Swinney previews Wake Forest
CLEMSON -- Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney addressed members of the media Tuesday as part of his weekly news conference, this time to preview his team's upcoming matchup with Wake Forest.
The following is an edited transcript of Tuesday's news conference.
Q: Your general thoughts on Wake Forest.
Swinney: "They have a lot of players who can play, very disciplined at linebacker. They get their hands on the ball. They're very smart, instinctive players. They have a really good group. This is year four. They have 19 starters back. It's a well-coached team. They've done a heck of a job, man. They won their bowl game. This is a different mindset up there. You can see it when you study them."
Q: Your thoughts on punting thus far.
Swinney: "We have to get down the field. We can't line drive a punt. Will Spiers has been awesome and he had an awesome practice last night. We have to have a consistent punt. We have to run and use our speed. We've done a good job but it starts with a consistent punt."
Q: An update on Marcus Edmond and Justin Foster?
Swinney: "Marcus is a lot, a lot better but he's not 100-percent. My hope is if not next week, the open date for sure to get him back and hopefully have a great second half of the season. Justin, we'll reevaluate him again today. The tests were good, the X-rays were good. It's a matter of how he progresses."
Q: If your team listens to all of the outside voices, they're already in the playoffs. What do you do to instill focus at this point in the season?
Swinney: "Go get beat this week, they won't be talking about that anymore. It's a mindset. You can't worry about what time you play, who you're playing, what they're ranked or a team's entrance on the road. It's execution, the will to win. You have to bring that every week. Our team has shown great maturity every single week. You need to bring your mindset every single week. I'm looking for a biggest game of the year intensity and mindset every single week. We're at a point where you get into that grind right now."
Q: Talk about maybe easing Trayvon Mullen back into the starting lineup this week or next.
Swinney: "I don't pay any attention to who starts. Whomever Mike wants to roll out there on gameday is his decision. I don't pay any attention to depth charts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I never knew who Dan Brooks would start. Sometimes he'd go into pregame warmups and decide. I loved that about him. Everything mattered. It was close with some guys. Everything mattered. It's the same way at the cornerback position. Trayvon has done an awesome job for us. You have to practice well. I wouldn't pay any attention to a depth chart on Monday. I can tell you Mitch Hyatt will start at left tackle for us. I can tell you that today. But some positions, it's very competitive. Corner is one of them."
Q: How has Dave Clawson turned things around at Wake?
Swinney: "Recruiting, No. 1. He's done a good job of articulating his vision for that program. They've stuck to that. They know who they are evaluating and recruit. They're looking for a certain fit and evaluating. That's where it starts. He has a good staff around him. It's a very well coached team. I can watch their players. I can tell they've bought into their philosophy of the program. It's easy to see that. They weren't very good his first year or two, but made a nice jump the last year or so. He's doing it the right way. He loves his players. It's another reason why they play so hard. It's being consistent. They've redshirted a fair share of guys. They've continued to create a culture of belief that they can compete and win. That's what you see when you watch them play. If you don't think you can win, you won't."
Q: Xavier Kelly and Albert Huggins got to play a good bit last Saturday. Your evaluation?
Swinney: "Xavier had his best game. He didn't quite grade as a winner. He was two percentage points away. Huggins played well last week. He didn't play quite as well from a grade standpoint this week. He has to continue to improve. It all matters. He didn't have hardly any mental errors. He had some technique things he needed to clean up."
Q: What have you seen on tape from Wake's passing game?
Swinney: "Quarterback is accurate. They're well-coached. They know how to attack and scheme up some things. I cannot say enough about their quarterback. He's not that tall, but he doesn't get a lot of balls batted down. He's very productive. He's tough, smart."
Q: Having defensive ends who are long, fast and versatile like Clelin, is that like a prototypical desire going forward?
Swinney: "You don't see much I-formation anymore where you just set the edge. A lot of these guys, a lot of guys don't block them. You block the end in misdirection and through a quarterback's eyes. Sometimes they're not blocked now. You just read them. A lot goes into it; your technique, footwork, etc. You can't just have one pitch. You have to have a lot of pitches. Our guys do a lot of things. Sometimes we're dropping, sometimes we're mesh-charging. There's a lot of technique at that end position. There is a lot that goes into that position, and at tight end, too. There's a lot of diversity."
Q: Did you envision Ryan Carter becoming the player he has become?
Swinney: "Sure did. I don't know why y'all think we recruit people who can't play. We don't sign guys we don't think can play. Damn right, we thought he could play. We would have signed the guy much earlier had it not been because of the ridiculous narrative that we were trying to sign him because of another guy at that school. We don't care if they have zero offers or a thousand offers. Sometimes we watch a guy who has a million offers and we say we're not offering that guy. I don't think Adam Humphries had any offers. No, we didn't offer him to get Charone Peake. We offered because we wanted him.
"Sometimes we miss on guys. Not a lot, but sometimes we do. There are certain things you can't measure. Sometimes a guy gets here and he's not focused. The process is hard for him. This isn't an easy place.
"But man, Ryan Carter, we loved him. We thought he was a baller. We felt he could play. I watched him on a kickoff coverage and he ran down Dalvin Cook. And we loved Dalvin Cook. He was returning punts, he played safety. Mickey Conn was the head coach. He said the guy was a freaking baller. As a result of the recruiting process, he didn't have a lot of confidence coming in. He red-shirted. Now, he's as good a player as we've got. He's not very sexy. But put the pads on and you'll notice him. He's a player. He's got experience now, too."
Q: Do those under-the-radar guys fit your program more?
Swinney: "Yes. Y'all saw us using Ryan Carter a lot as a sophomore. We don't just play guys to make them happy. We play guys who have earned it, deserved it. I love versatility. Ray-Ray, for example, played running back. Amari Rodgers played running back. Renfrow and Deon played quarterback. Denzel Johnson, who will be a great player here, played several positions. Nobody recruited that guy. We love guys that bring that versatility. There is a lot you can do with K'Von Wallace and Isaiah Simmons. Same thing in our offensive line. Look at all of our linemen. Need Taylor Hearn to play tackle? Okay, go do it. We try to recruit as much of that as we can. Sometimes you don't have that. Tyrone Crowder is a guard. That's what he is. But he's special at what he does."
Q: Huegel was a big part of what you did the last two years. How was his surgery?
Swinney: "Good. He's a great leader. He's got a strong faith. His surgery was a success. It wasn't a complete reconstruction of the ACL. A lot of it was still attached. I don't want to get into all of the technicals. They were really encouraged once they got in there. He's encouraged. He has a great work ethic. I'm thankful he's got another year."
Q: Spence told us he accepted the fact that he might not play but he still wanted to continue to work hard.
Swinney: "I love to see people get opportunity. He has worked his tail off. I didn't know if he'd play either. I've ridden by at night and the lights are on indoors, there's one guy out there and he's in there kicking balls. There's a lot to be said for that with a guy who didn't know if he was going to get an opportunity. Alex is the epitome of that. He has the talent. He can do it. He just has to keep plugging along."
Q: Is there a scheme or style that presents your defense with its toughest challenge?
Swinney: "No, they're all tough. They all present their own challenges from week to week. We see it all from week to week. It's the triple option to the spread to the I-formation. You'll see a little bit of everything. They all present big challenges for sure."
Q: J.D Davis was your leading tackler last week. Talk about what you saw in him (in the recruiting process) despite him not having opportunities to play elsewhere.
Swinney: "Isn't that awful that some of the comments young people have to put up with because of ignorance, because of people's agendas. They're judgmental. That's the world we live in. I've watched these guys grow up. They were my neighbors. We don't have more winners on this team than J.D. and Judah Davis. I don't know why they started school early. Jeff had six children. They would have been highly recruited guys as seniors. I saw that. I love Jeff Davis but I like my job better. At the same time I wanted those kids here. I thought they would develop. When you're putting a team together, you're not just going to get Sammy Watkins. Everybody isn't Sammy Watkins. That's just not the case.
"Because of recruiting and all the intensity of that, everybody has to be a great freshman or what. Dorian O'Daniel didn't hardly touch the field as a red-shirt sophomore, but as a fifth-year player he might be as good a player as there is in the country. Why is that? Maybe he just wasn't a very good player as a sophomore. Some guys it's mental or physical. How come Vic Beasley didn't start until his fourth year here? Why wasn't he awesome as a freshman? Because he couldn't line up.
"J.D. and Judah have an unbelievable work ethic. Judah is in a different spot and has more depth in front of him. He'd be starting for a lot of schools right now. Judah starts on special teams and J.D. was our 12th man award winner this week. He's been very effective. Some people might get mad because we have a highly recruited guy who isn't play as much. Fine. Let them get mad."
Q: Do you address things like the Las Vegas shootings with your team?
Swinney: "We talk about everything in our program. There is a lot going on in this world. Everyday is a life-teaching moment. The one thing I tell our guys is what the country wants, we have it here everyday. I see people who love each other, people who serve others, people who maybe don't get along sometimes, people from different backgrounds, I see family, I see love, respect, communication. Sometimes people don't know how to get there, but I see it here everyday.
"My focus is building great men right here in Clemson ... keeping the main thing the main thing and not getting distracted. We equip people to go kick butt in life. Let's teach them, let's equip them and empower them. Let's teach them how to disagree, let's teach them how to succeed and move forward. We're never perfect. We never will be. Every day we get a chance to succeed. We try to help young people process things."
Q: Deshaun had himself a nice day Sunday. Your thoughts?
Swinney: "Thrilled. He said he was just trying to keep up with what the Tigers are doing. Not surprised at all with his response. He's just going to get better. If he stays healthy, he'll be fun to watch for a long time. It's worked out great for him. He's getting an opportunity. Everyone is seeing what we've known here for a long time. I'm so happy for him. He's still young. He's got to learn the league but he will. You don't just walk into the NFL and have the type of performances that he's had. You don't get lucky in that league."
Q: Do you sit down with Kelly Bryant and talk to him about what to expect going forward, given the pressure he's under?
Swinney: "Yes. That's woven into our daily fabric here. He's had a front row seat for two years. He knows what it looks like. We've had a great model at every position on this team ... how to handle success and failure."
Q: A timeline on Garret Williams' return?
Swinney: "We're going to ease him back into some scout work this week. He's doing great. He spent a whole practice driving a sled last week with a big old tire on it. He looks great. We need to get him back into the flow of football. We want to work him back into the scout team. We need to get him into some full-speed football work. We'll probably make a decision on him in that open date. We could still redshirt him. Just not ready to red-shirt him right now. He looks really good.
"You always have to do what's best for the team. We might have to play him. If we feel good about where we are as a team, then it's what's best for him. The team is ahead of the individual. Right now we could probably afford to red-shirt him, especially if D.J. Greenlee gets back. We just can't make that decision right now. And we need J.C. Chalk to continue to progress. He's getting his nose bloodied right now."