Dabo Swinney has built a football powerhouse in the upstate of South Carolina.
The Tigers recent run of success has been well documented. Seven consecutive College Football Playoff appearances and seven straight ACC Championships. However, both of those streaks were snapped a season ago, when Clemson had what many would describe as a down season.
After starting the season 2-2, the Tigers would finish up at 10-3, winning their final six games of the season, which just so happens to be the longest winning streak in the country. It was the eleventh consecutive season that Swinney’s team has posted double digit wins, placing his program in rarified air.
Despite all the recent success, after last seasons struggles, many are overlooking Clemson heading into the 2022 season. It’s being widely assumed that the Tigers’ run is over and veteran defensive end K.J. Henry kind of likes it that way.
“I’m excited about what we brought back,” Henry told Darien Rencher recently on The Player’s Club podcast. “I just love the narrative of us winning 10 games and ‘we suck.’ I love that narrative, man.”
The former 5-star recruit out of Winston-Salem finds it ironic that some teams are glorified for winning 10 games, while others are vilified, so to speak.
“Seeing some teams do it for the first time ever this past season and get glorified for it, and we win 10 and it’s like coach Swinney says, if he wins only 10 more next year, probably get fired… I love that standard for us,” he said. “I genuinely do. It makes me laugh, but I also appreciate it because of everything that’s happened before us.”
The Tigers lack of production on the offensive side of the ball a season ago is something Henry doesn’t see happening in 2022. Not only is most everyone back, there were a lot of valuable lessons learned from the adversity faced last year.
“I think about losing some of the offensive guys, but a lot of guys coming back,” he said. “We’re not really losing that much there, it’s not going to be a young cast. A lot of experience in the offensive room.”
It’s the defense, though, where the strength really lies. Clemson brings back its entire defensive front, which was already one of college football’s best last season.
“Then defensively, a lot of new stuff, but the standard from we’ve done from a defensive perspective for years now has been set,” Henry said. “It’s a lot of older guys, led by the front, the D-line right now, and everybody’s just trying to do better and be better, like I said earlier.”
Heading into his final season, Henry is expecting big things from this Clemson team. Looking around, he sees the talent needed to win at a high level, and more importantly, there’s a hunger. A hunger to prove that last season was more of an anomaly rather than a sign of things to come.
“So, I have nothing but great thoughts for what we could be,” Henry said. “I know the potential is there, I know the talent’s there. But what I love most is guys are just are happy to be out there. It’s not any complaining or anything like that. Guys are just happy to work and appreciative for a chance to really show what we can do this year.”
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