Opening statements. "Good morning everybody. It's an exciting week, the biggest game of the year, our biggest challenge of the year. We'll have to play an outstanding game against this group. Watching these guys on film, they find a lot of different ways to win games.
"Offensively, they're big up front. It starts with their center. I think T.J. is an outstanding player. He kind of sets everything for them. Their quarterback was probably the difference in the game last year. He makes a lot of plays and is a very good scrambler. He's got a very good feel for the pocket. When he scrambles, guys are coming out of coverage. He finds them. They have three wideouts who have gotten better and better. No. 87 has made some unbelievable plays this year. He has been a force for them offensively at some critical times.
"Defensively, they're as good as anybody we've played. Their line is outstanding. Obviously Clowney gets a lot of the headlines and rightfully so. He's a special player. But all those other guys can play, too. Devin Taylor is like seven-feet tall. I think he grows an inch every year. Their backers are smart, physical and tackle well. They challenge you in the secondary.
"I'm excited about it. It's Thanksgiving. We all have a lot to be thankful for. It's a blessing just to be a part of this game. Hopefully we'll play our best game. It's a great opportunity for our state. This game is going to have more national appeal to it than it has in years past. We're looking forward to trying to have a good practice today. We're trying to keep getting better."
Question. How about the intangibles with the coach and his ability to call plays?
Swinney. "That's just part of it. That's the result of good coaching. They do a good job. He's proven over many years to be a good play-caller. I don't think that will change. They are what they are. They do what they do. We are what we are. It comes down to execution. Play-calls are good. You have to win those matchups. The big thing for us is coaching our guys up to be disciplined."
Question. The biggest difference from last year to this year, is it Boyd?
Swinney. "We're a better team than we were last year. We're a smarter team. Our quarterback is in year two of his development. We've got good skill and they're more mature. Our line has improved tremendously throughout the year. We've got running backs who have made plays. Brandon Ford has stepped in and filled in nicely for Dwayne Allen. But Tajh has been the difference for us. He's a much better quarterback than he was this time last year. He was a good player last year but he wasn't a great quarterback. He's much better."
Question. I'm sure you disagree with the fact that a lot of things would be for naught if you don't win Saturday.
Swinney. "I think that's sad. People who say that have no appreciation for winning and how hard it is to win. It's hard to win 10 ballgames. It's hard to do. The people who say those things, they don't get it. Yeah, you'd be incredibly disappointed. You have to live with it all year. It's pride. State pride. Everybody lives with it. You lose this game, you deal with that. So if we're 0-11 but win this game, that's a good season? I don't think so. All I want to do is for us to play our best."
Question. You mentioned the manturation of Boyd and the team. Have you matured as a coach from three years ago to now?
Swinney. "Can't you tell? I'm 43 today, Ron. I was 38 when I got pushed into this grease pit. Absolutely. I think we all mature. I was a better player as a senior than a freshman. I was a better student as a senior. I'm a better husband 19 years into marriage. I'm a better Christian now from when I first decided that was the path I wanted to go. I'm a better father. I think as you mature, you get better at everything. I'm much more mature just because of experience and going through things. You learn and grow and I work hard at it. I'm always trying to improve. I'm never satisfied. I don't want our team and our coaches to be satisfied. You always try to get better. When you're through improving, you're through."
Question. Is there one particular area you're better?
Swinney. "I'd just say overall, just understanding things. A lot of my core things are the way they were when I was an assistant. It's the overall big picture of managing a program, managing people and the way I want to do things, planning and organizing and delegating."
Question. Aggravated or amused when people pick at you from down the road?
Swinney. "Some people want to make it about us but it's not about me or coach Spurrier. I'm just trying to get a first down Saturday. Coach Spurrier is an interesting guy. We actually get along. I don't have a problem with him. I don't think he's personal. He's got a long track record. That's kind of who he is. I think he likes to stir it up."
Question. But you'll trade punches with him?
Swinney. "I'll always defend myself, my program and things I believe in. I have respect for coach Spurrier, as I should. He's been doing this a long, long time. I don't pay much attention to what's going on down there. I've never been a guy that tries to compare us to other people. I just want us to be the best we can be. My focus is this program and the people in this program."
Question. What's it like playing this game at home?
Swinney. "It's a rivalry game and I think it's always an advantage when you play at Death Valley. It's an advantage when they play at their place. It's a positive for you."
Question. How important is it for you to win this game, knowing he's going for four straight against you?
Swinney. "It's not about me. It's not about coach Spurrier. This is about the game and the players playing the game. All I can say is it's important."
Question. How bad does your senior class want this game?
Swinney. "It's important to them, of course. This senior group has accomplished a lot of things. The one thing they haven't gotten done is beat South Carolina. That's a big one for them. It would be a great one for them to win this one at home."
Question. Talk about Vic Beasley's upside.
Swinney. "Vic was a frustrating guy to the staff (in the past) because he wasn't fully committed. He wasn't being sure of his identity or what he could do. He came here and he was an athlete, he was a running back. We played him at tight end, then we moved him to linebacker and it wasn't a great fit. You have this great athlete just wandering. So we moved him to end. We knew he could come off the edge. He just didn't have a skill set for that. So he's had to develop technically. He's a great kid. I'm not sure he was truly all in and sold. I challenged him and it went from there. Coming into the season we had major concerns at that position, so we needed him to step up. The fact that he's been able to have some success, now he feels like he's got an identity. I think he's bought into that. He's become much more engaged. It's been fun to watch him mature. His upside is tremendous. Pound for pound, he's as strong as anybody we've got on the team. He doesn't have to be 260. But he needs to be 240, 245. He's 227 right now."
Question. Talk about your linebackers from this year to last year.
Swinney. "Just difference in the system. They're much more experienced. Shuey is a fourth-year junior. Stephone is in his second year. Quandon is in his fourth year. Blanks, we've just taught one role. The last half of the season we've been cross-training him. We're not quite as complex as we were last year. Good competition. Brent has done a fantastic job."
Question. What's your take on Maryland leaving the conference?
Swinney. "Really, I don't have a lot of comment on it. It caught me off gaurd. Just a surprise, but not a shocker. Who knows anymore. You just have no idea. I just keep my head down and I'm trying to get a first down. I don't get too caught up in it."
Question. Are you surprised Tajh hasn't gotten more play nationally?
Swinney. "I don't know what's wrong with all of y'all. I don't know of a quarterback playing better than Tajh. I know I'm biased. I can't imagine a guy who has meant more to his team than Tajh. He's got 41 touchdowns. It's incredible how he has played. We are a 10-1 football team. I see some of the guys they talk about and I wouldn't trade my guy for any of them. I'm keeping the one I've got. Maybe they'll figure it out one of these days. This guy is a winner. He was a winner in high school and he's a winner here. He's always got a smile on his face. He's made big plays. We've just gotten used to it. It's like it's easy. He makes it look easy. He's a special player. I'm really proud of him. He'll get his time. He's having a lot of fun right now. I wouldn't trade him for anybody out there. Anybody."
Question. Why do you think more of the top recruits instate have decided to remain instate?
Swinney. "Better opportunities at the instate programs. We both have great facilities. They're winning and we're winning. Both schools put a huge emphasis on this state. There are never really a ton of guys. I think that's a good thing. We work hard at it. We work really hard at recruiting and recruiting the right way. We work hard treating people right, being honest. The type of people you have on your staff, that's huge. We have a great group of guys who work hard at it. Jeff Scott has been tremendous as our recruiting coordinator. Clemson has become a great place to go. You can come here and achieve every dream you've got. You can win a championship here, you can meet your wife here, you can go to the NFL here, you can go to a BCS bowl here, you can win a conference here.
"South Carolina isn't for some guys. They're drawn to Clemson. Sometimes guys are more drawn to South Carolina. Clowney was a perfect example. Lattimore was an example. We recruited the heck out of both. They just liked that environment. We've had a lot of success in this state and so have they."
Question. With regard to the ACC's stature right now, what's your thought when you see two-loss teams ahead of Florida State and y'all in the BCS?
Swinney. "I think that's ridiculous. I think we can play with anybody. I'd love to play Notre Dame. Lord have mercy, I'd love to play Notre Dame. I think this team, where we are right now, is at a point where we can line up and play with anybody. It's not like we've been barely beating people. We've played with passion and togetherness. Right now, we're as good as anybody out there. It's a coin toss right now. I don't think teams with two losses should be ahead of us and Florida State. But some of that is perception. Some of that is a result of teams you play who aren't having good years. If we finish strong, if FSU finishes strong, we'll be fine. If we can continue to put consistency together as a program, the perception changes. I get it. We have to earn it. I think I voted us fifth or sixth this week. That's where we should be."
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