SENECA — As the song says, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.
Clemson is coming off one of its most brilliant, yet frustrating football seasons in which it experienced the high of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the right to get crushed 70-33 by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
Dabo Swinney understands college football is a game of highs and lows, but his philosophy on windshields diverges significantly from Mark Knopfler’s song lyric.
Windshields are for looking forward, Swinney said Tuesday during Clemson’s annual golf outing at Seneca’s Cross Creek Plantation. Rear-view windows?
Not so much.
“There’s a reason windshields are so big and rear-view mirrors are so small,” Swinney said. “You should be looking forward, not back.”
To that end, the Tigers staff spent their down time in places such as Reno, Nev., and Stillwater, Okla., picking up new tricks of the trade to incorporate into offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ “pistol” offense.
The Tigers also parted ways with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele in favor of Oklahoma assistant Brent Venables, who brings a long pedigree of success to the job.
With a number of players returning from injury, a talented freshman class transitioning into its sophomore season, a second year in Morris’ offense and a re-energized defense, Swinney said memories of 2011 — good and bad — are long gone.
“This team is excited about the upcoming season,” Swinney said. “There’s no hangover from the bowl, just like there’s no hangover from winning the ACC. … We said it back in spring: We weren’t going to focus on what happened before.”
Swinney said in addition to a stable of six receivers who “could start for any team in the country” the Tigers boast 11 seniors and 13 juniors who have grasped the urgency of living in the present and making the most of the upcoming season. Two of those players — junior quarterback Tajh Boyd and senior running back Andre Ellington — are poised for career years, according to Swinney and Morris.
“How hungry are these guys?” Morris said. “All indications from the way they worked … they’re on a mission and that’s what you want from your leaders.”
There are holes to fill. The Tigers took some hits to graduation, lost five-star running back recruit Mike Bellamy to grades, are thin at defensive end and don’t quite know the final fate of Sammy Watkins. But, nonetheless, there appears to be a lot of forward momentum following the team’s most successful season in 20 years.
So, indeed, sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. But perhaps the next line of Knopfler’s song most suits the Tigers:
Sometimes, it all comes together.