Dabo Swinney, head coach of the Clemson Tigers, played a role as a wide receiver on the 1992 Alabama national championship team. That team was the last symbol of pride for the Crimson Tide until 2009, when Nick Saban brought a starving Alabama fanbase the first national title under his guidance, kicking off the dynasty to come.
Now, Swinney is on the verge of dethroning the man in charge of his alma mater’s salvation.
When his Tiger’s knocked off the Tide in Monday’s National Championship Game, they won the program’s second title in three years, both over Saban’s kings of college football. It could have very easily been three out of four, but in 2015 they lost a shootout to the same Crimson Tide.
But akin to Rocky Balboa they kept coming back, and after Monday’s blowout, it looks like they are oh so close to becoming the new premier program in major college football.
Not only do they already have two of the last three national crowns, but they look to have a coach who likely isn’t going anywhere in the near future and is on pace to be one of the all-time greats. Pair that with the fact that they now have a star quarterback in Trevor Lawrence who by rule has to stay in college for two more years. Nobody in the ACC will be close to their level at least until Lawrence leaves to be a top five pick in the NFL Draft, barring injury.
Just for next year, the Tigers will return most of their playmakers on offense, including running back Travis Etienne and receiver Justyn Ross, who had a breakout performance in the title game.
Defensively, Clemson will lose some key starters, like defensive linemen Christian Wilkins – who was the captain of the defense – and Dexter Lawrence. But it doesn’t matter. Clemson is a factory of defensive studs and it likely won’t stop because of coordinator Brent Venables.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention they have the best defensive coordinator in the country. He doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon either. Venables is more than qualified to be a head coach at a majority of the schools in the nation, but he has publicly voiced his desire to remain Clemson’s defensive coordinator. He prefers to be the second highest paid assistant coach in the country – raking in $2.2 million a year – for college football’s next dynasty.
This isn’t necessarily to say that Alabama’s is dead. That’s what makes this run of ‘Bama-Clemson postseason games so unique. We’re seeing the beginning of one dynasty in the middle of another.
But now the programs are on the same level, a level no coach outside of Nick Saban has been in a decade.