Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney stressed the challenge ahead in the form of Texas A&M to the assembled media at his weekly press conference, Tuesday.
The Tigers narrowly defeated the Aggies 28-26 at College Station last season in a game that saw A&M pile up 501 yards of offense.
But to illustrate how much has changed since that matchup, Travis Etienne, now Clemson’s bell cow and one of college football’s most explosive players, carried the ball just eight times for 44 yards. Kelly Bryant, now at Missouri, led the Tigers in both passing and rushing at College Station. The defensive line that limited the Aggies to 71 rushing yards has been replaced and the Clemson secondary that surrendered 430 yards passing is deeper and more experienced. It is the more experienced secondary that Swinney hopes makes a major difference on Saturday.
Swinney also made it clear how he felt about A&M’s returning quarterback, “They’ve got some new people, but they’ve got some key ingredients back, starting with that quarterback (Kellen Mond). Big time player that has gotten bigger, stronger, faster, smarter and more confident … We know exactly what we’re getting into with this bunch. We’ll have to do a great job”
The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Tigers as a 16.5 point favorite heading into Saturday’s 3:30 kickoff.
Key comments from Dabo Swinney:
- Their quarterback, Kellen Mond can make all the throws. If you don’t contain, he can get outside the pocket and make big plays. He did that in the fourth quarter last year. They’ll get off the bus throwing the ball down the field.
- Hopefully our experience on the back end will help us make plays on those deep balls this year. They are outstanding at wide receiver, as good as we’ll play.
- I think all four of our safeties are starters. So much more confident (at that position). All four graded well. We feel really good about the depth on the back end.
- On Texas A&M defense: Big up front. Corners are all 6’2, 6’3, 6’4. Really talented across the board. Win or lose, we’ll get better from this game. I love playing a great team early in the season.
- On getting Texas A&M at home: We have one of the most unique environments. Our fanbase is so passionate and loud … but I tell our players, if you’re only a good player at home, you’re not really a good player.
- On movement to freshman QBs and his own experience with them: Both Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence had been starting since 9th grade. Both played in Friday Night Lights type towns. They had a really good foundation before they got to us.
- I don’t have to look for bulletin board material. People just give it to me. There’s no secrets, anymore. Now it’s a virtual bulletin board. I don’t have to say anything. But it’s part of the passion of college football. Part of what makes it fun.
Dabo Swinney press conference: