#ClemsonOrange Blog: Jan. 1
By: Clemson Athletic Communications  
Release:  01/01/2014

Follow the #ClemsonOrange Blog on ClemsonTigers.com all week for daily updates on the Tigers' trip to the Orange Bowl with stories, quotes, photos and videos from Clemson Athletic Communications.

EXCLUSIVE: Seniors have Set New Standard at Clemson

Clemson's seniors practiced for the last time as Tigers on Wednesday afternoon at Barry University with only two days left till they close out their college careers in the Orange Bowl.

Many of the seniors signed with the program before head coach Dabo Swinney had even won a game without the interim tag in front of his title. Now, with a victory over Ohio State, they can become the first senior class in school history to lead the team to consecutive 11-win seasons.

Talk about leaving your mark.

Click HERE to read  the complete article.

PHOTO GALLERY: Baptist Children's Hospital Visit

Tigers Visit Children at Baptist Hospital of Miami

“At the end of the day, it’s more than just football. It’s about building a foundation and helping other people," said senior running back Rod McDowell. This afternoon, the Tigers visited children at Baptist of Miami and "Hot Rod" is right—it's a great pleasure seeing our student-athletes enrich their community. 

Practice Notes

  • Clemson held its final pre-Orange Bowl practice today...it was the also the last practice for 19 seniors.
  • Coach Dabo Swinney noted that it was a bittersweet practice in some ways as it was the final practice for his first recruiting class as head coach of the Tigers. "Back in February of 2009 when we signed most of this senior class, if I had written down what this class was going to accomplish you would have said I was crazy," said Swinney. "I still remember their first practice as Clemson football players back in August of 2009. They have worked hard and improved and are part of a class that has done great things."
  • The senior class includes fifth year seniors Tajh Boyd, Spencer Shuey, Tyler Shatley, Darrell Smith, Quandon Christian, Brandon Thomas and Rod McDowell, all players who signed with Clemson that day in February who are fifth year senior scholarship players...all have gone on to become starters and be a part of three Clemson top 25 teams...additionally, kicker Chandler Catanzaro is a fifth year senior who came to Clemson as a walk-on...he will leave a Clemson's all-time leading scorer and is second in ACC history.
  • Swinney: "When we left the Orange Bowl two years ago after a tough night against West Virginia I told that group it had been 30 years since Clemson had played in the Orange Bowl. I told them it would not take another 30 years. This class has been the nucleus that has brought us back just two years later. We had not been to a BCS Bowl before they got here and now we have been to two. This senior class has represented Clemson so well on the field, in the community and in the classroom."
  • Starting tight end Stanton Seckinger has a sprained ankle and is questionable at this point for Friday's game with Ohio State.
  • Swinney announced after practice that the permanent captains for the year were Spencer Shuey, Quandon Christian, Darius Robinson, Tajh Boyd, Tyler Shatley and Brandon Thomas.
  • One of the visitors to Clemson's practice was new Clemson President James P. Clements...ironically, he was the president of West Virginia two years ago when Clemson played the Mountaineers in the Discover Orange Bowl...he is staying at the same hotel in the same room as he did two years ago, so hopefully that will bring the Tigers some luck this year as he was on the winning side in this game.
  • The weather for Wednesday's practice was the best it has been since the Tigers got here on December 29...bright and sunny and 82 degrees for most of the time.

STORY: Walk-on has Unique Perspective on Orange Bowl Return

By Steven Bradley, IPTAY Media

MIAMI, FL - For at least one member of Clemson’s football team, the 2012 Orange Bowl is a pleasant memory.

Alex Burdette, a redshirt sophomore wide receiver from Pawleys Island, S.C., was on the sideline for that game. It was just the opposite sideline.

Burdette was a member of the West Virginia team that beat the Tigers 70-33. He did not dress out, but traveled with the team to the bowl before transferring to Clemson after the season.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said following bowl practice in Miami this week. “It was my freshman year and being blessed to go to an Orange Bowl, a BCS bowl, was an outstanding opportunity for me as a freshman out of high school.”

Burdette played high school football at Waccamaw High, where he was a teammate of Tigers offensive guard Jerome Maybank, and he’d met Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney during Maybank’s recruitment.

Just months after the 2012 Orange Bowl, Burdette opted to transfer schools, in part to be closer to home, and his relationship with Swinney and tight ends coach Danny Pearman led him to Clemson.

“The opportunity to play for (Swinney) was a dream of mine,” Burdette said. “The way he is personally with all the players, you don’t see that a whole lot around the country. Coach Pearman had been around the school a lot, and it just felt right to come to Clemson.”

An original walk-on who normally wears No. 45 and plays wide receiver, Burdette is wearing No. 4 this week as he impersonates Ohio State strong safety C.J. Barnett on the defensive scout team.

The two teams in the Orange Bowl have the same basic activities on separate nights during the week — a Brazilian steakhouse meal, a beach party, a visit to a children’s hospital.

The one big difference is one team stays at the posh Fontainebleau on Miami Beach, while the other stays at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fla., which is swanky by almost any standards other than those of its counterpart in this case.

Burdette is the only player who has stayed in the Fontainebleau twice in three years, and admitted the hotel isn’t without its potential distractions.

“Coach Swinney said, ‘Y’all want to stay at the Fontainebleau? Here you go,’” he said. “I really like how he’s treated us. I feel like to earn respect, you have to give respect. We went over the rules (upon arrival), and Coach Swinney was very straightforward.

“And I like that. He’s treating us like men. We’re grown-ups, and you’ve got to hold yourself accountable. And so far, everything has been good. Everyone’s sticking together. Everyone is really taking care of business.”

In the 2012 Orange Bowl, Clemson trailed just 21-17 in the second quarter and was on the West Virginia 1-yard line set to take the lead with a touchdown. But a fumble on the goal line was returned 99 yards for a score to reverse the momentum, and the Mountaineers pulled away by scoring 35 unanswered points.

“The score was shocking,” Burdette said. “We all thought we’d win, just like any team in the country. You go into the game thinking you’re going to win. We had a good game plan and we were ready for it, but things just escalated. Darwin Cook stripped the ball from Andre (Ellington) and ran the other way, and it just seemed like they couldn’t get back on their feet after that.”

For Burdette, when he arrived on campus at Clemson, he wasn’t sure how to break the news to his new teammates that he’d been on the opposite sideline that night.

“At first it was odd in the locker room,” Burdette said. “Jerome ratted me out and started telling everybody where I was from and that I transferred in, so I think it was like a week before anybody realized that I had come from West Virginia just three months earlier.

“But that’s just another example of how great the players and the coaches are here. As a coach, it’s tough to let one of those guys in that just did that to you, and they didn’t even think twice about it. All the players just gave me a little stuff at the beginning, but I’m friends with every single one of them and I love them to death. They’re like my brothers now.”

Of course, Burdette is anxious to improve his personal record in the Orange Bowl to 2-0. And as much as Clemson has tried to play down the redemptive possibilities the game provides, Burdette admitted the squad was eager to put a better foot forward.

“I don’t think there’s any way around it — it’s another chance,” Burdette said. “It’s a second chance is what it is, and it’s a blessing to be back here so soon. A win here will make that go away. It will give us our first BCS win.

“Our program is already on the map, but it will really help us getting a big BCS win down here in Miami.”

Class Act: Seniors have Set New Standard at Clemson

By Steven Bradley, IPTAY Media

MIAMI, FL - Clemson’s seniors practiced for the last time as Tigers on Wednesday afternoon at Barry University with only two days left till they close out their college careers in the Orange Bowl.

Many of the seniors signed with the program before head coach Dabo Swinney had even won a game without the interim tag in front of his title. Now, with a victory over Ohio State, they can become the first senior class in school history to lead the team to consecutive 11-win seasons.

Talk about leaving your mark.

Senior running back Rod McDowell, one of seven remaining members of Swinney’s first signing class, which he dubbed “The Dandy Dozen,” said he believed his class would be remembered for more than just winning games.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling, but at the end of the day, it’s about what you left here — your legacy,” McDowell said. “What’s your legacy going to be? And I feel like my legacy is going to be a dude who fought when all odds were down, that he never gave up, that he got his degree.

“It’s more than just football. It’s about building a foundation and helping other people.”

Of course, the 2013 senior class has made plenty of impact on the field, as well.

After suffering through a 6-7 season as redshirt freshmen in 2010, they have won 31 of 38 games over the past three years since, and even with one losing season, have a 37-15 record over their careers, which is the most wins for a senior class at Clemson since 1991.

“It’s a bittersweet time, I think, for all those guys because they’re excited to move on and they’re excited for what’s next, but they’ve enjoyed their time here and they’re proud of what they’ve gotten accomplished here,” Swinney said. “I think they all feel good about the foundation that’s in place, and I don’t have any doubt that they’re all going to go on and be great successes in whatever they do.

“I think they’re looking forward to enjoying the opportunity to be together one last time, but I think the thing that’s heaviest on their minds right now is winning this ball game.”

The 12th-ranked Tigers (10-2) have an opportunity to become the only team in the country to beat a top-10 team in the final BCS standings in both 2012 and 2013 by beating sixth-ranked Ohio State (12-1) on Friday.

Of course, breaking records is nothing new for this bunch.

Tajh Boyd already holds virtually every passing mark at Clemson, and a victory over the Buckeyes would give him 32 wins as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, which would tie him with Rodney Williams (1985-88) for the school record in that regard.

“He’s set the standard, he really has,” Swinney said. “When you look up every record in the book at Clemson, it says Tajh Boyd. And it’s not all about that, it’s also about how he has represented this program, how he has embraced being the face and voice of the program and has taken pride in that.

“If you’re going to be the quarterback at Clemson, everything counts. And Tajh Boyd has done a tremendous job.”

Asked how it felt to only have one game left at Clemson, Boyd said he has had little time to think about it between trying to prepare for the bowl game and also get set for life after college, when he will begin training in earnest for the Senior Bowl, the NFL combine and a professional career.

And Boyd confirmed that going out with a victory is tremendously important to him.

“Most definitely, I think it would end this season on a high note,” Boyd said. “And I’ll leave this university and this campus happy and just remember the times that I had here. It’s an important one from that aspect, as well.”

Place-kicker Chandler Catanzaro wasn’t a member of “The Dandy Dozen,” as he came to Clemson as an original walk-on. He has been the Tigers’ starting kicker since his freshman season, however, and has more than earned his scholarship.

Catanzaro is the school’s all-time leading scorer and second in ACC history with 400 career points.

“Our senior class is something special, I think,” Catanzaro said. “We’ve got some special guys, and we’ve seen the valleys and the peaks of these four years. I think we’ve definitely established a consistency here, and it would be very meaningful for our group to capitalize in this game on the opportunity and send us off with a win. That’d be huge. It would be a testament for all we’ve worked for these four or five years.”

McDowell, meanwhile, has waited his turn to become Clemson’s starting running back, first behind C.J. Spiller, then Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington. This season, he’s accounted for 46.1 percent on the team’s rushing yards and needs 44 more in the Orange Bowl to reach 1,000 for the season.

“Our program, we’re used to winning,” McDowell said. “Coach Swinney, he told us when he got the job that a change was coming. It was time to win, and that’s what we’re doing.

“When you get accustomed to winning games and playing big-time opponents, when it comes time to play in big-time games like the Orange Bowl, you know what the coaches expect from you and what the players expect from themselves.

“Everybody’s on the same page here — and when you’ve got everybody on the same page, you expect to win and play hard.”

VIDEO: Boyd picked Tigers over Buckeyes thanks to McDowell

Did you know Tajh Boyd was almost a Buckeye? With Clemson facing Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl on Friday, the story of Boyd's decision to choose the Tigers came up during a press conference on Monday. And Boyd explained that fellow senior and current running back, Roderick McDowell, played a major role in recruiting him to play in Death Valley. 

Watch McDowell and Boyd tell the story themselves:

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