Swinney says No. 1 Tigers healthy, virus free after off week
By PETE IACOBELLI
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney acknowledges how edgy he gets waiting for COVID-19 test results to come back for the top-ranked Tigers.
And maybe, he said Tuesday, he was even more anxious this week after giving players Friday and Saturday off for Clemson's bye week.
"Yeah, when you see that text message from (trainer) Danny Poole come across, you take a deep breath," Swinney said.
Exhale, coach, at least for this week.
Swinney received the good news for Clemson before Monday's practice after the players' latest round of tests and said the Tigers are as healthy as they've been in a while.
"I'm proud of our guys," Swinney said. "They're really locked in and doing a great job doing what they've got to do, (to) stay as healthy as they possibly can."
The Tigers (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) return to action Saturday night against Virginia (1-0, 1-0), which finally played its season opener last week and defeated Duke 38-20.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence said he's confident in his teammates' efforts to stay safe. He can't vouch for those outside the program, however.
"I think, having a bye weekend, on campus, all the students are here, you do kind of worry a little bit of some situations you can't avoid and just being careful," Lawrence said. "But we handled it great."
Much like Lawrence and the Tigers have handled things on the field in their first two games.
Clemson has outscored its opponents 86-13 and the defense posted its first shutout in four years with in a 49-0 victory over The Citadel.
Lawrence, who has said he plans for this to be his final college season, has been impressive. He's completed more than 81% of his passes for 519 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Lawrence has also rushed for three of Clemson's six TDs on the ground.
Lawrence credits his strong start to the work he put in since his only college loss, a 42-25 defeat to LSU in the national title game last January.
"I've just learned that this game's a lot more mental than physical," he said.
Lawrence has used the extended fall camp caused by the coronavirus pandemic to work on footwork and technique to improve his accuracy. So far, that work is paying off.
Lawrence should get a difficult test from the Cavaliers' secondary, which had five interceptions last week in beating Duke. The Blue Devils' starting quarterback is ex-Tigers backup - and Lawrence's good friend Chase Brice.
Lawrence said he and Brice exchange text some about the game already and could chat more. But Lawrence also has his own history with Virginia to draw on, passing for 302 yards and four touchdowns in Clemson's 62-17 ACC title game win over the Cavaliers last December.
Virginia cornerback Nick Grant said that game was an awakening for the team about what was necessary to take down the Tigers. He believes they'll be better prepared mentally this week for that challenge.
"We know we can make the plays," Grant said. "It's just lining up, knowing what they're doing and just going out there and executing."
That will be difficult with Clemson as close to full strength as Swinney believes they are headed into this all-ACC stretch of games.
Clemson starting cornerback Mario Goodrich is expected back on the field after missing both games due to virus protocol.
Starting defensive tackle Tyler Davis, who sprained a knee against Wake Forest on Sept. 12, should also return to the lineup.
The only key player still not back is defensive end Justin Foster, a projected starter who has missed the first two games and is still awaiting medical clearance to return.
"Healthwise, we pretty much everybody we expected back practicing," Swinney said.
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz from Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.
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Updated September 29, 2020