Dabo previews N.C. State

CLEMSON - After the first open date of the season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney previews Thursday night's ACC opener at N.C. State.

Opening statement...
Swinney: Good morning. I know it's Tuesday but it's Thursday for us as a football team. This is a completion day as far as finalizing the plan. A Thursday type of practice from a script standpoint.

I think it's a great opportunity for our team. Excited about going on the road for the first time. You find out a lot about your team when you go on the road. This isn't just any place where we are going. This is a huge huge challenge. They have good players and a tough place to win. We have to play our best game to this point. We have to continue to get better. We have to make a lot of improvement to win.

N.C. State, offensively, we are impressed with what they are doing. They are similar to us. They really want to run the football. They are very committed to that. They get a lot of big plays as a result from that. They have a couple of big backs. Big and strong. Run hard. Quarterback is big and instinctive. He's had some timely first-down situations. Their offensive line is big. 6-7 type guys. Their right tackle is about 350 or so. Crisp is big on the left side. Receivers- they have good skill guys that have caught the ball well for them. They have a freshman - No. 1 who is very impressive. No. 2 makes plays for them in a lot of different ways.

Defensively, they are very active. Based on what we've seen on film this is the best we've seen up to this point. Their first group is very good. They play well with their hands. A lot of movement and a lot of slanting. They create problems with the movement. They're leading tackler is the middle linebacker Robert Caldwell. They are very good in the secondary. Their corners are very aggressive. Our receivers are going to have to show up.

Special teams their kicker is 7-for-7 in field goals and they aren't giving teams many opportunities from a return standpoint.

For us, we have to stay focused on what we have to do. All three phases. Executing at a high level. Protecting the football. Not having critical errors. We don't want to do anything to give a crowd like that energy.

Excited again about going up there. Our guys are ready to go.

Last thing- it came out that Clemson came out as No. 21 nationally among public universities. That's a real tribute to President Barker.

What's the latest with the wide receivers?
Swinney: Charone's surgery will be right before the B.C. game. Right after that. That will give him a little more time without the extra pressure of getting to class. We'll have him back for spring ball (without contact). So that's our hope for him. As far as guys stepping up- Adam Humphries is a special player. We went into the season saying hey we've got four starters. Now we lose a great player and we are fortunate to have another great player like Adam. It hurts our depth. Because now we are bringing in young guys. Now we are rolling in G-Hop, T.J. [Green] and Mike [Williams]. Also Matt Porter. We have to ramp our development of those guys. Very proud of how Germone played in the S.C. State game. That's really helped him.

Do you like playing on Thursday night? Mind it? Or is it just the hand your dealt?
Swinney: Just the hand your dealt. We don't really get caught up in that. Where we play. When we play. Has nothing to do with the game. We can play on Tuesday, it doesn't matter. I think it's great we get the chance to showcase our university on national television. So that's a positive.

What's the latest with Roderick McDowell?
Swinney: Yes. He's good. He'll play.

"This is the biggest game of the year. It's not the one we've played it's not one we are going to play [later]. This is it. Period. "

Could we see Zac Brooks at wide receiver?
Swinney: No. He's a running back. He can catch the ball well. But it would be really hard right now and put him at wide out. If we got in a bad situation we could stick him out there. I know it sounds easy. But it's a lot harder than it sounds. It's a difficult transition for anybody. He has the hands. If we had a crisis situation, we would look at any option. Adam Humphries played DB last year. But we aren't in crisis mode. Zac is really bringing some great things at the running back position.

How different is N.C. State now with Coach Doeren there?
Swinney: Different philosophy. Coach O'Brien's teams played tough, physical. They kicked our butts up there two years ago. They played on a 20-yard field all night. They are very different in what they do from an offensive standpoint. Their quarterback is much more of a factor in the running game. Even when they had Russell [Wilson] they were much more traditional. But now, lots of formations, shifts and motions. They try to outflank you. Speed sweeps. They create more challenges.

Did your faceless, nameless opponent discussion begin two years when you lost up there?
Swinney: It didn't start two years ago. It didn't take a butt whooping to start that. We were a young team. I remember two years ago very well. 42 freshmen on the roster. That's what you go. Half your team is very young. We just weren't very focused. We weren't mentally tough. Our guys learned through that process that the season starts tomorrow. This is the biggest game of the year. It's not the one we've played it's not one we are going to play [later]. This is it. Period. We didn't play well. We weren't ready and that was my fault. We went up there and we had a plan to win. We executed a plan to lose. Four turnovers and three inside our own 20. We can't win that way. No matter who you play. Hopefully our guys have learned and grown through their own experience.

Do you think it was a let down because you had already clinched the division?
Swinney: I don't think so. They all count last time I checked. If you really have pride in your performance, you do it every time you play - all 12 times. They were the better team that night.

Through two games how has the defensive line looking?
Swinney: I'm very encouraged with our defensive line after two games. They play fast and physical. We haven't had many busts. Depth is showing up. We don't have a huge sample size but they have done everything we have asked.

What about Grady Jarrett? Has he responded well?
Swinney: Oh yeah. We get every ounce with Grady. He sets the tempo for that group.

Explain if you would, what makes Adam Humphries so valuable?
Swinney: Great speed. He's quick as all get-out. Great hands. Instinctive. He's the epitome of a football player. Good size. He's strong. You walk up on Adam and he's put together. Adam is going to play in the NFL. He can run. He's a legit 4.4 guy. Great lateral quickness. He's got a passion and a fire for the game that all great players have. Very unselfish. Team-first guy. He's made play after play after play. His ability to play multiple spots- we are fortunate to have that. I was sold on Adam Humphries when I saw him play basketball. I went to watch Charone Peake and here's this point guard. I knew then we needed to take a closer look at this guy. And we did.

You've had a look at G-Hop in the last game. But not a long look at Green or Williams?
Swinney: The S.C. State game was big for him. All freshmen go through that transition phase but when you go up against a team like Georgia, that wasn't quite the stage for them. S.C. State was a great opportunity. I really like where they all are from a development standpoint. We are fortunate to have Mike Williams and T.J. Green. Big athletic bodies. They are going to have their fair share of moments this year. G-Hop it's like I'm reliving Freddie Millens. It's so similar it's scary. Body-type, temperament. The way he runs. The whole deal. He's very similar. You hate to compare people but that's who he reminds me of. Love his toughness. Not a huge guy but he plays with a physical edge to him.

What is Mackensie Alexander's status?
Swinney: We aren't ready to make that decision after two games. He had about eight days off. Thing about Mackensie is he'll take off at 10 o'clock at night and go run. We sat him down. He'll have some more time off. He's going to have another MRI and ultrasound today and the plan is to get him through Wake Forest and reevaluate him and see where he is. Where are we? But we've taken that pressure off of him of trying to get back because he has to feel right. We feel like he's making progress. Our trainers are doing a good job with him. We'll give it through the Wake Forest game and go from there. The longer he's out the more likely he is to sit. We haven't made that decision.

Dabo when Tennessee was leading Oregon 7-0 and A&M was leading Alabama 14-0, were you thinking... No. 1 Tigers?
Swinney: No. No. I really don't think that way. Even if that happens, what does that mean? It doesn't mean anything. We don't know that Alabama is the No. 1 team in the country. Right now they've taken their show on the road and held serve. It's a race. We are in good position but we are just kind of getting to that first curve. Those people with their tickets with Clemson, we got a long ways to go. That is the last thing on my mind. But I did enjoy watching those games.


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