What makes Auburn tough?
Like any season opener, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is concerned about the unknowns of facing an opponent before he can properly gauge their identity.
“Openers are tough, no matter who you play, but it’s really tough when you play a great opponent on the road and there’s always unknowns,” Swinney said. “You try to gather as much information as you can from spring practice, their signing class and all of those types of things.”
Clemson is coming off a national runner-up finish to Alabama in the College Football Playoff and could start the season as the nation’s No. 1 team despite returning only four starters from the nation’s top defense last season. Kickoff inside Jordan-Hare Stadium is Sept. 3, and while Clemson has a few things to figure out on defense, it returns Heisman frontrunner Deshaun Watson at quarterback.
Meanwhile, Auburn has more questions than answers at many of its positions.
For one, a newcomer could be Auburn’s starting quarterback when Clemson comes to the Plains. Auburn’s identity could also change at several position groups, including the entire defense with the addition of five new staff members, including former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
Steele was fired at Clemson after West Virginia knocked off the Tigers 70-33 in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
“They’ve had some coaching changes, etc., so we’re very familiar with a lot of personnel at Auburn and they’re a really talented football team,” Swinney said. “Again, we’ve already started the process of our prep work schematically as far as who they are and what they did last year. But, really, more focused on ourselves right now.”
Clemson will work to have a “great feel” for the first four opponents on its schedule before summer holidays, Swinney said.