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Swinney’s Tuesday Press Conference

Swinney’s Tuesday Press Conference

CLEMSON, S.C. — The euphoria of the win over No. 6 Notre Dame has started to wear off for coaches and players, and on Tuesday it was business as usual at Dabo Swinney’s weekly press conference.

Below is an edited transcript of Swinney’s lengthy talk with the local media.

Opening Statement:

“I want to offer our thoughts and prayers to all the people in this state that are really devastated right now. It’s trivial to come in here and talk about football when you have a lot of people trying to figure out where they’re going to sleep. A lot of people lost their lives and there’s a lot of devastation in this state. Our governor and everybody else in our state are working hard to try to get some relief to a lot of people. So I just wanted to offer our prayers to all those people out there who are struggling today. We’re very fortunate and blessed to be able to do what we do and come here and talk about a football game. Hopefully this will give us some perspective and we can do what we can to help those people.”

“Georgia Tech is obviously our next goal as far as what we’re trying to do with our season. Our next goal for the season is to win the division as we get back into ACC play. We’ve got a lot of work to do to achieve that goal and the only way we’re going to get that done is to continue to do what we do and that’s put everything we’ve got into every opponent. Clemson and Georgia Tech is obviously a game that has a lot of history. They’re always a difficult team and as well a coached team as we play each and every year. So for us it’s a critical week of preparation.”

“Offensively for them they ‘re always a challenge for our defense. The big thing for us is our keys. These guys are explosive in a lot of ways. They’ve scored 28 touchdowns and 12 of them in two minutes or less. That’s what they have the ability to do. So we need to be very disciplined. Everybody has to do his job. And they play four downs so we need to be ready. They don’t’ punt a whole lot.”

“Defensively they’re very experienced. I think they have 15 upperclassmen in their two-deep. They kicked out butt last year; it’s just that simple. We were pathetic offensively against this group last year. We really put our defense in a bad situation in this game last year. I think they have a really good secondary that is well coached. So this is a really good group. For us, it’s just doing what we do. I’m proud of our team. We wanted to be 4-0 and that was a goal but four games don’t make a season. Our goals are much bigger than that and we have to take it one day, one game, one week at a time. Today is a huge day for our preparation. We’re looking forward to it. It’s always good to be back in the Valley. Once again, appreciate to our fans and the people that showed up last weekend. It was electric and we need that same type on enthusiasm this weekend as we take on a very tough Georgia Tech team.”

On the benefits of a normal schedule this week:

“It’s good to get some normalcy with our preparation. It’s been a very different start. We’ve really only had one normal week and that was Appalachian State. So it’s been a strange start to the season. Camp was different this year because we had a whole extra week of school. Then we had three days for Louisville, then we’re off 16 days then we played in a hurricane. So it’s been really strange. Now we have eight normal weeks and its great. We sat at home for two Saturdays and had to watch everybody else and I think we’ve managed it well. So hopefully we can now get some rhythm. There’s no question that our best football is ahead of us. The thing I’m the happiest about is we’re 4-0 but we haven’t even come to close to playing our best football. We need to finish better. Our last two games we’ve had double- digit leads in the fourth quarter and let teams back in the game. We need to improve that.”

On Georgia Tech’s record not being indicative of the kind of team they are:

“You better be ready to play Georgia Tech. They lost at Notre Dame. Tech is still really good. They lost to North Carolina who’s probably in the lead in the coastal division right now. They’ve played good teams. We have a ton of respect for their program and who they are. Their record has nothing to do with this game.”

On the possibility of a let down this week:

“If we have a let down, we’re going to get our butts kicked but I haven’t seen that in the fabric of our culture. We’ve been consistent. We haven’t lost a lot of games but when we have, we’ve come back and played well. That was the rhetoric last year when we lost in Tallahassee. We won nine out of ten to finish the season and won the next week. Then we beat South Carolina and the rhetoric was oh the season is over. Well we played the best game of the season against Oklahoma. Hopefully we’ve demonstrated consistency where we’ve had big wins and come back and played well. Our expectation is what I tell you guys all the time. It’s a one game season. Everybody proclaims what’s going to happen after three or four games. You’ve got to play the games. So that’s why I say it’s a season of it’s own every single week. Then at the end of the year you get a consensus. We don’t practice any different, we do exactly we same thing every week whether it’s Notre Dame, Wofford or whoever. That’s our mentality. These are young people and it is human nature and that’s why we put so much emphasis on systematic preparation. We don’t vary from that regardless of any success or failure that we have.”

On Georgia Tech’s unconventional system:

“They do something that very few people do. They run the option. There are not many teams that do that every single play. There are a lot of teams running the triple option but they do it out of the spread. The first play of the Notre Dame game was a triple option for Deshaun Watson. They stretch the field horizontally and vertically and create one-on-one matchups. You have to be incredibly disciplined when you play option football. Paul Johnson came out of the womb coaching option football. He’s got answers. Throughout the course of the game you better have some change ups because if you have one pitch, he’s going to hit it. You better come with a Greg Maddox plan with multiple pitches. They are so well coached and have a great understanding of what they do. He’s been doing it a long time. The turnover margin will be critical and that’s what happened to us last year. When you play option football it’s just a stressful thing. But the positive is we see them every year. We played Wofford already and spent two weeks working option football. Our guys are prepared and we’ve got some veteran guys who’ve seen them already. We have to play well each and every week.”

On the play of Scott Pagano and Christian Wilkins:

“They are both playing a high level for us and we look at those guys as interchangeable. Scott [Pagano] has done a heck of a job. They are a little different and they bring different things to the table. They are both tough and are able to get after the other line of scrimmage.”

On the first-team defense playing the majority of the snaps last week:

“There have been some comments that our guys were tired in the fourth quarter. Being tired has nothing to do with doing your job. It’s one thing if a guy gets beat on a competitive play but it’s another thing when you just absolutely bust. We didn’t play that many plays. 60 something plays are not a lot of plays. We’ve got offensive lineman playing 80 something plays. But we do have to develop some depth and I think we’re in the process of doing that. We played two games and played a lot of people and then we had two games that came down to the last play. You play your best people in critical situations. We have a bunch of guys that right now there’s not a lot of conversation about but by the time we get done with the season, a lot of these guys will have their moments.”

 On D.J. Reader:

“He’s going to graduate in December and there’s no plan to red shirt him. I’m not sure when he’s going to be back.”

On this team’s offensive identity:

“Well we’ve shown we can do whatever we need to do to win. The biggest question mark coming into the season was our offensive line. Our ability to run the football through these first four games has been impressive. That was the one question mark in the beginning of the season. Our backs have gone back-to-back 100+ yards.  None of the five linemen last Saturday night were returning starters and we have a true freshman at left tackle. What we did against Notre Dame in the trenches was excellent. Our quarterback has had back-to-back huge games running the football. To me, the storyline of our team right now is what everybody thought was going to be a weakness has become a strength. The one thing that I am not worried about is our ability to throw and catch the football we just haven’t really had the opportunity yet to demonstrate our full potential. As we go through the season, that will show. Right now, we just haven’t had to get into a whole lot of that. Deshaun [Watson] is doing great and has played well. Notre Dame didn’t hit many things downfield either.”

On the “Beaver Award”:

“We started the Beaver Award a couple of years ago. It is something I got from Pete Carroll. I read his book a couple years ago. We put a lot of emphasis on turnovers. Our video of the day on Tuesday is all about turnovers. When we win the turnover margin, we win 90%+ of the time and when we lose the turnover margin, we lose 40% of the time. Turnover margin is a combination of everything. Think about a beaver. Somebody has got to lay that first log and starting building it. That mentality is what we need. So whoever gets the first interception or causes the first fumble that we recover is the beaver of the week. And whoever it is gets a stuffed animal and carries it around for the week. We actually caused six fumbles against Notre Dame and we only got two of them. It’s something we put emphasis on because turnovers are critical to success in football. It’s the first time in the history of the “Beaver Award” for us that we have given it to a kicker. So we had some fun with that yesterday.”

On Ammon Lakip:

“Really good for him to make that play. He kicked off well in a very difficult situation. And to make a play like that (the force fumble) was a big spark for us.”

On competition at the kicker spot:

“[Greg] Huegel is still the guy. There’s competition everyday and you still have to perform but he hasn’t’ done anything to lose his job. Every week we get an evaluation so there are no lifetime contracts. I don’t have a lifetime contract and neither do any of the players.”

On the play of Kevin Dodd:

“He is a great example to the team and the media that guys develop and get better. He’s a great example for recruits. Not everybody is Sammy Watkins as a freshman. Kevin was a guy that we really took simply on potential. It’s hard to coach size. He had size and athleticism but he really wasn’t a very good football player. He’s had to develop academically too. It’s not that he wasn’t a good player it’s just there were a lot of guys in front of him and he’s had to be patient. I’m proud of Dodd because he never quit believing in himself. He never stopped preparing and learning. That’s what great about college football. You can just see the development and the transformation. Every now and then you get guys that show up and are great. I’m proud of Kevin. He’s been player of the game for us in two of the four games and he’s ACC Defensive Lineman of the week. He’s just scraping the surface of what he can do. He’s now seeing the fruits of his labor and his confidence is just going to grow and grow.”

On the status of Ryan Norton:

“Ryan is better. He is really improving and getting better. He’s still out this week and we’re hopeful he will be back for Boston College. With the amount of time he’s been out and Jay [Guillermo]’s performance, Jay is not going anywhere. Hopefully, Ryan get’s back and that just make us better. Ryan Norton is a really good football player. He’s a starter for a reason and he earned it. Both those guys can play guard too and it just gives us depth moving forward. But I can’t say enough good things about Jay and the job that he’s done. He wasn’t even in spring practice and we were just hoping he would get himself back on the right track and he’s done that.”

On the injury status of the rest of the team:

“They’re in good shape. Austin Bryant was the only one that was a little banged up but he should be able to go this week.”

On the consistency of the team:

“They’re a team that’s going to show up. They won’t quit; they’re going to fight. That fourth quarter (vs. ND) was about as bad as I’ve seen us play defensively in a long time. There were four-yard completions that go for 40 yards. It was the most mental errors we’ve had. So these are very correctable things but to see us overcome and keep fighting was great. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do offensively after four games. We’ve made some big kicks, punts, coverages and returns on special teams. Artavis Scott had 128 yards in kick return the other night. That’s a lot of yards. I like our team. We need to put people away. Hopefully that’s where we can grow up a little bit but to be able to win in the fourth quarter this early in the season is great. We’re 10-1 in our last 11 games that have been decided by seven points or less. That’s what I like. I like the guts. I like the heart. It’s not always going to be perfect but we line up and compete. After four games, we can hang our hat on the fact that our guys are serious about winning. If we can continue to have that mentality, we’re going to get better. We’re not a national championship team yet but we don’t’ have to be on October 6th. We just need to find a way to beat Georgia Tech this weekend and build on the positives that we’ve had through the first four games.”

On the play of Andy Teasdall:

“He’s been clutch. The punt up there at Louisville was great. To be able to punt the ball in those conditions against Notre Dame was impressive. He did a great job hanging that ball up. I’m proud of Andy. How about Jim Brown? Seth Ryan did a fantastic job with the holds. I’m very pleased with those guys. We had four punts inside the 20 yard line.”

On the “Bring Your Own Guts” slogan: 

“It’s just so stupid. I’m really not that interesting, my wife would be the first one to tell you that. But it was the message before the game. We give you scholarships and all this stuff but we can’t give you guts and heart. This is a big boy game and there were a lot of challenges and there’s going to be challenges this week. BYOG just came to my head during the interview.”

On if Mike Williams will play this season:

“I have no idea. He goes back to the doctor Wednesday. He’s doing great. In his mind, he thinks he’s going to play but we don’t’ know. He will be back at some point but we don’t know when that is.”

On if he prepared for Georgia Tech during the bye week:

“No. We work on Georgia Tech all year. Defensively, we work on those principles all year. But specifically working against Georgia Tech during the open date, no we did not.”

On if he prepares for Georgia Tech more than other teams throughout the year:

“Yeah. I think everybody who plays them probably works on Georgia Tech throughout the year. You don’t want to wait until game week to work on them. They are one of our core opponents that we play every year. Their uniqueness makes us prepare for specific things.” 

On the legal situation of Ammon Lakip:

“All the charges were dropped and he’s handled his responsibilities. He’s been a young man that I’ve really never had a problem with. The situation was shocking to be honest with you. I think he’s taken the right path and grown from it and hopefully he can finish his senior year. He will grow from it and hopefully not let it be a stumbling block the rest of his life.”