Clemson Football: ACC Kickoff

The 2014 ACC Kickoff was dominated by Jameis Winston and FSU, but don’t sleep on Clemson football.  Coach Dabo Swinney has led the program to perennial success, and the Tigers will be looking to make some noise in the ACC this year.

 The Tigers came into this year’s media days in an unfamiliar position.  They were clearly playing second fiddle to Jimbo Fisher and his national champion Seminoles.  All the media attention and preseason votes were on Winston and FSU to repeat the feat of their stellar 2013 season.  The media was salivating over the Seminoles.  FSU has a returning star quarterback, a dominant defense, and a swagger rarely seen in college football.  Winston’s interviews had as many cameras flashing as a Johnny Manziel sighting in Vegas.

Clemson was the team that everyone was looking at last year.  Tajh Boyd was a dark horse candidate for the Heisman, and Sammy Watkins was one of the most electrifying playmakers in all of college football.  The sky was the limit for the Tigers, and the media circus surrounded Swinney and company.  FSU had a new quarterback and a talented team, but the focus was on the Tigers.  Roles have reversed in 2014, and that may be a good thing for the Tigers.

Clemson enters 2014 with a largely unproven offense.  The Tigers are breaking in seven new starters, including quarterback Cole Stoudt.  The defense has All-American defensive end Vic Beasley and a bevy of talent, but the Tigers were clearly not the main focus of the event. Out of the 112 media members present, only 2 of them voted for the Tigers to win the ACC.

ACC Championship Votes

  1. Florida State – 104
  2. Clemson – 2
  3. Virginia Tech – 2   (4 voters made no selection)

Atlantic Division (First place votes in parenthesis)

  1. Florida State (109) – 780
  2. Clemson (3) – 660
  3. Louisville – 564
  4. Syracuse – 368
  5. NC State – 326
  6. Boston College – 301
  7. Wake Forest – 136

Coastal Division (First place votes in parenthesis)

  1. Miami (26) – 614
  2. Duke (33) – 597
  3. Virginia Tech (23) – 571
  4. North Carolina (27) – 570
  5. Georgia Tech (1) – 322
  6. Pitt (2) – 319
  7. Virginia – 142

ACC Player of the Year

  1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State – 99
  2. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson – 6
  3. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami – 1
  4. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke – 1
  5. Brenden Motley, QB, Virginia Tech – 1  (4 voters made no selection)

 

What did the Tigers have to say? 

Dabo Swinney brought Stoudt and Beasley with him to the ACC Kickoff.  On one side you have a new leader on the team in Stoudt, always having been in Boyd’s shadow, and then you have the undisputed leader of the defense in Beasley.  Both are pretty quiet players who like to do their talking on the football field, but they were confident in their team.

When asked if he was the best defensive end in college football, Beasley responded, “without a doubt.”  (Via WCCP FM)  It sent chills down my spine to hear the 6-foot-2, 235-pound end to proclaim that.  His entire interview with WCCP showed that Beasley is an extremely humble kid who thinks about his team first, but he had a fire that few players have.  There was no hesitation in his voice when he stated he was the best end in college football.  He has a great chance to eclipse his impressive sack total of 13 from last year, and he set a target of “at least” 15.  If Beasley meets his personal goal, there is reason to believe that Clemson will achieve his first goal, winning the ACC Championship.

Stoudt, new to the limelight, responded well at his first ACC Kickoff.  The senior signal caller has waited behind Boyd his whole career and is entering his first season as the starter.  When asked if he felt disrespected or underestimated by fans who think he is a one-year stop before DeShaun Watson, Stoudt answered, “I don’t really feel disrespected or anything like that.  I don’t really listen to what people say because they don’t know me better than I know me.” (Via WCCP FM)

Everyone in the Clemson camp is aware that the trip to Tallahassee stands in between the Tigers and winning the Atlantic Division, but Stoudt and company are not worried at all.  The team is only concerned with getting better each week, and Stoudt and Beasley are capable leaders for their teammates.

 

Swinney was a little more outspoken than his players present at the event.  Swinney knows that FSU is the huge favorite in the ACC, but he said, “if it was all about the predictions, there would be no reason to play the game.  I like our team.  It’s the most veteran team I’ve had here.  I like where we are, and we have as good a shot as anybody.”  (Via WCCP FM)

Tiger fans will love to hear their coach full of confidence and to hear the players full of humility.  The Tigers took the ACC Kickoff in stride, and they let it be known that the Tigers are only interested in doing their talking on the field.  FSU is the favorite to win the ACC now, but don’t be surprised if everyone is talking about the Tigers at the end of the season.