The Drive Monday 7-23-12-Dabo Swinney talks with The Drive about their final game last year against West Virginia, how his team has reacted this off-season to that loss, and what the expectations are for the Clemson Tigers this season.
Swinney explained his reaction to the West Virginia loss last season. He’s using it as a teaching tool for this season, but he refuses to harp on it.
“You’ve got to look at the good, you’ve got to look at the failure, and you learn and grow from both of those. And you apply it to your football team and hopefully challenge them to bigger and better things in 2012. That’s what we’ve done…It’s how you respond to things, and our team has responded very well in the off season.”
The Tigers have a tough game to kick off the season. They will face Auburn in the Chic-Fil-A bowl game on September 1. We asked Swinney how he was looking at that game, as it could set the tone for the season.
“That opening game is always huge. It’s big every year,” Swinney said. “In this case it adds a little bit more fuel to the fire because you’re not only playing a big opener, but you’re playing a team that’s one of the better teams in the country. You’re playing on national TV in a great venue like the Georgia dome, so it adds a little more sense of urgency and creates a lot more buzz with the media, with your fan base. It’s exciting. It’s a great game to be a part of.”
While that game may set the pace, Swinney seemed even more concerned with the overall difference he hopes to see in his defense.
“I hope we won’t give up as many big plays as we did last year, and that starts with simplifying a little bit and making sure that everybody truly knows what they’re doing and that we give them the best chance to execute,” Swinney said. “We’re going to have a lot of young players, so we are going to have to be very smart in what we ask them to do so that they can play and play fast and not be hesitant.”
The young team will be driven by a core made up of sophomores, so the Tigers’ success rides on the caliber they play at this season.
“The big thing for us is we’re going to be much better on the back end, much better at linebacker. The big question is going to be the development of our sophomores up front. We have one senior D-lineman, we have no juniors. Everybody else is a sophomore. So, that’s going to be the storyline of our team—the development, the performance of that sophomore group.”