Dabo Swinney explains Clemson's accountability teams

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Saturday July 29, 2017

Dabo Swinney has no worry about replacing the top talent off last year’s national championship team, it’s the intangibles he’ll have to wait and see.

Clemson’s 12 returning starters are No. 86 nationally, losing players like Deshaun Watson and Ben Boulware. The Tigers have signed strong recruiting classes, but will Swinney have the leadership he wants? That process started immediately.

“We’re going to replace talent with talent. But leadership is something people don’t spend enough time on,” he said on The Paul Finebaum Show. “You can have gaps in your leadership, but we spend a lot (on it). In January when we get back, one of the first things we do is create our accountability teams. Our seniors draft their teams, based on accountability. Not ability, but accountability, responsibility, dependability.

“Those eight or nine guys are held accountable for each other all year. Everything counts. That’s one way we develop our leadership in our team. Then I have a senior leadership group I meet with on Mondays and Fridays, and they choose some juniors and sophomores to be on this group. That way, when seniors move on, other guys know what it looks like.”

The 2017 team only includes six scholarship sophomores, per Swinney, but coming off two straight national title games, the new players know the bar.

“This team, all those juniors and sophomores we have, they know what I looks like,” Swinney said. “Those quarterbacks, they had a perfect model in Deshaun. Those linebackers had a perfect model in Ben (Boulware). … That’s why we’ve been successful.  As guys move on, they aren’t trying to figure it out, because we’ve really nurtured that and embraced it on our team.”

You’ll notice so far that this piece hasn’t mentioned a current player on the team. Swinney knows it, too. Through ACC Media Days, the ESPN roundtable and other national interviews, the only questions he’s getting are about the players that left.

The local media is focused on the new players and the details, but the national conversation is a lot of questions.

“What I like about this team is that there is a hunger, because nobody — and I mean nobody — in all the media stuff I’ve done, asks me about my current players, other than the quarterback,” Swinney said. “All we talk about mostly is who’s not there anymore.

“So there’s a hunger and sense of urgency from a lot of our guys. Yeah, a lot of them got championship rings, but they want a bigger role. They were highly recruited, too. We’ve got guys eager to prove we’re here to stay.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.