Dabo previews Ball State

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney meets with the media for his weekly press conference.

Opening statement...
Swinney: First thing I see Coach Bass in the audience today. Good to have you. Good to be back in the Valley and excited to be opening here at home against Ball State. It's a team that was 6-6 last year in coach Lembo's last year and they had two or three close losses. They did some good things last year, but is even more improved this year. They beat Ohio and obviously that was a team that just came in and beat Penn State. Offensively, they are fast. They've got speed as in guys who can run and then they have tempo. Very impressed with their quarterback - No. 10. Accurate thrower. Great arm and can make all the throws. Big guy. Very impressed with him and his ability to move the team. They also have a running back, No. 32, who can probably play with anybody. Big, strong, powerful runner with great hip flexibility that can make you miss. He very rarely doesn't finish falling forward. The backup, No. 4, a freshman has been impressive too.

They have a couple of tight ends they mix in there. The receivers were all well-coached. They have a little guy, No. 2 who is not very big but man oh man you better know where he is. He can take a small catch and turn it into a big catch.

Defensively, they've got five or six starters back. They move and disguise a lot. There will be a lot of stemming. We have to catch the movement. They will be in some even and odd (fronts). We've been impressed with them.

Good home opener for us coming off a big win the other night. The big challenge for us is to take care of Clemson. We are our biggest challenge every week. Obviously we have to eliminate the pre-snap penalties if we are going to improve and we look forward to seeing everybody on Saturday.

Was the defense as bad as it looked at times and as good as it looked at other times?
Swinney: It was as a bad as it looked at times and good. Good way to describe it. We did some really good things but had critical mistakes. They came out in a twins sets a couple of times and we don't line up properly and are a man short. But again, a very very difficult opener to prepare for. The staff did an excellent job making adjustments. The fourth quarter we were at our best. The most encouraging thing to me is that they only scored one touchdown and that's the No. 1 stat for me - scoring defense. Somebody may go up and down the field but how many times do they cross the goal line. We are just going to get better over there. We got to start somewhere. We've got some film to study from and improve from.

How difficult is it to prepare for Ball State having worried about Auburn for so many months?
Swinney: It shouldn't be difficult. If it's difficult than we aren't going to be a championship team. If it's difficult to get ready to play one of 12 games then you aren't going to be a championship team. It's that simple. If that's the mentality of our players then we won't be a great team. Here's a standard you have to play to. Every opponent is nameless. The weather doesn't matter. Where you play doesn't matter. When you step on the field you play to a standard. Before we get to game day there's a formula of success you have to play to. Everything you do matters. Going to sleep. Eating the right way. All that stuff matters. Going to your meetings with purpose. That's our formula. If we are focused on other things then we won't win.

Are these next two weeks, while obviously about winning, also about getting better and finding out who can play for you this year?
Swinney: Yes. I said before the season that I don't think we are going to know who we are until three or four weeks, maybe five weeks. I don't know where we are with certain guys and hopefully we are going to have a lot of competition these next few weeks.

Tajh Boyd's summer slim down payed off Saturday night as he rushed for 58 yards and made several key plays on the ground. (Roy Philpott)
Who surprised you Saturday night?
Swinney: David Beasley would be one. He won the job. He won the right to start based on three scrimmages. But he hadn't really played. Certainly hadn't played with the game on the line and he played great. He was physical. He had guys on the ground. He was as good on play 92 as he was early. Josh Watson was. To see him take the next step is very encouraging. Charone Peake had a good night. Had some nice plays. Huge play to setup that fourth and one for us.

Good to see Cole Stoudt as cold as ice go in there and execute. Spencer Benton would be another one. He hadn't been the starting punter and did an excellent job with kickoffs. A lot of guys like that. Hopefully we'll continue to see that.

Was there one play Tajh made Saturday that epitomized his growth during the offseason?
Swinney: One? That third down late in the game when he got the first (on the final drive). He didn't do that last year. He took sacks or he flushed laterally as opposed to stepping up in the rush lane and sensing the pressure. We probably had 10 completions that weren't pass plays. They were run calls that had built in options that he made really good decisions. The touchdown pass to Nuk was a run call all the way. But he had the ability to take that if he wanted it and he did. He did a really good job.

Would it be better for Giff Timothy to not play this weekend so he can rest his knee?
Swinney: I don't know. Whatever is best for the team. Probably, medically it would be best for him to chill out a couple of weeks. But this is football. He can play he will play. We don't make that determination that's our medical staff. If they say he can go, he goes.

So is it up in the air if he's going to play?
Swinney: I would say he would play. I don't think it's up in the air. From what I saw yesterday.

Is the plan to play more of your freshmen this week on the offensive line?
Swinney: We are just young. Kalon is the only guy who probably could have gotten in there a little bit more. Going in that was our plan but we got in such a rhythm and we didn't want to mess it up. Beasley was playing well and responding well. We want to give Shaq Anthony the opportunity. Very talented young player. And Ryan Norton - another guy who is a really good young player. Kalon is another one. (Isaiah) Battle is still not a player we can trust yet but we have to be able to bring him along. He's as talented as anybody we have. But that's where we are. We are a young group.

You've done this a time or two now- what's the home opener like for you?
Swinney: It's awesome. It never gets old. It's special. It's a privilege I don't take for granted. Especially at home. It's an unbelievable opportunity every time you get to do it. Excited to be back home the next couple of weeks and hope the fans are too. Everybody is going to love what we've done here - the Jumbotrons have been great. Then the ribbons all the way down both sides of the upper deck. They put up some signs like the ACC Championship up. It should be a great day and look forward to getting together with 85,000 of our best friends.

When did you start thinking more about the Pistol?
Swinney: Last year. We piddled around with it before we went out to Nevada. That's why we went out there because they have been doing it a long time. People come to us a lot of times because we have answers so we went out there and avoid some headaches based on their knowledge. That was a great trip. As was the Oklahoma State trip. Swapping knowledge anytime we get.

Were there any communication gaps defensively?
Swinney: No I think we communicated pretty good. We missed some line ups. They weren't a fast tempo team and that's what makes this game this weekend so difficult. They will do a lot of checking and a mixture of things we'll see from these guys. This is a big week for our scout team to rapid fire at us. The good thing for our defense is they just spent a month practicing for our offense. So that's how they practice and it won't be a shocker to them.

Is it more advantageous to try and kick it high and shorter so that there aren't a bunch of touchbacks?
Swinney: Depends on who you are playing. I hope people kick it to Sammy Watkins. Or Martavis Bryant. I think those players can get it to the 35 yard line but I don't think we'll see that. From our standpoint it's a decision you have to make every week. The other thing is you are going to see so many touchbacks and now all of a sudden you have to coach these guys to take your drops and cover like it's going to be a return. Guys kind of lose that sense of urgency and that can create some issues along the way.

The new helmet rule- what are your thoughts on that?
Swinney: It's definitely different. You just didn't really ever think about it the past. For your quarterback that has to go out on 3rd and 12. We talked about it as a staff this weekend. We are going to try and keep our guy warm with some tosses here and there and keep him ready. Most of the time you've got time to plan for it. But when it's cold like that it's totally different.

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