CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney was rattling off a list of the Texas A&M football players who, for one reason or another, give the Clemson football coach cause for concern. Suddenly, he paused for a moment.
Swinney had already mentioned Daylon Mack, the Aggies' 6-1, 320-pound senior defensive lineman, dubbing him "an earth mover." He had also referenced 6-4, 305-pound Kingsley Keke, another defensive lineman, along with 6-3, 255-pound Landis Durham, a monster up front who led the SEC in sacks a season ago.
But when Swinney got to Texas A&M's secondary, the coach realized there were simply too many talented players to name.
And so he lumped the Aggies' cornerbacks and safeties together, doling out some of the highest praise an opponent will hear from him all season.
"I think their safeties are as good as we're probably going to see," Swinney began. "These are really, really talented players at safety."
Then he continued:
"I'd say all four of their starters in the secondary are probably going to play in the NFL. Pretty easy to see that."
That's less-than-ideal news for Clemson.
As has been documented several times over the course of the summer, Clemson's secondary might be considered its weakest link. The secondary is thin — behind Trayvon Mullen, A.J. Terrell and Mark Fields at cornerback, the dropoff in experience is palpable, which presents an issue when it comes to preparing the Clemson offense for what it might see in a game like this one with a secondary like A&M's.
In practice, Clemson quarterbacks Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence have been throwing balls to a wildly talented group of wide receivers against a group of defensive backs who are talented but don't have the experience or numbers that the Aggies have.
Texas A&M has 14 returners back in its secondary. First-year coach Jimbo Fisher has so many options at his disposal, he is the envy of other coaches. And he has former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko helping him make sense of it all.
"(Elko) does a great job schematically, especially coaching those guys up in the secondary," Swinney said. "They do as good a job as anybody at route reading and diagnosing the play, reading the quarterback."
Of course, Clemson is loaded at wide receiver. So while Texas A&M's secondary is the best the Tigers will see, Clemson's wide receivers very well might be the best the Aggies will face this season.
Should Clemson rise to the occasion against this secondary, it would make an emphatic statement in backing up the notion that this is the best team Swinney has ever had.
One way or another, the Tigers are about to get some valuable feedback a week after they crushed Furman for some not-as-constructive game film to study.
“As coaches we expect the biggest jump from game one to game two with all the learning that takes place," Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. "I saw a little bit of (Texas A&M's) game (in Week 1) and the first thing that popped out is they’re very athletic and they have great speed and they’re very long. I looked at their defensive roster depth chart and both corners are 6-2. They’ve got great length."
The biggest test for Clemson's receivers comes Saturday.