Dabo previews Duke

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Saturday night's matchup in Durham, N.C.

Opening statement...
Swinney: Good morning. Hope everybody is having a good week. Duke is having a great year. Just really happy for Coach Cutcliffe and those players. They've done a tremendous job. Football is not an easy game. It's tough. Everybody works hard and everybody practices hard. The fun is in the winning. It's good to see them have fun there at Duke and to see Coach Cutcliffe have success. I'm sure it hasn't come as fast as he would have liked but it's great from the outside looking in. They've already earned a bowl berth for the first time in a long time. We look forward to going up there and competing against a good team. We need to play well. I don't think anybody on this team has played against Duke.

Offensively, they do some good things. They've played all three quarterbacks. I don't know if Renfree is going to play or not but their third team guy is a wildcat guy and does a great job. They play all three running backs.

They are very talented at wide receiver. Their offensive line is sound. They have given up some of the fewest sacks of anybody in the conference this week. We have to tackle well in space. These guys are good in space. They play with a fast tempo and no-huddle.

Their defense is playing well. They bring a lot of pressure. They are active up front and they play a lot of guys. They are confident in who they put on the field. They have a couple of really good DBs. They force you to make plays. They put you in situations and pick their spots with house blitz, cover-zero. That will be a key to this game.

I'm impressed with this football team. They are dangerous in special teams. Their punter is averaging 44 yards per put- leading the ACC. Their return game is one of the best in the nation.

As I tell our guys all the time - it's about Clemson. Our focus. Our attention to details. This is our last road game and this is a great opportunity for us to finish strong. If we can win we will be 4-1 on the road for just the second time in 15 years.

We talked coming into the season of taking another step about becoming a consistent winner. We need to put three, four and five consistent seasons together. This would be another positive step. Great opportunity for us to hopefully have a great month of November.

That's what matters. We just try to focus on winning today and at the end of November hopefully we'll be a relavent football team from a national standpoint.

What gives you confidence that here at the same juncture you were at last year you will finish stronger?
Swinney: I just think they are focused. They've gotten more experience. Last year at this time we were 8-0. Now we are 7-1. I just think the experience they've had is going to pay off for them. That's usually the case. We got a little distracted last year. We lost our focus a little bit with our attention to detail. The No. 1 thing was turnovers. We became a turnover machine down the stretch there. Hopefully these guys understand that. I'm confident with the guys we have and their commitment we can go do it one week at a time. Keep improving. That's the other thing- I see our team getting better. Guys are improving gradually.

Considering were Duke is at right now- first place in Coastal Division- the environment will probably be a little different than the last time you guys were there.
Swinney: No doubt. We are going to get everybody's best game. There's no doubt about it. I don't expect it to be any different up there. Teams play different at home. They had a tough one last week in Tallahassee. We'll get their best effort. Look at what they did in the North Carolina game. Big crowd for them. They play all the way to the end. We are going to have to play well. And again, that's the focus for us. 7 o'clock kick - hopefully we'll have a lot of Clemson folks oup there. Last time we were there we did.

You said this team would be a work in progress this year. Has it taken longer than you anticipated to get where you want to be?
Swinney: No. I think we've made gradual improvement each week. We've been fairly consistently offensively. We've probably been up and down in the OL but we've been more up than down. We need a little more competition there- but they are going to get there. Next year, we are going to have a pretty special group on the offensive line. Competition will be different then than it is now. Defensively, started off a little slower than any of us wanted but they keep improving. Because of that - they are starting to play more confident. Then because they are more confident they play faster. It's one of those things you have to deal with. Up there at Boston College they started to come on. Then we now played our best game at Wake. We are playing better. Tackling better. Playing faster. Those are all positives. Hopefully we get Breeland back this week. He will practice today and we'll see where he is.

Are you surprised
Swinney: Yeah. People do what they do. You are not going to change your identity of your team, in most cases, in one week. Just like last week at Wake Forest. They brought pressure and gave us matchups. So we had opportunities to make plays and we like those matchups. Duke - it's what they do. They went to Florida State lined up and got after them. FSU made plays. They'll pick their spots.

What's your plan for Adam Humphries this week?
Swinney: Receiver. But we are going to keep working him like we did last week. We want to keep dusting off the skills from a coverage standpoint- back pedaling, breaking on balls, stuff like that. We've got a good plan for him. That was a great side effect of the game to be able to get him in the game and play him. We may not need him. But now we know we have another capable athlete. We'll keep work him. He was kind of the answer to a crisis. Worked out great. We kept it simple for him.

As far as receivers go, now you are getting production from more than just Nuk Hopkins. That has to be a good thing.
Swinney: Yeah it is. That's personally when we are at our best. Not trying to force things. Take what's there and play within the flow of the game. Charone Peake is a great player. Martavis Bryant is a great player. Jaron Brown is as good a finisher as we had. He's incredibly unselfish. His yards after contact probably leads our teams. He's hard to tackle. Really proud of the year he's having. Sam Cooper is a sophomore player who is growing in his confidence. Brandon Ford is steady for us. Good to see D.J. [Howard] find pay-dirt. We have the ability to involve a lot. And that starts with Tajh.

What are your thoughts on David Beasley's progression?
Swinney: Very solid. Probably way more than I expected to be honest with you. He hasn't been perfect. Got a little banged up and played through that. He's enjoying his role on our team. It's been fun to watch him grow and mature as a young man. His best football is in front of him. Ryan Norton is our offensive lineman of the week this past week. He's doing a super job.

When you mentioned keep winning and you become relavent nationally at the end of the season... what did you mean by that?
Swinney: I want to be a team when it's all said and done we are in the mix every year. We need to be ranked in the top 15 year in and year out. If you put three or four years together, you eliminate the up and down nature. We've been ranked 23 straight weeks. Third longest streak in school history. To me, that's a step in the right direction. There are seven teams in the country who can say that. Consistency is something this program has lacked. That's the next step for us. That's what great programs do. I think we are headed in that direction. Finish with another BCS bowl bid. That would be great.

What are the biggest challenges to pulling off a four or five year run?
Swinney: Got to have a little luck along the way. Stay healthy. Gosh, look at Maryland for example. Recruiting is part of it. Staff continuity. Your players being developed. Character. Discipline.

Does it bother you your 7-1 record may not be looked at as strong because you play in the ACC?
Swinney: No. No. We just line up and play who we play. What pleases me is to see our team play well with the schedule we've got. When it's all said and done, we will be where we need to be. We are pretty high right now with a loss. We are about where we should be. If we can finish strong, we'll have every opportunity that's out there.

What are your thoughts on Connor Vernon?
Swinney: He's a veteran player that is very smart. Great route runner. Great hands. Very consistent. Fights for the ball. Good runner after the catch. They do a great job of using him.

Your thoughts on Spurrier's comments from yesterday? Did you hear it?
Swinney: Yes I heard it. It obviously doesn't take long in this world we live in. Look, people need to back off the ledge. Personally, I think he was trying to pay me a compliement. I know it was a round about way of doing it. It's like me telling my wife you don't look as fat in this dress. I think he was trying to pay me a compliment to use something I said to talk about one of his players. Again, prayers to Marcus Lattimore. I meant exactly what I said. He's a quality person. If anybody can come back, he will. I'm disappointed we won't get a chance to compete against him this year. I want to compete against the best.

CUTigers.com Top Stories