Dabo changing the culture

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Tommy Bowden, the last Clemson coach to bring a team into Lane Stadium, was criticized for appearing to be too detached on the sideline.

Right or wrong, the group of fans that wanted to see some fire, passion, excitement -- something, anything -- grew into majority, a very vocal one at that.

Dabo Swinney is quite the opposite of his predecessor.

He has all of those traits in spades. That was apparent from day one.

Even that's been met with a share of criticism.

A section of orange and white faithful wish Swinney would tune down the sideline emotion and ease up on his from the heart encounters with the media.

There are those who laud the energy the 40-something head coach who's won all five games in 2011.

His players love it.

"We really do feed off his energy a lot of the times," said Tajh Boyd, who was the crown jewel of Swinney's first signing class as Clemson head coach.

"It's just exciting playing for a guy like that."

On Saturday night, Swinney pulled off a feat that no other coach in ACC history has managed -- three consecutive wins over nationally ranked opponents.

The run of back-to-back-to-back wins started with a 38-24 win over defending national champion Auburn, continued with a 35-30 defeat of defending ACC Atlantic division champion Florida State and wrapped up with Saturday night's 23-3 win over defending ACC champion Virginia Tech.

"We know what he's trying to do with this program, as a whole. I think things are starting to change," Boyd said.

Swinney's message has been simple.

"The thing I've told our team... if you're going to change Clemson, you've got to change it from the inside, out, and eventually it would blossom. Our players have bought into that," he said.

The Tigers are riding high at 5-0 and ranked eighth, sitting pretty atop the ACC Atlantic with a 2-0 record in conference play and a win away from becoming bowl eligible.

Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, N.C. State and rival South Carolina are left on the regular season schedule. If Clemson continues to win, they're likely to be favored in every game.

"It's just as important to handle the success. Obviously, we'll be a target now. We're not an underdog," Swinney said.

The third-year head coach knows the pressure's on the uptick. For the first time in a long time at Clemson, it's not in a bad way.

"Now, people are probably paying attention to us," he said.

They certainly are.

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