Dabo opens spring practice

CLEMSON - Dabo Swinney met with reporters on Tuesday afternoon in the West End Zone.

The following is a transcript of his opening statement.

"It's always fun to start to build a new team. That's the great thing about college football, you really start over every year. Everybody has to move on, and that's just the nature of college football. This is in particular an exciting time for me because this is the most veteran team that I have had. Last year we had 10 scholarship seniors, the year before that we had 11 scholarship seniors, and this year we have 19. I'm really, really excited about the leadership we have in place and the experience that comes with that leadership.

"Proud of our staff for the preparation we've had for spring ball starting tomorrow. We've done a lot of self-evaluating, trying to get better. Really have studied everything in depth, both sides of the ball and special teams. Everything that went right and wrong as ways to break our quality control down.

"I'm pleased with the players and how they've worked all January and February in what we call our Get Ready phase, they've been getting ready. They've done a great job. Coach Batson and his staff has done an excellent job with them, and they're champing at the bit to get back out there and play some football.

"We've got a lot to do this spring, just like everybody else in the country. We've got a bunch of stuff to get accomplished, but the biggest thing is getting back to the basics, starting over. You have new players coming in your program every year, you can't assume anything. The challenge is even though we have a lot of veterans, we still have quite a few young guys we've got to get up to speed in some key spots. We've got to really keep those veterans engaged and we have to do a good job of bringing those young guys along. That's the challenge for us as coaches. Every (coach) is back, so we've got great continuity and chemistry there. It's not as much about scheme. We have a lot of schemes to correct and learn from, that's part of what spring ball is, is teaching off of last year as you go through your meetings. But we structure spring ball based on what we need to correct. But also what we've done well and just the basics of who we are. We can't get caught up in the Xs and Os, we've got to do a great job of improving how we do things. I'm very comfortable with what we do, but we've got to get better at how we do it. Maybe that's how we teach it. Maybe that's a drill. Maybe that's a technique. Maybe it's a way we say it. Whatever it may be, it's certainly a lot of improvement in that area. And guys understanding how to do things, not just what to do. Mentally improving as a football team is going to be huge for us."

"Defensively, I'm incredibly excited about where we are. We've got a lot of talent and experience on the defensive side. I think we're going to come out of this spring with some outstanding depth at a lot of positions. But we've got to improve in every single area, especially mentally. You look at some of our big plays we gave up last year - sometimes you give up a big play, the guy just gets beat - but it's the mental errors that frustrate you. I thought we did a better job of tackling last year. We certainly did a better job of getting pressure on the quarterback and tackles for loss. But there's still a lot of room for improvement if we want to be a top-5, top-10 type of defense. That's what we want to be, we want to be the best. Really appreciate how the staff has worked to challenge themselves and lay out a good plan for spring.

"Offensively, obviously the big question for everybody sitting in this room and probably everybody outside this room is who's throwing it, who's running it, and who's catching it. For the last several years around here, everybody's been knowing who's going to throw it, run it and catch it. So that's probably the bigger question. But I'll be honest with you: I really feel great about the people we have here, that's why you recruit. I really feel good about the talent we have in our pipeline at those positions. I love the personnel that's in place. Now, we've got a lot to teach, and we've got a lot of developing to do. The bigger concern for me, I guess, is sorting out our tackle situation. That to me is much more of a question going into spring ball than quarterback, running back, wideout. I know by the time we play, we're going to have some quality people ready to go. But the tackle situation is a question, because we've lost two guys that we didn't anticipate losing. Giff Timothy, who had a year left, would have been a two-year starter for us. Patrick DeStefano was on his way to being a starter for us, an outstanding player. So you lose two guys off-cycle, that's a huge, huge question. So kind of settling that out - I like the guys we have, we just have to develop them. We've got Isaiah Battle. Mac Lain is going to play both, he's probably going to go into spring starting off at guard as our starter, we're going to give him a chance to be the starter, feel like he's earned that opportunity, we'll see what he does with that. He's also going to have to keep his hand in at tackle. Shaq Anthony and Joe Gore, Shaq's got good experience and has done some good things for us, and he's very talented. Joe Gore is what you're looking for. He really has all the tools to be an outstanding player, it's just a matter of putting it together, does he stay healthy and avoid some of the setbacks he's had as a young player. His junior year is big for him. Maverick Morris, is he going to be a guy who grabs our attention, I like what I've seen from him as far as the offseason and how he's worked in our mat drills and bowl practices. Now can he go out there and put it together and execute what we're trying to do. Lot of question marks. Kalon Davis is a guy that's probably going to play some tackle for us as well. He's very smart, moves well, I think he's going to have a better than average shot at being able to play guard and tackle. That's the jigsaw puzzle that's the biggest question to me, we're going to move some guys around. We've got some veteran guys on the offensive line that we're going to get them out of their comfort zone like Kalon and ask him to do a little bit more. We've just got to put that together and find out who the best five are. I think we've got good flexibility as far as being able to move guys around up front. But that's definitely to me the biggest question is sorting out the tackle spot.

"And then kicker, we just lost probably the most accurate kicker in the history of this school. That's a pretty big deal. The one bad season that we've had, we weren't very good at kicker. So that's a very, very critical position, especially when you're as good on defense as I hope to be. Ammon Lakip is poised and ready to step in that role. Very encouraged by Ammon and his development, especially what I saw out of him the last part of the season and bowl practice, but hey, he's got to go do it. So I'm excited about him and his opportunity."

"We've got 15 days and we've got to maximize every single day. Compete, that's really the word going into this spring is compete. I expect great competition as we go into this thing. There's a lot of jobs that are wide open. There's a lot of guys we all know exactly what we got, a guy like Grady Jarrett, I think we all know what we got in him. But we've got a lot of spots that are open. So the competition is going to be a lot of fun. That'll definitely make us all better."

Injury report -- Tyshon Dye is out
"Heart just breaks for him, but I love Tyshon Dye. I just love how he has responded. His attitude, this young man is getting a huge dose of perseverance and patience at a very young age. The best thing about Tyshon is he's got nothing but time on his side. He's going to recover from this, he's going to come back, he's going to have a good freshman year, and this time next year he's going to be even better and getting ready to go into his sophomore year. He's got four years left. I know everybody's frustrated because they have all these expectations on Tyshon Dye. They want to see him yesterday, and so do I. But just support him. We've all just got to have a little patience just like he does. But he is going to be a great football player. I don't have any doubt about that. His attitude is incredible. He's one of the best students we have over at Vickery Hall. I'm just really proud of him and how he's responded, because that's really what life's all about is how you respond. He has responded like a very, very mature young man. Proud of him and looking forward to getting him healthy and getting him out there so he can have some great moments in Death Valley."

"Charone Peake looks great. He's going to do some things this spring for sure. We are going to hold him out of contact, we're not going to let him be tackled or anything like that. We feel good about where he is. Especially when we come back from spring break, we'll probably ramp it up with him as far as skelly and running routes. But it'll be all non-contact for him. But he's really on a great pace."

"Same thing with Kellen Jones. Kellen and Charone are both 21 weeks out and looking good, doing great. Kellen will not have any contact as well but be able to do drill work. Those two guys are progressing nicely."

"Travis Blanks is only 11 weeks out with his surgery on his ACL, and he is progressing very well also. Expecting all those guys to have full recoveries and be back with us when we crank it up in the fall."

"Martin Jenkins will be out this spring, had shoulder surgery, he battled all season long with that shoulder, just trying to get through and did a great job for us. Got that fixed."

"About six weeks into their rehab process and expect to get them back fully when we crank it up in the fall."

Oliver Jones, limited first few days, expect to get him back after break

Position changes
T.J. Green has moved to safety. "Don't know if that's a permanent move or not. One of those deals we had with Shatley. Gonna see how it goes this spring. But that's one I'm really excited about. We know he can play wideout, but we just think he's one of the best athletes on our team. He's one of the fastest guys, has a great body, he's very physical, really did a great job on special teams for us this year, and he's going to get over there. It's something he wanted to do, so we'll see how it goes and go from there."

"Always things you have to deal with from time to time, but really disappointed to announce that we've got four guys that are going to be suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules. David Beasley, Shaq Anthony, Garry Peters and Corey Crawford will all miss the opener. Listen, guys, a huge part of our program is teaching accountability, teaching responsibility and that there's consequences for your actions. It's really just that simple. That's a big part of what we do here. These guys have not been arrested, these guys have not robbed a bank. These are four really good young men, to be quite honest with you. Four guys that I love and care about a whole lot. But they broke a team rule, it's just that simple. As a result, they're going to miss a game. But I am very confident that all four of these guys will learn and grow from this, and go on and have a great 2014 season, both on and off the season."

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