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September 24, 2013

Swinney previews Wake Forest

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Cross Creek Cottages

Opening statement: "Good morning guys. Glad to get back on a normal schedule this week. For the next six weeks we have what I consider to be a normal schedule. Homecoming week, it's always special. I really, really appreciate the job our student body does here. There's just so much energy they bring to the campus. I just think it's always a special week.

"Wake Forest is 2-2 and well-coached as always. Two years ago they came in here and we had to kick a game-winning field goal. They always play us tough. This is an opportunistic team. Offensively, the biggest thing we're seeing is that they've done a lot in four games. They've really presented a lot from a play-calling standpoint. We have a lot to prepare for from the option to the spread. It's a big challenge preparation-wise. Their quarterback is back, they've got three good running backs and you better watch out for Campanaro. He caught like 16 balls in one game.

"They've got seven starters back on defense. It all starts for them with Whitlock. I thought he was gone. I can't believe he is still on the roster. He is a nightmare. He is a really good football player. He was the ACC Player of the Week this week. You look at him and he's not as tall as they list, but man he plays tall and big. He's just a good football player. He's kind of the heart for them. They play an odd front. Linebackers are good players. They have a couple of starters back at backer. This secondary is as good as we've played. The two corners they have are good players. They do as good a job as anybody we play in the secondary. They've got great eye-discipline, good fundamentals and techniques. They know what they're doing.

"Special teams, No. 3, he's a return guy for them and we know what he's capable of doing.

"Couple of discipline issues; Isaiah Battle, everyone knows about that situation (will miss this Saturday's game). Martavis Bryant will play this weekend but he'll have some discipline and it will affect his playing time. He made an unacceptable gesture after scoring a touchdown. It's one of those things that is not representative of what we want.

"Giff Timothy is questionable this week and he did not practice yesterday. Carlos Watkins, same thing. Hope he will be back today. Definitely questionable with him. Pat Destefano is dealing with some stingers in his neck."

Q. Talk about getting some focus after an open date, given some things that have happened with injuries, suspensions and the automobile accident.

Swinney. "They had dinner Sunday night. All the guys got back here. The biggest thing is just an opportunity to reinforce to these guys how fragile life is and how precious time is. Nobody knows when you're time is up. Make sure you're prepared for that. Be careful. We stress that all the time with these guys. It was a really, really bad wreck Carlos was in. The good Lord kept him here. But his cousin did not make it. Carlos had his seat belt on. We all know what a big man he is. He was pinned in the car for over two hours. It's a miracle that he did not have any broken bones. Hopefully we'll get him back today. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. It's also Dane Rogers' cousin as well."

Q. You could be thin for awhile at receiver now with Bryant's suspension.

Swinney. "We'll be fine. I like how Mike Williams is coming on. We'll be fine."

Q. What are you going to do when Carlos Watkins comes back?

Swinney. "First thing I'll do is hug his neck. I'll be thankful to see him. I've talked to him a few times."

Q. The depth on the defensive line has been a big strength on this team. Talk about how that's progressed.

Swinney. "As I said at the beginning of the year, I really like those guys up front. When you can be really good on the d-line, it covers up a lot of issues. We have the right combination for the first time since I've been a head coach, at least from a depth, talent and experience standpoint. They're playing hard and getting pressure on the quarterback. They're giving great effort. It all starts up front. The competition you have at that position is very important. We don't have any seniors in that group. They're all battling hard. They tap in and out of there. I'm really pleased with what they're doing."

Q. Everybody sees Vic's impressive plays on the field but can you shed some light on his growth as a leader.

Swinney. "It's really amazing. He's just one of those guys who is a classic example of development and growth. He obviously has the talent but it's not all together yet. Sometimes guys don't always buy in as quickly as we would like. The big thing with Vic is that he played running back and quarterback in high school.

"He comes here and we think about putting him at tight end. I didn't think he was very natural at tight end. I moved him to linebacker that spring and he just didn't take to it as well. Sometimes personalities and things like that can conflict. He just really wasn't in the mix there, but I kept seeing a guy who was a very good athlete with great length, quickness and change of direction. I called him in one day and told him he wasn't ready to be a defensive end but told him he could be special if he bought in to it. I don't think he had his heart in it. He did it because we asked him to do it. I approached him last year and said, 'I'll make a deal with you. Just commit this fall. If you don't have a good year and you don't feel like there is a role for you, I'll move you back to offense and you can run the ball.' He just came out of that season with so much confidence. That's what a little bit of success will do for you. And it went a long way for him.

"I don't think he was committed to putting the weight on. He's 235 now and he's still emerging. Marion has done a tremendous job of coaching him. He's just a different guy and is a fourth-year junior who has matured. I'm just really happy for him. Now he feels like he belongs. He sees that hope and sees that future. He really just wanted to impact the team. He's on his way now. He's having a lot of fun. What he's not getting enough credit for is what he's doing for us in the run game. He's sticking his nose in there and spilling the runs."

Q. What has the difference been for him?

Swinney. "He's playing more. I had to fight to get him in the game last year. He is an every-down player. He was just too light in the britches last year. Whatever he is, he plays with it. If he's 235, he plays like he's 260-270. He's a handful. He can run around people. He can up and under people. He's powerful to where he can get into people and push the pocket. He's creating pressure."

Q. Stephone and Spencer are at the top of the tackle numbers. Are they playing as you'd hoped they would?

Swinney. "Yes. Spencer has missed a couple of tackles. But heck, turn on the NFL and the best of the best miss tackles. Both are playing at a high level. People recognize their play. They play hard. Stephone has really taken another step forward. He is having a great year for us right now. Very pleased with their play. Shuey in particular made a big play the other night off the edge. If he doesn't make that tackle, there is a lot of grass."

Q. Wake has done a lot of different things offensively but are they in a transition offensively?

Swinney. "At BC they played a bunch of option and not as much against Monroe and then more against Army. They run a lot of trap. That's one of their ways to control guys up front. They are in and out of different formations. We have seen a little bit of everything. It's not like we've seen one film and can say hey, this is who they are. They have presented a lot of different challenges. They are trying to give themselves the best chance to win."

Q. If and when Mackensie Alexander is healthy enough to play, how much will your current players there dictate what you do with Mackense?

Swinney. "I haven't had a chance to evaluate him. I can't evaluate him until he can compete. He hasn't been healthy. I'm excited about the procedure they are going to do on Thursday. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we can address that further. It's not like we have to have him to play. By that time he has missed five or six games. What's best for them and their career? He'll have a lot of input in that. If he's healthy, can he pick it up and go compete? There are question marks there. He hasn't practiced in awhile."

Q. Has Mackensie been in position meetings?

Swinney. "Oh yeah. Yeah. He's been in meetings and practice everyday and in rehab. We're over there running team (drills) and he's doing rehab during practice."

Q. What have you seen from Shaq Lawson so far?

Swinney. "Just what we hoped. We came out of camp and Marion came to me and said, 'I've got three starters between Vic, Corey and Shaq.' I said if it's a tie, the tiebreaker goes to the veteran. I wanted to see him transfer it from the practice field to the game field. I told Vic you better go perform because this big boy is on your heels here. It's been fun. He has transferred what we've seen in practice to the game film. He is a special talent. He might be the best guy we've signed on the d-line in looking at where he is physically and mentally. Also remember he was able to go through spring ball. And he loves to play and loves to practice. He always has a smile on his face. He brings a lot of energy and emotion.

"Just really pleased where he is. I've been around other great players, even Da'Quan. But the transition wasn't quite as easy for him. Shaq, boy he's big-time. He gets it. He sees the big picture. And he's got great practice habits for a young player. He works his butt off in the weight room. He works down there at Vickery Hall."

Q. Did prep school help him grow up?

Swinney. "Certainly. Certainly. Sometimes you have to be in danger of losing something in order to appreciate it. It was very disappointing that he wasn't qualified although he was later qualified. He lost his father, too. He did everything everyone asked him to do. School had already started, so he went after he was cleared. That's not an easy deal up there. You're marching at 6 a.m. He thinks he's coming to Clemson. Next thing he knows he's marching and working in a uniform up in Virginia. From the time he got here, this guy has had a great appreciation for this opportunity. We've had zero issues with him."

Q. You've been known for your offense. How much do you enjoy talking about your defense?

Swinney. "I love it. It's great. I'll take 10 more wins like the ones we just had. If you play great defense, you keep yourself in the game and sooner or later you keep getting that ball to a good scorer, he'll get it in. It's awesome. Our defense is getting better. We're much better after three games than we were last year after three games. Our guys are hungry and they want it. We just have more knowledge than we've had. We are healthier than we've been.

"Getting Martin Jenkins back has been a plus. You'll see his role increase. Breeland, it's like night and day. He's healthy and confident. The same with Darius and Garry. Our two safeties, I like the way they're progressing. We've got to develop some depth at safety. We've got guys but we've got to really develop that depth and play them and give them opportunities. Throughout the course of the season, we're going to have to have some help because Robert and Blanks can't play 70 snaps a game. They can't hold up."

Q. Any benefit to playing your Atlantic division opponents and two Coastals?

Swinney. "If you win them, yes, because you can get a tiebreaker. Any time you play a conference game, it's huge. At the end of the day we're all trying to get to Charlotte. If you can get there, you have great opportunities from a conference and BCS standpoint."

Q. Are you a little aggravated with Martavis after he's made so much progress off the field?

Swinney. "Just continue to grow up. He's been good. Just one of those situations where you're always growing and teaching. It's just unacceptable behavior. He knew it. I wish I had seen it. There's no better punishment than immediate. We didn't see it. The refs didn't see it. I wish it had been called. The TV sure didn't miss it. That's not representative of the things we do. I don't think he'll do it again."

Q. Talk about Chad Morris' comments on Tajh Boyd pressing a little bit. What do you do when guys put so much pressure on themselves?

Swinney. "Just go back to fundamentals and back to basics. The expectations are so high for Tajh. I was texting him last night about Peyton Manning. Our expectations are monstrous and his are as well. Just go back, take a deep breath and talk through it. It's early. You're on the road, it's a tough environment. He had a few missed reads. How do you respond? He came back and played lights out. There was a point where he was just awesome. He should have been 32 of 37 but he was 24 of 37. It's another opportunity to teach. We've found different ways to win. It's been a complete effort by our team over these first three games. I think we have a chance to be a complete team. And complete teams always find ways to win. Tajh has done great. He's taking care of the football. And he's made good decisions for the most part. He's not going to get worse. He's just going to keep finding that rhythm."

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