Now three games into the season, Clemson sports a 2-1 record with Saturday's 27-24 loss to the Auburn Tigers.
With that, the Tigers head into their bye week for the season, possessing an extra week to prepare for the homecoming game against the Miami (FL) Hurricanes. The game will kick off the start to Clemson's ACC schedule.
Coming into the season, Clemson faced major questions in replacing its offensive production from 2009, plus the production of its linebackers. While the first two games against North Texas and Presbyterian showed us little about these question marks, it did provide a more on the field evaluation for the question mark positions like linebacker, wide receiver, and offensive line depth.
The North Texas game saw good things from all positions but left obvious room for improvement, evidenced by Clemson's allowance of over 462 yards despite surrendering only 10 points to the Mean Green.
This game saw the debut of Ellington and Harper as the "New Storm," and a young core of receivers looking to become a threat in the passing game. Several notable players to take the field as true freshmen included wide receiver Deandre Hopkins, linebacker Justin Parker, and corner backs Martin Jenkins and Darius Robinson.
The Presbyterian game saw a less threatening Blue Hose team come into Death Valley to take on the Tigers. Here, many players took the field for the first time in a 58-21 smashing of the Blue Hoes.
The goal of this game was further evaluation of the young wide receiving corps and some extended playing time for the second and third units. The goals of this game were to win and get out of this game healthy, and to give the second units and reserves some extended playing time.
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Tajh Boyd also saw plenty of action, throwing his first career touchdown to Deandre Hopkins, and rushing for a touchdown. He also threw an interception as well.
After the first two games, questions still remain at wide receiver, though the group appears capable. The linebackers need further testing in run support, which they are sure to get in a harsh environment like Auburn.
The Auburn game was the first real test for the Clemson Tigers. No more eight man rotations here. The first two games were the decision of that. With the released depth chart, the only co-starters listed are Ellington and Harper, as it should be. Notable changes included Jaron Brown as a starter after good production against North Texas and Presbyterian.
Against Auburn, Clemson did what it was not able to do in a while: Play with the physicality of a smash-mouth football team. They were able to run the ball with success, and the play calling was tremendous. The game showed fans that Billy Napier is an underrated coordinator, despite his young age. While Clemson let the game slip away in overtime, Clemson's physical play in the game was deserving of respect.
Now the bye week, which was heavily criticized early on in the preseason, could not have come at a more convenient time for Clemson. The Tigers are worn out physically and mentally from their road trip at Auburn. Parker got battered and bruised during the game, and offensive lineman David Smith is out for at least a week, possibly out until their game in Chapel Hill against North Carolina.
Some say a football team is a reflection of its coach. Coming into the bye week, and into his second year, Dabo Swinney has clearly reflected his ideals and mentality into these Clemson Tigers.