Dabo Swinney Has the Clemson Tigers in the Thick of the National Championship Hunt

October 12, 2011 – 8:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

When we think of the national championship picture, I think we automatically think of LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma. Then probably teams like Wisconsin and Stanford or perhaps Boise State or Oklahoma State. That’s because all of those teams were ranked near or in the top 10, or higher, to start the season.

It’s time to add a new team to the list of those worth talking about. The Clemson Tigers have a resume that stacks up against just about any of those teams. The Tigers are off to a 6-0 start with victories over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech already on their resume. If they can beat teams like South Carolina, Georgia Tech and North Carolina the rest of the way, we will have no choice but to talk about them as a title contender.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney joined KJR in Seattle with Mitch Levy to discuss whether he envisioned this kind of start to Clemson’s 2011 season, the health of quarterback Tajh Boyd, the season his signal-caller is having, the national perception of Clemson and the ACC, and his excitement a few weeks ago after beating Auburn.

Did you envision this kind of a start to the Clemson season?:

“I felt like we had a chance to be a very competitive team. 6-0? You’ve got to catch some breaks along the way. You’ve got to stay healthy. … That’s been a real key for us because we’re a very, very young team. We have 42 true freshmen and redshirt freshmen on this roster. When we got into camp and I got a chance to see some of these young guys, I knew they were going to help us, and change us, pretty quickly. It’d just be a matter of if we could put it all together in a short amount of time.”

What can you tell us about the health of your quarterback Tajh Boyd, who injured his hip?:

“It’s kind of a miracle in itself and a real blessing. You see a guy get carted off you figure he’s out for a couple weeks at least. He’s actually doing really well and should be fine for this weekend. I think it might have scared him more than anything. … He just had a hard time putting pressure on it there for a while. … Just a real blessing.”

How special of a season is he putting together?:

“He’s been a developing guy. He played his whole senior year with a torn ACL and took them to the state championship. Then he went to the U.S. Army game with a torn ACL and got the MVP of that game. He went ahead and had the surgery and it kind of set him back. He spent his first year red-shirting and getting healthy. Last year he was just kind of grooming and played in about seven games. But we really felt like he had a chance to be a very good player, and that’s one of the main reasons that I wanted to make a change offensively because I really wanted to feature this guy.”

Do you think the national perception of the ACC will hold teams like Clemson and Georgia Tech back as the BCS rankings play out?:

“I think there’s only one team in America that’s beaten more ranked opponents than us. We’ve beaten three and LSU’s beaten four, so I don’t think that’s the case. And if you look at our schedule moving forward, North Carolina’s probably going to be ranked when we play them, Georgia Tech is ranked, South Carolina is ranked. We’ve already tied the school record for wins versus ranked opponents. … We’ve got a schedule of champions and if we take care of business, when it’s all said and done, it’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to.”

Talk about the eruption you had on the field in the postgame interview after beating Auburn:

“I was just so full of Clemson I didn’t know what to do. It’s the world we live in now. They video everything. All your moments of exuberance are caught on tape. That was a big win. That was the biggest win we’ve had at Clemson since the daggum national championship, probably. It was a huge win for our program. … I grew up rooting against Auburn and played in a bunch of those games … and it was just a little more special to have an opportunity to be a part of the team that ended that fabulous streak that they had going.”

Listen to Dabo Swinney on KJR in Seattle here

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