Dabo Swinney's Press Conference

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Saturday's matchup with No. 11 Florida State.

Opening statement...
Swinney: Good to see you guys. The goal is to try and win every game. That's what we try to do when you plan out the season. You don't plan to lose any of them and I'm proud of our team for being 3-0. But this is really an exciting week as we get to ACC play and that's what it's all about. That's our next goal. Our next goal is to win the division. That's where all of our focus is and in order for us to do that we have to keep improving and stay committed to our standard that we've set. We have to have the best Tuesday we've had and the best Wednesday.

Florida State is a top 10 team. I know they fell down a little bit this week having played the No. 1 team in the country but they went toe to toe (with Oklahoma).

Offensively they are dangerous. They are a pro-style attack. They are a very good up front. They have two great tackles. They have outstanding skill. They do a great job of misdirection and scheming people. I know everybody wants to ask about the quarterback. I expect him to play. Their back up quarterback came in a beat us last year if you remember. Trickett played well for them last week. Talented young player. He's a winner. I don't think he'll be overwhelmed at all if he ends up being the guy. We have to do a better job ourselves giving up big plays and getting off the field.

When you turn the film on, it doesn't take long to realize how good these guys are on defensively. This is a big big challenge for us offensively. Biggest one we've had. Their d-line is typical Florida State. They are long athletic, and physical. They can run. Their linebackers are all big and they can all run. 240+ pound guys and very very active. They are really going to challenge us. Secondary is very experienced. Them two corners are special. Their safeties are good - the No. 20 guy will get after you.

If you look at their special teams, in a game like this - that could be the difference in the game and it was last year down there. It was pretty much a draw last year down there except special teams. We missed some kicks and they made theirs and we turned it over on the three yard line. Their returners are dangerous. Field position will be critical in this game.

But we are excited about another opportunity. It keeps getting tougher for us but I'm proud of our guys for staying focused one game a time. Can't thank our fans enough. They were a difference in the game for sure. Really created a lot of energy. Even starting with Tiger Walk and that made a difference in the ball game and I expect it even better this week as we get into conference play.

Your staff seems to be making very good adjustments at halftime in these first three games. Can you speak to that?
Swinney: Well that's our objective to get better as the game goes. You go into the game with a plan but you don't really know until you get out there about the other team's personality. What's their plan? Do we need to bring pressure? Do we need to play more zone? Do we need to throw the ball more? What are they doing on first down? But to be honest, we've played better as the game has gone along. We've had to battle back, but give the credit to all the players. They've had the fortitude and mental toughness to keep going. I'm proud of our guys for that. And that's one of our commandments. If we get up 21 or down 21 just keep playing.

Can you speak to Tajh Boyd and how he's played so far, especially with such a fast-paced offense?
Swinney: Tajh is doing a great job. He's really playing well. Like I told him earlier today when he was in here watching film. To see where he is mentally and physically since he's got here - he works. Really proud of his leadership. Loves to play. Likes the preparation part of it and he's kept a good focus. If he keeps playing how he's playing in terms of protecting the ball he's going to be very good.

Werner looked good against Oklahoma and also played well against you last year. What are your thoughts on him?
Swinney: Must play some pretty good football over there in Germany. He's pretty good. Really good. He shows up all over film. Their defensive tackles are very good. And they have depth. They are all very talented.

What was it like watching film of your offense against Auburn? It really looked like Tajh and his receivers were all on the same page.
Swinney: There were four or five plays where I made the comment, 'man we are playing some ball now.' There were guys all on the same page doing the same things we are doing in practice. Making adjustments on the fly as far as route-running. Quarterback and wide receivers were on the same page and there were some big plays in that game because of that.

Does Sammy Watkins have any weaknesses?
Swinney: He just needs to stay how he is and he'll be just fine. I don't know really how to answer that. He's just going to get better. He's still learning but he gets it. He understands defense. You tell him something one time and he's got it. He corrects. He's extremely coachable. He's humble. He's always taking notes. He studies. I just haven't been around him ... anybody like that at his age. I'd like to say he needs to get physically stronger but he's 207 pounds and his size his not a weakness. He'll probably be a 215 pound player at some point. I will say this, he can improve without the ball. But as far as skill sets go, he's got everything you want.

Were you surprised how Auburn tried to defend Sammy Watkins?
Swinney: They tried some matchup stuff and our guy was better than their guy. Then they played some zone and we found some soft spots in the zone. That's the nature of the game. They missed some tackles. That third down play, they couldn't have had a better defense (alignment). But our Jimmy was better than their Joe. I don't know what you do their. We'll take chances down field if you are going to press us. And we'll throw to him short if you back off. And it's not just Sammy now. It's because of Nuke Hopkins and Dwayne Allen and Jaron Brown. Tajh has done a great job spreading the ball around too. Couple of years ago, we were forcing things with C.J. and Jacoby. But now we've got a lot of guys. From that standpoints we are creating some problems for the opposition.

Can you talk about the importance of this game in terms of goal No. 2 - winning the Atlantic Division?
Swinney: Like I said last week, Auburn was the National Champions until somebody beat them. Nobody had beaten them. We had our shot and it worked out. Same thing about Florida State until somebody beats them as Atlantic Division champions. They've got the belt. We had it last year. If we beat Florida State last year we win the Atlantic Division, but they won it. That's the great thing about conference play - every game counts. But the winner of this game ... it's kind of like we are all in a car racing. The winner of this game has his hands on the steering wheel. The lower is still in the car, he just isn't driving. From a big picture standpoint, it's a big one.

You alluded to this the other day - would you be surprised if your team doesn't handle success well. Do you feel like that still on Tuesday?
Swinney: This team has done a great job of focusing. That goes to leadership. They've done a super job of leading. Senior meeting yesterday - this team is saying the right thing. Same thing with practice yesterday. They are extremely focused. The fun is in the winning. They came in here at 6:30 Monday morning and there was no party going on around here. It was a serious and focused work environment because we've made a lot of mistakes. Turn the film on - this is a talented football team we are getting ready to face. I've been pleased with this team so far on that front.

What has been the response you've received after that emotional outburst at the end of the Auburn game on ESPN?
Swinney: I haven't received much response other than watching it all night Saturday with the family. I will say this, you play this noon game, they are going to talk about that - but it was who we beat. But it was like a commercial for Clemson all day and all night. It was great. It was great for our team and for our fans to see Clemson with such a positive light. Listen, I'm an emotional guy. Y'all have probably figured it out by now. To be honest, I don't remember the whole deal. I was trying to remember when the alma mater was going to be played. People stick a microphone in front of your face. It's like I told the team, "you are either going to be victim No. 18 or you are going to end the nation's longest winning streak." And that's what it was.

You realize the national pundits are wondering how you will handle success and whether or not you can carry over last week to this week, correct?
Swinney: I don't worry about all of that stuff. That's a complete waste of my time. All I worry about is this team. The effort for this team has been outstanding. The leadership has been outstanding. We are starting our third season here and you are seeing the ingredients you need to have in place to win games like this and have the season you want to have.

If Andre Ellington can't go on Saturday will D.J. Howard start?
Swinney: No decision has been made about that right now. If we can't play we'll talk about that on Thursday. But Ellington will be ready to go.

One of the ESPN analysts asked off the air last week, 'who is this guy D.J. Howard?' How could can he be in this offense?
Swinney: He's very good. He can be very good. You are going to be saying that a lot this year. There are several other guys on this team who y'all haven't seen yet. It's just getting the opportunity.

The last couple of years it seems like the Atlantic Division champion will come from this game. Do you see this rivalry getting more heated?
Swinney: Well it's all about recruiting. I'd like to say we are just the greatest coaches to ever walk the sideline. If they continue to recruit well and we continue to recruit well. Absolutely.

Offense is clicking - top 25 in 12 categories. What about the defense? It's currently 97th in total defense?
Swinney: Well that's where we are so far. But stats only tell part of the tale. But we've given up monster plays. Wofford completed only two passes for 127 yards. We've had monster busts. When you give up monster plays like that your stats aren't going to pretty good. If you watch the tape, and you take out those five to seven big plays, it changes your perspective. We've been inconsistent in spots. We haven't tackled great. We did better the other day but we didn't do well with our eyes and angles. When it's all said and done, this is going to be a good defense. We have good coaches. We have good players. Just eliminate the mistakes and get rid of the big plays. But the bottom line is we've gotten better each game defensively. You don't let a team score in the second half, and it's been a long time since Auburn has gone a half without scoring, you are doing something. We aren't perfect. We've had a lot of success offensively, but we aren't really happy. We've missed a lot of opportunity. That third and 1 the other day? We should have had 40 yards on that play. 40 yards! We had the perfect call. That was a critical play. But we are picking each other up. Special teams have been solid. Catanzaro - made a huge kick the other day. Everything is working together and that's what a team is all about - to pick each other up.

Is FSU more traditional of an offense compared to what you've seen the first three weeks?
Swinney: Well they are pro style and we haven't seen that. The NFL, this guy gets fired and goes somewhere else. There's so much carry over in pro football. In college football you don't see that. There are big differences every week. Especially on offense. So it's a little unique that we are in our fourth week and we've yet to see a pro-style attack. Now we get to play our traditional base defense. We've had to install backwards. This is a play-action team. They'll run boots and nakeds. They'll run I-formation. They'll do it all.

Your young linebackers didn't play much against Auburn. Would you think that changes this week facing Florida State given the fact they are much more conventional?
Swinney: Yes. I would. And I hope so. They have to continue to get better. This past week we didn't play a lot of guys defensively. One - it was the type of game it was. And then we only 9 snaps in the fourth quarter. That's it. They were loving life over there. We can win a lot of games like that.

CUTigers.com Top Stories