A much different test for Clemson’s Swinney

By Robert Rousseau  |   Wednesday, December 31, 2008  |  Comments( 2 )

Clemson Tigers
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When Dabo Swinney took over for Tommy Bowden as the Clemson Tigers' interim head coach only six games into the 2008 season, he had everything to gain. After all, it was a surprise that the Tigers chose him to take the helm in the first place after Bowden’s resignation. Even he was a little bit surprised. Of course, there was a level of pressure on Swinney as a result.

Then again, because Swinney was a surprise pick, he had everything to gain and very little to lose. Swinney did indeed gain, taking the 3-3 team he inherited to a 4-2 finish; that was enough to remove the "interim" label from his title.

With that comes changes. For one, Swinney is now the official top dog. Second, he now has plenty to lose.

How about his job, for instance?

The first test is the Gator Bowl against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

“It’s a fine line,” Swinney said Sunday in regard to preparing his team for its first bowl game with him as the head coach. “You’ve got a while to prepare and you don’t want to overwork them, you don’t want to underwork them. You want them to have a good time at the bowl.”

Speaking of preparation, Swinney believes that’s the ticket for him in this bowl game and seemingly beyond.

“The biggest thing for me was how we prepared in Clemson, and then really being organized and detailed with our planning so everything runs smoothly,” he said.

Flashing back, Swinney did pretty well in his first game as interim head coach, taking a team that had played poorly and was confused after Bowden’s departure and getting it to play all four quarters in a 21-17 loss to Georgia Tech. The next opponent, the Cornhuskers, are a solid team that also has a lot to play for. It will take a similar effort to defeat them.

But now he has to motivate the Tigers as their real head coach, which offers somewhat different circumstances. There’s no more wait-and-see attitude with Swinney. The true judging will now commence. Oh yeah, and then there’s that thing called recruiting. Losing bowl games hurts that, which in turn would harm a program that was impacted on the recruiting front by losing Bowden in the first place.

Time to see if Swinney’s focus on game planning, organization and ability to motivate players will come through on the real stage. After all, the Clemson faithful don’t really want a good team in the future. They want a great one.
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About Robert Rousseau

Robert Rousseau is a sports writer that has been published in a variety of print and online venues. He’s been writing for RealFootball365.com for almost three years now. When Rousseau isn’t writing about college football he tends to be penning mixed martial arts pieces for MMAFighting.com or...
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