CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is ready to chase goals again — one step at a time. He said the Tigers didn't won the national championship focused on what was immediately in front of them, not by looking ahead. Swinney lays out five goals each season for his team, starting with "Win The Opener" which is Saturday against Kent State.
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is ready to chase goals again — one step at a time.
He said the Tigers didn't won the national championship focused on what was immediately in front of them, not by looking ahead. Swinney lays out five goals each season for his team, starting with "Win The Opener" which is Saturday against Kent State.
"We've got five goals. They never change and as many of them as we can hit, the better year we have," Swinney said. "I've always said if we hit them all, we'll win it all and that's what we did last year."
"This," he continued, "is a chance to get that first goal under our belt."
The rest of Swinney's goals include winning the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division, beating state rival South Carolina and capturing the ACC title. The last is to win the closer, which the Tigers did with a drama-filled, 35-31 victory over No. 1 Alabama this past January.
Swinney knows too well that early stumbles can cost his club many things, including confidence coming out of camp that might take time to rebuild in a difficult schedule that includes games with No. 12 Auburn and No. 16 Louisville the following two weeks.
"They're all big," Swinney said of the schedule. "We get 12 opportunities and that's all we're guaranteed. Everything after that, you earn it."
The earning starts against Kent State, which enters the game led by offensive coordinator Don Treadwell after coach Paul Haynes stepped away for a few weeks with what the school announced was a medical leave. The Golden Flash, 3-9 last season, are more than a five touchdown underdog against the Tigers.
Some things to watch when Kent State plays No. 5 Clemson:
NEW FACES: You'll need a scorecard to keep track of all the new faces on Clemson's offense. Kelly Bryant makes his first start in place of All-American quarterback Deshaun Watson, who went 29-2 his last 31 starts with the Tigers. Deon Cain takes over for NFL first-rounder — and two-time 1,000-yard receiver — Mike Williams. Clemson also has new starters at tailback, center and tight end. Bryant, a junior, said that while Clemson's players may be less familiar, they're talented and eager to make their own mark. "We know all eyes are going to be on us," he said. "We're ready."
DEJA VU: Kent State's interim coach, Don Treadwell, has been in a similar spot before. While offense coordinator at Michigan State in 2010, Treadwell was elevated to interim coach when the Spartans' Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack early that season. Treadwell said Haynes like Dantonio have laid out a foundation for the program. "We already have a direction. We already have a focus of what we're moving toward each game," Treadwell said.
NOT AGAIN: Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables raised the specter of a team no Tigers fans wants to think much about — Pitt. Venables said Kent State reminded him of the Panthers, the only team to defeat the Tigers last season, because of the multiple formations they show on offense and the versatility of their skill players, like quarterback Nick Holley who led the team in passing and rushing yards last season. Venables said Clemson's defense will have play smart, high-energy football against the Golden Flashes.
NOT AGAIN 2: Kent State is facing the defending national champs for a second straight season. The Golden Flashes played at Alabama in 2016, a game where they trailed 21-0 after one quarter on the way to a 48-0 defeat. Kent State has not beaten a ranked team since 2012's 35-23 upset of No. 15 Rutgers.
BIG GAME HUNTER: Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow hopes to be more of a factor for the Tigers this season. Renfrow's already a forever folk-hero to Clemson fans after his 2-yard TD catch with a second left proved to be the winning points against Alabama last January. He's got 77 catches for 978 yards and 11 touchdowns — four in two title games with the Crimson Tide — his first two seasons.