No. 1 Clemson opens 2019 season with Georgia Tech

Field Level Media

August 26, 2019 at 10:47 pm.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows what to expect from his high-powered offense in the Tigers’ season opener Thursday night against Georgia Tech.

He just wishes he had a better idea of what to expect from the Yellow Jackets.

“To be quite honest with you, we don’t know a whole lot about Georgia Tech,” said Swinney, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll for the first time in program history. “Openers are really tough. They always are tough because we have more time to prepare for this one game than any game.

“We’ve also got a lot of new pieces. We’ve got a little over 40 people on the team that were not on the team last year, so we’ve got a lot of guys that are getting their first experience.”

Fortunately for Swinney, the players who possess experience are the key pieces that propelled the Tigers to a 15-0 record and their second national championship in three seasons in January.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who became the first freshman to lead his team to a national title since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985, is back to direct an offense that is deep and loaded with talent.

Lawrence, who passed for 30 touchdowns and was intercepted only four times last season, has 1,658-yard rusher Travis Etienne behind him and a trio of 6-foot-4 receivers to his sides, led by Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins.

The defense must rebuild after losing seven players, including five who were taken in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, but capable replacements abound.

The game will be the ACC Network’s first live football broadcast as well as the debut of Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins, who guided Temple to a 15-10 record in two seasons before leaving to replace Paul Johnson.

Instead of releasing a two-deep depth chart, Collins released an “Above the Line” chart. Instead of naming starters and backups, Collins lists all the players who are “ready to play and can see game action.”

As a result, the team has not officially named a starting quarterback, although sophomore Lucas Johnson is expected to be the starter.

Collins may be coaching his first game at Tech, but he’s well aware of the atmosphere his team will stroll into Thursday night. To that end, the Yellow Jackets went through a loud practice on Monday.

“We had all the crowd noise going, closed all the doors to the indoor and we cranked the sound system up to 11 to get it as loud as humanly possible for the offense so they would understand the environment we’re going into,” Collins said. “We understand what a great job they’ve done with players and coaches and recruiting and all those things, but we have to worry about us.

“Once we put the ball down and there’s a really good team across from us, we’ll get an even better sense of who we are.”