Clemson held a 17-0 lead last September at Auburn, a game that if the Tigers won might have changed the entire complexion of the college football season. Instead, Auburn and Cam Newton rallied for a 27-24 overtime win as part of their national championship year.
Clemson, stung by the defeat, could not recover on the way to its first losing season, at 6-7, in 12 years.
“I hate to say we got used to losing. It’s more like we forgot what it was like to win,” Walker said. “It’s something you can’t let happen. Once you forget how to win, it’s hard to get back there.”
That’s the goal this season for Clemson, which only two years ago played for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship as a league divisional winner. But an offense that couldn’t be stopped struggled to score points minus stars like tailback C.J. Spiller and receiver Jacoby Ford. Two-sport quarterback Kyle Parker took a hard shot to the ribs from Auburn safety Mike McNeal in that contest and was barely the same.
Once tailback and the team’s touchdown leader Andre Ellington got hurt in a 16-10 loss at Boston College, the Tigers’ offense was all but finished. They managed just 64 points their last four regular season games, including defeats to Florida State (16-13) and rival South Carolina (29-7).
Head coach Dabo Swinney knew something had to change. He revamped his offensive staff, getting rid of coordinator Billy Napier and hiring Chad Morris from Tulsa.
Perhaps the biggest question for the Tigers offense is the performance of first-time starter Tajh Boyd. The sophomore picked Clemson over Ohio State and Oregon back in 2009, yet had largely sat behind Parker the last two years.
Boyd said he’s put the work during film sessions and picked Morris’ brain when possible about the fast-paced system. Morris hopes to cram in up to 85 or 90 offensive snaps a game.