CLEMSON - Here's an idea of how prepared Clemson has to be when fall camp ends and the season begins, nearly Dabo Swinney's entire lifetime in the making.
It's been 40 years since the Tigers faced two ranked teams on the road within the first three games of the season; they opened 1974 at No. 20 Texas A&M and No. 15 N.C. State, losing both but finishing 7-4.
Since Georgia's a top-20 foe for the opener, and it's a virtual lock preseason No. 1 Florida State will still have a number next to its name Sept. 20, this is conceivably one of the toughest starts - if not the very toughest - in school history.
"We need to be able to play on the road this year and be ready to go," Swinney said. "So I thought I would throw them a curve ball."
The last two days of practice, falling right smack in the middle of fall camp, were relocated about 300 yards away from Clemson's cushy artificial turf within the indoor facility. The Tigers worked out at Jervey Meadows, a natural grass field behind Doug Kingsmore Stadium, the school's baseball diamond.
"I didn't even tell the coaches until Sunday," Swinney said. "We were getting a little too comfortable on our nice practice field and perfect indoor facility. We're going to have to be road warriors in September."
Clemson has certainly been road warriors in September, October, November, December and January the past two years. The Tigers are 10-2 away from Death Valley the past two seasons, equaling the program's finest mark since Memorial Stadium opened in 1942.
Neutral affairs against Auburn, LSU and Ohio State (all ranked), and trips to Boston College, Wake Forest, Duke, N.C. State, Syracuse, Maryland and Virginia (all unranked), have gone the Tigers' way.
There's the rub, by the way. Clemson hasn't beaten a ranked opponent on its home field since trouncing No. 11 Virginia Tech 23-3 on Oct. 1, 2011. Since taking over, Swinney's a meager 2-6 when visiting top-25 foes.
So, with the heat index Tuesday skyrocketing to the mid-90s, the Tigers toiled away in the dog days of August, building whatever toughness they could to not wilt in the late-summer scorcher potentially awaiting them Aug. 30 in Athens, Ga.
"Our first couple games are going to be hot," defensive end Shaq Lawson said. "That Georgia game is definitely going to be hot, with a 5:30 start. We'll just continue to push through this heat."
Only 10 days ago when fall camp opened, Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris muttered the weather was too perfect, with cool days in the low 80s. That flipped in full Tuesday, when a pre-practice rainstorm was followed by plenty of sun, making for a humid afternoon.
"It was pretty muggy out here, pretty sticky," linebacker Ben Boulware said. "We've been blessed with pretty good weather the whole camp, so we deserved it today. The coaches want it to be smokin' hot every day."
Although he didn't meet with reporters Tuesday, Swinney said in a release he "loved the intensity . . . and was impressed with the effort" as temperatures soared and sweat glands worked overtime. Yet the Tigers continued to work in full pads, sprinkling in full-contact drills.
"I love the contact, I love the physical nature of this football team," Boulware said. "It's camp, we've been here for two weeks, but that's the point of it, to tire us and see who's physically and mentally ready to perform."
The Tigers scrimmage Wednesday and Saturday.
Left tackle Isaiah Battle returned Tuesday from a twisted ankle and defensive end Shaq Lawson is recovered from a shoulder bruise, while nickel back Travis Blanks (knee) is slowly working his way back into the defense.
Tight ends Stanton Seckinger and Sam Cooper and wide receivers Charone Peake and Daniel Rodriguez were held out due to injury.
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