CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney sat down with his players Monday afternoon for a team meeting, but instead of focusing only on football, he wanted to address another major topic, too.
As Hurricane Florence continues to make its way toward the East Coast with the potential to cause catastrophic damage, the Clemson football coach wants to make two things clear:
To any of his players who have family in affected areas, Clemson is going to do everything it can to help them, while still staying in bounds with NCAA rules.
To any football teams nearby who cannot practice at home because of evacuations, Clemson is "more than willing" to help them practice at the Tigers' facilities, as The Citadel did this time last year when Hurricane Irma blasted Charleston.
Clemson officials have no word yet on their plans for Saturday and if the storm will affect the No. 2 Tigers' matchup with Georgia Southern, but for now, Swinney at least wants to play his part in helping where he can.
"We talked about it (Monday), we kind of went around the room (and discussed) who could be impacted to make sure they all know that we're here to help — that there are some things that we can do if people have to be evacuated and so forth," Swinney said. "We had it happen last year with (cornerback) Trayvon (Mullen). His family came up here (from Florida) and stayed. We were able to help just making sure that they know the resources that are available to them and to communicate with us on what their needs are.
"That's the biggest thing, just communicating and making sure they know."
Swinney went on to explain that NCAA rules allowed Mullen's family to come up from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last season and stay with defensive coordinator Brent Venables while Irma badgered the Florida coast.
Swinney was also on board with the possibility of Charleston Southern practicing at Clemson this week before the Buccaneers sent the entire team home to evacuate. Their matchup with The Citadel scheduled for Saturday has been postponed.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, who is from James Island, said the storm has been on the back of his mind this week, given that he still has family in the Lowcountry.
"You've got to be sensitive to those guys that may have family members back home because at the end of the day, they're people first," Elliott said. "A lot of times we make them out to be gladiators because of what they do on the field, but they’re people first. And I think that’s what coach Swinney has done an unbelievable job with this program is making sure that everybody is mindful with that."
Clemson has 63 players on its roster from either the Carolinas or Virginia. Several have expressed some sort of concern this week.
Clelin Ferrell, a defensive end from Virginia, checked in with his family earlier this week, as did wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who hails from Myrtle Beach. To Clemson's advantage, the Tigers are no strangers to playing in Hurricane conditions, as the Notre Dame game of 2015 attests.
"They're probably going to make a game-time decision," Renfrow said of his family's plan. "They're smart."
Dabo and Georgia Southern
Clemson and Georgia Southern might be complete strangers on the football field, having never played each other before, but Swinney knows a thing or two about the campus of his opponent this week — and he likes it.
Back when Swinney was an assistant at Alabama, his recruiting area covered much Georgia, which meant he took a trip or two to Statesboro, Ga., where the university is. He still remembers those trips fondly some 20 years later.
"That would be one of the places I would love to stay. I’d stay in Statesboro, I’d go jog the campus at Georgia Southern, they had like a little lake there and I’d use to run around there and be like, ‘Man, what a cool football town this is.’ You could just feel the tradition of Georgia Southern when you were in that town," he said "There was a little barbecue, I can't remember what the name of it was , but ... I’d go to that little BBQ joint and eat and I’d always try to make a point of staying in Statesboro at least one of my nights out traveling. Really cool place, awesome school and a lot of tradition."