Clemson's Swinney says Tigers want to be great

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has turned the page on his team’s landmark 11-victory season last fall. He believes his returning players won’t rest on their laurels and are ready to chase bigger things this season.

“We’re not hoping to have a good season, we’re expecting to have a good season,” Swinney said by phone Tuesday.

The Tigers start spring workouts on March 6 with the Orange-and-White game to conclude the drills April 13. They finished 11-2 in 2012, their most victories since their 12-0, national championship season of 1981.

Clemson finished on a high note, Chandler Catanzaro’s last-second field goal stunning Louisiana State University at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, 25-24. The Tigers return just 10 senior scholarship players next year.

“This is a group that wants to be great,” he said.

Record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd, a junior last fall, was leaning toward the NFL Draft after the bowl victory over LSU, but decided he wasn’t finished with college. Boyd does lose a couple of crucial teammates to Clemson’s offensive success the past two years in senior tailback Andre Ellington and receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who declared for the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility left.

Ellington was a two-time, 1,000-yard rusher with a burst of speed, something Clemson’s returning backs in D.J. Howard and Rod McDowell haven’t yet shown. The Tigers appear in much better shape receiver-wise with Sammy Watkins hoping to recapture his All-American showing as a freshman in his junior year this fall.

The defense comes into spring having lost play makers like defensive lineman Malliciah Goodman and linebacker Jonathan Willard. But coordinator Brent Venables’ group brings in Oklahoma transfer Kellen Jones at linebacker. Jones spent last season working with the scout team and Swinney said gave offensive coach’s fits with his effort and skill. “I’m looking forward to seeing him out there,” the coach said.

Swinney’s most concerned this spring with his defensive backs. The Tigers signed eight at the position last month with all but one of the newcomers not arriving until summer.

OKLAHOMA: Jerry Montgomery has been hired to coach the Sooners’ defensive linemen after being in charge of the same position at Michigan for the past two seasons.

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