Dabo previews Florida State

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews fourth-ranked Florida State.

Opening statement...
Swinney: Well first of all, our goal was to be 3-0 at this point and we are. But we are nowhere near coming close to playing our best game yet. We've got to do that this week because this is a huge challenge against a very good Florida State team. More importantly this is ACC play. And it's a division game. Very critical ball game on the schedule.

Looking at Florida State, they are advertised. They are explosive and they've made a ton of explosive plays against Wake Forest- and we have a ton of respect for those guys. Quarterback is a special player. They have three good running backs. Thompson exploded last week. Prior is a good fullback for them. Does a number of good things. Lot of skill at wide receiver. They can all run and catch. No. 84 is back and he's made a lot of big plays against us - a go route last year against us. No. 80 also had a touchdown on us. There's no shortage of skill players down in Tallahassee. I like their tight end. They have good depth up front. They've played a lot of guys these first three games.

Defensively, they are probably as talented as team I've seen since I've been here. They are very good and lead the nation in five different catagories. They've only played red zone defense three times this year and they've only given up three points.

Their defensive line is where they have great depth. They lost one of the top pass rushers in the league and they haven't missed a speed. They are talented at linebacker. Their secondary is very talented and they play a lot of press man. They are confident in their front to get pressure and we have to figure out how to beat man coverage. That's what happened with Wake Forest.

The big thing for us offensively is handling the environment. Great crowd. Great venue. But half the stadium isn't going to be for you like it was in Atlanta. I'm sure we'll have a small pocket there and hopefully we can bring them to their feet a couple of times.

We can't have stupid penalties. We can't turn it over and we have to make plays. Special teams could very well be the difference. They took a punt back last week against Wake Forest. They have very good skill people that our dangerous. They have a very special kicker. He's been outstanding. We all remember two years ago where the 55-yarder he kicked would have been good from about 70. Had a chance to meet him last year and he's a great kicker.

We have to have a great week of preparation. I know we are a big underdog going down there but I don't know who wouldn't be? Alabama and LSU and that's probably it. Fourth-ranked team in the country playing at home.

We look forward to it. Should be a fun game.

Did you work indoors yesterday?
Swinney: We did. Mondays are light days. Meeting days. But it worked out fine. Hopefully we can get outside today to get out there full speed. We'll have to wait and see.

What's the status on your offensive line?
Swinney: They are all back. Everybody is practicing and ready to roll.

Same five you started against Auburn?
Swinney: Yes. We've played a bunch of guys so whoever practices the best this week will start the game. We'll make a decision tomorrow whether it's David Beasley or Kalon or Giff or Shaq (Anthony).

Your lack of pressure on the quarterback, has that been by design?
Swinney: We've gottne quite a bit of pressure but we haven't been able to get sacks. Part of it is some of the teams we've played. It's not like they are sitting back there holding the ball and it's come out quick. But we haven't been able to sack the quarterback like we need to. Yes that's a concern.

Any personnel changes on defense?
Swinney: No. Bunch of guys that are playing. Long week of practice. We don't have really anybody over there outside of Malliciah that's the golden child. It's a dialy competition because we are just going to get better.

Do you do special things in practice this week
Swinney: Yes. Oh yes. You have to do that. You have to prepare your team to get used to that. We do a lot of things offensively and there's a lot of communication and we have to work on that.

Stretch running plays and the option they've shown in three games - does that concern you given what you've seen of your defense?
Swinney: The option is a concern because they have been successful. Their fullback has done a good job on the (stretch) plays. We have to mix it up and we can't give them the same look. And guys have to play fundamental football. We have to have 11 hats to the ball and we have to be fundamentally sound. We have to defeat blocks. That's the biggest thing. They block people.

Can you avoid talking about the stakes of this game with your team?
Swinney: They aren't isolated in a cave somewhere. They understand. This is a huge game. But you have to be careful if you make this game- you know it's the fourht game. Our next goal is to win the division. So it's a big game. The winner of the game is control, while the loser is at the mercy of others. But you can't make this game bigger than what it is because we have to go to Boston College next week. It's a long season guys. Samw thing for both sides (win or lose). You lose this game you don't control their destiny. We all remember Alabama-LSU last year. Division game between two top 10 teams. LSU won the game but guess who won the National Championship. Know why Alabama won it? Because they took care of their business. Alabama went back to work and took care of their business and look what happened for them? It's a big big game- no doubt about it with GameDay and everything else. For us, it's game four. And it's the beginning of conference play. We are just trying to improve and play our best game. Hopefully that's this weekend.

Your thoughts on Tony Steward?
Swinney: I thought he looked good last week. That's his first significant time. Last year we were kind of bringing him along. He's done a great job on special teams for us. He's on every team- was in on 30-something snaps the week before. But for him to play and seeing him in there last week was really good. He was active. He's still not quite there but he's on his way. It was good to see him play like that.

Does the winner of this game have an edge in recruiting, especially given how much you recruit down there?
Swinney: We are always going to compete against each other. At least we should. To be honest with you, Clemson- Florida State should be two of the best programs in the country. That's hopefully where we are headed. We all know our footprint here in South Carolina. We don't have a huge number of division I-A players so we have to go down there and recruit. It will always be a competitive situation. We won down there in 2006. I don't think they've won here in quite a while. It's a very competitive series and I don't see that changing.

What's the key to beat press man coverage?
Swinney: Protection. How our guys hold up with 95 and 93. That's where it starts. We have to have great technique and we have to finish plays on contested throws. We have to finish those plays. That's the key.

Tajh's patience- how will that be tested against a Florida State team that's this talented?
Swinney: He's played them before. It's not like this is first time playing Florida State. He played the game last year. He's got to play the position like he's supposed to. When there are opportunities to scramble he's got to do that. He has to make plays with his legs and extend drives and avoid sacks when he can.

Do you get the feeling that there is a lack of respect for Clemson, especially since you've won the division two of three years and beaten them six of nine?
Swinney: I don't know how to answer that. We are not a great football team right now. If I was on the outside looking in I would probably pick them to. But I'm not on the outside, I'm on the inside. Top 10 team in the country at their place with GameDay. I don't think that's a lack of respect, I just think Florida State is a really good team. I don't know anybody would be favored going into Tallahassee except Alabama or LSU.

I would assume you like the idea of Florida State using press man coverage against Sammy Watkins and Nuke Hopkins?
Swinney: I like both of those guys. But they have to play well Saturday night. But they have good players too. It's a game of inches. I wouldn't trade any of our guys for any other guys in the country.

Xavier Rhodes - what have you seen from him?
Swinney: He's a great player. He's a great player. All of those guys on the backend play great technique. They play physical. It's just a one-on-one matchup. We've got a big challenge.

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