Dabo Swinney's Press Conference

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Saturday's matchup with ACC rival Georgia Tech.

Opening statement
Swinney: Well, Georgia Tech week. If there's a team we ought to know something about it's these guys. We've had our fair share of battles with this team. They are 5-2. They've won three in a row. We know we have our hands full. We have to play a complete game against these guys. We've yet to do that. Obviously it's come down to the last play. We played them in Atlanta last year- defensively played lights out - had seven three-and-outs. Then the offense dominated in the championship game. Played as well as we could have offensively. Didn't have one punt. But they didn't either.

We are going to have to have a solid contribution in all three phases to beat these guys. Hopefully we can build upon what we did this past weekend, although we didn't play great offensively.

Georgia Tech, well they are what they are. No. 18 is the B-back this year. But Nesbitt makes them go. He's a tough guy to simulate in practice. We have to do a good job with all of their backs. They don't throw the ball a whole lot but our history with them is just when you think you are doing a good job, but then they hit you. It's critical everybody does a great job with their eyes. It starts with being physical. Everybody has a job to do, but you have to be extremely physical in your job. Everybody has to block you. If they can't block you it creates problems.

The biggest thing with an option football team is that there is a lot of things going on. We have to try and create turnovers. The other thing that will be critical for us is third down- because they go for it on fourth down. If they get to fourth and short, they are going for it. That was what was so painful in the championship game. Then we have to do a good job in the red zone and hold them to field goals.

When you get spread out on the option, you have to tackle well. If you miss a tackle in this game, it's very noticeable.

Their defense is probably the biggest change on their team obviously. They have eight starters back. They have some guys that show up. Coach Groh - it's like getting ready to play Virginia. Turn the film on- that's what you look at. He's done a nice job of implementing that 3-4 scheme. You can see them getting better as you go through the season. No. 92- he's questionable on their defensive line but they all do a good job with their hands.

For us, it's all about execution on offense. We have to protect the ball and throw and catch better. We had six drops last week- all by running backs and tight ends. We have to be a better first down team.

Special teams continue to make a difference. We put a lot of time into it. We meet on it a lot. We practice it a lot. Our guys take a lot of pride on special teams. That's going to bode well for us.

Big matchup. Looking forward to getting back out there Saturday.

You mention getting better on first down- is that execution or philosophy?
Swinney: A little bit of both. Execution and doing a few things a little bit differently. We've had some very correctable things on first down. That impacts everything - all of your quality control on offense.

Are defenses respecting your passing game at all?
Swinney: Maryland was obviously over-committed to that. They did a good job of it. We had six drops. That's the frustrating thing - including two touchdowns. We come out in the third quarter and get a stop, get a punt return and then we score. Then we have a three-score game with our defense playing lights out. It was just a matter of the offense making a mistake. We need to open it up more. We are good enough. We can do it. We'll be fine.

Do you expect DeAndre Hopkins back?
Swinney: I think so. He looked fine last night in vests. We'll see him in pads today. I expect him to be back. The only thing I'm worried about injury wise is Brandon Maye. I'm not sure about him with a calf injury.

Given the closeness of the series, are your guys even more motivated against this group?
Swinney: Well Georgia Tech to me is the champion. Period. They've earned it. They've got the title. They have beaten us in two heartbreakers. One for the championship. It's not often you play a team twice in one year so there are a lot of guys on this team that have played them. For us, it's a one game season- that's the mentality, regardless of the opponent.

"Well Georgia Tech to me is the champion. Period. They've earned it. They've got the title. They have beaten us in two heartbreakers. One for the championship."

Is Anthony Allen different this year as their feature back? Is he more physical that Dwyer?
Swinney: He's fast too now. He's the guy went 70 yards on us last year. He's probably a little bit faster than Dwyer. Dwyer was a physical back. He was a tough runner. Allen is a physical player. They got Smith and Jones- they have good players. This comes down to their eyes and everybody doing their job. You basically just take all spring and all summer, put in the shed for this week. We had good energy on the field last night with guys taking ownership. We had good intensity for a Monday practice.

Who simulates Nesbitt for you in practice for you this week?
Swinney: Vic Beasley. He can't throw the ball very good but he's the only guy that give us a true Nesbitt simulation because he's big, strong and can run. He's a tough guy. I'm going to spend some time with the scout offense today to make sure the juices are flowing like they need to be. We need a good Tuesday and Wednesday.

Do you want to try and make Nesbitt pitch it?
Swinney: Somebody has to tackle the quarterback every play. Somebody has to take the dive guy every play. Somebody has to take the pitch guy every play. It's just important that everybody needs to do your job. Tackle the quarterback. Hit him. That's the great thing about playing an option team- you can hit the quarterback - a lot. You've got to do your job. And it gets changed up - it's not always the same. If you are always the same against these guys they will make you pay.

Is it an advantage to have played these guys three times in two years?
Swinney: I don't know if it's an advantage. But we have more knowledge. The more knowledge you have the better chance you have for success?

Do you remember Nesbitt in the recruiting process?
Swinney: I don't. He'll (Paul Johnson) always have a quarterback in that scheme. I don't know if he'll have a Nesbitt. I like watching him play. He lays it on the line.

Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt is only 45 yards shy of breaking the ACC record for career rushing yards by a quarterback, held by Clemson's Woodrow Dantzler. (Dean Legge)
Who is Nesbitt's go-to receiver this year?
Swinney: No. 5- Hill has been their main guy. He's got 11 catches and a couple of touchdowns. No. 84, Melton, he's fast. They try to get the ball to him. No. 5, he's big. He's 6-5, he's kind of the jump ball guy.

Can you talk about the big picture? You are 16-11 overall and taking out the Coastal Carolinas and all of that you are about .500? Is
Swinney: Oh no. I knew this wasn't going to be easy. You don't' change the culture overnight. You just don't. I knew we had a pretty good distance to make up in the progress we needed to make here. It's not just the scoreboard. It's how you talk with your players. How you meet with them. Your support staff. You can't get the cart before the horse. I don't think there's any question we've made progress here in this team for the long haul. We've never won the Atlantic Division and we did last year. We took over a team in the middle of a chaotic season and we played better. We beat our rival that year and went to the Gator Bowl and played an extremely physical Nebraska team. Then over last year we became a more physical team. There's a difference between losing and getting beat. There's a difference winning and beating people. We've made a lot of progress with our staff. We've gone from having an offensive line that's a weak spot to a strong spot. A team that now protects the quarterback very good. We've changed the philosophy on defense and we aren't perfect. All I know is we have an Atlantic Division banner up, played for a championship. Put 10 guys into the NFL last year and eight are still playing. We don't have a lot of guys getting in trouble around here. I see a lot of good things. Ultimately, most people will look at the scoreboard and say you are either good or bad, and some point that will be the case. If you know anything about recruiting, you know we are recruiting very well. We red-shirted just about everybody last year. They are in our weight room. They are in our power hour. They are learning how to work. Then we'll put another 24 or 25 guys with them this year. We are going to have a nucleus of a championship team right here. As I've said before, the best is yet to come.

How comfortable are you with your linebackers?
Swinney: Well we are better now than we were at the beginning of the year that's for sure. Quandon [Christian] is really made a lot of progress. Feel really confident with Tig. He's back. Corico is solid. This is really his first experience with Georgia Tech. Tig played against them just about the whole game against Georgia Tech. I feel better about where we are. We aren't where we need to be. Hopefully we'll continue to show improvement at linebacker?

If you could take one thing away to correct from last year's games- what would it be?
Swinney: Just being disciplined. No. 1 just do your job. Just like the championship game. Defensively, the first game, we had seven three-and-outs. They had only 14 all year. We had seven of them in that first game. The two special teams touchdowns- one of them probably shouldn't have happened but did. Overall, just discipline. Offensively, the two pics in the championship game. Heck we had the player of the game and we lost. No. 1 thing is just be disciplined.

You've come up on the losing end of close games... is there anything you see that you can pin point to your team to fix?
Swinney: Just keep growing up. Keep getting into position to win. We are going to win. We are going to win at a high level here. Keep coaching. Keep playing with the type of mentality we are playing with. We are going to break through. Then that becomes contagious. We just aren't there right now. We've lost to three teams this year that were preseason top 15. We aren't quite there. I know where we are going - it's important to know where you started. I know where we started Oct. 13. It's important to know where you are. And I know where we are. And it's important to know where we are going to be. And I can see it. I'm excited about it. Hopefully it's coming sooner rather than later. But Clemson has a bright future.

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