Dabo Swinney on Clemson hosting Auburn next: “Big one next week”
CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney took a quick break Sunday evening for his weekly teleconference with reporters. When he hung up, he planned to get right back to business.
“We were getting deep into (Auburn film) all day (Sunday),” the Clemson football coach said. “And we’ll continue (Sunday) night.”
There are no breaks for college football coaches this time of year, and for Swinney in particular, this upcoming week against Auburn is as important as any in Clemson’s season.
The Tigers — as expected — had no issues sailing past Kent State on Saturday with a 56-3 blowout victory over the Golden Flashes behind Kelly Bryant’s dominant starting debut. But from here on out, it only gets harder for a No. 5 ranked Tigers team that plays host to a No. 12 Auburn team at Death Valley this week for Game 2.
If Saturday was a chance for Clemson to get its feet wet, this week the Tigers will hop into the deep end of the pool against a team they ultimately beat, but had their issues with a season ago.
Some elements of that game are still on Swinney’s mind a full year later.
“I didn’t think we started well last year. I did not think we played a clean opener last year in some of the little things,” Swinney said. “Obviously we played an opponent at their place, at Auburn, but some of the little things that we did (Saturday against Kent State) were good to see.”
Clemson traveled to a soldout Jordan Hare Stadium for their opener last year and escaped with a 19-13 win, but only after the defense was able to bat down an Auburn Hail Mary as the seconds wound down in the fourth quarter. Had Auburn scored a touchdown there and had its kicker successfully made the extra-point attempt, the entire direction of Clemson’s 2016 season that culminated with a national championship could have been altered from Week 1.
Saturday against Kent State, Clemson was able to utilize several different groups of personnel in several different roles for experimentation purposes, but with Auburn, that type of leeway will not be there and Swinney knows it.
“We played a lot of guys,” Swinney said. “We know that we won’t be able to do that moving forward every week, but that was definitely something that I think will help us grow our team as we can grade all of them and show them on tape.”
While Kent State finished the game Saturday with just one single passing yard for the entire afternoon, that certainly will not even remotely be the case with Auburn.
Auburn quarterback and Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns in Auburn’s opener against Georgia Southern. He completed 14 of 24 pass attempts with one interception and looked rusty at times, but will still be a much bigger challenge for Clemson than Kent State.
Swinney said he did not watch the Auburn-Georgia Southern game Saturday, but did flip around on his television and saw glimpses of Louisville’s win against Purdue and Alabama’s win against Florida State.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the defense wasn’t “beating our chest” after the Kent State, as Clemson knows bigger things are ahead. Those bigger things start this week.
“We’re glad we got (Kent State) behind us,” Swinney said. “Our first goal was to win the opener and we got that done and we’ll move onto the next one. Big one next week.”