Swinney: Kicking off year three. I'm sure everybody is as excited as I am to see what kind of team we will have this year. I'm anxious to see us play. I'm anxious to see us play somebody else so we can get a real true evaluation of where we are right now. We are pretty healthy, (RB) Demont Buice is the only guy that is questionable.
Troy - a little bit about them - I have a ton of respect for their program. I have known Coach Blakeney for a long time. Have always had a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done as far as taking them to the D-I level. Five consecutive Sun Belt championships- that's quite an accomplishment. It's a big challenge for us as a opener simply because they are a good football team and there's also a lot of unknowns. They have 22 junior college players on their roster. But same for us. We'll have some unknowns for them. No. 6 for them at quarterback is a good player. He threw for over 3,700 yards last year. They will also play the lefty, and he's more of runner. They do some good things. It's the old Hal Mumme at Kentucky-type system. They've got players they've recruited for that system. No. 20 is a good running back. Receiver is a big question mark as far as who they are going to throw to. They always recruit well there and will be playing young guys there. So will we.
The biggest thing for us is to line up correctly. They will do 10, 20 personnel groupings. We have to tackle well after the catch. They get the ball out quickly. The quarterback is hard to pressure because of his launch point. He does a good job scrambling and he scrambles to pass. We can't have yards after the catch. That's the critical thing.
Their defense is typical Troy- they play fast. They play tough. They will be much improved this year defensively. Statistically last year they were fifth in the nation in sacks and 15th in tackles for loss. They will get after the quarterback with their pressure packages. They've got it all. A nice mixture of fronts to go with it. They have a real premier player in Massaquoi. He's as a good an end as we will see all year. He's special. 13.5 sacks last year was third behind Da'Quan. I'm sure they will try to bring pressure early with a young quarterback. Solid at linebacker and a couple of all-conference guys behind them.
But for us offensively, it's about us. We are our biggest opponent. Not have mistakes. No stupid penalties. I'm anxious to see their punter because so supposedly he has a spectacular beard. I'm anxious to see that.
|"If we hit our goals this year, we'll be special. It's not about having a winning season or being in a bowl game. We want to be back in that championship game season like we were two years ago.|
When you say like Hal Mumme- does that mean simply spreading the field wide play after play like he used to do at Kentucky?
Swinney: Yes. A lot of wide zone. Play action. A lot of screens and shuffle passes. The ball is gone quick and they rely on yards after the catch. That's why it's so important to tackle well.
Going into every season, teams have questions. Do you have any more or less than other teams right now?
Swinney: We have plenty of question marks. On the outside looking in, gosh they have a new quarterback. New offensive coordinator. New coaches. What's their chemistry? Have the players picked the system up? But I'm confident with all of that. For me, it's dependable depth. Until you go play, you don't know about some of those things. Training camp you are preparing for a lot of things. You start game-planning like we've done and that is helping some of our young guys and they'll make progress in the first couple of games. We need to be able to play some of these (young) guys on our terms. We have to play them on our own terms and catch a break and keep our front guys healthy, you are going to see some of these young guys emerge.
Massaquoi- will he line up on one side exclusively or will he switch?
Swinney: Mostly he will be on Landon Walker's side. Primarily he's on our right side. But I would be surprised if he's not on the left side more in this ball game. I know if I'm preparing for Clemson, I am looking at a walk-on at left tackle. I know what I would do.
So you have confidence in Phillip Price that he can handle that?
Swinney: Oh yes. Absolutely. No doubts in Phillip whatsoever.
Looking at the depth chart which was just released - DeShawn Williams is listed as a backup in your interior defensive line. Can you talk about him?
Swinney: He's been very consistent. Very eager. Him and Grady [Jarrett] both. They both have good futures there. Neither one of them are ready to play but we have to grown them up. I'd hate to have to line up and start those guys right now. Hopefully if we can play them some on our terms, by mid-season they will be quality backups for us.
Quandon Christian will be one of the two linebackers on the field in nickel situations... how do you feel about his potential in those situations?
Swinney: He's just a guy we want to keep on the field as much as possible. He can run. He's a smart player. If it's in the dime he's probably out. But we'll see how that plays out. Most of the time we have help over the top of him.
Starting a first-year quarterback like Tajh Boyd, does that make you nervous for a season opener?
Swinney: Not really. Just because he's played. He's been out there and played in this stadium a couple of times. All I can do is base it on how he's practice. He's practiced well. He's very confident. He knows what he's doing. He's going to make some mistakes, but everybody is. I expect him to play well. But he doesn't have to win the game. With this system and the way it's built, he doesn't have the weight of the world on him. The way we call the game will be important- especially early. We want to get him off to a good start.
Quandon Christian is one of Clemson's best linebackers in coverage situations. (Roy Philpott)
Swinney: He's matured a ton. He's very very focused. I can't say enough about Dwayne Allen. It's amazing how he's developed as a young man. I'm really proud of Dwayne. He has taken on a leadership role with this football team and thrived in it. He's a very good player. Very good player. I don't know that I would say he faded last year because there were a lot of things out of his control. He's going to graduate in December. Hopefully he's going to stay healthy and be a big factor in our game plan in the coming weeks.
Can you talk about Chad Morris and what he's meant to this program so far?
Swinney: He's great. He's been wonderful to work with in every regard. It's one of those things you have an instinct and a gut-feel. The firs time he and I talked, we really hit it off. Then several times after that, we just had a lot in common. We think the same things. It's a good situation. But how he has handled our team has been very very good. The players have bought in to what we are trying to do. He's an easy guy to work with. I'm proud of what he's done in the short time he's been here.
Do you have a set number of snaps you want to get for Andre Ellington Saturday?
Swinney: As many times as we can get it to him. There's no getting it to him 20 times or not getting it to him 35 times. Go back to Spiller a few years ago - we are going to get the ball to him as many times as we can. He was a big reason we made it to the championship game. Andre Ellington is the only guy I see who is an every down type of guy right now. I want to see him play well. If the game is tight- that's a factor.
What do you want to see out of this team Saturday, besides a win?
Swinney: Execute. Execute like I've seen in practice. Don't beat themselves. I hate to say the typical things you see in openers. I want to see a clean game and really execute.
With the rule changes in place this year about unsportsmanlike conduct. How much have you talked with your team about that?
Swinney: It's something I would think every head coach has addressed. It's going to be a big deal on ESPN somewhere. Some where in this country, it's going to be a big deal on ESPN because it gets called or doesn't get called. It's something you have to address as a head coach because the last thing you want to do is have something stupid like that. We have to abide by the rule. Let's hand the ball to the ref. Let's play hard. Hand the ball to the ref. And move on.
How long will this rule last, do you think?
Swinney: I don't know. Probably not long. Depends how often it is called. Lord knows I hope it's not at Clemson. Or it won't get called - and that's another issue. All I worry about is us. Score. Hand the ball to the ref.
Do you have to watch the freshmen more closely with that rule - guys like Sammy Watkins?
Swinney: You aren't going to have to worry about that with Sammy. He's all business all the time. Sometimes I have to ask him if he's got a pulse in there. Maybe he needs to show more emotion. But I got a couple of them other ones I might worry about though. And a quarterback. It's hard enough to score in the red zone ... you don't want to take points off the board for excessive celebration.
Do you have a plan in place for Price if he can't handle Massaquoi?
Swinney: We'll have a plan for 94 for sure. Whether that's Price or Walker or whoever. Wherever he is, we'll have the ability to deal with it.
You've been asked about concerns, what do you really think will happen with this team this year?
Swinney: I think we are going to get better each week. I really do. I anticipate us having a good year. And I said this yesterday to our team. I think there are a lot of teams out there that are over-ranked or over-rated. And I think there are teams that are under-ranked. I don't think there are a whole lot of people outside of Clemson that think we are going to be very good. But I'm not one of them. I believe we are going to be very good.
Can you talk about the freshmen now more by name considering we are at game week?
Swinney: Sammy Watkins will be a guy that starts for us in his first ever college game. That's pretty unusual. He's a special player. The only confirmation I need from him is doing it on game day. He's been electrifying. Charone Peake is another guy I'm excited to see. Martavis Bryant has a great future in front of him. Mike Bellamy is electric. He's going to help us this year change games. He's not a complete player yet, because he's still growing up. But the biggest thing is we get No. 23 back. He's had an excellent camp but he's a special player. Nobody is talking about him. Right now he has the ability to be the player of the year in this conference. If he stays healthy he has the ability. He's our top recruit right now. But we have more weapons. More answers. And the system is really going to help us, especially with Tajh at quarterback.