HEAD COACHES PRESS CONFERENCE
The last media availability before the game took place in the morning at the media hotel. First up was Tiger head coach Dabo Swinney, who gave an overall view of the season.
"I think that is probably the thing I am most proud of...our consistency. To me, I think to be great at anything, you have to be very consistent for a long period of time. And so that's been one of our number-one goals since I got the job...to build a consistent program.
"But this year, it has been very gratifying. Because, obviously, there was a lot written all spring, all summer about who wasn't here anymore and very little written about who was here. And I love the mindset of our team, that we have a program and a team where guys have learned to think the right way. They don't get caught up in the things that people will write about."
After Swinney's availability, he joined Alabama head coach Nick Saban for pictures with the Sugar Bowl trophy.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
After ringing in the new year tonight, the Tigers will wake up for the first time in 2018, preparing for their first Sugar Bowl appearance in 59 years. It is also Clemson's first game in the Superdome since 1981, the season of the Tigers' first national title. Clemson faced Tulane on Sept. 12, 1981, a 13-5 Tiger victory.
Jeff Davis, Clemson's director of player relations & external affairs, played linebacker in that game. On Monday night, his sons, linebackers J.D. and Judah, will don Tiger jerseys 35 years later as Clemson matches up against the Crimson Tide.
We wish safe travels to the thousands of Clemson fans making the trek to NOLA. CU in the Superdome!
MEDIA DAY IN THE SUPERDOME
Clemson walked into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time in the morning to meet with the media for 45 minutes. There were media members from all the major outlets, including ESPN's Tim Tebow, who head coach Dabo Swinney spoke with after the media session concluded.
During Media Day, Swinney reminisced about being in the Superdome as a player.
"In 1989, I was a player at Alabama, and I was here for the Alabama-Miami (Fla.) game as a freshman. That was an unbelievable experience. And then in my senior year in 1992, we were back here. It was a magical week, season, everything."
At first, the players stayed in their assigned locations, but shortly thereafter, chaos (in a good way) reigned. Players, including Milan Richard, Shadell Bell, D.J. Greenlee and many more, walked around to interview some of their teammates. Jabril Robinson even led a group huddle during Media Day.
Tiger players also met and interacted with Jarrius Robertson, a young, vibrant fan who has dealt with a chronic liver disease his entire life.
FOR THE KIDS
First-year freshmen and some other veteran players made their way to the Children's Hospital, where they met many excited youngsters. D.J. Greenlee, Dorian O'Daniel, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence as well as head coach Dabo Swinney were some of the dozens of team members who interacted with children, helping with arts & crafts and playing Cornhole among other activities while a band played jazz music.
FINAL PRE-BOWL PRACTICE
The Tigers held their final practice before the Sugar Bowl during the afternoon. For the third-straight day, Clemson practiced at Yulman Stadium on Tulane's campus.
Head coach Dabo Swinney chatted with Archie Manning and his son, Cooper, before practice. The elder Manning is a native of New Orleans and raised his sons, including Peyton and Eli, in the Crescent City. Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe were also at practice, getting last-minute nuggets for their telecast.
During practice, former Tiger great and Saints' running back C.J. Spiller arrived to the practice site. Spiller was a popular figure on the sideline and even got a hug from David Saville.
OFFENSIVE PRESS CONFERENCE
It was the offense's turn to meet with the media in the morning at the media hotel. Co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott along with Kelly Bryant, Travis Etienne, Mitch Hyatt and Hunter Renfrow met with the media for 40 minutes. They all had high praise for the Alabama defense, which leads the nation in points per game allowed.
It was the first opportunity for the Louisiana media to interview Travis Etienne, a native of Jennings, La. The freshman running back took all kinds of questions about his return to the Pelican State, including being a tour guide of sorts.
“It is fun, but sometimes you don’t know the answer to everything," said Etienne. "So, I just have my phone at my side and do some quick research. But for the most part, it’s been a fun experience for me showing them around."
ANOTHER TULANE PRACTICE
Just like Thursday, Clemson practiced for over two hours at Tulane's Yulman Stadium. The big differences from Thursday were the sunny skies and temperatures that felt at least 20 degrees warmer.
Former Tiger running back Chad Jasmin was at practice. The Louisiana native played a big part in the late-season run during 2003, Dabo Swinney's first season as an assistant coach at Clemson.
DEFENSE IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables and four Tiger defenders (Ryan Carter, Clelin Ferrell, Dorian O'Daniel, Christian Wilkins) were on hand at the media hotel for the defensive press conference. Marty Smith and ESPN were live from the hotel as well.
"The team is really excited," said O'Daniel. "We haven’t been to New Orleans before, so it’s a lot to take in. We're really enjoying the time with teammates, especially me, being this is my last one, embracing the time in between, the relationships I have with my teammates and not taking any of that for granted. It’s definitely a good experience that I’ll be able to look back on and cherish.”
PRACTICE AT TULANE
The Tigers held the first of their three practices in New Orleans in the early afternoon at Tulane's Yulman Stadium. The stadium, which somewhat resembles Boston College's Alumni Stadium, hosted Clemson's 17-period practice that lasted over two hours with temperatures in the low 40s.
One staff member who hasn't received a lot of attention is J.P. Losman, who experienced a homecoming of sorts. The intern starred at quarterback for the Green Wave from 2000-03, including two years (2002,03) as the starter, and was a first-round draft pick of the Bills in 2004. The California native was a member of four NFL franchises for eight total seasons.
LAST PRACTICE IN CLEMSON
Just five days away from kickoff in the Sugar Bowl, the Tigers held their final practice in Clemson before boarding buses to GSP airport. The practice lasted just over an hour in Memorial Stadium on a chilly morning. Former Clemson quarterback great Woodrow Dantzler was on hand, 16 years after playing his final game in a Tiger uniform and becoming the first player in Division I history with 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in one season (2001).
OFF TO NOLA
With some diehard Clemson fans at Allen N. Reeves Football Complex, the Tigers were all smiles as they boarded nine buses for the hour-long drive to GSP airport. Tiger players, coaches, staff and families then boarded two planes for the short flight from Greenville to New Orleans. Just over an hour later, the Tigers arrived.
BIG EASY ARRIVAL
A Louisiana welcome greeted the Tigers at the New Orleans airport with a small jazz band and dancing lady. Jim Douglas, husband of head coach Dabo Swinney's administrative assistant, Beth Douglas, joined in the dancing despite the drizzle and cold temperatures.
Before leaving the airport, Swinney, Kelly Bryant and Christian Wilkins met with the media for a brief interview session.
“I’m pretty business as usual for this trip, but I’m going to find time to try and enjoy some things," said Wilkins, a native of Springfield, Mass. "I didn’t grow up traveling much, so I always enjoy it when I can travel, seeing a different part of the country, seeing a different state that I’ve never been to."
After checking in to the team hotel just a mile from the Superdome, coaches and staff gathered for a meeting to set the tone for the "business trip." Then, the players joined the coaches and staff for a full-team meeting, laying the groundwork for the week ahead.