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September 15, 2009

Swinney holds weekly news conference

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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney met with members of the media Tuesday, as part of his weekly news conference. The following is an edited transcript of that meeting.

Opening statements: "We're off to a good start for BC. We had a good practice last night and had a good meeting Sunday. We were able to put the Georgia Tech game to bed and learn from that game film. I thought the kids bounced back well last night. We had good position meetings and good senior meetings.

"This is our first division game, which is obviously very critical for both teams. We're excited about getting back to Death Valley and playing well in front of the home folks. It's a typical BC team. Those coaches do a great job. Defensively they are what they are. Every year they're one of the best defenses in the conference. It's very hard to consistently move the ball on them. They're consistently one of the best against the rush. They don't beat themselves. They play good fundamental defense. They have some young linebackers and they look pretty good to me. Just looking at them in the first two games, they're the No. 1 scoring defense in the conference. They've held their opponents to 19-percent on third down.

"Offensively, the first thing that jumps out at you is that they're very balanced. They've got six starters back on offense. Four of their five guys up front, which his where they've been really good, those guys are back. The biggest thing this year is that they've got two quarterbacks. They've had a guy who has been the starter. Now, they've got two guys who will play. They won't change their system for either one, although No. 7 looks like a guy they may use to run some zone-read. That's obviously something that we'll have to prepare for. They have a very good running back. He was Jamie Harper's teammate in high school. They have a veteran wideout in No. 18. He has caught a ton of passes. We have to cut down on the big plays defensively. They're averaging 14.3 yards per catch, which is outstanding.

"They've also got the No. 1 punter in the league. They play good field position. They don't beat themselves. You have to knock them out.

"Another thing I would add here. They started this trophy last year. It's a neat deal. It came about because of the spirit and sportsmanship of this series. The winner of this game gets to take this trophy home. It has been in my office. I'd like to keep it there. I hope I don't have to replace it with a plant. I hope I can keep it in my office."

Question: What is it about this series that has caused such close, exciting games?

Swinney: "Matt Ryan would be #1. He's a pretty good player. And last year, they were a really good football team. You're talking about two competitive teams, first of all. It's a division game. Teams have been fairly matched. We've had some different styles from year to year, but for the most part it has been a fairly even match. It's two different regions. I think our fans have a genuine respect for one another. That's what I gather from being up there and from them being down here. We expect their best and I'm sure they expect our best. Raji and Brace, those guys, Spiller, a lot of good players laying it on the line. Usually this game has meant something."

Question: Was that win last year up there the most important for you?

Swinney: "Could be. Had we lost it, who knows. It was a step in the right direction. You could tell that the team had changed. But I think the turning point was the Georgia Tech game. The BC game set the change in emotions mentally. Hey, let's keep doing what we believe in. I think that game kept those kids believing amid the turmoil."

Question: Seems like your players are still pretty positive considering the loss last Thursday.

Swinney: "These are smart guys. They watch the film. They know where issues are. They understand the game. They understand things we control and things we don't control. I think every one of them believes we're a better team today than we were last week. I know that we're doing the right things. I think our kids know that. It was a very difficult game we were in the other night. You want to know what all-in is, you watch that ball game. You see a group of kids that know they can do it. You see a group that's committed to a standard of excellence. If we can maintain that effort, that type of oneness, you have a chance to be a pretty good football team in this day and age. You saw an effort and a will to win that's not the norm. And people notice that. This is a close football team. And that doesn't mean we won't hit another bump in the road somewhere. If we play the way we're capable of playing and believe, it's going to be a great year."

Question: What did you learn about yourself last Thursday?

Swinney: "I learned that we're doing the right things. I learned that we're on the right track. I learned that we've hired some pretty good coaches. I learned that I'm human and I screw up too. But I also learned the things that I believe in 100-percent… there's nothing less than important than a score at halftime and you fight. That's what we'll continue to do."

Question: In preseason, you seemed ready to go at right tackle, but did you have an indication that when J.K. went down, you'd be in this position now?

Swinney: "JK was a big loss. We knew we'd have an issue, but we don't make excuses. We've got good football players here. But we've got to do a better job of coaching them up and getting them ready to play. We've made a personnel change this week and hopefully that'll help us.

"Our offensive line played really good with the exception of one position. And we've got to get that spot working. I think we've got to keep working some guys. We'll keep tweaking and tinkering with a couple of other players."

Question: Does BC tend to do something unique with their pass rush or how they line up?

Swinney: "No. It's here they are, come get you some. They are what they are. They do what they do. They don't try to trick anybody. They line up and try to play sound, fundamental football. They blitz and will slant linemen from time to time, but they're not exotic by any means. Let's see if you can go 80 yards against us. You have to take advantage of opportunities when they do come. That's what I think we've done a good job of in the past. Most of our big plays against these guys are where we've just gotten in space and made a play. They're good tacklers."

Question: Do you think some of the edge that they play with is that they're so far removed from the southern fraternity?

Swinney: "Usually the personality of the team comes from its coaches. I just think that's their staff's personality. It's the type of guys they recruit. They have a system and a belief in place and that's what they recruit to."

Question: How much do you need a second and third receiver to step up?

Swinney: "You have to have opportunities to step up. Marquan has done a very good job. Marquan Jones is going to be a great player. He's just a sophomore. We went from four drops to one last week. That's improvement. We have to build from that. Terrance Ashe had the one drop the other night which hurt us. It was a tipped ball that was intercepted. Brandon Clear, we thought, played well. He didn't really have any opportunities except for the one that was out of bounds. I think Brandon is a guy who's emerging. Another guy who is going to show up is Jaron Brown. He's a freshman. Clear is a sophomore. Marquan is a sophomore. At some point, those guys will emerge. It's not that anyone has done anything bad. They just haven't had a lot of opportunities.

"Jaron played a lot in the first game. The other night we didn't play a lot of people at all. You don't go into a game anticipating that you're going to be down 24-0. So we had a lot of guys play a lot of snaps. Hopefully we can cut down on that."

Question: We always hear coaches talk about getting their best 11 on the field. Talk about Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper getting more reps possibly.

Swinney: "We've got some packages where you may see both on the field. We gassed C.J. pretty good the other night. I would have liked to have played those guys more but hey, if we're going to get beat, let's get beat with our best. Andre and Jamie are great players and we are going to get them in the game."

Question: Talk about Kyle's development. And is he developing quicker?

Swinney: "I'd say he's exceeding my expectations. Tajh Boyd has had more work and knows more than Kyle did this time last year. Kyle came here his first spring, he played baseball. He just stood over there and drank some Gatorade last spring. He didn't really do a lot. In our fall scrimmages last year, he might have gotten five or six snaps of work. The majority of the time, all last fall, he just stood there. When the coaching change happened, Cullen is hurt and Willy is hurt. So we started giving him reps a little bit. He didn't get significant work until bowl practice last year.

"Last year we treated it like a mini-spring ball. At the end of every practice, we took all of our red-shirt guys and really coached them up. Kyle really showed some poise there. He had hardly operated at all, but went in there and knew what he was doing. Just tells you a little bit about his awareness. When he got opportunities, he was impressive. And then this spring, he got serious about it and was ready when we hit the practice field. You'd have never thought it was his first real spring. From that point on it has carried on into fall camp. He's got a good grasp. And he's making some mistakes, but I love his demeanor, his response, he's competitive and he's a kid who doesn't show a lot of emotion but he did the other night. He's got great skills. He brings out the best in those around him. He can throw the ball anywhere at any time."

Question: Is his arm strength the No. 1 thing that separated him from Willy?

Swinney: "That's one of the things. He made more plays. He was more consistent."

Question: Did you have to say anything to boost Thomas Austin's spirits after Thursday's game?

Swinney: "One of the things we do in our Monday meetings is go over the penalties. We went over the penalty tape and I encouraged him. He's a good player. They called a hold, so. I'm sure there was a hold in there somewhere. I encouraged him to keep playing like he's playing. It's a tough, tough situation and very unusual to have that, a game winning play, the perfect call, the right throw and catch and the same guy called for a hold with the game on the line. I wouldn't trade him for anyone. I'm proud of Thomas Austin."

Question: Is there something in place to where the ACC can blackball an official, like Ron Cherry or anyone?

Swinney: "I love all our officials. Doug Rhoads has been very good as far as being able to communicate with. I think he has only been the main guy for a year or so. My dealings with him have been great. I think he wants to have the best officiating crew in football. I think he takes a lot of pride in his job. He knows what he's doing. When he has issues, he'll hold people accountable. I have a lot of confidence in him. Things happen in life that you don't like and it's a shame but that doesn't mean you can't learn from it and grow from it. Things are only fatal and final if you let them be. We'll overcome this game."

Question: How much has BC lost inside up front defensively?

Swinney: "They lost about 800 pounds. But they took #52 and moved him inside. I don't know if those guys are Raji and Brace yet but they're pretty good players. Their two ends have played a lot against us. There's not much difference. Those guys were legitimate NFL players, difference makers. These guys aren't there yet, but they're younger. They've really got three starters back."

Question: Getting back to right tackle, you mentioned Landon the other day, who started 10 games last year. He's suddenly the third guy. What's it going to take to really get him back to where you thought he'd be?

Swinney: "Making up his mind that he wants to be a great player. He can be a very good player. Down the stretch last year he really improved. And Cory worked his tail off to earn the opportunity. The biggest thing about Landon is that he's got to practice better. He's a fighter. He's a tough kid. He's got pride. We've met and he's going to get his opportunity to be the starter again. Hopefully he'll perform and keep the job. He got off to a good start yesterday. I like how he has responded. We'll see what happens.

"For whatever reason he didn't have the same sense of urgency as the other guys. Hopefully he has matured a little bit. He has played a lot of ball and has had some success. And he did have a good off-season. Physically he's in good shape. We need someone to step up and be the guy."

Question: You were talking about how quickly Kyle has picked things up. Do you see him as he grows into this thing as a 60-65 percent guy?

Swinney: "Absolutely. Let's get completions. He's got that big mentality right now and I like that. But that's part of bringing a guy along and coaching him. Let's just throw completions. I think he'd be higher than he is now if we took out the five drops. I certainly anticipate him being a 60+ percentage type guy as he grows."

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


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