Despite breaking the 50-year losing streak to Boston College in his second game, beating rival South Carolina, and leading the Tigers to a close loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, fans didn't know how Clemson coach Dabo Swinney would fare in his first full year.
The answer: pretty damn good.
Clemson almost rallied despite going down a quick three scores at Georgia Tech, lost to TCU at home (understandable, given how the Horned Frogs have fared since), and fell to Maryland. Many dismissed the Tigers for just doing what they do—not capitalizing on the talent they had.
That's when Swinney's crew rattled off five straight ACC wins to all but sew up a bid to the ACC Championship game, including an overtime upset of Miami on the road.
Delivering on our faith is what we observers never got from Tommy Bowden's inconsistent tenure. Though Bowden's teams were never "down and out" like some of these other programs, they never achieved up to their preseason potential or took a firm grasp on an ACC that, annually, was theirs for the taking. For that, the Clemson Tigers will have to suffer a few years, of "Yeah, they should be good, but will they be?"
No matter. Swinney, who already had a reputation as an outstanding recruiter, has shown he can effectively utilize the talent he reigns in. He's got CJ Spiller producing the numbers the All-American should produce, and has redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Parker progressing at an encouraging clip.
Additionally, the Clemson defense is second overall in yards allowed and third in scoring, and is fielding an All-American defensive back in Deandre McDaniel. Swinney has shown he can coach an all-around team.
Swinney inked a five-year deal after the 2008 season, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that extended if Clemson can get the Yellow Jackets in the rematch.