Dabo Swinney previews Virginia Tech

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Saturday's matchup at No. 11 Virginia Tech.

Opening statement previewing Virginia Tech...
Swinney: Getting ready for another really good football team. We've got another big challenge on our hands. Back to back. Top 10 type teams. Virginia Tech is the ACC Champion and in my opinion the best team in our league. They've won 12 ACC games in a row. They've won 15 regular season games in a row. Obviously they are very well coached. Ton of respect for Frank Beamer. Class guy. Very genuine. Class program.

They play really hard. In all phases. It's going to be a tough challenge. They are the only team in the country that's won 10 games or more for seven straight seasons. Very tough to beat at home.

For us we have to play well. We have to play as well as we can. We've not yet played a complete game. We've found a way to win but we have to put it together. Stay focused and stay committed and see if we can play that complete game. That's probably what it's going to take.

Their offense- they want to run the football. They run it 44 times a game. Up front they are big and have a bunch of veterans. NFL type guys. They've played a lot of winning football. Their two running backs - No. 4 and No. 2 - they've scored 10 of their 11 rushing touchdowns and they can both play. They are a handful when it comes to stopping the run. Their receivers are all good. They have a good group. They have four guys who are very productive. They spread it around. They all have touches and are all very productive. I imagine they will get No. 81 back full speed. He's been dealing with a hamstring but we expect to see him.

Defensively we have to stop the run. If they establish the run it's going to be a long night for us.

Their defense, it's going to be a really challenge offensively. Two weeks in a row we've played two top 10 defenses. They've given up 10 points a game. They are in top 5 in all statistics. They are No. 1 in our conference. We've got a tough task. They lead the league in sacks with 14. They are a little unique in that they play an eight-man front plus robber coverage. Little bit different from a game plan standpoint. But it all goes back to their personnel. Their D-line is built to stop the run. It's a 4-2-5 type of scheme but those two linebackers are two South Carolinians. No. 20 - a lot of people think he may be the best corner in the league.

And then special teams - everybody knows they are really good special teams-wise. They lead the league in punt returns. We have to step up to that challenge like last week. We have to step up on defense and eliminate big plays. Offensively we have to handle the environment. From an injury standpoint, Mansa Joseph is out. Dawson Zimmerman and D.J. Howard and Nuke are probable. They will probably be limited and maybe a little bit tomorrow but most likely all three of those guys will have a chance to play for us Saturday night.

Looking forward to it. Excited about it. Anxious to take this bunch on the road and see where we are. We've been a good home team. Now we have to win on the road and we start at the top. It's not getting any easier but it's a lot of fun. Like the demeanor of our team and where they are mentally. They are excited about playing in that venue and hopefully we'll play well.

Is it safe to say this is your biggest test of physicality to date?
Swinney: Well, Florida State is pretty good up front. You can flip a coin. Both of these defenses are very talented. These guys are built a little differently with body types as opposed to Florida State. Not quite as tall but a little wider. A little thicker. Build to stop the run with that eight man front they like to play. It will be a physical game. That will be a big part of it.

They have yet to play a team from a power conference. Is it hard to get a gauge on how good they actually are?
Swinney: Well they are 4-0 and they have played some solid teams. They've gotten it done regardless of who they have played. We'll get their best. The very best they got. It's going to take our best as well.

How has Foster's defense change
Swinney: They've done a good job. It looks to be like they are getting back to how they've always been. And they are still pretty young - up front. But they do what they do. I don't see any change at all. I've only seen them twice since I've been in this league. Just more of a difference in the personnel.

Any worry at all about a let down, having played two ranked teams already in back to back weeks?
Swinney: I think they are ready. They've been an easy group to focus every week. I think our schedule has helped us. We haven't had a chance to think about the last game because we've been so consumed with the next one. That's good. Now that you are going on the road that's a little different too. These guys have a ton of respect for our conference opponents. Our non-conference games are over with. I hope they handle 4-0 like they handle 1-0, 2-0, and 2-0.

Do you do anything different this week with your freshmen, who are making their first road trip?
Swinney: No. The only thing we'll do different is have a bunch of crowd noise at practice. The crowd will be pretty quiet on defense. We'll challenge our offense this week with communication with calls and snap counts. When we are at home we don't have that type of issue. If you are a good player it doesn't matter where you play. Going on the road if you have the right mentality you can be energized by an opposing crowd. Just tell them, be ready mentally for the crowd to yell at you. They'll talk about your uniform, your mama, whatever.

What is it about Lane Stadium that makes it such a tough place to play?
Swinney: Well I've been up there once. They've been really good. They are the only team in America that have seven 10-win seasons in a row. They've been really good. Coach Beamer and his staff are outstanding. They have a culture in place and they have recruited to it. It's a hard place to go win. We have a hard place to win. It all comes back to what kind of players they have. They've been consistent.

Any time you want to defeat a defense you have to understand what it is they want to do. They seem to like these hybrid players with body size. Is that what you see?
Swinney: Well he (Foster) wants to be an eight man front running a 4-2-5. It's a unique style of play because your corners will play half field coverage. Then next time they are supporting on the run. It's a little different. It's a great run-stopping defense. You have to understand how to attack it from a passing game standpoint. But you have to protect. They've done a great job of recruiting guys that can run. Body types that really cover and also that can rush the passer.

Did you say he does a lot of cover two?
Swinney: They will play the robber coverage and take their corners and cover half field. It's a different scheme and you just don't see it a lot. But that's not all they do. They'll line up and it looks like they are in robber coverage but it's actually cover one. They do a good job disguising things, trying to make things look the same. Then they bring pressure. Good scheme. Plus they play with leverage.

Given what Foster likes to do, is there more pressure on Tajh Boyd to make better decisions than ever before?
Swinney: Not really. No different than every week. We see disguises all the time. That's how you train your quarterback every week - you know - where you put your eyes. The key to the decision - whether it's this guy or this alignment. There are elements every week that are critical.

No dropped passes this year. Can you talk about that?
Swinney: They are just doing a great job. We have great players. We've had a couple of drops. DeAndre had one Saturday. Brandon Ford had one. We've got good players. That is what they are supposed to do. We're going to have guys here that can catch. We've been pretty good after last year struggling. We transformed that area from a recruiting standpoint. Jaron [Brown] is playing well. Nuke understands things better. Now he's not thinking about things. Sammy Watkins is just a great great player. Charone has done fine. Adam Humphries has great hands. Then Tajh is putting it on the money.

Where is David Smith at this week?
Swinney: He'll be ready to go. We held him out last week. He probably could have played but we wanted to get him another week?

Offensively, their quarterback is big. Is there anybody you can use on your team to simulate him in practice this week?
Swinney: Not really. He's a different kind of guy. They'll use him a good bit like we use Tajh. They'll try to run him. They are a lot more shotgun. They are a little bit more spread. A lot of that is to try and take advantage of their quarterback. 6-6, 250. He's got a cannon arm and he's hard to tackle.

You made the decision to only bring in 12 guys in that 2009 class. Do you regret that now, wanting a few more offensive linemen and linebackers?
Swinney: Well we looked at our personnel at the time and bringing the staff together and establishing our criteria. We made a commitment - and obviously it was a crazy season - so it's not like we had everybody knocking on the door wanting to come to Clemson. We wanted to take a year to go build. Right now, we are way into our 2013 group. We were trying to sign 2009 then when we were way behind on 2010. It was a new staff and new area. Recruiting is so much about stability and relationships and we didn't have that. We were just way behind. We made the decision to push these scholarships forward. We put a lot of walk-ons on scholarship because we had to. We felt like we had enough good players that first year even though we had a freshman quarterback and that proved to be the case. We turned out to be pretty good. We won the only championship of any kind here in 20 years. But the main thing was we got our relationships established. Those 12 guys proved to be critical for us. We did really well the next year and then we really wanted to hit a home run with this last class and we did. That's what we tried to. We've proven if you are a good player and you are young we'll play you.

The communication standpoint, where does the crowd make a big impact?
Swinney: He's got to communicate to the offensive linemen. Our OL does not read signals. Our signal system is really simpler than it's been. It has to be to be able to go as fast as we go. Just making sure they get the call with what's the protection, which way we are running it and the snap count. Then if it's a silent count they have to know that. And we did that some Saturday.

You've been dynamite on third down but you've struggled in short-yardage situations. Why?
Swinney: Really, sometimes it's a bad call. I haven't had any problem with any call that we've made. We've had one or two or three guys just not do it. We needed one yard on the goal line the other day and we got three. We needed one yard for Andre Ellington and he hardly got touched until after he got into the end zone. Phillip Price crushed two or three guys. But we've had some disappointing plays there too. You have to execute. You have to have 11 guys doing their job on the play. And you have to give the opponent credit too. They have good players. Sometimes they win. Sometimes their guy whips your guy. We forget that Florida State is pretty good.

Are you close to making a change at kicker?
Swinney: No. Four out of six. Pretty solid. Disappointed he missed the one the other day. We are 4 for 6. Wish we were 6 for 6.

If he had made the first one against FSU would have kicked it at the end instead of going for it on 4th and 1?
Swinney: No. No. That was my call. With where we were in that game, my mentality was let's finish them off. But it was good to see our defense go and finish it.

You are 1 for 5 on fourth down.
Swinney: Yeah that's terrible. That's terrible.

Rennie Moore has made a handful of clutch plays for you the last two games. Can you have a clutch player on defense?
Swinney: Sure. You can be a clutch player anywhere. He's still growing as a player but he's been a guy that has been learning for five years now. It's good to see him have that kind of success. I'm happy for him. He plays with great energy. If you watch our film Rennie Moore is all in. That was a big big play. If you go back and watch that play and you look at Malliciah and Andre Branch. They completely closed the pocket. He didn't have time to do anything. It was a four-man rush and our four brought it.


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