Posted: Wednesday, September 2nd 2009 at 8:06am
Clemson's Swinney expects mistakes in coming days
By The Associated Press
CLEMSON, S.C. - If Dabo Swinney has learned anything in his brief time as head coach at Clemson, it's that he'll surely make mistakes and the boos will follow.
Swinney starts his first season as head coach on Saturday against Middle Tennessee. His only previous experience? The six games he coached as the Tigers' interim leader last fall.
There are plenty of people out there who are wondering if the 39-year-old Swinney, who had never been a coordinator before, was the best choice for the job.
Swinney understands those critics and figures he'll give them evidence to back up their views.
``I'm not perfect. I'm going to make some mistakes. I'm going to screw up. Somewhere along the line, somebody's going to boo me,'' Swinney said Tuesday.
Swinney, though, is ready for the long haul and to prove he can succeed at this the way he has at much in his life. "I may be a rookie head coach, but I'm not a rookie.''
Swinney was a walk-on receiver at Alabama, starting in 1988, and played for coach Gene Stallings' national champions four years later.
Swinney was hired by Stallings and stayed at Alabama through 2000. After a few years off selling commercial real estate, Swinney got a call from Clemson coach Tommy Bowden after the 2002 season about the team's receivers job and thought the time was right to jump back into the game.
``I cut my teeth at two pretty good programs with passionate fan bases and high expectations, so I don't know anything different,'' Swinney says with pride.
Swinney quickly endeared himself to many Clemson fans with his fire and frenetic pace. Tiger players also responded, winning four of their final five regular-season games to qualify for the postseason.
``We went from no bowl to Gator Bowl,'' Swinney said.
Still, the argument goes, Clemson could've had its pick of top-level, experienced head coaches and coordinators.
``Just cause you're a coordinator, doesn't mean you're a good head coach,'' Swinney said. ``You talk about that all day, it really doesn't matter.''
When athletic director Terry Don Phillips finished his interviews, he felt Clemson already had the right person.
Swinney gained a five-year contract worth $800,000 a year, but filled with incentives to increase it should the Tigers achieve certain goals.
Running back C.J. Spiller thinks Swinney has brought a freshened approach to the team last fall. The improvements will continue, he said, after an offseason under Swinney's guidance.
The Tigers bring two new coordinators into the new administration. Defensive leader Kevin Steele comes off two very successful seasons at Alabama. However, offensive leader Billy Napier, last year's quarterbacks coach, comes in with the same inexperienced label some have hung on his boss.
``I feel good about not only myself, but about the coaching staff, coach Swinney, the players, the program as a whole,'' he said.
Swinney is confident in his staff and how it's worked during the spring and summer to get ready for this season. He said he will deal with the boos and hope to turn them into the types of cheers familiar to Death Valley.
``I can sit here and talk all day,'' he said. ``The scoreboard is going to be the ultimate judge of what everybody thinks of me as a football coach. We'll just let her go and see what happens.''
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