Dabo previews South Carolina

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews the annual grudge match against the Gamecocks.

Opening statement...
Swinney: Well, it's an exciting week. Biggest game of the year. Biggest challenge of the year. We will have to play an oustanding game against this crew. Watching them on film, they find a lot of ways to win games. Tough challenge ahead. Offensively, they are big up front. All starts with their center. T.J. is an oustanding player. He sets everything for them. Their quarterback was probably the difference in the game last year. Very good scrambler. Good feel for the pocket. Can make the throws. The thing that worries about you when he scrambles, when guys come out of coverage, he finds them. He's the guy we have to do a much better job of what we did last year.

They've got three wide outs who have gotten better and better. Ace Sanders is electric and has changed a lot of games for them. Same thing for Ellington. They are creative in how they get the ball to them. We've got to do a great job of tackling those guys. 82 is their big tall guy they throw it up to. THe guys you keep seeing they throw to are the tight ends. No. 87 has been a force for them offensively. You better know where he is and do a good job in coverage. When 81 comes in there he's not as big but he's athletic.

Offensively, defensively they are as good as we are going to play. As anybody is going to play.

Their defensivive line is outstanding. Clowney gets all the headlines but those other guys can play. Part of the reason he is so good is because he's a dynamic player, but their players are good. Devin Taylor is like seven feet tall and has been there. No. 70 is a big load inside. Very good front seven. Backers are smart and tackle well. Physical. They challenge you in the secondary. They are a one-safety team. When you go against a one-safety team they challenge you to make plays and you have to make plays.

Their return game has been very very good. Especially the punt return with Ace Sanders. There is tape against good people and they've got him pent up and he gets out of there.

We are a team that's been improving. But we have to put it all together to win this game. It's Thanksgiving and we all have a lot to be thankful for. It's a blessing to be a part of this game and hopefully Saturday night to put our best foot forward.

This is a great opportunity for this state. This game offers more nationally than what it normally does.

How about he intangibles with the coach and his ability to call plays?
Swinney: That's just part of it. That's the result of good coaching. They do a good job. He's proven over many many years to be a good play-caller. Again, they are what they are. They do what they do. We've got 11 games to study. They do too. It comes down to execution. Play calls are good but you got to win matchups. The big thing for us to coach our guys up with discipline.

The biggest difference between last year and this year could be Tajh Boyd. Would you agree with that?
Swinney: Well, we are a better team than we were last year. No question about that. We are a smarter team. When you have a quarterback who is year two of his development you should be better. Our offensive line has improved tremendously throughout the year. We have an oustanding running back. Brandon Ford has stepped in nicely for Dwayne Allen. But Tajh has been the difference for us. He's a much better quarterback than he was last year. He was a good player last year but is a much better quarterback and that's one of the main reasons he is 10-1.

Would you disagree with the notion this year will be viewed as a disappointment if you don't win this game Saturday, even though you've won 10 games already?
Swinney: I think that is sad way to think about things. They have no appreciation for winning or how hard it is to win. It's hard to win 10 ball games. It's hard to do. People who say those things - they don't get it. Yeah- we'd be incredibly disappointed if we lost this game. Your dang right. You live with it all year. Everybody lives with it. Coaches, players and fans. So if we lost all those games and we were 0-11 and we won this game it would be a great year. Nobody is happy unless you win them all. That's our objective. Try and be the best we can be. I just want to play our best game Saturday night and see our guys compete relentlessly.

Will you change things up on special teams this week given last week's struggles?
Swinney: Hopefully we'll do some things better.

Have you matured as a head coach than what you were three years ago?
Swinney: Can't you tell? I was 38 when I took this job and now I'm 43 today. Are you a better reporter now than what you were 10 years ago? I'm more mature and a much better coach just because of experience. I've worked hard at it. I've studied. I'm always trying to improve and I'm never satisfied. When you are through improving your through. I'm 43 years old today and I'm a wiser man today than I was three or four years ago.

What area do you think you have exactly matured at the most?
Swinney: Overall. Just understanding. A lot of my core things are exactly the way they were when I was an assistant. The overall big picture of managing a program and managing people. The way I want to do things. Planning. Organizing and delegating. Certainly not less mature.

Annoyed with how the coach 100 miles down the road has acted recently?
Swinney: This is not about me and coach Spurrier. Some people may want to make it that way. I'm not comfortable with that. I want our guys to play great. But I'm just trying to get a first down Saturday. Coach Spurrier is an interesting guy. I don't really ever have a problem with him. From time to time - I don't think it's personal. He' got a long track record and that's how he is. He likes to stir it up now and then. But I just worry about Clemson. I don't have time to worry about what's going on down there. I'm focused on

What's it like playing this game at home?
Swinney: It's a rivalry game - I think it's always an advantage when you play at Death Valley. Absolutely. When you have a great home environment it's a positive for you.

Spurrier is going for the all-time wins record for a head coach at South Carolina. They've won four straight. Would it make it that much sweeter for to prevent that from happening?
Swinney: All-time wins record? I didn't know that. Little more pressure there, eh? Again, it's not about me. It's not about Coach Spurrier. It's about the game and the players. All I can tell you is that it is important. It's important for us to finish a great season the right way. That's all I can tell you about that.

How bad does this senior class want this game considering they have yet to beat South Carolina?
Swinney: This senior group has accomplished alot of things. A long list of things. A long list. But they have not beaten South Carolina. The list of things they haven't gotten done is very short. That's a big one for them.

Your linebackers are much better this year. What's been the difference?
Swinney: Little different this system. Tig is a fifth-year senior. Shuey is in his fourth year. Quandon is getting up there. We've asked Blanks to do one thing specifically and he's done a good job. we are not quite as complex as we were last year. That's helped us, especially with the youth up front. Good competition. We are much better

What's your take on Maryland?
Swinney: Really don't have a lot of comment on it. Caught me off guard but not a shocker. Who knows anymore in college football? I just keep my head down and I'm trying to get a first down against South Carolina. If we can get two that would be progress. Try not to kick it to No. 1. Not shocked but I don't get too caught up in it. Try to do my job and make it the best program this can be.

Are you amazed at how Tajh doesn't get the national respect he deserves?
Swinney: Yeah. I don't know what's wrong with all of y'all. I don't know of a quarteback in the country playing better than Tajh Boyd. I know who they are. I can't imagine a player who means more to this team than this guy. He's accounted for 41 touchdowns. We are a 10-1 football team. I see some of the guys they talk about it and I'm like wow. I wouldn't trade my guy for any of them. Maybe they'll figure it out one of these days. He's a winner. Bottom line. Winner in high school and winner here. Fun to be around. Always has a smile on his face. We've just gotten used to it. 20 yard stop route on a rope? No problem. He's a special player. Really is. He'll get his time.

Will a win over South Carolina give him that exposure?
Swinney: I don't know. He's done some things all year that are mind-boggling to me. He's still kind of over-looked a little bit. But he doesn't care. He knows what he's doing. The more he wins the more people will take notice. He played great down there in Tallahassee. Big win and a great performance by him would enhance his national exposure.

With regards to the ACC's stature right now - what are your thoughts on two loss teams ahead of
Swinney: I think that's ridiculous. I couldn't have said that at the beginning of the year. Where we are right now we can play with anybody. I'd love to play Notre Dame. I'd LOVE to play Notre Dame. This team right now is at the point where we are goo enough to play with anybody. This team has improved. This team has played with great effort, passion and togetherness. They are as good as anybody out there. I'm proud of our team. I don't think teams with two losses should be in front of Clemson and Florida State. Some of that is perception and some of that is because the teams you've played haven't had great years. I know if we finish strong and Florida State finishes strong we'll be fine. And if we continue to put consistency together as a program, we'll change he perception. We are kind of the old kid coming back to the block. I think I voted us fifth or sixth this week. That's where we should be. If we can finish as a program, we'll be relavent.

How important has Jonathan Meeks been to your program?
Swinney: Meeks has had a good year. Last week wasn't his best performance but he's had a heckuva year. He's going to be a good pro. Lot of fun to coach. Meeks was my first recruit. We'll always have that bond.

What has Dalton Freeman meant to your program?
Swinney: He's like the 10th coach on the staff. Great player. He's off the charts. His intangibles. His will to win. His character. His toughness. His football IQ. Great family. He was a cornerstone to our program. He was one of those guys as a redshirt freshman when I took over. And he's probably thinking to himself, what have I gotten myself into? And now he leaves as a player who is part of a senior class who has won more conference games than any other one in Clemson history.

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