Dabo previews Virginia Tech

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews No. 13 Clemson's matchup with Virginia Tech.

Opening statement...
Swinney: Good to get back in action this week. Excited about being back at home. Big challenge at Virginia Tech and they are coming off a very good game against Duke and you saw what Virginia Tech is really made of. They got down 20-0 at homecoming and probably played their best game of the year after that. They made plays and played with a lot of confidence. This is a team in my opinion that has been the bell cow of this league the last several years. It's been a measuring stick. Been very consistent. It's been incredibly consistent. Frank Beamer is 27-6 on the road in this conference. That is incredible. It's hard to win on the road. So these guys have been incredibly consistent and they've done a pretty good job when they come to Death Valley. They are very much in it from a conference standpoint. Not a whole lot of room for error for either team. It's going to take our very best to win.

Offensively, they average 31 points per game. Their quarterback, we are familiar with him. He's athleticism and his arm are strong. He throw the ball all the way across the field against Duke for a touchdown - he's strong. They are balanced. They want to run the football. They are balanced. It all starts with the quarterback. They are young up front. They have settled in with the group they have. They have lost their starting center but have moved their guard over. No. 7 (Marcus Davis) is a giant who can fly. Complete group over there who is playing pretty good. For us, we have to stop the run and that's where it starts. That's critical.

Defensively, they've got their whole front back with their defensive line. It's a thick group inside. These guys are hard to move. Their ends are athletic. Fuller, Exum - they are all really talented in the back end. They are bringing way more pressure than they have in the past. They have been primarily known as a robber coverage team but they are bringing more pressure and using more man-to-man. We have to have success in those matchups.

It's a huge game. It's Military Appreciation Day for us. That's always huge. I want to challenge our fans to get here early. Come on Friday. Let's everybody wake up and get ready to go and bring that stadium to life. I can't tell you what a difference it was to have our fans behind us against Georgia Tech.

Our players feed off of that. It creates momentum. I look forward to getting back out there with all of our fans.

Can you explain the sign there?
Swinney: It's actually been there for a couple of weeks. We talk about the price you have to pay to be great at something. It's just something we did. Those guys walked up and signed their name to do it to put... when you sign your name to something it should mean something. Accountability. We are on a qwest for best. This is the best we can be. What is that? Is it 12-0? Is it 6-6? What is it? I don't know. But if we are committed and are willing to pay the price we will have a chance to see what that is but we'll only be as good with a total commitment from everybody in the room. The collective group.

Martavis Bryant, D.J. Howard and others - are they ready to go now?
Swinney: They are all back. They are all practicing.

So the open date came at a good time?
Swinney: It's been good. The open date last year we had after eight or nine games. To be able to get it right where we had it was almost perfect. It's pretty good. We went through a couple of weeks of very strenous practice. We had a good week of practice last week working on funadmentals. Last night at practice you could see energy. They were excited to get back to work. They had a bounce to their step that we hadn't seen. It came at a good time. That doesn't have anything to do with how we play Saturday but we are fresher.

What did you do to get better during the off-week?
Swinney: Just working on the game. That's what you do at practice. We don't just go out there and flip the ball around. We have a lot of individual work. Group work. Competitive work. A lot of film study. We've done a lot of self scouting to see what we've done the last six games. Hopefully the players have grasped on to it. We've got a lot of guys who are improving. Some of them aren't coming along as fast as we want but a great majority are improving. The next step is to play a little more consistency in certain areas - from a four-quarter standpoint.

So you are talking about stopping the run?
Swinney: Yes. Yes. Just being more consistent. And we've done that in games in the second half- we've been pretty good. But yes putting together a complete game defensively. And offensively, just tightening things up. You know the last couple of games we've had some turnovers and things of that sort. The details.

Are you using Sammy Watkins more as a decoy this year?
Swinney: You guys crack me up. I promise you - we aren't doing anything differently with Sammy than we've ever done. He's played two and a half games and the rest of the team has played six. He's fine. We literally aren't doing anything different. We don't force thing. The ball is going to go where it's dictated to go on defense. If people want to roll to Sammy- that's fine- that's there choice. We got other people who could make plays. We try to move him around and make plays. We have at least six more games to play and barring any conspiracy or injury he's going to be great. He's a great player. Sure practices good.

Any younger guys on defense beginning to stand out to you?
Swinney: You'll continue to see Blanks and his role like it's been. We have been cross-training him. Hopefully Tavaris Barnes is coming on. I thought he played well against Georgia Tech in particular. D.J. Reader has been better. We are really pleased with our d-tackles. Those first four guys have been flip a coin with who practices best this week and runs out there first. That's going to be a really special group. The guy I hope to see more of in the second half is Carlos Watkins. I think you'll see Tony Steward a little bit more the second half of the season. It looks like he's got his confidence back. Tig Willard had a good first half. You'll see more of Gerry Peters. We like what he's done. Also with Darius Robinson - I like how he's practicing right now.

"Beamer Ball" - do you practice more special teams this week because what they do?
Swinney: We put attention on special teams every week. I don't know how we could meet more or practice more because it's every single day. We haven't been perfect. The kick return against us was probably the play of the game in Tallahassee. But we did it up in Boston and we did it against Georgia Tech. Our guys take pride special teams and will continue to you.

Chad Morris talked about finishing yesterday after how the season ended last year. What gives you confidence that this group will finish stronger this year?
Swinney: Well hopefully I can base it on what I've seen out of them. They've shown good leadership. They practice hard. You can coach them. They want to win. They want to be good. And they've responded in every situation. They've responded in the opening night win which was a big win, I know Auburn hasn't had a good season but that was a big win in that kind of environment. Then losing in Tallahassee and going up to Boston and taking care of business. They've responded. Whether it's not playing good in the first half and playing good in the second half. They've responded. That's encouraging to me. We'll find out. We have a lot of opportunity- conference-wise, nationally. There's a lot to play for.

Did the off-week help Sammy too?
Swinney: Even though he hasn't played as much. It was still a long camp so he's like the rest of the guys. It's good for him like everybody else.

Are you concerned with Tajh's four interceptions in his last two games?
Swinney: Not really. Because he's responded going back to last year when in those situations he was in a little bit of a funk and he wouldn't get out of it, it would just get worse. He knows that. It's been a good time to re-evaluate to get back to what we do and he's been great.

Is it frustrating to see you start out at No. 19 in the BCS rankings and how the perception of the ACC factors into that ranking?
Swinney: No. Not at all. We've played six games. All we have to do is take care of business. We take care of business and we have a chance to have a special season. They come up with this stuff this time of year and it's laughable. It's irrelavent. It's all about what you do each Saturday. If we win, we are in great shape. If we don't, we won't be. We control our own destiny, yes. Do things have to happen for us to get back, nationally? Yes. But there's a lot of play for. The bottom line is if you take care of business, that thing changes drastically. We have to control what we can control and that's play the best we can against Virginia Tech. And it shouldn't matter for anybody. December is when it matters.

If you could give yourself a grade halfway through the year what would it be?
Swinney: Probably a "B." It's hard to win guys. It's hard to win football games. I'd give us an "A" if we were 6-0. We are 5-1 and we've been on the road three times. We have a lot of room for improvement. I still think there's a chance for us to do a lot of special things this year.

The fact that you haven't been able to add JUCO guys - is that something you will meet with the new AD about to try and fix here at Clemson?
Swinney: Bart, I finally agree you with on something. (laughing) I might call you with the new AD. I agree 1000 percent. It's an issue. There are certain schools like K-State and Texas Tech that have signed some war-daddy JUCO guys and improved quickly. I'm more of a "build through the draft" kind of guy - that's my background. But there is an occasion - we did it at Alabama where we brought in John Copeland and he ended up the fourth pick in the draft. Alabama with Terrance Cody. Florida State. Auburn brought in Cam Newton. Tennessee brought in the Patterson kid. It's not that Clemson has says "no" you can't come. It's transferring hours to count towards a degree. Guys would be ineligible here where they are eligible somewhere else. Now, we do have some new cirriculums coming on board in 2013 that I'm exciting about that will hopefully help us there.

What are your thoughts on Military Appreciation Day at Clemson?
It's awesome. I get fired up everytime I hear the jet roar by. It's something that fires me up. We have 481 names on our scroll of honor. This is a military school until 1958 or so. It's great. And something we embrace. Our military is so under appreciated for what we do. For me to have a unique opportunity to spend time with Daniel Rodriguez... here's a guy who is 18 or 19 years old in some hole in Afghanistan and so far removed from the freedoms we take for granted. I didn't come from a military backgroundbut I've gained a tremendous appreciation for the military at Clemson. It's changed me from that perspective.

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