CLEMSON, SC (WIS) - New team. Same dream.
Despite a number of new faces in the Clemson locker, the Tigers are happy to be back on the field as they work towards defending their crown.
"I'm really excited to get back out on the field with these guys," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "It's fun to be a complete team again. We haven't been a complete team whether it was guys injured or all the signing class not here, everybody's here. We're ready to get back out there."
As nice as it is for the Tigers to bask in the glory of their title run, last year is behind Clemson's players and coaches.
"You don't get to stay at the top of the mountain," Swinney said. "Last year, that was kind of the thing: get to the top of the mountain and put the flag up there. But you don't get to stay there. You've got to start over and we're right back at the bottom with everybody else. You get what you earn."
Swinney told reporters before the team's first fall practice that the goals for the program remain the same despite the players they've lost from a year ago.
"Eyes are forward, man," Swinney said. "This is a totally new team. As I told them, it's a new team, but we've got the same dream. That don't change. Nothing's different there. We know we're all wanting the same thing. We've got five goals and we fight hard to achieve those team goals."
The Tigers enter the season after losing several key players including Deshaun Watson. For the Tigers, replacing the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist will be a major key heading into this season.
"We'll go in and rep three groups and Streeter does a great job," said Swinney. "And (quarterbacks coach Brandon) Streeter does a great job. He'll manage those reps, putting guys in different situations, different looks, and then we chart everything, grade everything, and communicate everything. But it's just one day. Sometimes, guys will have a good day. Sometimes, they'll have a bad day. But it's the totality of what you do throughout camp. Then, at some
point, we've got to make a decision."
"The guys all in the room, were all pushing each other to be the guy," said Clemson junior quarterback Kelly Bryant. "So that's good, healthy competition in the room. So, we're all competing. We want the job. It also helps with everybody in the room.
New faces also mean new challenges for the team. However, Swinney believes his veterans are capable of leading the way knowing the team will have a target on their backs.
"That leadership group has to set the tone," Swinney said. "They know how we're supposed to practice. They know what the expectations are. So, making sure that leadership from within -- and I always tell them, the priorities of our program, the standard of our program, the expectations of our program...the vision of the program, those things have to be enforced and defined and maintained from the bottom up."
Clemson will begin their title defense on Sept. 2 at home against Kent State.