Clemson earned six straight College Football Playoff berths from 2015-2020, but hasn't been back since. In a bid to end that drought, Dabo Swinney hired TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley -- fresh off leading the Horned Frogs to the CFP title game -- to arm the team with more offensive firepower in 2023. Just over seven months into the job, Riley is already inspiring confidence in the Clemson locker room, most notably in former five-star quarterback Cade Klubnik.
"It's been incredible," Klubnik said on the ACC Network set. "I would say the biggest thing I love from [Riley] that just spreads out among our team is confidence. There's just kind of an energy where it's like 'let's go kick some butt.' It doesn't matter what anybody is going to say or if they even know what the play is. … It's a confidence that we are not scared, and that we are ready to go and attack. That is what I love about him, the confidence he brings."
At TCU, Riley oversaw a Horned Frogs offense that finished 2022 in the top 10 nationally in scoring, featuring the Heisman runner-up in quarterback Max Duggan. TCU led the nation in plays of 50 yards or more, while the Tigers were tied for 75th.
"The biggest thing I have seen [in Garrett] is confidence," Swinney said on the ACC Network Thursday at ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte . "He's a very confident guy. There is a lot of enthusiasm that is contagious from that. I've said it already, it's the same house [at Clemson]. We just cleaned up closets and put some new flooring in with a nice paint job and a new roof. It's exciting, a little spring cleaning, if you will ... Garrett is super fired up to get out there in Death Valley and get this thing started for real."
Unlocking Klubnik's massive potential will be the key to turning around Clemson's offense. He spent most of his first year behind current Oregon State quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei before he seized the reins of the offense in the first quarter of last year's ACC Championship Game. He led Clemson to a 39-10 victory over North Carolina, completing 83% of his passes and scoring two touchdowns -- one passing and one rushing -- en route to being named the game's MVP.
His only start last year came in Clemson's Orange Bowl loss to Tennessee, where Klubnik threw for 320 yards but was intercepted twice. But Swinney believes success is on deck for Klubnik if he stays true to himself and follows Riley's lead.
"He needs to be the same person he's been his whole life," Swinney added on the ACC Network set. "He's a winner. All consistent winners have certain characteristics and he embodies all of them. He just needs to continue to be who he's been. He's had great experience and has a great background. He's a natural leader with unbelievable energy. He's put in the work. You just lean on the work and the experience he gained last year. If he plays within the system, it's going to work."
Clemson begins its 2023 season with ACC competition out of the gate when the Tigers visit Duke on Monday, Sept. 4.