CLEMSON — On Monday, five days before Clemson's home game against Charlotte, coach Dabo Swinney received a text message from 49ers coach Will Healy. His 4-year-old had been watching Tigers hype videos all week, Healy said. He had a problem on his hands.
"I told him just, 'keep feeding them hype videos,'" Swinney said, grinning. "He's raising him right."
The videos will become real life this weekend for Charlotte, which has a titanic task on its hands. Clemson is a 42-point favorite, and for good reason. The Tigers have outscored their three opponents this season by a combined score of 117-30.
The 49ers, meanwhile, are a Conference USA program with a loss to Appalachian State already on its resume.
That doesn't mean the Tigers are taking the 49ers — and their first-year coach — lightly.
"You can just tell that they've got a good spirit to their team," Swinney said. "He's already created a good vibe with the group."
Swinney said he's looking forward to meeting Healy, whom he first spoke to over the phone a few years ago when Healy was running Austin Peay. Healy ran some coaching candidates by Swinney, starting a relationship that continued when Healy took over at Charlotte before this season.
Swinney said he expects big things from Healy in the future, but this week the 49ers are in Clemson's path. The Tigers intend to leave no doubt in victory, as has been their goal all season.
"They want to play and when they walk off the field, they don't want to have a lot of discussion about it," Swinney said of his players.
Ahead of schedule
Coaches often temper expectations early in the season, and Swinney himself has noted that this year's Tigers are still a work in progress.
But Swinney also said this week he believes his team is further along through three games than it was last season.
"There's no question," he said. "It's not even close, to be honest with you."
The Tigers, for what it's worth, played Furman, Texas A&M and Georgia Southern in their first three games last season. This season they've played three Power 5 schools — Georgia Tech, Texas A&M and Syracuse.
"We were giving up plays. We were very inconsistent defensively, and offensively I just didn't think we quite had that killer instinct yet," Swinney said of last season.
Things are different now. Clemson returns its stars at the offensive skill positions, and its defense — which many predicted to be the team's weak spot — has been stout. The Tigers rank 10th among FBS programs in red zone defense.
Linebacker James Skalski said defensive coordinator Brent Venables' game plans have been impressive so far this season.
"That's why I came here, honestly, to play for a guy like that who's literally a mastermind," Skalski said.
Swinney's 150th game
Swinney first arrived at Clemson in 2003, a charismatic wide receivers coach who'd spent his whole coaching career at Alabama, the program for which he played.
He took over the Tigers in the middle of the 2008 season and has since built the team into a powerhouse. Saturday, Swinney's legacy at Clemson will be recognized, as it will mark his 150th game as the team's head coach.
Swinney said the most important thing he's learned during his tenure is time management.
"There's 24 hours in a day. You need 25," Swinney said. "So just being organized and detailed and efficient in that area, I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges for any head coach. When you first get a job, there's just so much to do."
It's a reality Healy has dealt with this season. Saturday, for the first time, he'll get an up-close look at the work of a coach he has long admired.
Clemson 63, Charlotte 6