CLEMSON FOOTBALL

Tigers eager to kick off campaign

Clemson, Swinney face queries with season around the corner

Special to The StateJuly 15, 2013 

Bobby Dodd Award Football

Clemson and coach Dabo Swinney hope the 2013 season ends with another ACC championship, matching the one they won in 2011.

BOB LEVERONE — AP

— It’s sunrise on the college football clock, time to stretch and shake out the cobwebs. In less than seven weeks, Clemson opens its season with Georgia, and there’s no time for late-risers and dunderheads.

Practice begins Friday, Aug. 2. In the meantime, coach Dabo Swinney has a week of media obligations, which began Monday night with the annual fete at his home for reporters covering the team. Intended to be off-the-record, though some have not fully honored the covenant, it’s an opportunity to pick Swinney’s mind when the cameras and recorders are off and gauge his attitude about this year’s team.

The muzzles come off today during the annual golf outing at The Reserve at Lake Keowee, where homes far from pedestrian distraction start at a half-million dollars.

It will be the only occasion to interview every member of the coaching staff. To the dismay of reporters who cherish the homespun humor of offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell, only Swinney and coordinators Chad Morris and Brent Venables are available throughout the season.

With the media horde growing faster than the mosquito population, Swinney has found it easier to control his message by clipping wings and tongues.

On Sunday he, quarterback Tajh Boyd and linebacker Spencer Shuey join the festivities at the Grandover Resort, hard by I-85 near Greensboro, N.C., for the annual ACC Kickoff, which welcomes Pittsburgh and Syracuse for the first time.

As one of the teams favored to win the conference championship this season, the Tigers will face persistent questioning about:

•  Receiver Sammy Watkins’ efforts to reclaim the role as principle receiver in Morris’ sleek offense and the status of potential complementing pieces at tight end and running back.

•  The evolution of Venables’ defense, which delivered its best performance in the win against LSU, and the urgency to accelerate the learning curve of a couple precocious freshman defensive backs.

•  Boyd’s third year as a starter and Morris protégé, and whether the reigning conference player of the year is prepared for the crush of media scrutiny if Clemson beats Georgia. Care to guess the number of times Boyd fields a question that includes “Heisman”?

•  And Jadeveon Clowney, the four-game losing streak to USC and — should they beat Georgia and Georgia Tech and Florida State — how the rivalry game against the Gamecocks could decide more than neighborhood bragging rights.

So, check your watches and calendars. It is no time for dunderheads.

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