Dabo previews Syracuse

Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Clemson's matchup with the Orange.

Opening statement
Swinney: It is good to be back home after coming off a good trip to Boston. I always enjoy Homecoming. It is always a special time on campus. It looks like we will have good weather all week so that is great for our students and all the activities that come along with Homecoming. Again, it is a special time and I always enjoy driving up and down 93 and seeing all the floats, the habitat home and the great sense of spirit that we have on this Clemson Campus.

We really have this spirit every week, but it is really magnified during Homecoming. We look forward to hopefully having a great crowd and a lot of people getting back. I know some people only get to come once a year and usually Homecoming is that time. Syracuse has had some tough losses to some good teams. They lost to Notre Dame, Florida State, Louisville and Maryland. All of those teams are obviously having excellent years. They are coming off of their best game of the season at Wake Forest. They have had some injuries and lost their starting quarterback and several other guys.

It really seems like they have found their guy at quarterback in freshman Al Long.. The more I watch him, the more impressed I am. He has a little bit of a gunslinger mentality to him. He is very confident and stone face watching him on tape. He was not really overwhelmed when he got thrown in there in some tough situations. He has made some accurate big-time throws.

Long is not a big guy but he plays big. He does not seem to have a hard time seeing through the line of scrimmage and making throws that he needs to make. They made some outstanding competitive plays outside one on one against some good people. We need to do a great job this week on the back end with our secondary.

Our secondary is going to be challenged. When the ball goes up and it is a one on one situation, somebody has got to make a competitive play. That is where I think our team is going to be challenged this week. Not just a competitive play down the field, but defeating blocks on the perimeter. They do get the ball outside quickly.

Winning at the point of attack not just at the trenches but also at the secondary is going to be a premium this week. They are very aggressive both offensively and defensively. That is their mentality. “Defensively, they have three of their four starting guys back up front. I think they are better this year defensively than they were last year. They still have that same approach. They are going to force the issue and if you are not dialed in with all 11 guys on same page, then your quarterback is going to get hit.

If you watch the Wake Forest game from this past week, they scored twice on defense. The quarterback gets hit, the ball is tipped and the next thing you know a defensive lineman has it and is celebrating in the end zone. Those are the type of things you have to do a good job of when you play this bunch.

You better be on you’re A-game as far as communication and making sure everyone understands what the call is. Even if we are all wrong, we are all right. We need to all be on the same page. They bring pressure from all over the place. Again, they are very aggressive in how they call things. For us, one of the things I tell the guys every week is that it is really not about who we play, but how we play and that is based upon how we prepare and practice during the week. Our focus is just on trying to keep improving, continue to build momentum within our season and trying to treat each game as a one game season.

Do you feel like your team is set up for a letdown game this weekend after playing Boston College and Louisville in such close games?
Swinney: I know that for us, our team understands how hard it is to win. I don’t care who you play. If we go into this game with the mindset that if you look at their record and you think you are supposed to show up and win, you will get beat. We have been there and done that. That is just the way it is. Our mentality is that every game is a one game season. If you really have that mentality, you will really put your best foot forward every week. Preparation wise, we don’t really focus on the opponent a whole lot.

Every Friday night I tell them that it is not about whom but it is about how. Yes, we have to prepare for whomever we are playing and what they do, but we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the opponent. We respect our opponents every week, but we don’t really get caught up in what their records are, but we say this is what we have to prepare for to be ready for this week. “We tell ourselves to practice and then go play to a standard every week. That is how we talk. Our guys have won a bunch of games because of that mentality. This is a team that is dangerous in my opinion. They are a football team that has good players. They are fast, well coached and tough. They play physical and they are aggressive.

I respect this bunch just as much as Florida State or anyone else that we play. We don’t want to go into a season with the mentality that we are going to have to work for this game and then we can cruise here. Fans may do that, but that is why they are sitting in the stands. They would be out of the job quick if they were playing or coaching. You cannot have that mentality. You only get 12 games. At the end of the year, we will be evaluated by how we did in those 12. Everyone is a huge game so we have nothing to be seen as a letdown.

What was your assessment of Cole Stoudt on Saturday?
Swinney: He played much better. He played well. He made some big throws. He still played hurt, but he is very engaged into the game plan a lot more then he was the week before when he was just kind of thrown into 1 –October 21, 2014the fire without any practice. He still had some things that when you look at the tape, he has to correct. I expect that he will. I thought he played with good leadership, poise and confidence. I saw his confidence grow as the game went. He made some big throws and missed a few. He had a heck of a day. He was 64% against a really good defense and 400 yards of offense (as a team). He made some very good plays for us in critical situations. When we were at that 3rd and 10, he put the ball right on the money to Mike Williams for a 32 yards.

When Deshaun returns and is back healthy, will he return back automatically to the starting quarterback job?
Swinney: Yes, Deshaun is the starter. Whenever he is healthy he will be back out there. That is kind of standard for any of our positions. Guys don’t lose their jobs because they get hurt. Something unusual would have to happen for that to be the case. We will worry about all that when the time comes.

Coach, have you seen any difference in Syracuse in their offense since they let go of their offensive coordinator?
Swinney: Yeah but it is kind of the same team. They do most of the same things. They are a spread team with mostly 11 personnel. They do a lot of quick game, a lot of screens and a lot of shots down the field. They do some of the things that have caused us some problems and they do a great job of it. We will have to play with great discipline. The biggest change from my perspective is more about who is pulling the trigger for them and that is their quarterback. They have lost their starter and bounced around between some guys. This guy seems like he has kind of separated himself and is doing a nice job.

Is there a different feel about a team where the defense is the dominant factor as opposed to the offense?
Swinney: If you are dominant on defense, it affects a lot of things. In 2009 and 2010, we were really good on defense. In 2010, we struggled offensively. We scored a bunch of points in 2009 and played in the championship with a freshman quarterback. In 2010, we transitioned. That year, we lost C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, and Michael Palmer on offense. We were in that transition mode, but we were really good on defense that year. We couldn’t score. We couldn’t make a kick. We really played to our defense that year. We just weren’t efficient with some of the things that we needed to be in some of those close games, especially in the kicking game. Obviously, we started over defensively in 2011 with some young guys. They got better in 2012. They greatly improved last year. Now all of those guys are seniors and they are a dominant group. They are the strength of the team and are a legitimate top 10 type of defense. It affects you how you call certain things, strategically, offensive calls or strategic calls during game.

The latest on the injury front?
Swinney: Injury wise, everyone is back in practice this week other than Adam Choice and Jordan Leggett who will be out. Everyone else from past week is back in practice and rocking and rolling.

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