Af­ter cham­pi­onship win, Tigers fo­cus on new year

Swin­ney be­lieves this Clem­son team has plenty to prove.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Pete Ia­co­belli

Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney put it as plainly as he could to his guys this Tiger team hasn’t won any­thing. At least not yet.

Swin­ney and the Tigers took to the prac­tice field to start sum­mer work­outs al­most seven months af­ter win­ning the na­tional ti­tle. Swin­ney ac­knowl­edged he’s got plenty of play­ers who were down in Tampa, Florida cel­e­brat­ing Clem­son’s 35-31 win over Alabama. None of that will mat­ter when the Tigers line up against op­po­nents this fall.

“We’re right back at the bot­tom with ev­ery­body else,” Swin­ney said Thurs­day. “You get what you earn. When it’s all said and done, if we have the right fo­cus and work ethic, we’ll be pleased with where we are.”

That was cer­tainly the case last year as the Tigers won their sec­ond straight At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence ti­tle and ad­vanced to the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son. In a re­match with the 2015 cham­pion Crim­son Tide, this time the Tigers held tough with a dra­matic, last-sec­ond TD for their sec­ond na­tional ti­tle and first since 1981.

Swin­ney has said since Fe­bru­ary when spring drills be­gan that the his­toric mo­ment was be­hind him and his play­ers. It’s also left sev­eral gap­ing holes for a ti­tle-win­ning of­fense that lost four of its stars to the NFL draft, led by first-rounders re­ceiver Mike Williams and quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son.

The two were es­sen­tial to Clem­son’s suc­cess, and their loss leaves ques­tions head­ing into the fall.

The Tigers seemed stocked at re­ceiver with Deon Cain, who led the team reg­u­lars with 19.1 yards per catch last fall head­ing a group of tal­ented, hun­gry wide­outs.

Quar­ter­back could be a thornier prospect for Clem­son. Ju­nior Kelly Byrant opens camp as the starter, but the eyes of many are on five-star passer Hunter John­son from Browns­burg, In­di­ana, who some vo­cal fans be­lieve can slip seam­lessly into Wat­son’s cleats.

Bryant and John­son were among those work­ing with quar­ter­backs coach Bran­don Streeter in the first ses­sion.

“Nice and smooth, bal­anced,” Streeter shouted as Bryant shuf­fled through some side-step drills. A few min­utes later, Streeter pushed Bryant on his tech­nique. “Work,” the coach shouted. “Don’t be lazy.”

That’s some­thing Swin­ney does not think he’ll have to worry about this fall. He says his play­ers are hun­gry to feel the suc­cess of last year. It’s in­grained into the team’s DNA, Swin­ney said.

Need proof? As Hunter Ren­frow ex­tended for a catch on the side­line, he was told, “You catch ev­ery­thing.”

“I have to,” joked Ren­frow, who has signed count­less “Sports Il­lus­trated” cov­ers adorned his 2-yard TD grab with one sec­ond left that lifted the Tigers to their cham­pi­onship.

“They know how we’re sup­posed to prac­tice. They know what the ex­pec­ta­tions are,” Swin­ney said. “They know what it takes.” Af­ter Friendswood tight end Ben Red­ding with­drew his com­mit­ment to Texas State in fa­vor of UNLV last month, the Bob­cats needed a tight end for their 2018 class. This week, they got two pledges — Cor­pus Christi Calallen’s Jack­son Lanam and Seth Cail­louet from Louisiana.

Lanam com­mit­ted Thurs­day, turn­ing down of­fers from Arkansas State and Hous­ton Bap­tist.

“It’s a great area, and the ed­u­ca­tion in the school is re­ally nice,” Lanam said. “The coaches and the school have a lot to of­fer me on and off the field. And the foot­ball pro­gram is go­ing to be so much bet­ter in the fu­ture.”

Cail­louet, who picked Texas State over Air Force and McNeese State, pledged Thurs­day night.

The Bob­cats have 16 pledges for 2018, leav­ing them with nine spots left to fill the class. The Bob­cats’ class ranks third in the Sun Belt and 82nd over­all in the coun­try, per 247Sports’ com­pos­ite ratings.

Dabo Swin­ney said the his­toric mo­ment is in the past.

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