Clemson opens spring football with great expectations

CLEMSON, S.C. (WACH/AP) -- Clemson opened spring practice Wednesday shouldering the load of some high expectations from onlookers who think the Tigers can turn the success of the past two seasons into something more than a conference championship.

Clemson's second straight double-digit win total capped by a thrilling comeback win over LSU in December's Chick-Fil-A-Bowl has some suggesting 2013 could be the Tigers' year.

However, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is tempering those expectations.

"We just focus on the whatever year we're in. I can assure you we weren't sitting around two years ago sahing that we'll wait til 2013. We were trying to win then," said Swinney. "And when you have a guy like (quarterback) Tajh Boyd coming back that's won so many games, that creates enthusiasm. All that's great, but it's a new beginning, it's a fresh start."

Swinney needs to find some offensive playmakers for Boyd to keep on delivering. But, the coach says he has a handle on how the Tigers will replace two of their most productive offensive players in receiver DeAndre Hopkins and tailback Andre Ellington.

Clemson's strong two-year run that includes an Atlantic Coast Conference title in 2011 and an 11-2 record last fall. The team likely wouldn't have done either without All-American Hopkins or two-time 1,000-yard rusher Ellington. Hopkins gave up his senior season for the NFL draft, while Ellington finished his eligibility last fall.

Swinney is confident receiver Sammy Watkins will return to his record-setting form from his freshman season two years back. The coach said he'll likely count on a combination of runners to make up Ellington's yards.