Dabo previews Auburn

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Saturday's showdown with No. 25 Auburn.

Opening statement...
Swinney: A lot of excitement in our team right now because it's game week. Guys are ready to play somebody. I'm personally looking forward to watch us play and to see where we are against a quality opponent like Auburn. Our team has shown a good attitude and good work ethic. Auburn is a very very talented team. There are a lot of unknowns with them that we know about until we get going in the game.

We've had to prepare with what we think they are going to do with a new system and also some with what they've done in the past. It's a challenge getting ready for two systems. Their quarterback has played in big games already. He's played against Alabama and LSU. Highly recruited guy and talented player. Good skill at the receiver position. Their tight end is outstanding. No. 43 is a guy they will use a lot of different ways. Very good football player. Their running back, McCalleb is a home run hitter. Has the speed to take it the distance. The guys behind him we don't know a whole lot about but they were all highly recruited. They did get a transfer in from Illinois that is going to be big for them.

Their offensive line is young like we are but they are big and talented and all were highly recruited guys. I don't have any doubt they are going to be very good players for Auburn.

Defensively, we've had to look at a lot of different things. At the end of the day we have to focus on yourself and understand your system on game day. I think they want to be a four man front but they'll run a lot of odd as well. They will be much better on defense. 9 or 10 players are back that have started for them. Their D-line is very very good. The two ends, No. 55 and No. 95 are as good as we'll play. Very good football team- especially up front.

Special teams they have their punter, kicker both back and their return guys.

For us it's the beginning to find out a lot about our team. We are going to be a work in progress until we get some performance on tape to evaluate from. It's our first goal to win the opener Saturday night.

Have you ever had to deal with facing a team with two new coordinators?
Swinney: Yes. We've dealt with that over the years. In this business there is a lot of change. Openers are always tough. Throw in the fact there's two more coordinators there's a lot more film study and a lot more questions you have to answer. It will be a game of adjustments, probably for both teams.

Safe to say you don't know what to expect?
Swinney: Well we have a pretty good idea. People aren't going to vary too far from what their background tells you they are. In this case, when there's such a philosophy change on both sides of the ball it's different. Based on who they have on campus, will they keep some of the old stuff that fits them? They are going to do what they need to do today.

Do you like these high profile games for an opener?
Swinney: I do think it's fun. It does create a lot of energy in the fan base and all of that. But most coaches out there if they were honest would tell you that it sure would be nice to have one or two opponents (before a game like this). It's a tough game to get ready for. Very very talented opponent. We don't have preseason games. It's one of the things I wish we had in college football. High schools do that. NFL does that. It allows you evaluate your guys at a higher level. When you go against each other every day there's only so much you can learn. Having said that, I think it's a ton of fun for college football and it's an opportunity to create momentum early the season.

This game has to be more special for you given your background at Alabama, right?
Swinney: Well, it's always been special to play Auburn. Every game is huge. Every game is important. With my background, that was always one of the games that were special. Playing Auburn and Tennessee at Alabama was special. Here playing South Carolina is special. I think we've created a nice little rivalry here the last few years. It's been very competitive. Even going back to the Chick-Fil-A bowl when we had an overtime loss. These teams battle hard. It's a natural rivalry like Clemson-Georgia.

How do you get your team to block out struggles at the Georgia Dome?
Swinney: Our focus is trying to execute our game plan to win. Regardless of where we play, who we play or what time we play. Our focus is giving our chance to win.

How has Giff Timothy looked?
Swinney: He looks really really good. I'm incredibly encouraged by his progress. He was able to go Thursday and Friday but I want to watch him today and tomorrow and he'll get a lot of competitive work. I'm very encouraged he's going to be able to play unless there's some kind of setback. I do think he'll definitely play right now. How much and whether or not he'll start remains to be seen.

A year ago your postgame reaction got a lot of run with your emotions. Was that from another place and another time or is that just beating Auburn?
Swinney: First of all it was an early game and we had to live with that all evening and all night. There's a tradition at Clemson that's very different than any other place I've ever been and that's that everybody comes on the field at the end. It can be crazy at times. People stick your microphone in your face in a moment of euphoria... I'm never going to apologize for celebrate winning. People have a problem with that then that's their problem. If you look a little deeper and you understand, we hadn't beaten Auburn at Clemson in 60 years. We were 0-14. Including back to back overtime losses. On top of that, they are the defending the National Champion and they got the longest winning streak in America. It was a big deal. That's something to be excited about. For a football team that has 42 freshmen on the roster, it's probably the biggest win this program has had in a long long time. It was big for our confidence to take the next step. And then we went on to beat Florida State and Virginia Tech. that's really all it was. I was excited. To end the streak in Death Valley. I was pumped up when I said it. Somebody walks down and puts a microphone in your face, and you look at it and your like 'Oh geez.' (laughing) But I'll never apologize for being excited.

Was the 2010 loss to this Auburn team just as bad as the 2011 win over Auburn was good for your team?
Swinney: That was a tough loss. Very tough loss. Stung us a little bit. And our quarterback got hurt and wasn't really quite the same but those are things you have to recover from. Flip side is when you have a bad loss you have to recover from it. You can't let a win create a loss and you can't have a loss create another loss. That's all part of maturing as a team.

The last time you were on the national stage and you didn't do well. Are you guys anxious to prove that you are much improved?
Swinney: I think 2011 and that Orange Bowl is way behind us. This is about this season and this year. That's the focus. We are out to get our first goal and that is the opener. People bring that up and that's a legitimate question but we lost four games last year, not just one. We aren't going into the season other than proving that we have a good football team in 2012 and that we want to win this conference again. This is just beginning.

Any update on Martin Jenkins?
Swinney: Martin is going to have surgery. It's a sports hernia. Either this Thursday or possibly first of the week.

Is there anything that Brent Venables has done that pleasantly surprised you?
Swinney: Not really. His resume speaks for itself. We spend a lot of time together outside of the office because our kids our the same age. I spend a lot of time with Brent and Chad. That's pretty cool for us. Probably the only the surprised me about Brent is that he ran out of gas on the lake. The last Sunday before we cranked it up we were out on the boat with my family and he had 12 guys in from Oklahoma. And here's this guy on the boat with his hat backwards. 10 minutes later he calls me and says, 'remember when you passed me? Well we broke down.' And sure enough he was out of gas. And I had to tow him 30 minutes back to his place. I'm looking forward to getting on the field with him because he's like a caged animal. He's excited. And he's very much enjoyed Clemson.

Is there anything to Isaiah Battle's injury?
Swinney: Oh no. He's fine.

How comfortable are you with this defense right now?
Swinney: I feel very comfortable. The big thing for us in a game like this is to understand our system and be able to apply that to whatever we see. We have to be prepared for something different. They are in a good spot right now (the players). We've got players in the right spots. It's about us not giving up big plays, being physical and doing what it takes to win.

How have you been preparing for Sammy Watkins not playing in this game?
Swinney: If it were something that just happened yesterday it would be different. Our guys have known this for a while and have been preparing that way. Sammy's done a great job on the scout team preparing our guys.


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