Reason for Optimism

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is as optimistic as he's ever been when it comes to discussing his football team.

Don't believe it? Just ask him.

Speaking to the media Monday at the ACC's annual kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., Swinney said he likes his chances headed into the start of the 2010 season.

"I wouldn't want any other team than my team. I love these guys," he said. "I believe we have what it takes. I wouldn't want anybody else's team out there more than the Clemson Tigers."

Swinney, of course, has been known to see the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

And that's a good thing- especially for a program that seemed to talk-the-talk, but not walk-the-walk before he took over Dec. 1, 2008.

Talk to any of his current or former players and they are quick to point out he's been the difference.

The difference as in the difference between folding the tent last year after a 2-3 start and getting to the ACC Championship game after reeling off six consecutive wins.

"He got us to believe," said Michael Palmer, Clemson's first-team All-ACC tight end from a year ago who is currently playing for the Atlanta Falcons. "Before he took over we were so close so many times when we'd get to that one game where we needed that big play we would kind of freeze up.

"He got us to believe we can win. And that's what he talked about from the day he took over and that's the difference right there."

This coming season, Swinney faces more challenges than just getting his team to buy into his philosophy.

There are the higher expectations after winning the Atlantic Division last year for the first time in school history. There are also questions about Clemson's unproven linebackers, receivers and specialists.

And then there's life after C.J. Spiller. How can the Tigers possibly manage?

Swinney fielded numerous questions on all fronts Monday, and as you would expect, he met each one with the belief he had the answer.

The right answer, that is.

"That's what makes college football great. Every year college teams lose great players," he said. "We lost C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer. It's the next guy up. That's why you recruit.

"We played Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington quite a bit last year. Harper had the two longest touchdowns all year. Ellington led the team in yards per carry. That experience with the two of them combined will hopefully be able to replace what we had with C.J."


"This time last year we had a lot of questions about our football team. You know, 'who is this new head coach? And you hired this offensive coordinator who's never called a play, and lost the ACC reception leader and lost two NFL safeties and no James Davis and your offensive line stinks. You had all kind of questions," he said. (AP)
Swinney's mentality has swept internet message boards and sports talk shows over the last 18 months, leading many fans to suggest he can sell ice to Eskimos.

When you sit down with him person, whether it's at event like this or in a press conference setting back in Clemson, nothing could be more true.

He can.

And if you listen to him closely enough, it almost makes you start to wonder where the losses will come from in 2010.

"This time last year we had a lot of questions about our football team. You know, 'who is this new head coach? And you hired this offensive coordinator who's never called a play, and lost the ACC reception leader and lost two NFL safeties and no James Davis and your offensive line stinks. You had all kind of questions," he said.

"But we've been through a year now. I'm much more comfortable just in the sense we've been through a cycle and we have our systems in place. This is how we recruit. This is camp. This is our daily workload and getting through that whole year has been great.

"Now that we've done it and had success, everybody really believes in what we do and how we do it."

See what I mean. And that's only a Dabo sample, mind you.

While there are still plenty of questions regarding this team for the coming season, Clemson's second-year head man seems to talk with the kind of confidence that suggests he's going "All-In" with some kind of flush, while the rest of the league thinks he's got two pair.

Oh sure, there are concerns. Legitimate concerns. Who will catch passes? Kick field goals? Handle punts?

But there will be plenty enough to figure all of that out in the coming weeks as camp gets underway. And as always, Swinney will approach it with the glass half-full mentality.

"We are getting ready to have our 'All-In' meetings starting Wednesday as a staff. But you know, to have been to the championship game (last year), to have won our division and won a bowl game. We got better.

"Our goal this year is to be a smarter team and to learn from our successes and failures last year and hopefully finish this thing off the way we all want to."

If year one was any example, the smart bet in year two would be to believe that's exactly what they'll do.

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