Swinney: Well it's finally here. I know everybody is finally excited to get the season going. It seems like it's been an extra long camp. I'm excited to see our team play to see where we are. You can only get so far in practice. You evaluate and you grow and you make adjustments. This is one of the best teams in the country against Georgia. Seeing how we matchup against them is something I'm anxious to see. Coach Richt is a great coach and he's been there forever. They have recruited at a high level. The opener is always difficult because you have all spring and all summer to prepare for this opponent. But the biggest challenge is the unknowns. You don't have video evidence of who we are and who they are. You never really know until you go play. A lot of unknowns. They've had a lot of changes.
Offensively, no changes as far as their staff. The biggest thing they do - they are as balanced as any team in the country. That makes it difficult to defend. They've got a new quarterback, but No. 14 played a good bit last year and he's a senior and has some confidence. He's got some really good skill guys on the outside. They've got outstanding tight ends and we all know what they have in the backfield. Big time NFL players. They do a good job of mixing the run and the pass and creating the balance.
Defensively, they have a lot veterans coming back but there are a lot of unknowns from our perspective. They have a bunch of guys back, but it's an entirely different staff. They have some dynamic players up front - and Floyd and Jenkins are two of the best players in the country. They'll use them a lot of different ways in pressure packages. They do a good job of bringing them off the edges. Really good football players at the linebacker position. In the secondary they've moved a lot of guys around but they do have some veteran guys. They have a JUCO kid who they are talking a lot about and was an outstanding player from the state of Georgia who we know about. And [Damien] Swann is a great, great player.
We have to be dialed in early. Special teams they have an All-SEC kicker and they have a lot of speed in the return games.
First goal is what it really is. We try to win the opener. That's all it is. Hopefully we can play a high level of football. I think we are relatively healthy.
In terms of the offense, does it help your staff has remained the same?
Swinney: I think continuity is a good thing. Change is sometimes good too. We've had a change in personnel. I think we have good energy from a personnel standpoint. We are all the same page and quickly get going. So that's a positive. We are going to need that experience and continuity in a game like this. I wish I could tell you I know exactly what they are going to do, but we don't. We'll have to adjust to their wrinkles as we get into the game.
Does it help watching a lot of Florida State film?
Swinney: Oh yeah. That's what you do as a coach. You go and study everything. Coach Pruitt came from Florida State and I've known him forever. But they brought a coach in from over here and coach in from over there. That's what you do. But absolutely, we watch all the Florida State film and try to get a feel for schematic ideas.
Martin Jenkins gets the start instead of Cordrea Tankersley at cornerback. Why is that?
Swinney: Martin was out this spring. Had a great summer. He's a fifth year senior and a veteran guy. Cordrea was the starter going into camp and has really going to be a great player for us... this year. We just felt like Martin earned the opportunity to be the starter. He' tough-minded. Focused on the details. Lot of knowledge. It's water under bridge. He's earned it.
Do you sense any nerves from Cole Stoudt?
Swinney: I'd like to sense some nerves from Cole. Y'all know how he is. He's just kind of the same guy. It really doesn't matter. I think when Tajh got knocked out against B.C. Cole coming in during his freshman year he just was like, 'ok let's go.' That's his demeanor. He's very confident because he's prepared very well. How he'll do Saturday night we'll find out.
Is there a key for Cole for you Saturday night?
Swinney: Take care of the ball. Play within the system. Be a good decision maker like we need him to be. That's critical. That's the key thing. If we give those guys a short field, it's going to be a long night.
When will you put in DeShaun? Is their an ideal time?
Swinney: I'm going to tell you exactly when it is, right now. (laughing) The perfect time is when we put him in.
Do you think about this game in terms of if you lose you may be out of the playoff picture because its such a marquee game?
Swinney: Who knows? You may think you are playing a marquee game and you win it and that team doesn't win another game the rest of the year. You have to treat every game the same. Every game is huge and every game will count.
Am I right in assuming you like the playoff system?
Swinney: I do. I love the bowl system. I've always been a proponent of the bowl system. My experience as a player and a coach in the bowl system has been awesome. It really has. I didn't want to lose that and that was the big thing for me. That keeps our regular season important because four teams doesn't really taint that. If you go to eight or 12 or 16 teams that will taint that. If we do that, that's fine, but this system puts so much emphasis on the regular season games. I like the fact the bowl games are on the 31st and the 1st. I think they got it right. I thought the BCS worked for the most part. Everybody argued about the third team and now they'll argue about the fifth team. Whatever. It gives us a little more flexibility and a little more room for error than past years. It combines the best of both worlds.
So it sounds like you would be against going from four to eight teams in the playoffs?
Swinney: Yes. You get into extending the season. It's a whole different dynamic. We already have the playoffs. Every week. Then we have a championship game. I think this is a good model.
What are your memories of Sanford Stadium?
Swinney: I've been there- in 1990 as a player. We got beat. We were up 10 with about nine minutes to go. We started out 0-3 that year in Coach Stallings' first year. We played them in 1994 in Tuscaloosa when I was coaching. In 1995 when we went over there and beat them. I think that's the last time I've been there. Ironically, I went over there in 2001 when I was out of coaching. I went to the Georgia/Tennessee game. Neil Calloway was coaching at Georgia and Woody McCorvey was coaching at Tennessee. Had a chance to kind of get up close view of the Georgia-Tennessee game in 2001. That's the last time other than just driving through Athens. My sister lived there for a few years.
When you look at both teams depth chart, both teams have a lot of players hey other team recruited. Is it safe to say you recruit against them more than anybody else?
Swinney: We are similar programs in a lot of ways. But just in terms of locations we are closer to Georgia than the five hours it takes me to get to Myrtle Beach. It's a natural thing. There are so many in that state. We are similar as far as the type of campuses we have and things like that. Everybody thinks we recruit against South Carolina a lot but that's not true. Most of the time a kid is either South Carolina or Clemson growing up. We don't recruit against them as much as Georgia. The location is everything.
Talking to Tommy Bowden this morning he said he thought the defense would be the difference in the game. Would you agree with that?
Swinney: No I don't agree with that. I think team wins this game. Every now again you might get a score on defense. But you need your offense and special teams. Teams win. Teams win it. That's what I hope we'll be - a true team. You have strengths within your team every single year and sometimes they change and sometimes they stay the same. Hopefully the defense can be a big difference for us- but everybody's got a role to play and everybody's got to do their job.
You've talked about the entire offseason about waiting to be the
Swinney: I'm exited for them. It's great to see guys hang in there and persevere. To see a guy like Martin Jenkins and Tavaris Barnes who is very very talented. He's going to have a great year for us. His talent has never been a problem for us. His consistency has. But he's improved in a lot of areas. Tony Steward. His biggest issue is health but he's had a great spring and a great summer and a great camp. You hope he stays healthy this year. Reid Webster has made up his mind he wants to be the guy. He's played both tackles and both guards and center. He's graduated twice now - two degrees. He's a guy who has absolutely exhausted the moment in his life.
What is your confidence in your offensive line going into this game?
Swinney: We'll miss David [Beasley]. But I think we've got really good people. We've got eight guys I am confident we can go play with. And a couple more who situationally we could use. Crowder is the only one who doesn't have a lot of experience but he's a good football player. The biggest thing is everything starts from the insider out with Ryan Norton. Jay Guillermo deserves to play. I think we'll have good communication and hopefully everybody will be on the same page- I think we'll hold up just fine.
Two tight end questions - how is Stanton doing? And Leggett- how is he doing?
Swinney: He's had an outstanding fall. Jordan Leggett is going to be an outstanding player. His motor and his understanding of the bigger picture has changed dramatically. That's all part of the process. Stanton is fine. He looked good at practice last night. Sam Cooper - same thing. He was just coming off that injury and trying to get ready to play.
Coach Morris seemed to have a chip on his shoulder throughout camp but he seemed to dial it down yesterday - like he was calm in game week mode. Was that a message you directed at him during the offseason that his unit wasn't getting respect?
Swinney: No that's just his opinion. That's a close knit group. However long - since Janaury that's all people have talked about is who we don't have. That's his way of challenging his guys a little bit.
How did you guys get involved with Cole in the recruiting process?
Somebody sent us a clip or something. We were looking for a guy and I remember sitting down with Billy [Napier] and Billy liked him. I knew who it was because I knew his dad when he was the quarterback with the old Birmingham Stallions. Then you watch the tape and you saw that big ol' gangly guy. Maybe 185 pounds. He was a late bloomer. Had potential. He was what we were looking for at the time. I remember flying up to see him, flying into the Ohio State airport. First time I've ever been there. But he's developed for us since he's been here after arriving as a backup. He's all in and committed to Clemson. Now he's got to go play well as the guy. I think we've got a dynamic that will produce a good level of a play.
You've seen Todd Gurley before. Where does he rank with the all-time greats that you have seen over the years?
Swinney: He's a beast. I've been against a lot of good ones over the years. Saw a bunch of good ones at Alabama. Saw some good ones at Tennessee. Some great backs at Florida and Florida State. I coached against Eddie George. I had never seen a guy like him - ever. I remember going to a bowl function and both teams were there. I knew that team better than the coaches and I remember seeing him in person and I thought we were going to get our butts handed to us. He looked like a defensive end playing running back. Gurley- the combination of the size, the speed and the strength. He's got a great motor to him. He's just unique from a total package standpoint. He's the total package. He led them in receiving touchdowns last year. He had like six touchdown catches to lead the team and he missed several games. He's just a dynamic player.
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