2009: ACC Atlantic Champions
So, some changes were made to start the 2009 season. The young, energetic Swinney added a guy by the name of Kevin Steele (Alabama’s Associate Head Coach at the time) to coach his Defense.
Swinney did not get along too well with Vic Koenning- there was a lot of tension to say the least- and moved away from hiring him back.
Now, the Tigers returned elite running back C.J. Spiller and were trying to make a run at the ACC Championship for the first time in school history. The season got off to a rocky start and, after five games, Clemson football was staring a 2-3 record right in the face with losses to TCU on a rain-filled afternoon, Georgia Tech, and Maryland.
I remember the pain of the loss to Maryland. Just after losing a close one in the midst of a rain storm to TCU, the Tigers went on the road to Byrd Stadium to take on a 1-3 Terrapin team whose record was better than they were.
After losing that game, I took to every social media outlet everywhere- mainly Facebook and message boards across cyberspace- to find that the rest of Tiger Nation were also disapproving of Dabo Swinney.
I remember a strong faction of the Clemson football faithful wanting to hire Tommy Turbeville and not even let Swinney finish the rest of the 2009 campaign.
Thank goodness the higher-ups didn’t listen to us.
Clemson football won six of their final seven games (the only loss was to in-state rival South Carolina) and won the ACC Atlantic Division. The streak saw the Tigers beat Florida State 40-24, NC State 43-23, and Virginia 34-21 to lock up the Division.
Unfortunately, the fighting C.J. Spillers were not able to defeat the Joshua Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer-led Yellow Jackets down in Tampa, Florida–although the title was vacated later.
Clemson was not able to force a single punt against Georgia Tech that night, but the Tigers were able to send off Spiller and the seniors on a high not as they ended the season with a 21-13 win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl later that December.
Could C.J. Spiller have saved Dabo Swinney’s job by returning for his senior season?
Spiller was the Clemson offense in 2009. He finished the season with 1,212 yards rushing, 503 yards receiving, and 16 total touchdowns. If he doesn’t return, Clemson football does not have the miraculous second half of the season that it did and that very well could have cost Dabo Swinney his job before he ever even got off the ground.
Next: 2010: The Question Mark