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October 13, 2009

Swinney: 'Better days ahead for Clemson'

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Opening Statement: "Been a productive open date for us. Real pleased with how the guys have worked. We had a good break with fall break. That has been real good for us because of additional meeting and team time. We should be as healthy as we've been since prior to the first game. I know all the guys are excited about getting back after it. These guys are anxious to play again. The open date came at a great time for us.

"We've really spent a lot of time focusing on attention to detail, what we've done good and bad and really trying to correct a lot of things. The kids have really practiced well with good spirit. If we'll play like we've practiced, we'll have a better second half of the season.

"One of the things we've talked about - again - learning how to win. The first way you do that is you don't beat yourself. I think from that standpoint we're on the same page. Everyone is just excited about getting back out there and playing.

"It's a great opportunity for us this week in our division . Our division is wide open. It's a big opportunity for our football team to hold court at home. We've got to really do a good job with that. Offensively, they're definitely the best we've played. Riley Skinner has had 37 starts, so he's got a lot of poise. There's a lot of little nuances to his game that have come from experience and success. He really understands what he's doing. His greatest attribute is that he makes first downs. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He's an excellent scrambler. He has been very successful scrambling and running. He scrambles around and finds a guy. That's what makes him very dangerous.

"They do a great job with a lot of misdirection in their offense. They're extremely athletic up front. They're all veterans. They've all been red-shirted. They've got a bunch of starts under their belts. They do a good job of executing. They will take shots. They make plays. Good running backs, both veteran guys. They're very well-coached.

"They do a great job of executing their stems and movement. It can create some issues for you. They do an excellent job of gap control. They have a lot of first year starters on defense but again they've all played a ton of football. They red-shirt just about everybody there. We'll have to do an excellent job executing.

"I think this is going to be a big game for Kyle Parker. He'll have to be a really good decision maker. We just can't beat ourselves. Special teams, it's all about field position with these guys. Field position will be critical.

Question: There are internet stories filling up about you and Billy getting into it with one another, your overriding his calls. Is there any truth to that?

Dabo: "There's nothing further from the truth. That's why you shouldn't listen to the Internet. I hired Billy to be the offensive coordinator. I have a lot of confidence in Billy. I've probably overridden three calls in five ballgames. I've got a great relationship with Billy.

"I've had people call me and talk about some fight on our practice field, all this craziness. I probably picked a bad day to invite people (marching band) to practice. Sometimes there comes a time where you need to motivate or challenge your coaches. We lost a ballgame up there at Maryland. I'm not real happy about it. Last Wednesday it's an open date, and people want to write about me and Billy. What about me and Pearman and Powell? I got a piece of them too. There are things that happen on the practice field - it's football. I've got all the respect in the world for all my coaches. They've done a great job. One of the things I like about Billy is that he's got some fire in him.

"It was one of those days where nobody was in a good humor. And there was nothing to be happy about it. I don't know where that comes from. I can assure you, I don't override play calls. I manage the game. The game plan is done. We work all week on a game plan. There's a call sheet. You're not just randomly calling plays on game day. I don't know how else to answer that other than it's just way far from accurate. There's a lot of things that get said that just aren't anywhere close to reality."

Question: Are you surprised that you've only overridden three calls?

Dabo: "I hire people to do their jobs. And I say three. It may have been three. I may have been five. It may have been one. I like to say that I make all the bad calls. My job is to give these coaches everything they need to be successful. I see things from time to time and make suggestions, but I'm not calling plays. I did a lot more of that last year, but that's not where we are right now. I've got an offensive and defensive coordinator and they do their jobs."

Question: Talk about addressing execution in practice.

Dabo: "We don't go to the next play unless it's done right. As opposed to trying to get our reps in, let's get it right. I'd rather get less reps in and get it right. If we will take it to the game field and play like we've practiced - because we've had excellent energy - we will have a chance to have a successful season."

Question: Thomas Austin said you were going to chew out everyone on offense one day last week and then the next day everyone on defense.

Dabo: "I don't know if chew out is the right word. Encourage. I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew the sense of urgency that we needed to work with. It's not OK for us to lose ballgames. Let's get better. Let's be accountable. That was the mentality. That's my job to make sure we have the right kind of environment. Again, we had great practice."

Question: Is it going to be enough to do things better or do you have to make some personnel changes?

Dabo: "We've got a good system. We have to execute better on both sides of the ball. In critical situations, it's very important. We will have a few tweaks in there, but guys have to make plays and we have to give them opportunities to make plays."

Question: Talk about some of the adjusting on the offensive line.

Dabo: "Thomas snaps everyday for us, but I think we'll keep him where he is. Dalton is the guy that is kind of moving up. Hopefully he can continue to do a good job. He's got a good demeanor to him. He has really come on for us. Hopefully that can give us some more flexibility with what we can do with Mason."

Question: Do you say must-win with your players? Do you use that term?

Dabo: "Must focus on execution. Must focus on preparing to win. That's what our focus needs to be on. Each player has to focus on what he has to do to prepare themselves. It's the next play, the next practice. Our mentality here is not to worry about the scoreboard. These guys want to win. Nobody wants to win more than these kids. It's the details that they're involved in with execution."

Question: Do you get the feeling that if this team could get one of these close margins to come your way, you'd have some carryover, finally?

Dabo: "We're going to get there. We're going to be very successful here. I'm in it for the long haul here. I'm just telling ya. We're building this program the right way. I don't have any doubts about that at all. I've counseled with people that I trust. We're doing the right things. Success is going to come our way. We've made a lot of progress. We're going to change the culture here one day at a time. We're not happy with where we are from a record standpoint but we're going to get it right. I don't have any doubts."

Question: How much debate is there on personnel groupings with your offensive staff? Are you guys on the same page?

Dabo: "Our offensive staff is on the same page. We work well together. We've gone to work with a great plan each week. Billy has done a great job of coordinating. Our staff is tremendously close. They all want to win. They're all good people, good husbands. We're all on the same page."

Question: You've said that you have to coach better several times this season. You've addressed things with your players, so how do you address this issue with your coaches?

Dabo: "We have staff meetings. You watch film together. You see a guy making the same mistake over and over, it's my job to hold everybody accountable. You look at what went wrong. You put your best foot forward. From time to time you have to challenge people. We have a lot of men who take a lot of pride in their jobs. They all want to be the best. We have very candid discussions and great relationships here, as good as I've ever been around."

Question: With as much talent as you have on offense, do you think one or two sustained drives will turn this offnse around?

Dabo: "I hope so. That would be great. It's reality. Nobody wants to hear it but two or three plays and we're sitting here and it's a different circumstance. Yet we'd still have the same issues. I can think of three plays I can think of right now and we're probably 4-1, and the perception is different, but we've still got the same problems. That's what losing does. It magnifies things. But yes, we need to sustain some drives. I think getting better on first down is critical. From time to time we stub our toe a little bit. But that's no excuse."

Question: You've been here for several of these Wake Forest games, it always seems like there is an extra level of angst leading up to the game. Is there any truth to that?

Dabo: "Not with me. You sit in this seat, there's a lot of angst every week. It doesn't matter who we're playing. I assure you. Wake has done a really good job. They've been a difficult team for a lot of teams. We beat them up there in 2006 in a close game and Gaines Adams made that big field goal play. It was a tight game we won. They're a team that usually doesn't beat themselves. They've done a tremendous job of building that program."

Question:Generally speaking with regard to attention to detail, how are they compared to your team?

Dabo: "Offensively they're further ahead than we are. Their QB has 37 career starts. Their offensive line has a ton of starts across the board. They're a real veteran group. They've got more experience than us at wideout. They're further along. They've got that thing greased up pretty good. They do a super job."

Question: How would you assess the o-line's play through five games?

Dabo: "Far from dominant but we're better. If we don't have Hairston in there, it's a different deal. We're not close to what I want us to be, but we are better. There's no denying that. Watching this game against Wake last year, I can hardly watch it. We've still got young players across the board. We have done a better job of not getting sacked. We're one of the top teams in the conference in terms of not getting sacked. That's a great improvement. We've got to be able to run the ball. If I had to say one thing, we have to be better on first down. If we're better on first down, it's going to fix a lot of these other issues. That's the big focus for me. A lot of that comes from pre-snap penalties."

Question: Are you surprised with how many teams in the Atlantic has struggled?

Dabo: "Nothing surprises me. Just because you lose a game doesn't mean you're a bad team. It's all about just getting better, about playing one game at a time. It's not letting a loss beat you. The teams that can do that - at the end of the day - can have the most success. It's a very competitive conference and anybody can beat anybody. You look at what Duke is doing. Everybody better be ready to play. I don't see any team that is just so dominant that they can show up and just beat somebody. Virginia Tech and Miami are strong, but outside of that it's anybody's game. And those teams can certainly be beaten."

Question: One year ago you were put in the interim role. Talk about the perception and reality now as the head coach here one year later.

Dabo: "I'm going to tell you, I'm surprised you're the first guy to ask me that. My wife actually said that to me this morning. She said it's October 13. I was like wow. I took a moment to kind of ponder that this morning. What a crazy year it has been. I love my job, I love being here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's a special place. As I look back, I can clearly see the progress that we've made. We've really gotten a lot done. It frustrates me because I'm not a very patient guy. I want to win right now and I want to be 5-0. That's my mentality. But I also look at it and we've accomplished a lot of things. I don't have any doubt about it at all. I love being at Clemson. I love coming to work everyday, even the Sunday after a Maryland game and you're miserable, I still love coming to work at Clemson. I'm excited about what's coming. It's going to be a lot of fun here. We're going to build a program here that's going to sustain success, one everybody can be proud of. We're going to continue to add playmakers through recruiting. There's better days ahead for Clemson."

*** To chat with other Clemson fans about this article please visit The West Zone message board.


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