In his second full season as the Clemson Tigers head coach, Dabo Swinney finished 6-7 in 2010. Since Tommy Bowden never had a losing season and was fired in the middle of his 10th year, Swinney was under pressure to turn things around in a hurry.
Needless to say, he did. A 10-win season in 2011 was the first step and double-digit victory totals became the norm. That first step was vital but eliminating the random, inexcusable loss was phase two. It took four years, but in 2015 it all came together and the Clemson juggernaut began rolling.
Over the course of the last 10 years, there have been dozens of all-conference performers; so many that it is difficult to pick an all-decade team. But here is my attempt.
QB: Deshaun Watson (2014-16)
RB: Travis Etienne (2017-present)
RB: Wayne Gallman (2014-16)
AP: Jamie Harper (2008-10)
WR: Sammy Watkins (2011-13)
WR: DeAndre Hopkins (2010-12)
WR: Mike Williams (2013-16)
TE: Jordan Leggett (2013-16)
C: Jay Guillermo (2012-16)
OL: Mitch Hyatt (2015-18)
OL: Dalton Freeman (2008-12)
OL: Tremayne Anchrum (2016-19)
OL: Tyrone Crowder (2013-16)
DL: Vic Beasley Jr. (2011-14)
DL: Dexter Lawrence (2016-18)
DL: Christian Wilkins (2015-18)
DL: Clelin Ferrell (2015-18)
LB: Isaiah Simmons (2016-19)
LB: Ben Boulware (2013-16)
LB: Stephone Anthony (2011-14)
CB: Bashaud Breeland (2011-13)
CB: Mackensie Alexander (2014-15)
S: Jayron Kearse (2013-15)
S: Tanner Muse (2015-19)
K: Chandler Catanzaro (2010-13)
P: Will Spiers (2017-Present)
RS: Ray-Ray McCloud (2015-17)
Deepest Position: Defensive Line
It has to be the D-line. Ten different Clemson defensive linemen made first-team All-ACC during the decade meaning stars like Da'Quan Bowers, Grady Jarrett, Carlos Watkins, and Shaq Lawson were left off the list.
Position That Has Made the Biggest Impact in the NFL: Wide Receiver
The NFL is loaded with Clemson receivers. DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams have put up stellar numbers over several seasons. Hunter Renfrow had a great rookie year in Oakland, and fellow slot guy Adam Humphries has been a solid NFL contributor. This year, Tee Higgins is projected to go in the first round, and Justyn Ross should follow in 2021.
Key Statistic: 0
Mackensie Alexander had two great seasons at Clemson and was a third-team All-American in his final season. But he never intercepted a pass in college and only broke up 11. Of course, when you’re that good, opponents will throw in other directions.
Where's Tajh Boyd?
In December 2008, new Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin told Boyd, a commit at the time, to look at other options. Many programs already had quarterbacks committed that late in the game, but Dabo Swinney had an opening at Clemson. The jump to 10-win seasons began when Boyd became the starting quarterback, and it is unlikely that Deshaun Watson (and Trevor Lawrence later) would have chosen Clemson if Boyd had not laid the groundwork.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.