Dabo previews Maryland

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Saturday's matchup at ACC rival Maryland.

Opening Statement...
Swinney: Good to be with y'all today. I think we've had a good first half to our season and one of the things I've told the team is we've been a good second half team all year and we need to have a good second half. We are going to have to be a really good road team in the second. But I'm proud of them. We are getting better. People always ask, how do you keep them focused? Well you turn the film on. We haven't played a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination.

This is a really big game against Maryland in terms of our team goals. They are a division opponent and right in the thick of it. They only have one loss (in conference). If you want to be in the driver's seat we have to handle our business. It's about us and how we play.

Maryland is a very capable team. Don't let the record fool you. They lost to the No. 12 team in the country in Georgia Tech 21-16. And Georgia Tech has been blowing everybody up. They also played No. 13 West Virginia close. They beat Miami.

Offensively, I think they are starting just two seniors. They are a young team. Their offensive line is big. They have two big tackles - one of which we recruited here. Their tight end, No. 89 really does a lot of things well. He's their second leading receiver.

I think their receivers are the strength of their team. They can all run. As a group they are dangerous. They throw a ton of screens. We'll have to play well at corner. We'll have to tackle after the catch as well. Their running back, Meggett, we've played him before. He's big, tough runner. No. 44 will play a good bit before too. At quarterback, obviously they are not sure themselves. They made a change last week.

I know this - No. 5 is a good player. No. 16 - in one game he's the second-leading rusher on the team. He can run the football. If he's the guy we are going to have to do a really good job defending him from a zone-read standpoint.

Defensively, they are an even front, an odd front. Defensive line is led by No. 72. He's a really good football player. Makes a lot of plays. Brings a lot of energy. Their linebackers are athletic. No. 6 actually played safety for him last year and now he's kind of the SAM linebacker and good talent in the secondary.

This is a really capable football team. Perception-wise they may not be but this team is capable of winning the division.

Injury-wise, I think we are in as good of shape as we are in in a while. Obviously the situation with Tajh could have been worse. But he's fine. So with that we are in good shape.

Will Tajh practice tonight?
Swinney: Yes. He'll take every rep.

Have you ever seen an injury like that before?
Swinney: No. I haven't. I have had a stinger before. It feels like you broke something and you can't move and then the next day it's kind of OK. That's the only way I can explain it to be honest with you. The knee was not a factor. Actually the way his knee bent saved him. He's more sore in his thigh than he is over there at all. He looked good last night. He's caught a ton of grief from his teammates. Not only did he get carted off but he rode in the front seat. Dwayne Allen said, 'you should have just drove it, Tajh.'

You've been on teams that start hot. What's the caution on an undefeated team right now?
Swinney: Distractions. All of a sudden, you lose an edge. You lose your focus. You get complacent. You start reading your press clippings and you then you start to think you just need to show up and you win. If that's the case then Auburn would have showed up here and won. Florida State would have won. When we went to Virginia Tech, they would have won. We prepare with a purpose everyday. We have an all-in commitment to do the very best we can on and off the field. That's all we focus on right now. Everything else is irrelevant. I've seen that happen with teams - they lose their focus. They lose their humility. You have to stay dialed in as a team and realize it's a team goal. You have to nourish the concept of team and family. That's what we have to keep doing.

There have been a couple of those times at Maryland.
Swinney: Well we were far from this team the last time we were up there. We should have won that game. They tried to give it to us and we wouldn't take it. That was an early game. We turned it over early. The last play of the game we had a quick gain and we held the ball. But we made a lot of mistakes. We were still a team trying to figure it out. We didn't play well. It wasn't a lack of focus. We didn't know what we were to be honest. We didn't play well. We prepared well. We just didn't handle the situation very well. Anybody in this league can beat you. When you go on the road in this league, anybody can beat you. But in this case, in this situation, it's different. We are 6-0. We've got people talking about us and that's great. We want to be right here. We want people to talk good about Clemson. And we want people to raise the expectations at Clemson outside of Clemson. But in order to be able to be in the elite of college football you have to consistently perform. You've got to take pride in your personal performance and play well. And if you have talent, you'll have the chance to get your program where you want it to be.

Still that game two years ago was a stepping stone for some things.
Swinney: I think how you handle adversity is always a good sign on our potential for success. I believe that with anything in like. Everybody has adversity. That's inevitable. It's how you handle it. When you see people handle bad things in a positive way. That person has a chance to be successful. We obviously handled it well (that year). I remember that year we came in and put the tape together and it was all about Clemson. Listen, I've gotten beat before. But that wasn't the case in that game. We didn't take care of our business. Yes we care about the opponent. Their technique and their tendencies. But it's about us.

Seems like it would be easier to get their attention on sticking to what they need to do after a loss than playing well. Is it more difficult to
Swinney: Depends on the character of your football team. And the character of your staff. That's ultimately what this deal is all about. You've got to have the right kind of character and chemistry and intangibles.

Is there anything on this team that's still a mystery to you?
Swinney: I think we are who we are. We've answered a lot of questions. Bunch of questions. I think we've answered all those. I'm very confident in how our guys are going to respond - good or bad. I saw that last year with these guys. I know this team very well and very comfortable with the challenges ahead - good or bad.

You've only had five punt returns this year. Why?
Swinney: We can't get a return. It's unbelievable. First of all we've played some really good punters. But most of the teams we've played have been the shield punt type team and they spread you across the field. If you don't line up a specific way they'll fake it - like what happened earlier in the year. Then we've faced some punters that haven't had a good day. They roll it out and kick it over there. If you look at all the opportunities we've just had very few (chances). Nuke had one in the Florida State game. He caught it at the 10.

How did you feel about kickoffs last week?
Swinney: Not good. Catanzaro did a great job all week of putting it where we want it but then he puts it on hte 25 yard line. Dawson [Zimmerman] did a decent job. He's got the strongest leg but he's not as accurate. He'll probably start this week. For him to do it - and I think he'll take a lot of pride in it - that will help him because I think Dawson can play football at the next level.

How have you seen your pass rush develop the last couple of weeks?
Swinney: Well you have to block Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore. They are the heart of our defense. You got to block him. I'm telling you Brandon Thompson, if there's a guy playing as good a football as anybody in the country, I want to see it. He just goes about his business. I've seen guys like this when you turn the film on and you think maybe by Wednesday you'll be lucky to get two first downs. You watch him on film, he's taking on three guys sometimes. That's really helped us from a pass-rush standpoint. He's taken a lot of pride in that. He just thinks it's great that he gets to stay in the game now on pass rush situations.

Our teams doubling Brandon Thompson right from the get-go now?
Swinney: Oh yes. He doesn't get many 1-on-1's right now. That's a tough day of work for a center. That's why he's a great player and that's why he's going to make a lot of money.

Sammy Watkins said yesterday he wanted to come to Clemson early. What do you remember about his recruitment?
Swinney: I remember he was just like he is now. All business. Very focused. Brad had been recruiting him since the ninth or 10th grade. He came up to camp. His talent was obvious. But I knew he was different. He wasn't into recruiting. He didn't want to talk on the phone and he just liked Clemson a lot. When he committed early I wasn't surprised at all. The last four games of his senior year and what he did was unbelievable. It was spectacular. I'm talking about fourth down, the game is over and the other team is punting and he takes it to the house. That kind of stuff. I didn't know how mature he would be from a learning standpoint. It's like we signed a free agent since the day he got here. He makes a mistake? He corrects it. You never have to say it again. He just does his job. He's incredibly tough. It's important to him to be a complete player. He graded 93 percent this past week. He didn't grade well against Virginia Tech. But he did this week. He takes a lot of pride in that stuff.

Dabo do you think twice about Tajh running the ball?
Swinney: No. We have to do what we do. We are who we are. We've gotten where we are because we are attacking and we will continue this week. He'll have his hip pads on this week.

What's with the pink shirt?
Swinney: Y'all all know it's October. It's a great opportunity to promote breast cancer research. Breast cancer is a killer. My wife and her sister and her cousin - you guys know the story. My wife's uncle, he came to every game for the last three years. Lived by himself. Wonderful man. He died right before we kicked off the season, of breast cancer. But my wife is a carrier of the gene. Most people think it just attacks women but it kills men too. It's a deadly thing. Coach Harbison lost his wife Gloria to breast cancer. Everybody in here knows somebody who has had it. Hopefully one day there will be a cure for it. With our foundation - one of the things we've started to do - if they write us we will send them a shirt. We'll fight like a Tiger. To not give in. To fight. I've even had Gamecock fans send us pictures of them wearing the shirts. Anybody can get one.



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