Tigers Break for Holidays

CLEMSON- It would seem obvious Christmas would be a little different for the Swinney family this year.


After all, it's been just a little over two months since he was named interim head coach and he's only been Clemson's permanent head coach now for three weeks.

With the move comes increased responsibilities, higher expectations, and of course a bigger pay check.

But talking with the Tigers' first-year head man Monday morning after his team's final practice in Clemson before the holidays, he still has the kid in the candy store mentality.

"Practice was great," he said. "We went inside and got a lot accomplished. ... Focused on the mental part of it. Being in the right gaps and stepping the right way and having your eyes on the right things. Thought we got a lot out of it. Guys were into it. Enthusiasm was good.

"We also did a lot of special teams work. I feel good about our preparation we have had here. I also feel good about what we were able to accomplish with our young players. Hopefully we can not forget about football the next couple of days."

And honestly, why wouldn't Swinney be feeling good right about now?

His team is riding a three-game winning streak, just beat its archrival by 17 points, is heading to the ACC's No. 3 bowl game and he's entrenched as Clemson's new head coach for at least the next five years.

And his team is as healthy as its been all year to boot.

"We are really healthy, especially after a physical practice Saturday. Stanley [Hunter] should be fine. Marcus [Gilchrist] should be fine," he said. "So when we get down there [to Jacksonville] we should be ready to go. We feel really good about where we are right now."

PRE-HOLIDAY MESSAGE: With a four-day break for Christmas, there's always natural concern players can get into trouble or show up late for bowl game preparations.

Remember, the team does not bus to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl, each individual player is actually responsible for his own transportation later this week.

Swinney said his message to his team before the break was clear.

"Don't just eat momma's turkey," he said with a laugh. "Get out there and jog a little bit. Show up ready to go and obviously with these big boys it doesn't take long."

In all seriousness, Swinney said the bowl game against Nebraska will be treated like a business trip, and that he instructed his team as such Monday morning.

"They can't just go without thinking about football," he said. "We talked about what to expect when we get there. We talked about the fact this is a business trip. Nobody said you can't have fun on a business trip but lets be focused on the right thing. Let's continue what we accomplished here down there."

FAMILIAR OPPONENT: An admitted college football fan, Swinney said Monday he doesn't recall the 1982 Orange Bowl win over the Cornhuskers but at the same time, he doesn't have to.

His son Will reminds him of it every time the Swinney's take a trip.

Will asked for the DVD of Clemson's 1981 National Championship game win over Nebraska for Christmas two years ago and it hasn't left the DVD player in the Swinney's mini-van since.

"I've made up for it. I've probably seen or heard that game 50 times. Everywhere we've went in the car for about two straight years I've had to listen to the Clemson-Nebraska game," he said.

"Will can give you the play-by-play. He can tell you every play in the game. I don't recall it from when I was Will's age but I think I've made up for it by all my trips in the van in the DVD player."

Swinney also said Will is one of his biggest critic.

"Bring the media on," he said. "Will- I don't want no part of him. He's cold blooded. And Drew? We went up to Wake Forest a few years ago and was like four or five and I was going to ride home with Kathleen because she drove up there and he said, 'Daddy, I can't believe we came all the way up here just to lose!'

"I said, 'that's it, I'm riding the bus.'

QUICK HITS: Former Clemson fullback Alex Pearson, now a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marines, addressed the team during Monday's practice. ... The team reports to Jacksonville on Dec. 26 with the first practice the morning of Dec. 27. ... Bowl money for players is payed out in installments according to Swinney so the players don't spend it all at once. ... The Swinney family will celebrate Christmas in Clemson Tuesday morning before heading to Birmingham through Christmas day. ... Kavell Connor has the longest trip to make to Jacksonville from the scholarship players but one of the walk-ons is from California.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm trying to figure out if I can get Oliver Purnell to go with me so we can have as good a trip to Florida as he had last night. What a good win they had." - Dabo Swinney on heading to Florida for the upcoming Konica Minolta Gator Bowl and referencing Sunday night's 19-point win over Miami.

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