Clemson Football: Dabo Swinney's 5 Biggest Challenges for Tigers in 2014
Dabo Swinney has done a great job of changing the culture at Clemson since taking over for former head coach Tommy Bowden. Entering his sixth season as the head coach, he is 51-23 overall and 33-12 in ACC play.
While Swinney has led the Tigers to great success over the last two seasons, there are some challenges he will face in 2014 that must be addressed.
5. Finding the Right Fit at Running Back
There are four or five running backs that could potentially get the majority of the carries this fall, and only summer practices will narrow that list down to two or three.
Coach Swinney and Chad Morris will need to find the right combination of speed and power running backs for 2014.
Last season whenever the Tigers got near the goal line, Tajh Boyd was the one to take the carries because of his big frame. Rod McDowell was a quick guy who could give bursts of speed, but he didn’t match up physically whenever the offense was near the goal line.
This season, the Tigers will need to find a running back that will be able to punch it in from within the 5-yard line.
Zac Brooks and Wayne Gallman both provide a power running game, and Tyshon Dye can as well—depending on how his injury plays out. D.J. Howard will fit into the mix somewhere because of his experience, and C.J. Davidson’s speed will likely be utilized in certain formations.
4. Finding Depth on Offensive Line and the Secondary
Depth on the offensive line and in the secondary could be hard to come by this fall, but Coach Swinney will face the challenge of finding the right fits for those position groups.
The Tigers lost two solid starters on the line in Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley, but young guys like Tyrone Crowder and Isaiah Battle could be in line to replace them.
Crowder was a big-time recruit who will get his first opportunity to prove himself this fall. Battle made a name for himself in the Chick Fil-A Bowl win over LSU, but has struggled to be consistent since then.
Ryan Norton played well last season at center, and David Beasley is another guy that could be great with more consistency. Kalon Davis, Spencer Region, Shaq Anthony and Eric Mac Lain are other names to watch for finding depth on the offensive line.
The Tigers have some good, young players in the secondary, but finding consistency will be the key. Travis Blanks was not as consistent in his sophomore campaign, and the young players will need solid coaching this summer to avoid rookie mistakes when the Tigers travel to Athens for game No. 1.
The secondary has some solid veterans such as Robert Smith, Garry Peters and Martin Jenkins, but developing those young guys is the challenge ahead for Swinney and his assistants.
3. Replacing Boyd and Watkins
Although the Tigers are ready to reload on offense, losing guys like Boyd and Sammy Watkins is never easy. Boyd was the leader of the offense and Watkins was one of the best wide receivers in school history, but now it is up to Cole Stoudt to lead this team.
There is a big list of guys that have the opportunity to step up and be the No. 1 guy at wide receiver, and one would figure that guy will be Adam Humphries or Charone Peake.
Coach Swinney will have the challenge of finding the right fits this summer, though, as there are several young guys that will compete for starting jobs.
2. Winning Tough Road Games
If the Tigers want to win the ACC and compete for a playoff spot, winning the two big road games will be key.
Clemson starts the season off in Athens when they take on the Georgia Bulldogs. Sanford Stadium is a very tough place to play, and Georgia will be fired up as they have high preseason expectations.
On September 20, the Tigers will travel to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles of Florida State. Doak Campbell Stadium is known for being one of the loudest stadiums in the country, and this will be a tough game for Swinney's squad with Florida State’s loaded roster.
Swinney has a big coaching job in front of him in getting first-year starting quarterback Cole Stoudt ready to lead the offense inside two of college football's toughest environments.
1. Getting over the Hump: FSU and SC
This one is obvious for Clemson fans, right? Over the past two seasons, the Tigers have played phenomenally against everyone except Florida State and South Carolina.
Clemson has established itself as a very good football team (with the 11-win seasons to prove it), but Swinney still has to get over this hump.
Swinney’s biggest challenge will be finding a way to get his team prepared to take down the Seminoles and Gamecocks this season. As we have learned the past two seasons, making it to the ACC Championship is very difficult if the Tigers lose to Florida State.
The Tigers appear to be set to have a good season, but beating these two squads is the only thing that will make it great and get them over the hump.