Swinney: Appreciate y'all being here today. Looking forward to another opportunity to get back on the field this week and find a way to win a ball game. Maryland is 4-1 this week and playing with a lot of confidence.
Offensively they are very balanced. A lot of formations. Torrey Smith is an outstanding player in this conference. Da'Rel Scott is the same way. And Meggett- big player that is tough to tackle. The biggest challenge for us defensively is their quarterback situation. Robinson is back - and he's the guy they like to run the zone-read with. We've had to spend a lot of time preparing for two different guys. O'Brien is a good player, and he doesn't make a lot of mistakes.
But we feel like they are trying to run the quarterback with Robinson. For us defensively we just have to be physical and stop the run. We also have to do a better job in the red zone and force field goals. We also have to be more opportunistic on defense. We either have to score or setup our offense to score.
From a schematic standpoint, they do a good job defensively. They bring a lot of pressure- perhaps more than anybody we've faced thus far. They do a lot of different things with their fronts. They move all over the place. They do a great job of mixing their packages together. They bring safeties and corners. Their defensive line is playing good for them. Their guy is second in the league in sacks behind Da'Quan Bowers. All their linebackers are back. No. 33 is back - he's a heckuva football player. He's either making the tackle or sniffing it every play. He's all over the field. He's first or second in the league in tackles. Their two outside linebackers are athletic and run well. They have two safeties that look like linebackers. The other challenge is special teams- they lead the nation in punt returns.
We are averaging 12.7 yards per punt return which is really good, then all of a sudden you see 27 (yards/return for Maryland). Duke had an opportunity to win that game (against Maryland) then boom punt return to the house.
The biggest thing for us is finding a way to win and making sure guys continue to believe in each other and that we have great leadership. That's one thing we've done a lot of us in the last few days. That's one of the things that's encouraging to me is this determined spirit. They are anxious to get started and that's something I was glad to see. Same thing on the practice field.
Just trying to find a way to win a game this week and we'll go from there.
Who are your leaders on this team?
Swinney: I think we've got several guys. Several senior guys - and a lot of juniors and third year sophomores that are highly invested in this team. Gilchrist, Jenkins, Chavis, DeAndre McDaniel, Kyle Parker, and Mike Wade. Andre Branch and Da'Quan Bowers. There have been a lot of guys who have stood up and challenged our group. The reality of it is - we have three tough losses. Three gut wrenching losses. Go down to Auburn, had a chance to win. Auburn is a good football team and is going to be one of the best in the country. Miami is going to be an eight or nine win team this year and a solid bowl team. North Carolina? Is a good football team. That's an eight or nine win team and a good bowl team. We've lost to three good teams - two of them on the road. It's frustrating because I know the talent on our team. I know the character of our team and I really want them to taste success. It's not about me- it's about the players. Same thing for our fans.
We've gotten no breaks. None. Absolutely zero. I thought the third quarter the other night we took the game over. But then we only have it 1:45 minutes. Some very frustrating things right now - I don't know ask God why- I ask what do you want me to learn? I try to take the knowledge and do the best I can. I know we are on the right track. Our players know we are on the right track. We are doing a ton of good things.
We just have to keep at it. Stay the course. But one thing that is very encouraging is this football team has been in position to win every week. When we win we'll move on from there.
Your offensive and defensive lines have played pretty well. But particularly on offense, why haven't you played
Swinney: I thought we played pretty good at Auburn. Offense was good. Miami we turned it over six times. Had a few drops. It's not too complicated. Up and North Carolina, we moved the ball very well. That was the most frustrating thing at North Carolina is we had eight, nine or 10 play drives and got nothing. So we have to do a better job of finishing drives with points. But again, third quarter we took over. We score, drive it back down and miss a field goal then have it 1:45 in the fourth quarter. I don't know if I've ever been in a game like that. Ever. I've been very pleased with our offensive line- they've been by far the most consistent unit on our team. There are a lot of good things going on - a lot of positives but the only thing that counts in the scoreboard.
We are getting better at third down. We caught the ball better. Just got to keep working.
Is the frustrating thing that it's been something different each week?
Swinney: It's like you stick a finger in this and stop it up and it starts leaking over here. We went into this game thinking we can't turn the ball over. And we don't. It was the best we played all year defensively. We cut way down on the big plays. Had one player have his eyes in the wrong place. The touchdown run we had two missed tackles. Then the penalties. That's frustrating. But it's going to turn. It's going to turn. But like I told the team yesterday, keep hitting that stone. You may hit that stone 100 times before something happens. Then boom. 101 it cracks. And it wasn't that last blow that did it. It was all the other ones. We've got the leadership that it's going to take to come out of it. Guys believe. Guys are taking ownership. We stay committed to those things and it will be okay.
You've got a football team that certainly draw from its past experiences. And we really lost to a team that had won only two games all year. But that team listened to all the right things and six weeks later was top 15 in the nation. There's a lot of hope left in this team and we've been in position to win. We've got good players and good coaches. Everybody is staying the course. There's no panicking.
You mentioned the drops last week ... five of them. I've heard coaches talk about drops every week. Is that a high point or a low point?
Swinney: We threw the ball more. Dwayne had a drop. Jaron Brown had one on turnaround route. Jamie had a drop on kind of a little flip play that would have been a first down for us. Dwayne dropped one that he didn't have confidence in running. We had three or four last week that were pretty big and then five in this game.
How much say-so do the running backs have in who is playing when?
Swinney: They don't have any say-so. Coaches make all the decisions on personnel. Players don't make those decisions.
How many touches would you like to see Andre Ellington get?
Swinney: Again, had we had the ball in the fourth quarter. Ellington needs to touch the ball more. He's earned that. He's got to get the ball more. I don't get amnesia like that like a lot of people do. Jamie Harper is going to help us. He's going to help us win. What the number is (for Ellington) is not a factor right now. We've got to make sure he impacts the game. Right now Ellington is the most explosive guy we have and has earned that opportunity.
What is your philosphy on playing true freshmen?
Swinney: Play the best players. Only philosophy we've got. If he's the best player, play him. Sometimes he doesn't get settled until a game situation. But I do think guys have to earn things. If you annoint people you have a breakdown in team. The team really decides the depth chart to be honest with you. There are always players that get beat out that get disappointed and upset- but that's on every team in football. Whether it's a freshman or senior or whoever, the best player has to play.
You said you thought you found some answers in the passing game ... do you regret not starting those young receivers earlier?
Swinney: Well again, that's what I just said. Same answer. You've got guys playing well in practice competing. You have to let them go battle and it works itself out. Nothing is final. You don't want to throw anybody away. We have good players. We are going to need all of our guys at the receiver position to step up this season. Jaron and Bryce and Nuke Hopkins give us the best chance to win. Every decision you make- a thousand people like it and a thousand people hate it. That's just how it is.
I'll give you an example, Richard Jackson is going to be a captain this week and he's not even starting. Catanzaro has to be productive and has to perform at a high level otherwise you give the other guy another opportunity. Richard has been extremely supportive. He's not giving up. He's speaking up in senior meetings. So I really have been proud how Richard Jackson has responded. He's preparing for his next opportunity, even if he doesn't get it. That's what you do in life. You don't sit around and cry about what's happening. You go to work. That's what I've seen of Richard.
What about DeAndre Hopkins?
Swinney: extremely competitive. He's not a me guy. He's not a media guy. He was like that in the recruiting process. He's about winning. I want as many DeAndre Hopkins as I can get. If we can get those kind of guys we are going to be winners. He's just a true freshman but is big time talented. He looks like a freshman at times ... you have to kind of close your eyes when you watch the film. Same thing with Bryce. Same thing with Jaron. Those are three dynamic guys that will improve tremendously over the course of the year.
Did you ever consider playing Hopkins on defense?
Swinney: He's kind of like DeAndre McDaniel. It's scary how similar they were in high school. McDaniel was a great wide out. Played basketball. Nuke was the same way in high school. But DeAndre didn't want to play wide out. Nuke didn't want to play DB. He could. And be a great one. He wants the ball in his hands. He doesn't get overwelmed. He doesn't talk trash. You don't ever hear him. You just see him.
Do you try to interject with play calling- especially in the last two games?
Swinney: I trust my coaches 100 percent. I've got good coaches. Obviously, I have opinions. I'm the head coach. There are things I will bring up a lot. All the bad things are on me. I've got excellent coaches that care about these players. They work extremely hard. They spend hours and hours of work constantly trying to be the best. Very pleased with the staff I have. Not happy with where we are right now.
How long does it take for a wide receiver to develop a relationship with a quarterback?
Swinney: They throw together all the time. There's been a pretty solid six or seven man rotation throughout camp and the first few games. It's kind of emerged to where we are right now. You saw that last week- a group that Kyle had a lot of confidence in all week because of practice.
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