CLEMSON, S.C. --- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney began Georgia Tech week in 2008 as receivers coach and left charged with trying to triage a bleeding program. Two years later, with the Yellow Jackets in town, Swinney's proud of the steps he's taken so far and is ready for even more progress.
Clemson (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) faces Georgia Tech (5-2, 3-1) at Death Valley today, site of Swinney's head-coaching debut that followed one of the most dramatic weeks in Tigers history.
Swinney had never been a head coach or coordinator, yet got the call to take over when longtime coach Tommy Bowden walked away -- Bowden has since said he didn't leave on his own -- with Clemson floundering at 3-3. Swinney had less than a week to coach the Tigers past the shock and implement offensive changes he thought necessary to Clemson's success, such as firing coordinator Rob Spence.
Swinney also appealed to fans to hang with the club through the tough times ahead.
"That was a manage the crisis type situation," Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier said. "Ton of emotion, a whirlwind of things going through your mind."
A full house turned out at Death Valley to watch Clemson's new direction. The Tigers held a 17-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Georgia Tech and its first-year head coach, Paul Johnson, rallied to the 21-17 win. For Swinney, it began a climb toward the top that's showed some successes, most notably winning the ACC's Atlantic Division for the first time in 2009.
"I don't think there's any question we've made progress here," said Swinney. "We've never won the Atlantic Division and we did last year. We took over a team in the middle of a chaotic season (2008) and we played better."