success and this season, the bitterness of unfulfilled expectations. They will taste that Sweet fruit, again.
Just looking at what we know of the 2022 schedule, anyone can see it sets up as a schedule that bodes well for the Tigers
09/05 Georgia Tech (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
09/17 Louisiana Tech
11/05 at Notre Dame
11/26 South Carolina
Not opening with a top five opponent is a more comfortable beginning. It allows this “new” team to “warm up” preparing for the meat of the schedule. The Notre Dame match-up, in South Bend on November 5, will be a huge opportunity to answer many of the unanswered questions that surrounds the 2022 campaign.
A few, vocal members of the national media, despite his phenomenal success, still consider Swinney little more than a “Huckster,” a man going door-to-door, selling a small, mediocre product. The Tiger faithful know that’s preposterous. He’s a world-class salesman selling his belief in greatness. Fools beware, doubt Swinney at your own risk, he is a winner. He’ll drive his ROY bus over anything standing in his way because as of this moment, there is no law against “Driving While Exuberant” (DUE), yet.
Yes, 2021 ends at midnight and 2022 will begin in earnest. Hang on, I suspect it’s going to be a wild, exciting climb back up to the mountain top and it’s right where Swinney and his Tigers belong.
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