Dabo Swinney is a master motivator, always finding a way to give his team a mental edge.
Swinney's favorite method of motivation is to play the underdog card.
No one believes in us, he has told his Clemson teams in the past.We're just little ol Clemson. No one thinks we can compete with Alabama or Ohio State. We've got to go prove them wrong.
This year is different, though. And even Swinney is willing to admit it.
In 2015, when the Tigers were coming off of a Russell Athletic Bowl appearance and had won only one ACC title in the previous 23 years, Clemson was an underdog compared to other national powers.
Swinney could also say that Clemson was an underdog in 2016 when the Tigers were trying to win their first national title since 1981, while Alabama was playing for its fifth since 2009.
Swinney could even say that Clemson was the underdog last year when the Tigers were coming off a national title but were also starting over on offense, needing to replace Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett, Wayne Gallman and other playmakers.
But this year Clemson isn't an underdog in any sense of the word. The Tigers are far from it.
Clemson has won three consecutive ACC titles https://www.clemsonfootballgear.com/jc-chalk-jersey-c-25.html, made the College Football Playoff three consecutive years and returns an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball.
Asked Friday if this is the best he has felt about a team entering a season, Swinney was not shy about his answer.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a definite https://www.clemsonfootballgear.com/nolan-turner-jersey-c-24.html, he said. I feel great about this team. I love this team. Last year was such a fun, different challenge for us. But this team, we've got all the ingredients. I think we've got talent. We've got experience. We've got depth. We've got character. We've got good leadership. So we have, I think, all of the things that it takes. And they have the experience and know what it takes.
It starts up front for Clemson with four All American defensive linemen that started in last year's College Football Playoff.
But Clemson has plenty of experience up and down its roster, not just at defensive line.
Clemson returns 15 of its 22 starters from last year's Sugar Bowl, and 43 players on this year's roster appeared in last year's College Football Playoff.
I've got 26 seniors. Last year I had 11, six on scholarship and five walk ons. I think I've got 57 seniors and juniors total, a very veteran group. It's definitely the most I've had, Swinney said.And they're focused. This is not a nonchalant, casual group. This is a very locked in group that I really believe knows exactly what they want. I think we've come a long way, really. We've become a close team at this point. We're very pleased with the morale and the chemistry that I've seen already.