Swinney: Alright. Good to get back to work and get with the team yesterday and move on to Wake Forest. Good practice last night. Good energy. Went inside and got good work done. I'm really proud of our team- that's the first thing I want to say. These guys are amazing. They got the right stuff. That's a great thing to have. A great quality. Not just in football, but in life. They get knocked down seven times and get back up eight. They have that mentality. They've been amazing to watch on how they continue to be a team.
That was as hurt a locker room as I've seen the other night when you get beat by a 55-yarder at the buzzer. That was a tough pill to swallow. Especially when you are young. To see them come in at 6:30 in the morning yesterday and then back in at 4:00 for practice. I'm proud of them for the choices they make and their attitudes.
It's been a tough season for Wake Forest. They have struggled this year in the win-loss column. But they are very well coached. They play hard. They are a young team. They don't start a lot of seniors at all- similar to us. It will be senior day for them. We'll have to play well. This is our last opportunity to win one on the road. They have played very tough at home, regardless of who the opponent has been.
Offensively, they are tough to prepare for. They have so many different personnel groups. They are 10, 20, then 21 personnel. If you are a defensive coach trying to prepare for that- how do you figure it out? They are the package of the week. That makes it difficult from a preparation standpoint because you have to prepare for different things from tape.
They are playing two quarterbacks. The freshman is getting the most snaps. Josh Adams is back- seems like he's been there forever. They've mixed in quite a bit of option this year with their different packages this year. Having to prepare for that is another element you have to deal with this week. For us defensively, it's about winning at the line of scrimmage. They've been playing dominant football up front.
We have to do a great job with our eyes. We have to recognize formations and getting our alignments proper. Alignments and assignments are critical.
Defensively, they start five freshmen and five sophomores in their two deep. Before their open date they were a four-man front. Then afterwards they've been an odd front. You have to prepare for both. They aren't very big. Very young up front. Their little nose guard is 5-10, 235 but I don't know if he's that big. He's quick and disruptive. It's flat movement. This is a game where your backs have to have great vision. There will be cuts you have to make with your eyes.
The outside linebackers they move around. No. 97 is a great player and he stands out in their linebacker corp. Young in the secondary - three freshmen and a sophomore.
The biggest thing for us is executing and finishing drives with points. We've had some outstanding drives- eight drives of nine plays or more and we've gotten zero points. It's tough being an offensive lineman right now because they are playing as well as any offensive line we've had since I've been here. They held Florida State good for virtually the entire game. It's tough being an OL right because they are putting a lot of great drives together. We are hitting a lot of doubles and leaving them on third base. We just have to finish drives. Period. We have to finish drives with points.
I think we match up well with special teams. Last chance to get bowl eligible. We still can hit three of our five goals and that's what we have to focus on. Health wise we are good but with Brandon Maye he's got some concussion issues. There's a process we have to go through there. That's a day-to-day to thing. Kourtnei Brown will be back. Looking forward to heading up there Friday and getting our first road win.
What about Andre Ellington?
Swinney: Andre is out for sure this week. Our hope is that he will be back next week. He jogged yesterday in the indoor facility with straight ahead running. If he can play next week he'll play. If not, we'll go ahead and do the surgery.
|"If we all we focus on is the results, we are going to be miserable. That's what people on the outside are going to do. I have to focus on the process. I know that good things are going to happen if we continue to do that. It's not anything that one more play will take care of. Or one more kick. Our guys have played extremely hard but for whatever reason we haven't won on the road."|
Swinney: No. We have the right mentality but we have just to make some key plays. Nobody wants to hear that we are close. It's time to panic or overhaul. The reality is we've got four road losses by 17 points. We lose in overtime to the No. 1 team in the country by a field goal. We lose to Florida State at the buzzer on a 55-yard field goal. Both of those games we physically won. We just have to keep coaching and keep recruiting. I'm not happy with how it's been on the road. That's been the story of this year. If we all we focus on is the results, we are going to be miserable. That's what people on the outside are going to do. I have to focus on the process. I know that good things are going to happen if we continue to do that. It's not anything that one more play will take care of. Or one more kick. Our guys have played extremely hard but for whatever reason we haven't won on the road. The defense is championship caliber. Offense is moving the ball and doing some good things. We just haven't capitalized in the red zone and that's where we have to get better.
Red zone scoring is a combination of touchdowns and field goals. We've struggled because we haven't had a good combination. Duke is No. 1 in this conference in red zone scoring. They are 19 touchdowns and 14-of-14 in field goals. We are dead last and we are 21 touchdowns but we are 6-of-12 field goals. That's 18 points we've left from the 20 in.
We've got to get better. And we will. And I'll say this about Catanzaro. That kid is a freshman and he's not had a good year. Anybody can see that. His success in practice and hasn't had the same success in the game. Dawson Zimmerman we wouldn't give a nickel last year and now he's a Ray Guy finalist. Catanzaro - he's going to be one of the most consistent kickers we'll ever have here. I really believe that. It's been a tough year this year. It's been tough for all of us. It's not where we are or what's behind us. It's all about where we are going.
Do you feel like you are a bit unlucky in the red zone? Snake bitten?
Swinney: When you have had struggles in the kicking game you have and you put a 15 play drive together - that's hard to do. We've pressed a little bit. The miscues have come in the red zone. Missed assignment then offsides. Then Nuke falls down. Lord have mercy. You have a great matchup. He's either going to catch that for a touchdown or it's incomplete. Trying to make a ball play. He got tripped up and that cost us. That's ball. It's happened that way this year. We just have to keep grinding. It's going to turn. I know it will.
Can you talk about Da'Quan Bowers and how he excelled this season?
Swinney: Perfect example of a guy maturing. He's been a real inspiration to everybody. Coaches. His teammates. Hopefully people on the outside looking in. He's played one of the best seasons in the country that anybody has played. He's earned it. Plays every week. Refuses to quit. That was the hardest thing to do the other night was to walk in that locker room and see this big ol' kid crying like a baby. But he continues to come back- like yesterday in the team meeting. Or out there at practice last night. That's what you are supposed to do. You keep doing your best and that's what he's done.
Have there been other guys outside of Bowers who have helped keep this team together?
Swinney: No question. You draw on your experiences. I've been around 20 years of college football teams and I've been around teams that have tough years. Maybe some teams as soon as things didn't go good guys would quit or grab a hamstring. Or point fingers. I've been around that. You watch and see how your guys respond. These guys- there hasn't been any of that. If anything, we've gotten stronger. If you have the right stuff, you are going to get stronger. And that's going to pay off. It's going to pay off and that's been a real positive for me and this program. Nobody has lined up and handed our butts to us now. If guys weren't competing and we were getting our butts handed to us right now- I'd be doing some real soul searching right now. It's been gut-wrenching things that have gone against our team. 2nd-and-26 and we get a pass interference with no time outs. But the way they've responded, that tells me we are doing the right things with our program. We got the right stuff. No doubt about it. We have to keep moving forward. I don't need a lot of patience. I need a little. Just a little. If we keep doing the things we are doing- teaching, coaching and recruiting, we aren't going to just win. We are going to win big. We are going to win big at Clemson. I'm more confident than ever we are moving in the right direction. We got a bunch of guys in that power hour that are going to help us. And a bunch of guys on the way (recruiting) that are going to help us.
Was the loss of Andre Ellington understated?
Swinney: Well, he's our most explosive player. We are hitting a lot of doubles and leaving a lot of guys on third base. We are missing a few elements. You know we scored more points than any other team in Clemson history last year. We have good coaches. I don't think we had many 15 play drives last year. This year we've had a whole bunch. Not having Ellington, you lose some explosiveness. That's why you have to come away with points.
You talked about looking to the future, will you work more of Tajh Boyd in the game Saturday?
There is talk that the play-calling duties are divided.
Swinney: There are no play-calling responsibility that's divided. Billy Napier calls the plays. Billy Napier is a very good coordinator at Clemson. So is Kevin Steele. I call all the bad plays at Clemson. I told y'all that from day one. Billy just didn't get dumb after last year. Y'all were at the championship game last year when we went up and down the field. We are moving the ball. Right at 400 yards the other night. There's no split duties or all of that.
Do you still have veto power with play calling?
Swinney: The coordinators call the plays. I'm the head coach. I'm back and forth all the time listening to what's going on. We have conversations all the time. Billy and I talk all the time. Billy calls the plays. If there is something I don't like or I want to do then that's my right. But that's rare. That's rare. I have 100 percent confidence in my coaches. We have had some scratch your head things this year. It's been difficult. I've been the head coach for two seasons now and that will all even out.
What was the difference with Jamie Harper last week?
Swinney: Just confidence. He's been the guy for a couple of weeks. He really has taken on more responsibility. He's grown up a little bit. He has a spirit about him. Opportunity and confidence and getting in that rhythm. He's quick. He makes a lot of people miss in space.