Opening statement from Dabo Swinney:
Swinney: Like y'all, I'm excited to finally have game week here. It's been a long offseason. Really looking forward to getting on the field and seeing how we match up with a great team like Georgia. Openers are always tough. Always tough. It doesn't matter who you play. You have more time to prepare and there are always adjustments you have to make. It's even tougher when you have a team like Georgia. I have a lot respect for a coach like Mark Richt. He's one of the good guys in this business I have a lot of respect for.
Offensively for them, they have the top quarterback in the SEC, as voted on by the SEC coaches. He's a great football player. He knows what he's doing. They are very balanced. 37 passing touchdowns, 37 rushing touchdowns. They want to run the football. A lot of play action. A lot of screens. They have a very veteran group in every position.
Their defense, a lot of new faces. A lot of new starters. But don't buy the lie and feel sorry for Georgia. They just reload. I know they lost some guys from last year. But they have recruited at a very high level and will field a very good defense Saturday night.
But for us, it's about Clemson. It's about how we play. How we prepare mentally and physically and taking care of the business with the things we can control.
The guys that are out: Tyshon Dye, Scott Pagano, Joe Gore and Mackensie Alexander. Everybody else is back at practice. Sam Cooper is practicing again. Rest of our guys are on board and we expect everybody to be ready Saturday night. Looking forward to being in the Valley.
Great opportunity for Clemson University and the city of Clemson. What a great opportunity it is to host GameDay.
Looking forward to seeing everybody Saturday night in Death Valley.
Will there be in significant differences from last year's team to this year's team?
Swinney: I don't know. We do what we do. We are who we are offensively and defensively. Hopefully we are going to be better on defense this year. IF you look at it from that standpoint, there could be. I think we have a veteran group. They know how to practice the right way. I don't think a game like this you are going to find out all of those answers. We are a talented team and they are a talented team. The identity of your team presents itself the first half of the season. The opener is just the opener. You gotta go play somebody. This is a different deal because you have two good teams right out of the gate. We are going to grow these first few weeks. It's a long season. You can't get all your answers in one game.
Is there extra significance in a game like this given what happened in the bowl game and also the opponent in Georgia?
Swinney: Yeah. It would be great to win the game. But that's all it's going to be. We just check off the first goal. Everybody can talk about it for a couple of weeks and you beat a couple of SEC teams but so what? We've got 11 other opponents on the schedule. And that goes for both schools. You have to be careful. It's a long season. Look at Alabama - they've lost two years in a row at home in November. But they have to stay focus and look what happened? The winner of this game has a good starting spot. That's it. You have to have a good perspective. You want to get out of the gate really really fast but we have a long ways to go.
Clearly when you get on top of the hill for a game like this- how do you keep the team focused?
Swinney: I think that's great. All of that stuff. I would much rather give a rip about Clemson then just not care. I was at the BI-LO until 10:30 last night. People care. They love it. They spend family time here and there will be people here tomorrow night just to smell the campus. I think we are too busy to try and figure out how to beat Georgia. When you turn on the film and watch these guys and what they do- you better bring your A-game right out of the gate. All that stuff outside of the game is irrelevant. We've got a formula for success and that's what we talk about. You have to keep them focused. I think we are in a good spot.
You guys are pulling out all the stops with Coach Ford and Homer Jordan, etc. Is that for the players or the fans?
Swinney: I think Homer Jordan and David Treadwell coming back is good because it's Georgia. As far as Danny Ford, he didn't get into the Ring of Honor because he played Georgia, but because he won a bunch of games and it's his time. I think it's great.
Do you remember some of the classic battles between these two teams in the 1980's?
Swinney: I grew up watching Herschel Walker. I'm from the 80's and I followed Clemson because of Danny Ford. I knew him as an Alabama guy. And I knew Frank Howard. Met him as a kid growing up. I had a buddy who was as obnoxious as a Georgia fan as you can fine. So yeah I knew all about it.
Chad Morris said Sammy Watkins never got into a full rhythm last season. Has that changed?
Swinney: Yes. This time last year he wasn't going to play for us. Then he came back and played about a half of a couple of games because we were blowing people out. If you break it down and look at the time he was on the field he was still pretty special. He wasn't super human but then again he didn't play in 13 ball games. He's on the field. He'll be fine. He'll have a great year.
How close were you to landing Todd Gurley?
Swinney: Man. It wasn't just Gurley. It's Marshall. Everybody thinks he's a little guy. He's put together. I really love both of those guys. I thought we had them both. Then when Marshall broke our heart. He was Clemson the night before and then announced for Georgia. I just knew we were going to get Gurley. I just knew it. Both of them are just phenomenal kids. I was fired up about Gurley. I thought we were going to get him. The day he was supposed to announce, most of the time you know when you are getting a guy. Gurley is going to announce later that day. I actually got a call from Mark Richt that day. I can't remember what he called me about. So Gurley was going to announce at 2 o'clock. So I call Coach Richt back and he's on the treadmill. And I'm going you aren't real worried about this announcement at 2. He said, "you never know." So I knew right then we aren't getting him. But they are two talented backs.
How will you keep your guys calm on game day with such a late game?
Swinney: We tie 'em up and blindfold them. They watch GameDay. Listen, this is college. It's supposed to be fun. You want them to have fun. We'll let them sleep in. They don't get a lot of sleep. That's an opportunity to get a lot of sleep. Then we start our open breakfast. Some guys get up a little earlier, or a little later. We've got special teams meetings, offense and defense meetings. Then they go back to their room. Then pre-game meal. Then they go back and get dressed and go through are walk through.
Is this game going away with the new college football playoff on the horizon?
Swinney: Well there's that thought. There's also going to be a premium on beating people that count. We can schedule all the directional schools we want to and stick our chests out. But so what? Playing eight conference games is a huge challenge. We always play South Carolina. So if we play one more top talent opponent- that's plenty. We'll have an opportunity to be in that mix. No doubt about it. But if we are a 12-1 type team and win the conference we should be in the national mix.
What's the latest with Jordan Leggett's availability for Saturday night?
Swinney: There's a strong strong chance he's going to be available. Practiced in a green jersey yesterday.
What's the latest with Jordan Leggett's availability for Saturday night?
Swinney: That's the key to this game. It's going to be about the trenches. It's not anything fancy. They are either going to win in the trenches or we are going to win in the trenches. That's what it's going to come down to. They do a great job of getting to the second level and cutting you off. That's going to be key on our linebackers. Our interior defensive linemen have to gobble those double teams up. Aaron Murray can move around and is very capable inside or outside the pocket. You can't just come after him. When you blitz him he's as good as anybody in the country and getting rid of it. We've got to get pressure with our front four and that comes down to matchups. That's a real key to this game.
Will you have a chance to talk to Coach Ford before the game and if so what will you say?
Swinney: I hope so. I've seen him already. We had a barb-e-que two Saturday's ago. Saw him there. Told him it was a long time coming and congratulations and it was well-deserved. It was a great moment. That whole deal, and I wasn't here in the 80's but I think it kept Clemson divided for a long time. I just think it's way overdue. I have a lot of respect for Coach Ford. He left here and went on to be successful. He's always been loyal and committed to Clemson. He's gone above and beyond to try and help Clemson. I'm sure there's been some frustrations on both sides. I'm just glad this has finally taken place. Hopefully we can all move on and embrace the good and keep moving forward.
Have you talked with your team extensively about the new targeting rules?
Swinney: Yes. We brought Doug Rhodes in from the ACC to talk to us about it. We don't have to coach anything different. We have never coached targeting, especially with the crown of the helmet. The obvious one where everybody sits in the stands- those are the things we want to see enforced. It's the unintentional play (that we'll have to see about). You can still throw guys out on Sunday- that's always been there. I'm hopeful those obvious ones that they enforce the rule. The unintended plays, I hope they don't call those things. It's scary. Because it all comes down to judgment. The bottom line is you tackle below the shoulders and you don't lead with the helmet. You can review it and throw the player out. I don't know how that works. But we'll see.
Dabo's Tuesday press conference
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