After a long, hot fall camp, followed by an extra week of preparation for the season opener at Auburn, No. 2 Clemson has finally reached game week.
Head coach Dabo Swinney couldn’t be more ready.
“This game always seems like it takes the longest every year because we’ve got more time with almost a month of camp,” Swinney said Sunday on his weekly teleconference. “Once you get to that first game, it’s like you’ve got so much to do Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to try to get ready for that next one. It always goes so fast. Just really happy that it’s finally game week and we get an opportunity to look forward to having an actual game to play this weekend and see where we are.”
Since Clemson’s had so much time already to get ready for the 2016 season, preparing for Saturday’s 9 p.m. game at Jordan-Hare Stadium is more about refining every detail so players know their roles and can make adjustments when needed.
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“We want to try to get off to a good start,” Swinney said. “It’s going to take an incredible effort to be able to find a way to win at Auburn. I’ve been down there many times. It’s as good an environment as there is. Their fans will show up.”
Swinney has great respect for Auburn, a team he’s faced many times as a player and coach. He said that while the SEC Tigers “maybe had a disappointing” 7-6 campaign in 2015, there were several games they could’ve won. While his squad went 14-1, none of that matters Saturday.
“They’ve got players we don’t really know a lot about. We’ve got players they don’t know a lot about,” Swinney said. “You think that you know. But you don’t really ever know until you see a team two or three games as far as what (a team’s) personality is going to be for that given year.”
The Clemson coaching staff feels good about its two-deep roster heading into Week 1. There are several players, who Swinney wouldn’t name Sunday, that have proved they can play in practice. But Saturday is about performing when it counts.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys in that category that at some point they’ve just got to go play and then we can go from there,” Swinney said.
One area he did note was defensive end, where sophomore Austin Bryant is sidelined with a foot injury. Swinney says several players will have to step up at that position against Auburn, but he hopes true freshman Xavier Kelly isn’t one of them. The coaching staff plans to hold him out, unless something unexpected happens, to leave the option of redshirting Kelly on the table.