"My biggest thing to them is that you have to deserve to win on Jan. 1," the Clemson coach said after Monday morning's practice. "You have to deserve to win. You have to practice that way."
His players say they are definitely getting the message.
"We are starting to get our timing and stuff back," Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper said. "It has only been two weeks since we last played so it hasn't been too hard, but the first couple of days back we always try and clean up a little bit and just get back in the swing of things. Today I think we did a real good job of doing that."
Though the Tigers, who will play Nebraska in the New Year's Day bowl game in Jacksonville, Fla., have been sloppy at times in practice the last few days, Swinney says he has been pleased with the overall effort of his squad. He said his team had a good physical day in full gear and that they plan to practice the same way on Wednesday.
Clemson (7-5) will start to implement more of its game plan for the Gator Bowl then and Swinney hopes to have things wrapped up schematically by the end of practice next Monday – the Tigers last in Clemson before the holiday break.
"We have a lot of work left to do here and we will try to get the game plan finalized so we can just polish and dot the Is and cross the Ts there in Jacksonville," Swinney said.
The Tigers will have full contact practices this Friday and Saturday as well.
"Everyone out there is excited," Harper said. "Even on a day like today where it is early, it's cold and it's rainy we came out and there was a lot of excitement. I thought we did a good job and had a good practice."
JACKSONVILLE-LIKE: Despite the rain showers Monday, Clemson spent the entire practice working outside. The Tigers usually head indoors when the weather is bad. But staying outside was not a bad idea considering the Jacksonville area is known for its chilly and rainy days the last part of December and the first part of January.
"You never know what you are going to get in Jacksonville," Swinney said. "I have been recruiting Jacksonville for several years now and you really don't ever know. It could be cold, it could be warm. But we are going to show up and we are going to be there… It doesn't matter if it is rain, sleet or snow. We will play in a parking lot, play in a field. We are going to be there and we are excited to be there."
ACADEMIC ISSUES: Clemson backup kicker Richard Jackson will not be with the football in the Gator Bowl. He has been ruled academically ineligible to play. Swinney says he will have the official word about anyone else by Wednesday.
Right now he said he doesn't know if anyone else will be ruled ineligible to play.
INJURY UPDATE It appears Stanley Hunter's injury from Saturday's practice isn't serious. Swinney says the freshman linebacker strained a calf muscle and should be okay. Other than that the Tigers appear to be pretty healthy.
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