CLEMSON - Insider news and notes as the Tigers prepare for Coastal Carolina.
Dabo Swinney's Press Conference
Swinney: Thanks for being here today. A really good team win last week. Proud of our kids. Proud of how they hung in there and showed some signs of maturity on the road. That was a good thing. We studied the film and we still have a lot of work to do to become the kind of team and program we want to be. A lot of teachable things to take from the film.
We have to have another great week of preparation to make sure we finish strong. It's all about coaching those attention to details. We had the fewest missed assignments that we have had in a long time. Especially on offense. Pleased with that.
One of the other things I would say too is the scout teams have done a great job for us - on both sides of the ball. This week will be critical again for us in how Coastal plays - they are very multiple on both sides of the ball. The scout team helps us prepare for what we've seen and what we haven't seen.
Also important to note we have to great officials with us at practice every single day - Whitey Jordan and Larry Vanderhagen. They pointed out to me we are the 11th least penalized team in the nation. So my hats off for them. That was one of the things I went to Terry Don on trying to get approved - is that attention to detail. Those guys have been there every day - two-a-days all the way through and I don't think that's a coincidence that we are No. 11 in the country.
Coastal Carolina - it's the most important game of the year. Simple as that. We have a good opportunity to continue to get better. It's homecoming. I love driving in on Hwy 93 seeing the floats the Habitat for Humanity house.
We've got Tigerama Friday night and I think some of our players are even going to perform a skit Friday night there. Looking forward to that. I think it starts at 7:00. This is a good game for our state. If you are going to play one of these opponents - it's good to do it from our state because their program can benefit from it. They are a winning program. Coach Bennett is a friend and has done a great job. He was a graduate assistant under Coach Ford here. I've watched him build that program - they won their conference three years in a row - '04, '05 and '06.
Offensively when you look at them, it's kind of a combination of West Virginia and Florida. They have a veteran offensive line. They do have big play capability. I would call them a little unpredictable. They have a shifty running back.
Defensively, they are multiple and have a lot of pressures. We'll have to be well-prepared and hopefully we will play our best game of the week on Saturday.
You did something yesterday with the team ... you talked to the team about C.J.'s Heisman Trophy campaign. That's not something a coach usually does, is it?
Swinney: Well we always do honor roll on Mondays like we do every Monday. We honor the player of the game. Just so happened we had some guys get national honors. C.J., Kyle Parker and DeAndre. One of the things we talked about with C.J. is that we should take pride with what he does for our football team. Nobody is more all-in than C.J. Spiller. He's been a leader and he's given every ounce of what he's had all year long. He's been the first guy in the locker room to be an encourager. It's not about C.J. winning the Heisman it's about us being a winning football team but we don't have our head in butter here either. These guys need to enjoy playing with a guy like that and learn from a guy like that. He does it right. I don't know what he's going to do the rest of the year but even if he doesn't play he deserves to be in New York to me. One of my points yesterday was to observe how C.J. Spiller works. You want to know what a Heisman Trophy candidate looks like? Watch C.H. Spiller. He's the kind of role model we should all be looking up to.
Is it also true that the national guys are saying if you continue to win that will be the biggest help to C.J. Spiller's campaign?
Swinney: Not really. That's part of it. It's not something we talk about a lot at all. We are seven games into this thing and I don't know anybody in the country that has played better than C.J. Spiller. If we can have the type of team success we need certainly that would help him in that regard. I can promise you this - that's not C.J.'s focus. Not one time has he mentioned to me "Heisman Trophy." He's a special player.
Is it gratifying to know he's still in the conversation at this point in the season? Are you surprised?
Swinney: I'm not surprised at all. In anything you have to have some vision. You have to have a vision on where you want to be and where you want to go - that's in anything you do. If you sit down and try to put your arms around what he's accomplished, it's breath taking. I don't know if there's been anybody in the last 10 years. I don't know. 60-yard play or so every game. It's incredible. Every week to make that kind of impact and he's not one-dimensional. It's receiver, it's rushing, it's returning. When he hits that gear it's over. When he hit the sideline the other night, he looked like Secretariat coming down the stretch. I mean, these guys are on scholarship and it's not even close. If we sent out a highlight reel - unless they got blinders on their opinion will change real quick. After seven games, I'm not surprised at all he's accomplished what he has accomplished. I hope they keep kicking it to him.
You run a lot under emotion ... that seems to be important to you. Over the past month I can only imagine the spectrum you've gone through. Can you illustrate that range after Saturday's win and talk about what kind of rollercoaster ride this has been for you?
Swinney: No question. There is a lot of emotion. I think emotion is a part of the game. I have a very strong faith. Most of y'all know that. God has blessed with me a very strong spiritual foundation that strengthens me. That's at my core. God has blessed with me a great group of guys, an excellent staff - and that's how I deal with it. I hurt- I hate to lose and I'm very very competitive. We work hard at what we do. It's a lot of sacrifice in trying to be successful. When you fall short of the goal it's disheartening. But I've learned all my life to not quit, keep your eyes on the Lord and keep on keeping on. If you are looking for peace and happiness in what people are writing about you or making them happy you aren't going to find it. I have a great family and a wonderful wife and at the end of the day that's what matters most. So, yes, you have a lot of rollercoasters, but that's college football. Sometimes people get all caught up in who you are or the job and you forget to have fun and that's sad. Even the people that win. I try to surround myself with the right people and handle pressure situations.
You are atop of the division and are close and you've been close. Is this the year this program breaks through?
Swinney: I hope so. We'll find out. We got three conference games left. That will all work itself out. We don't sit around and think about years past. Different year. Different team. I can tell you right now we aren't where we want to be as a program. We got things we know we can get better at - starting with turnovers. That's my focus. If we can worry about those things and concentrate on getting better. We weren't very good on first and third down on defense. We gave up 282 yards on 10 plays. That's not good. My focus is let's focus on us.
What have you learned about your players the last couple of weeks?
Swinney: The right stuff. The right ingredients to build a championship team with. I've been on championship teams and I know what I see when I see it. They are a close team. They are an honest group that practices well. But the biggest thing is how they have responded to the good and the bad an they've grown closer. Being in here with the team meeting or after the game or how they respond in a senior meeting and listening to the things they said. Or listening to the Swinney council. We've got a great group of kids. They have bought in to what we are trying to do and they want to be successful.
Do you think C.J. now relishes his role as the go-to guy this year? Do you think he likes the teammates asking him to make plays?
Swinney: His teammates? How about me? I'm constantly like ... uh C.J. we need a play. C.J. can we make a play here? I think he loves being the guy. That's one of the reasons he came back. He wanted to be the guy. He wanted to be the workhorse. He was Robin and he wanted to be Batman. He's really enjoyed his role. He's grown as a leader because of it. He's really done a great job from a leadership standpoint. You should have seen him Saturday- he was down there with the defense and trying to will this team to win.
What is your preference on when you schedule a game like Coastal Carolina? Does this come at a good time?
Swinney: It would have been nice after that first game, after Middle Tennessee. That's more conference setting the schedule. I would say this is coming at a good time for us. We've been battling pretty good. I would say we have all the respect in the world for Coastal. But to not have to turn on the film and look at Miami again ... it's a little bit better. But in college football, you have to prepare every week - especially when going against a winning program and they do enough on both sides of the ball to create a problem.
Will Scotty Cooper and Michael Palmer be back Saturday?
Swinney: I think Cooper will be back. We'll know more on him today. Palmer right now is doubtful. We'll see.
Was Palmer's hit helmet to helmet?
Swinney: It was definitely helmet to helmet. It's helmet exploded off his head. Not that it was intentional.
Kyle mentioned the other day he was stubborn when you recruited him ...
Swinney: I did know he was stubborn but I was hoping to get it out of him. How can he not take a step forward as a player after that? He made some mistakes that would cost us the ballgame and he came back. But he's asserted himself more as a leader since the Maryland game. He's ramped it up emotionally. He's really invested himself much more. He's studied. He was on point the other night- the biggest thing with him he's had a couple of ball games where he thinks he can make every play. Sometimes bad things happen ... you know ... let's live for another day. Let's don't pile on with a mistake. He'll learn from that. He's had success. He's had failure and he continues to get better. He files it all away and he'll continue to get better. He's a good player and he's just getting better and better. For him to come back and make the play to Jacoby, which was essentially the same play he needed to make against TCU ... I think he's really moving in the right direction.
How did the uniform combination (Coastal in all-black, Clemson in all-orange) come about?
Swinney: Coach Bennett actually emailed me wanting permission for us to wear all-black. I said it's good to me. We'll wear all orange on Halloween but I told him to leave the tricks at home. I can't wait to go trick-or-treating Saturday night. Not sure what all they are going to be yet. Not sure what I'm going to be yet. I'm more of a Christmas guy. I get into Christmas big time. It's good. Works out good for me because I will get to get out and get my pillow case with candy.
What are your thoughts on DeAndre McDaniel?
Swinney: Well, he was a pain in the butt to recruit but I told him the other day I'm sure glad we hung in there with him going all the way down to Tallahassee. Really proud of DeAndre. Great player. I was afraid to say it you guys, but I said it to the staff, because you have two safeties going into the NFL ... but you know what we may be better at safety this year than last year. He's a big time hitter. When he gets his hands on the ball he catches it. He's got great instincts but sometimes he'll get a little too instinctive. He's coachable and a really really special player.
Why was he hard to recruit?
Swinney: Can't comment. [laughing] He's overcome a lot in his life. And he's got a lot of strong women in his life- you know he was raised by his grandmother and she is a great lady.
Did you ever think about trying him as a wide receiver?
Swinney: No. He had his chance to play offense but he didn't want any part of it. I do owe him an offensive play. I made a promise to all the defensive guys that if they got a pick six or a fumble recovery for a touchdown that I'd give them an offensive play.
You mentioned the "issues." What are they?
Swinney: Turnovers. We got to eliminate turnovers. You don't beat many good teams when you have four scoring opportunities and don't score. We get down there and we don't score a field goal. We had another one where we had good field position and then we had penalty, penalty, penalty and then we had third-and-40. We had the fumble other way for six. To get zero points on those four opportunties- we have to eliminate those critical errors. Defensively - we had a lot of missed alignments - they were trying to hide their right tackle a little bit and did some unbalanced stuff which created some gap control issues. And then big plays. 282 yards on 10 plays. In the other 51 they had the other 100-something yards. You don't win many games that way. It was a 15-16 round slugfest. That's what we have to focus on.
What does it mean to have your tight ends stepping up as much as they have the last three weeks?
Swinney: It's what we expected coming into the season. That's why you play to our strength because we felt like that position was a real strength for us. Michael has caught more balls than any other tight end since the 1980's. They are a big part of what we do. No doubt about it. We've got some really talented wide outs, but they are inexperienced and we are still trying to groom those guys. So it's been good to see the development of Michael. He's not the most talented- but has great experience and understands how to play. He's Tyler Grisham. And then a young guy like Dwayne Allen and Chad Diehl - we love having them on the field.
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