New Sheriff in Town

CLEMSON - If Clemson plays Saturday as well as Dabo Swinney spoke Monday evening, Georgia Tech is in trouble.

Swinney, named the Tigers' interim coach Monday after the firing/resignation (take your pick) of Tommy Bowden, didn't just say all the right things.

He made you believe them.

By the time his approximately 45-minute press conference ended, one almost forgot why Swinney was sitting on stage beside SID Tim Bourret in the first place. It was a remarkable opening act in a production that is only guaranteed six performances.

The Best of Dabo
"We are going to go with Willy Korn. That's one of the things I told the players today. This is a game of performance, not potential. I always say, if you are the best guy, be the best guy. Take your opportunity. The film does not lie. If you aren't, we'll make a change."

"There are things that happen in your life that are hard to explain why. You work hard. You bust your butt. Sometimes things don't go the way you plan or how you want them to go. A lot of people have to deal with that. Football teaches you so much about life. You be honest. You get back up. You go back to work."

"All I can tell you is the guys that run out there every Saturday, for the next six weeks, they are going to be playing with their hair on fire. We are going to unify this group. One heartbeat- everybody playing together. That's our only chance. I told them today, if you can't do this this and this, get on out of here. But if you show up on the practice field tonight you're all in."

"The only thing I'm worried about the first time is running down the hill. I've never done that before. I'm worried that I will run down the hill and fall. I'm jacked up about it. I always handle team captains so this is the first time I'm going to do that."

But by all accounts, the next six games - spread out over seven weeks - suddenly have the kind of attraction for Clemson fans as a riverboat gambler has to a novice poker player.

Forget the old NBC Thursday night lineup.

Saturday's noon kickoff in Death Valley is the real Must See TV. And it's all due to Swinney's straight-forward, self-deprecating, go-out-and-kick-some-you-know-what attitude.

Fans and media found plenty of things to criticize Tommy Bowden over, as the past few weeks have reminded us. But the following isn't one of them. It's simply fact.

Bowden's press conferences, and interviews in general, at times were a lesson in tap dancing.

Given his personality, coaching pedigree and a cautious - if not suspicious - nature, Bowden more often than not would talk around a difficult question rather than meet it head on.

I was more fortunate than most, getting enough one-on-one interviews where he opened up at least a little. But only to a point. He always remained very guarded, as if the wrong word or phrase might give away his trade secrets.

So, Bowden tapped. He danced. He double-talked. Or he broke out his favorite phrase:

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you."

That's who he was. And as frustrating as it could be at times during those interviews, at the very least you knew what to expect going in.

But Swinney?

Monday night he was a gushing fire hydrant of information, taking on each question directly and answering to the best of his ability.

Once he got so wrapped up in an answer, so detailed in his delivery, that he forgot the question. But again reminded of the inquiry, he took off and somehow made the whole thing tie together.

Understand, words won't beat Georgia Tech. Blocking and tackling must do that.

But when Swinney said Clemson will block, it will tackle, it will play hard and with a passion...When he said all those things Monday night you believed him.

When he said his greatest focus is doing what's best for the players, you believed him.

And when he said that only being guaranteed six games as a head coach gives him freedom, instead of pressure, you believed him.

None of Swinney's words Monday night will make Clemson any better, at least by themselves. But if it's true that actions speak louder than those words, look out.

Dabo's six-game guarantee could be one rip-roaring thrill of a ride.

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