Dabo previews Georgia Tech

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney talks about No.5 's game at Georgia Tech this Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Opening comments...
Swinney: Good morning. Hope everybody is having a good day. They don't make it easier on us with an 8:12 kickoff this weekend. Look forward to it. Another big challenge for us. Everyone knows Clemson-Georgia Tech. It's a rivalry game. Especially tough on the road and we know to expect with Georgia Tech and they know what to expect with us. We have to continue to execute at a high level. Their offense - everybody is pretty familiar with at this point because we've seen them quite a bit.

They lead the nation in third down. They are usually one of the top rushing teams and they are again. The big thing with Georgia Tech this year is they throw the ball a little bit more. The big plays are a concern in going against their offense. They've had eight one-play touchdown drives. They've had, oh, four pass plays of 70 yards or more. 14 of their touchdowns are 20 yards or more. 10 are of 50 yards or more. If the big play is part of their day then it's not a good day for you.

We have to do a good job with our discipline. Play right with your eyes and just do ... your ... job. They have good players all across the board. Orwin Smith is averaging 12 something yards a carry. They have a bunch of guys with a lot of high averages per carry. It's a big challenge there. But it comes down to winning at the line of scrimmage.

We have to tackle and make sure we get these guys off the field on third down.

Their defense - coach Groh has done a great job. In ACC games they are leading the league in total defense. They are very stout. They don't give up a lot of big plays and you have to earn what you get.

They've improved a lot since last year. For us, it's about having a great week of preparation. Today and tomorrow are critical days from a scout team preparation standpoint. We have to have really good looks. And then we have to execute our game plan to win. We've played with great effort each week. We've done a great job in creating turnovers. We are plus-9 now. We've out big-played the opponent.

From an assignment standpoint, we've done a good job. We are one of the least penalized teams in the country and we are doing a pretty good job in special teams.

Since the last time you've played Georgia Tech ... they were stripped of their 2009 ACC Championship. Is that motivation for you and your team?
Swinney: No. They beat us. The thing I don't understand is if that win doesn't count for them, why does the loss count for us. That's really none of my business. They run a good program down there. I know coach Johnson tries to do things the right way.

What's it been like to have Chad Morris on the field this year and how helpful has that been for your team?
Swinney: Well it's been great. He's got good energy. I like being able to go and talk to him face to face. I think it's great especially when you have a young quarterback. He can get with him and calm him down or talk about the next series. Coach Pearman has done a great job for us up in the box. That's been a really good game day environment for us.

Does it help that you played Wofford this year? Does that help you against Georgia Tech?
Swinney: A little bit. Yes. They run the triple option, probably 20-25 plays. Wofford does a lot of stuff. They are all over the map with what they do offensively. You get a little bit of exposure to it.

Is there anything different about what you do defensively this week versus what you typically do on a weekly basis?
Swinney: Oh yeah. Just forget everything we taught you all year. It has nothing to do with our normal defense. It's a game in the season that's totally different. We always take a couple of days during spring ball and fall camp to work on these guys. And we do that for all of our opponents. Our installation offensively and defensively tries to reflect what we are going to see. We try to expose our players to things during camp to what they are going to see. Georgia Tech even more so. You don't have your normal calls defensively. It's not the same. It's totally different. It's assignment football and it's a game plan for the opponent. When the game is over, you put it on the shelf for next year.

Can you learn anything from what Miami did last week?
Swinney: The biggest thing is what they did at the line of scrimmage. And there's carry over (from week to week). That's football. You have to do the football things it takes to win. We have to do a good job up front.

Where have you seen them upgrade defensively?
Swinney: Just playing their scheme better. It takes a while to go to the 3-4 scheme. They are very hard to move. They don't give up many big plays because of the style they play with two deep back there. Linebackers are always in the right place. Typical Al Groh type of defense where you have to put it together (with long drives).

Isn't there something different that's happened with their run defense the last five games?
Swinney: Teams have tried to run the ball on them more because they've been difficult to throw the ball on. They are dropping back eight guys back there. They are trying to give up things in the running game to make you try and be and patient and put things together. When you play a team like this it's almost like they have a touchdown lead with their style of play.

Given that you've scored 50-plus points the last two weeks, do you almost expect that now?
Swinney: Yeah. Not 50 points or anything like that. But we expect a high level of execution. Every play is designed to score. We expect a high level of execution. We had some moments Saturday where are tempo was tremendous. That's one of the reasons we are such a good second half team. We wear down people the second half of the game.

Are you enjoying the national exposure?
Swinney: It's great for Clemson. I love being 8-0. Heck yeah. I'd rather be 8-0 than 4-4. It's great for our program and the Clemson brand. You turn on the TV and you've got the paw sitting there. But that doesn't have anything to do with beating Georgia Tech. I know there's a lot of talk. We've got a division championship, a state championship and an ACC championship. We have all of that before we can even talk about the BCS. Our guys understand that. We have four more battles on our regular season schedule.

Several players have given you favorable reviews on your postgame victory dances. Can you demonstrate?
Swinney: What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.

Sammy said Saturday he couldn't remember ever being bracketed to the degree he was against North Carolina. And he loved it. Do you find teams trying to do more to try and contain him?
Swinney: Not really. It's too hard. He's all over the place. It's not like he lines up in one spot. We've got a bunch of good players. He had a pretty good game. We don't miss on two plays, he's got about 80 yards more and two touchdowns. We've got a bunch of good players on the field. And their backups are good too. We call plays regardless because we have a lot of confidence in those guys at this point in the season. If people want to bracket one guy, we'll throw to Nuke, Jaron and Dwayne Allen and hand it off. And that's what we've done.

Have you ever been a part of an offense like this that is this good on third and long?
Swinney: No. Nope. Probably the best I've been a part of from a third down standpoint. Again, they just never think they are out of it. You'll have a bad play here or there. We got a pretty special guy back there that's playing with a lot of confidence. They all know because of what's on the field (personnel) we put a lot of pressure on the field with how we play. Our offensive and defensive lines are also doing it. Our offensive line isn't getting enough credit of providing opportunities for guys to make plays.

How is Andre Ellington?
Swinney: I've got to see him today in practice. Couldn't do anything yesterday. Ran some. Couldn't take any reps. Swelled up a little bit on Sunday. That was the biggest deal on Sunday. He was fine during the game. He wanted to get back in there. I'd say he's probably going to be limited today. And hopeful by tomorrow he'll be better. We'll see where he is before game time. That's one positive about playing 8 o'clock Saturday night. We've got time.

What are you looking for in skill guys as far as speed versus explosiveness?
Swinney: To me, in this game, it's explosiveness. The short space quickness is critical as far as separation and creating space. You'd love a guy that can also hit that other gear and go to the house. I want guys who are fast and explosive.

Brandon Thomas said yesterday you challenged him a month ago. What was that message?
Swinney: He's done great. That was the week he got thrown in there was the week that we talked. Just challenged him to grow up and play. Prepare. Just kind of a guy that wasn't really fully committed. I told him this football team needs you. You've got all this talent but talent is just potential. Skill is developed through work ethic. And success is through work ethic. He was just ho-hum about being a great player. We tried everything to try and get him get a fire in his britches. I think not playing was a big motivating factor for him. That was it. Having to walk out of that stadium having to look at everybody and he was this talented guy not getting on the field. He got his opportunity and has taken advantage of it. He hasn't played great but he's just a sophomore. He hasn't been as consistent as we want him to be, but he's made a tremendous amount of progress. Which is very encouraging for our future.

There's been a lot made about Georgia Tech's offense. Don't you think maybe because of the talent level there now and that everybody in the league has seen it a little bit that's why they are experiencing a drop off last year and now the last two and a half games?
Swinney: That's there job to explain it. 14 touchdowns of 20 yards or more. 10 touchdowns of 50 yards or more. 8 one play drives that score touchdowns. This is team that can line up and give anybody a challenge. We have to play our best game. I assure you. We have to play our best game. You can't get caught up in all that stuff. You have to respect your opponent. They've given us fits. At the end of the day, it comes down to individual matchups. Our d-tackle on their center/guard. Our d-end on their tackles.

With Wisconsin and Oklahoma losing last week do you use that as motivation for your guys this week?
Swinney: No. We talk to our guys every week about the next step. The next challenge. Forgetting the past. Focusing on the goal. The prize in front of us. What's happened good or bad has nothing to do with what we are doing in this coming ball game. Reload. Re-focus. You get caught up into all this other stuff, you'll fall quickly. Perfect example is what you just said. They were where we are now. They were third and fifth and now they dropped. Hail mary loss and an unbelievable game at Oklahoma. For us, every game we haven't rolled out there and dominated anybody. This is probably the first game this year where we had to take the headset off in the fourth quarter.

Tajh Boyd is being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate right now. Did you think he would be capable of this kind of season this year?
Swinney: Well, I imagined he would have a really good year. 24 touchdowns and three interceptions at this point? No, I didn't expect that from him. He's worked really hard and he's got a lot of guys around him. Chad has done a great job with him week in and week out. But that's why you play. Great leader. Really happy for him. But did I expect him to be right here at this point? No. I expected him to play well and he's had a really good season.

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