ACC teleconference

During Wednesday morning's ACC teleconference, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney talked about Sammy Watkins, the young defensive backs and more.

Opening statement...
We're probably like most everybody else out there, excited that it's finally game week. Anxious to see our team play somebody else and get a real gauge of where we are. Troy's a tough opener for us. It's a program that I have a lot of respect for and know a lot about. It certainly will be a big challenge for us. We are excited about cranking this thing up this week and having a good season.

Tajh Boyd's improvement from spring to fall...what was the difference?
First of all, we had about 30-something guys that are with our football team that weren't there in the spring, due to injuries, and we brought in 27 new players. That's probably the biggest thing. And, this spring, was the first-time we had installation, as far as with this system. After 15 days of spring ball, Tajh is one of those guys that really worked very hard this summer in taking ownership of this offense. He came back much better, and I thought he had a really good spring, we challenged him to be better than he was when spring ended. I'm proud of him for that. Then, we've got some really good players here, young players that I think are going to make a difference for us. I think all those things have helped him with his performance.

" I just want to see us play smart and execute. That's really what it's about. We've got good players. We've got good coaches. It's about execution."

What he wants to see most from the offense in the opener...
I just want to see us play smart and execute. That's really what it's about. We've got good players. We've got good coaches. It's about execution. I want to see us go out and play the game the way we've practiced. We've had good focus, excellent preparation. These guys have been very dialed on trying to get better every day. We've set a standard. I want to see us play to that standard. That's really the biggest thing...taking care of the football, no stupid penalties, be clean with our procedures and so forth.

Who has progressed beyond what you've expected of them?
I think we've got several guys that are worthy of mentioning. If I had to say one guy, it would be Sammy Watkins. That's just because he's a true freshman that's been here for a few weeks. I knew he was going to be a really good player. I just have been blown away by his ability to not just learn the offense, but his work ethic, his attention to detail. He's way beyond his years. He's a very polished guy. He studies, takes great notes, just about his business all the time. That's a very uncommon thing for a true freshman. He could be the guy that has surprised me. The whole package that he's got.

New faces in the secondary...
I think that's definitely an area where there a lot of questions on the team. Not just in our secondary, but our backups, in general. I think that Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks are two guys that are really good football players and have played a lot of football, same thing with Xavier Brewer and Coty Sensabaugh. Those guys have played a lot. Bashaud Breeland is a freshman who's going to be making his debut this week. Behind those guys, we're a talented group, but a lot of inexperience. That's going to be a real story to watch for us -- how those guys perform on game day and how they get better. That's going to be a challenge for us as a staff, bringing those guys along. By mid-season, we've got to have some dependable depth. Right now, we've just got depth. I wouldn't say it's dependable. I would say that's yet to be proven. But we're young. Again, talented guys, but we've got to go play on game day so we can have some video evidence, to see where we are versus an opponent, and go from there.

Do you script play for those young [DB's] on Saturday, or is it a dangerous approach?
The big thing is, and it's the difference from your fall camp, you do a lot of wholesale substitutions in fall camp. You've got your first group and second group, and you're working on certain reps. In a game, it's not necessarily like that. You have to be smart in how you substitute. Hopefully, some of those guys will play, when they're playing with some of the starters -- those guys will help them. As far as going into a set number of plays, don't really have that. We know the type of system Troy runs, we're definitely going to have to substitute, and we want to do that, to keep some guys fresh. The only way guys are going to get better is to play them. We want to play them on our terms. Hopefully, we can stay healthy, at least the first half of the season here and allow some of these guys to develop and get experience.

Catanzaro's finish and offseason...

Chandler Catanzaro hit 14 of 20 field goal attempts in 2010. (Roy Philpott)
"We did finish strong. And that's because of the way the season went, and the type of year it was, in particular kicking the ball. Nobody really talked about that, but I'm proud of Chandler for how he finished the season. He hit 6 out of 7 and we made a change with our snapper. Phillip Fajgenbaum is now our starter. He took over in the Florida State game and did a great job for us. We just feel like we've got some consistency there with our snap, hold and kick. Chandler' had an excellent spring and he carried it right over into fall camp. He's been very consistent. The only thing for him is to go have that consistency on game day. That's the next step for him. He struggled as a freshman last year. I really think that experience is going to help him. Again, he finished strong. I like how he's carrying over into spring and fall camp. I expect him to play well. That's something that a lot of eyes will be on this fall.

It used to be, if you have 60 percent accuracy, you're pretty happy. Now, it's like 80 percent is average...
That's a good point. We had a kicker here way before I got here, named Chris Gardocki, who is one of the best ever. He punted and kicked forever in the NFL. I believe that Chandler, even though he had a poor year, his percentage, I think, was higher as a freshman than Gardocki had as a freshman. It's just different times. For us, in particular last year, just the way the season was, we missed six kicks inside the 20. We had a lot of games that were three points or four points. We lost five games by six points or less. Those are games where we missed kicks. It's a definite factor in the game. It was very glaring, in that regard, for us as a team last year. Hopefully, we'll be much improved. I really believe we're going to be. Again, we've got to go play and have the same kind of performance on game day that we've had on the practice field. Top Stories