Clemson football, basketball coaches express optimism

AIKEN — Dabo Swinney knows his team can win a trophy.

The Clemson football coach now hopes an Atlantic Coast Conference crown will lead to even better prizes.

“Our goals are bigger than just winning this conference,” Swinney said. “We want to be good enough to go undefeated. We want to be good enough to win a national championship. We want to be good enough to win a BCS bowl game. We want to be good enough to win our state championship. Those are all things we have not achieved. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Swinney and Tigers basketball coach Brad Brownell spoke at the “Prowl & Growl” meeting Tuesday at the Aiken Fairgrounds, where the two talked about their programs, players and thoughts on their upcoming seasons in front of a few hundred fans and supporters. The coaches signed autographs, watched season highlight videos and took part in a question-and-answer session.

Swinney led the Tigers to a 10-4 record last season, beating Virginia Tech in the ACC championship to earn the program’s first BCS appearance. In the Orange Bowl, Clemson was routed by West Virginia, 70-33.

The Tigers’ offense was powerful, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins. Swinney thinks he has another special group of skill players but the offensive line is the key.

However, Swinney expressed his optimism for the group. He said it’s going to be a young but athletic group in the trenches this fall.

The defensive side is a work in progress, particularly at defensive end, where depth is his concern. The defense will be led by new coordinator Brent Venables, who came over from Oklahoma.

“Brent, he’s done a fabulous job, along with all our other defensive coaches,” Swinney said. “But we’ll find out what we got when we kick this thing off.”

Brownell’s bunch went 16-15 overall and 8-8 in the ACC this past season.

With almost a dozen of next season’s players either freshmen or sophomores, Brownell quipped his hair will get grayer as the young players learn.

Laney graduate Rod Hall will be one of the sophomores next season. He averaged 16.7 minutes and 3.8 points per game as a freshman.

“He’s a hard-nosed, tough defensive kid,” Brownell said of Hall. “He can guard several different positions. I think his ballhandling and passing are good, so he’s got an opportunity to play. He’s got to continue to learn how to run a team and get us into the offensive schemes we want to be in all the time. He’s got a great opportunity.”

COUNTING DOWN?

It’s 136 days until Clemson’s football team opens the 2012 season Sept. 1 against Auburn at the Georgia Dome.

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