Dabo previews South Carolina

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews Saturday's grudge-match with South Carolina.

Opening comment...
Swinney: Hard to believe it's the last week. I don't know where the season has went. It's been an incredibly fast year. Want to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving this week. Life is short. It's a blink of an eye for all of us. I know we are all living and dying with what's going on this game this week. Brandon Thomas' mom passed away yesterday. He flew home from San Francisco and that certainly puts things in perspective. So take the time this week to say thank you.

As far as South Carolina, it's obviously a big game for everybody. We all live and die with this one all year long. South Carolina is an excellent team. I don't think either one of us have the record that we want to have right now. They have had four very difficult losses that could have gone either way. A play here or a play there and they have nine or 10 wins. Tough, close losses. Same thing with us with a couple of tough ones.

Offensively - they are really good. They have great balance. They are scoring 34 points a game and have great balance. Dylan Thompson has had an excellent year. Very experienced. Understands their system. They have a stable of running backs. All of them can play. They've all had their moments for them throughout the year. Bunch of vets up front. They are pretty much all back from last year's game. Really talented OL. Their receivers - No. 3 isn't really big but he plays big. They've done a great job this year with No. 11 - he's really become a featured guy for them. Playmaker. They run a ton of wildcat with No. 11. He's thrown touchdown passes. Dynamic player. They do an excellent job involving their tight ends. They can stretch the field on the vertical routes.

Defensively, they are a young defense that has gotten better. They've given up 12 points and 20 points. They are playing with confidence. They only have three seniors on that side. Their defensive line is big strong, physically thick guys. Dynamic players at linebacker. No. 1 - I'm not sure if he's playing or not but he's a good player. Special teams can also impact it - like what we saw last year. We had two turnovers on special teams that led to two turnovers and that was the difference in the game.

Biggest thing for us is just trying to finish. It's the last week. We have to do the things that give us a chance to win. Taking care of the football. Last five years we have had 15 turnovers to their 3. They've scored 62 points off those and we've haven't scored any. We've got to do the things that give us a chance. Sound in the kicking game. Take care of the football.

What's the latest on Deshaun Watson?
Swinney: He practiced yesterday in a green jersey. We will put him with a normal jersey and he will practice with the rest of the guys (today). It really is a day-to-day thing. It's really a day to day thing. It's not a conspiracy. We just don't know. It's a situation we may not really know until day time. He's getting a little bit better each day. He had a new brace yesterday that he was more comfortable with. The speed of the game will be a little bit more today.

Is he still your best option at quarterback?
Swinney: As long as he can do what he needs to do to win the game, he's our starter. He's proven that.

The pressure of this game - is it even more given what's happen recently with the five game losing streak?
Swinney: It's always big. We can win Saturday and guess what next year will be just as big. Nobody puts more pressure on themselves that what we do. It's obviously the biggest of the season.

Does it haunt you that you guys haven't won it these last five seasons?
Swinney: I'm disappointed as anybody else. I don't sit around and just focus on the negative. That's the society we live in. A lot of people out there always focus on the negative and they are never happy. I don't do that because we have one major disappointment the last couple of years. We know the reality of the situation. To sit here and say that one game has destroyed what we've accomplished here at Clemson the last five years is disrespectful. You can't stick your head in the mud

Most of the rivalry South Carolina hasn't been very good. They last four years they've been obviously very good. What are your thoughts and what's it like to play these guys at their pinnacle?
Swinney: God never said it would be easy. I always say God never said 'oops.' For whatever reason God chose me to be at Clemson with the best South Carolina team in their history. Spurrier is a great football coach. To me what he's done at South Carolina is his legacy because of what you are saying. They've been really good. Everybody wants to get mad at Clemson and nobody wants to give South Carolina any credit. You know, we've lost to Florida State the last couple of years but everybody has lost to Florida State. They've been in the top 10 three years in a row. Give them credit. I don't like doing that but give them

What has been the single most pleasant surprise defensively this year?
Swinney: Dorian O'Daniel. Nothing really. I thought we would be one of the best defenses in the country. I thought we would be improved on the back end. But I've been pleasantly surprised with Dorian O'Daniel.

Does Watson have to be 100 percent to play?
Swinney: He's not going to be at 100 percent. He's just got to be able to do the things we need him to do to run our offense. He doesn't have to be at his 100 percent. To be honest, very few players at 100 percent. He's got to be able to execute at a high level.

Do you feel your guys pressed at all last year or the season before?
Swinney: I don't know about that. When I came home and watched the tape I felt a lot better about the game. We tell the guys all the time, don't worry about the scoreboard it's about how you play. Thought we played well last year. Really well. We ran the ball well. Hot Rod rushing did well. They did a good job on third down against us but we played well defensively in that second half. We lost the game but we played well as far as how you have to play to give yourself a chance to win. We just had a couple of crazy things. But that's football. Give them credit.

The countdown clock that you guys put in the locker room and everywhere else counting down this game- does that create more pressure on your guys?
Swinney: We've talked about that before. That's something the coaches brought to me in the spring. It's not something that's ruined our six years but it's something that has to change. We wanted to remind everybody everyday about that game. It only comes once a year. It's a season to itself. When you lose this one - it never stops. It's something that everybody is really passionate about. It's an honor t be a part of such a great battle like this.

What is it like to be a part of this rivalry?
Swinney: Homes are divided. People don't speak to each other this week. Schools are divided. Friends don't talk. It's bragging rites. Everybody wants to brag. Lately it's been lopsided and South Carolina has been on top. That's added fuel to it to even things out. I've been on both sides - and it's a lot better when you win. I've had people come up to me and say, 'I don't care if you go 1-11 just beat South Carolina.' But those are the people that are first wanting to fire you if you do that. So you can't please everybody. But it's obviously a season unto itself.

Cole said after the Georgia Tech game he didn't practice with the first team... is he getting first-team reps this week?
Swinney: Oh yes. He's taken all the reps with the one's. We are still trying to test the waters with Deshaun. We are going to prepare Cole to be the starter and then we will make the decision on Deshaun later in the week.

Does Tyshon Dye's emergence give you more hope for your running game in a game like this?
Swinney: Oh yeah. Absolutely. When he got back to practice earlier this year it was the first time he's practice since his first three practices of his freshman year. So you can't just throw a guy out there. He didn't even go through summer workouts this past summer. So he's been through a lot. It's taken him a good three weeks just to get him into football shape and just to get him confident in what he needs to do. He had a few missed assignments but he played well. I felt after watching him he needed a chance. We wanted to feed him. I told Tony [Elliott] that we were going to play him in the first quarter. We didn't really know what he would be able to do. But he continued to get better and better. We knew he would be a factor at some point. We've gained more confidence in him to be able to go out and play.

What do you think about the noon kickoff?
Swinney: Shoot man let's get up and play. That clock has been ticking for a year. Let's go play! Saturday night everybody is either going to be happy or really unhappy. We are going to go find out. It's great to be at home. I haven't looked at the weather yet.

What is the biggest challenge in facing their offense?
Swinney: The biggest challenge for us is taking care of the ball. It's been a problem for us and I don't know you can necessarily explain it. As far as their team: this offense we are going to play has been really good all year. They've had explosive plays in the pass game and the run game. They've put Dylan in good situations to be successful with. The vertical routes. The outs. They've done a really nice job running their system. Kind of like us defensively- they have a lot of veterans. A lot of experience.

Do you think this is the last time you'll coach against Spurrier considering his age?
Swinney: Heck no. Man Coach Spurrier is going to coach until he's 100. My father in law is 70. My dad is 70. And they don't look like Coach Spurrier I can tell you that. He's taken good care of himself. Plus he's got a good staff- good people around him. He's been there long enough where his system is in place. I hope not. I have to try to catch him before he gets out there.

Has his chatter helped amp up this rivalry?
Swinney: Maybe with the fans. That's coach Spurrier. He's been that way forever.

CUTigers.com Top Stories