This weekend was scheduled to be a memorable one for the Clemson football program as this year's annual "All In" ball was slated for tonight with the Spring Game set to take center stage on Saturday in Death Valley. However, the entire country has been forced to put plans on hold amidst the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Despite having to change gears in how daily operations are executed, Head football coach Dabo Swinney has remained upbeat and is pleased with how his program has adapted and stayed the course though this unprecedented time.
"I'm very grateful and thankful we were able to evaluate our team. We had a lot of great meetings and a lot of installation. We had nine practices, one full scrimmage and one half scrimmage and I think we were able to make some good progress in those nine days. I feel good about this team and we are without question ahead of where we were last year at this time," he said.
Swinney said one of the biggest difference with this team thus far is experience.
"A lot more functional players in our first groups. Last year, our first group defensively--especially up front--we were as green as they come. But now our first groups on both sides and several of our two's can go play winning football for us. Feel good about where we are but we still have a lot to do.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has halted the sports world in its tracks but Swinney is pleased with how everyone has continued to come together and make the best of the situation.
"This all has created a unique challenge for us as a football team. I knew we had great people but to see everyone rise up and adapt and find a way to be great has been special to be a part of," Swinney said.
With the rise in technology and ability to group video call, he's been able to stay in touch with players and coaches with virtual face-to-face communication. He added the only thing that has really changed is the in-person contact.
"It's amazing. But the only thing we aren't able to do is practice and be in a room together. We're still having staff meetings, we had a team meeting the other night with about 180 people on it. Most of our guys have access to weights and are used to online classes so we've been able to keep a routine. It's been really cool."
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Swinney added that the staff has continued to recruit and go through normal operations including being allowed four hours per week to have team meetings. Those mandatory meeting have been scheduled within the normal practice block to help keep everyone structured and engaged.
"This is a challenge but how we accept that challenge is going to determine our success when we get to the other side of this stuff. I love the mindset, the leadership has been great and the communication has been unbelievable. "We're all doing well and we are all eager. When we all get back together I know there's going to be a greater sense of community and just being able to sit in a room together and all those little things we take for granted.
Dabo on the health of the team:
"We're in a good place health-wise right now. Nolan Turner is doing well with his rehab as is Bryton Constantin. Everyone else is in a pretty good spot."
On whether there will be season:
Swinney said he doesn't worry about the things he can't control and is only concerned with doing his best to make sure his guys are ready to go when the time comes.
"My preference is let's get to work and let's go play. That's the best case scenario and I think that's what's going to happen. I have zero doubt that we're going to be playing. The stands are going to be packed and the Valley is going to be rocking.I don't have any doubt. That's the only thought I have ,"
Swinney lets other people figure out those doomsday scenarios. His only scenario is running down the hill and kicking it off in the valley.
"I've got one plan, and that is to get the Tigers ready to play come late August. This is America, man. We've stormed the beaches of Normandy. We've driven a car on Mars. We've walked the moon. We have the smartest people in the world. We are going to rise up and we are going to kick this thing right in the teeth and get back to our lives."