I think it’s safe to say, this is a miserable period in the yearly sports cycle.
Football is over and everyone is just waiting for the second of two National Signing Days. For a university not known for it’s basketball prowess, everyone is left waiting on baseball and softball seasons. There is at least a smidgeon of hope in the other spring sports, baseball, softball, golf, rowing, tennis, swimming and diving to name a few.
After all those uncommitted recruits find their new home and Dabo Swinney and staff head off to Vail or Aspen or Telluride, Colorado for their annual ski trip, it really gets quiet. It’s like the program we live for and find great joy in, goes ‘dark,’ virtually silent. Yes, it begins the long, unwanted hiatus from the which makes Clemson, Clemson…Football. Here’s a few thoughtful tips for survival during these trying times.
This year, in particular, there is a lot of ‘newness’ surrounding Swinney’s Tigers. New staff members, reassignment of others and an ever growing and impressively rallying 2022 recruiting class.
All those nagging questions about change and lingering bad memories of this past season make these long, dark days even more miserable. What can one do?
First, we’re only a few days away from the release of the 2022 football schedule on January 31. Sure, fans already know the non-conference pieces but the conference schedule is still draped in mystery. To actually see the 2022 schedule, in it’s entirety, is sure to create a lot of speculation and conversation.
Second, the upcoming spring game on April 2, this is an orange letter day that will be circled on every Tiger fan’s calendar. This single day signals a restart of the excitement and passion of what’s really important. Clemson Football.
On that day and the days leading up to the game itself, there will be lots of interviews giving the most interested amongst us, exactly what’s needed to hang on until fall practice and any information and fuel needed to drive through this dark patch, these danged winter doldrums.
The doldrums, by definition alone are both ominous and foreboding. It’s “a state or period of inactivity, stagnation and/or depression.” Sadly, painfully, that’s what lies ahead in the immediate future for those in the fanbase that live for all things football. The only advice I can give are those two words that personally makes me nauseous. Have patience.
You can always binge watch every CFB Playoff game to remember the good times when all were bathed in the glory of former Clemson team’s greatness. Re-watch and look carefully at this past year’s ‘down’ (10-3) season. Being willing and able to look through eyes of understanding, factoring in the multitude of injuries, youth and mid-season departures. To watch this offense painfully struggle but also remember being bolstered by one of the most passionate defenses ever to wear the paw. To be fair, don’t overlook the improvements shown by the offense towards the end of the season. While mostly unnoticed, they did actually show the courage and perseverance to improve.
Then, the excitement of hearing and reading about the attendees of the Clemson summer football camps. They’ve become a preverbal ‘who’s who’ of future recruiting classes. All the anticipation and excitement of possibly hearing of a 2023 recruit’s commitment. Those are a precious commodity that can start an exciting chain reaction. One becomes two, three or more. It is exciting and is a great beginning for the season.
Then, a month later, fall camp begins with the annual team weigh-in. This is widely anticipated because it’s tangible proof of the physical gains made in the off season strength and conditioning programs. Who bulked up? Who got slimmer, faster? Who has had a successful rehabilitation from season ending injuries? Will Taylor and Brian Bresse just to name a few.
Then, the microscopic scrutiny of DJ Uiagalelei begins. Did he improve? Is he being pushed with the competition within a different, more prolific QB room? Can he actually rise to the weight of high expectations?
There has been lots of changes on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. Is Cade Klubnik all that’s advertised? Will Hunter Johnson add that leadership and guidance that was so needed last season. Will the RB’s pick up where they ended last season? How about improvements on the offensive line? Will the defense continue its run of greatness? Everything will gel and take shape in a matter of weeks.
As fall practice fades quickly into the actual 2022 campaign, members of the Clemson Family from everywhere, will smile and breathe a sigh of blessed relief because the doldrums of winter have given way to the hope, anticipation and joy of fall and Clemson Football.
When the Tiger Band strikes up ‘Tiger Rag’ for the first time, all will seem right in the Orange and Purple world. It will be a glorious day but all must exercise patience (and the persistent nausea) and wait a little longer for even the best of things.
What will the 2022 season bring? Only time will tell but until that glorious day, like Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State, we’re preseason national champions. If it works for them every year, why not for the Clemson Tigers?
I believe, as an interested observer, it’s all going to be worth the wait. You just have to believe in hopes of fall even in the doldrums of winter.
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