Hello Dabo

CLEMSON - Interim head coach Dabo Swinney addressed the media for the first time as Clemson's head man.


Opening Comments
Swinney: Okay, I appreciated all of y'all showing up. I'm sure there was a baseball game tonight or something. I'm going to apologize to you ahead of time. This is going to be a pretty raw press conference. I haven't prepared anything for that. Let me start by saying this is a very bitter sweet game for me. I've dreamed of being a head coach, but I never dreamed of getting my first job this way. Tommy Bowden gave me my first job at Alabama. Hired me here. Has been a great friend. A great mentor. I love him. He's a good man. He's been great for Clemson University. Unfortunately this is the bad side of this business. From a professional standpoint, it's a great opportunity. I'm not perfect. I don't claim to be perfect and I don't have all the answers but I can tell you I'm going be full speed. That's how I expect the team to play. I'm excited about having the chance to see if we can have a fresh start around here. I had a great team meeting today and they responded like how I hope they would.

Talk about this day and what is has been like for you ...
Swinney: Well it's kind of like 1990 when I was a sophomore at Alabama and hadn't sniffed the field. And I swear to you Woody McKorvey didn't know my name. I'm over there on the scout team and getting ready to do my daily job. Then Coach McKorvey starts calling my name across the field and I'm thinking what did I do? Then he said "Dab! I need somebody that can catch the football. I'm going to give you a chance today. If you can catch the ball I'm going to play you Saturday. That was my big break and my opportunity. I went on and lettered two years and got a scholarship. That's what it felt like. I had to get my wife to get my clothes because all I had was a sweat suite on. But that's how things happen in life. You always have to prepare. I'm going to do everything I can is to make Clemson proud. I've got a little saying on my desk, there is nothing less important than the score at halftime. It doesn't matter what we did the last six games. It matters going forward. One thing I don't want to do is look back in December that says I wish I didn't do that or wish I hadn't done that. We are going to lay it all on the line.

Was it your decision to remove Coach Spence?
Swinney: Well, the decision to move in a different direction than Coach Spence was mine. Let me say this, I love Coach Spence. I've enjoyed my time with him. But this is a situation where if you are going to have a fresh start then it's time to have a change and move in a different direction. Offensively we are going to do the best we can. Coach Scott will stay with the offensive line. We are going to promote Mike Dooley, our offensive GA to tight ends coach. We are going to move Billy Napier to quarterbacks. He will assist me with the game planning and play calling as well. As I learned today, it's hard to be pulled in a lot of different directions. I've got a lot of confidence in his ability. I'm going to promote Jeff Scott full time and get him to coach the wide receivers. Both Coach Dooley and Coach Scott will help me with recruiting immediately. Daric Riley will also move on the field as an offensive GA. I am real pleased, I had the chance to meet with every coach today. They are all in board. This is a win-win for everybody. It's about this team. It's about the seniors who came here to Clemson proud. It's about this team bouncing back. Thought we had a good practice tonight and bounced around good.

What about the QB decision?
Swinney: We are going to go with Willy Korn. That's one of the things I told the players today. This is a game of performance, not potential. I always say, if you are the best guy, be the best guy. Take your opportunity. The film does not lie. If you aren't, we'll make a change. We are going to go with Willy Korn and I have every confidence in the world he can do the job. Cullen can do the job too. But this isn't going to be one agenda. Not a me deal. This is a we-think. Whether it's Cullen Harper or Willy Korn- somebody will get the job done. Same thing with every other position- if Ricky Sapp or if somebody else doesn't want to play then let's find somebody else that does want to play. We aren't playing favorites. We want to play with a passion that shows when you turn the film on. That's what we have to have and that's what we are going to demand.

Were you of the belief that you need a change at QB compared to the first six games of the year?
Swinney: We discussed it as a staff. Let me say this, it isn't all Cullen Harper's fault. There isn't one segment of this football team that stick it's chest out. Sometimes you have to make a change to see if you can create more energy. Sometimes it's good for a guy to take a step back. Get a different perspective. That's good too. I wouldn't be surprised one bit to see Cullen Harper lead this team one bit to a big victory. I believe Cullen Harper is an NFL prospect and will play in the NFL. I believe in Willy Korn and I believe in Cullen Harper. We are going to give Willy Korn a shot this week. But there is an agreement among the staff this is a good thing. Both of their attitudes are great.

What is your biggest obstacle right now? The offensive line?
Swinney: Georgia Tech. We got a job to do. There is no excuses. Period. If we don't get it done, it's on me. We need to line up and hit people in the mouth and get it done. We aren't going to be all things to all people. But we are going to be one thing- and that's tough guys.

Did you have time to second guess taking this position?
Swinney: I didn't get a chance to hesitate. I really appreciate the trust Terry Don and the administration have given me because we have a lot of great coaches on this staff. I look at this as an honor.

Can you give us any hints offensively what you feel like you can change?
Swinney: No. I'd say show up the next six or seven weeks. That will paint the picture itself. We have opponents to play. We've got four days. The staff is in there right now full speed game planning. No. I'm not going to say anything. But hopefully what we will put on the field will be 11 guys playing as one.

How did the team get in this position?
Swinney: Lost three ball games. If I had all of the answers to that I wouldn't be sitting right here right now. We would have already fixed it. I don't know. There are things that happen in your life that are hard to explain why. You work hard. You bust your butt. Sometimes things don't go the way you plan or how you want them to go. A lot of people have to deal with that. Football teaches you so much about life. You be honest. You get back up. You go back to work. You have bad days at the Post & Courier. For you it may be writing a bad article. For us it's losing a ball game. Listen, we don't have to create a nuclear weapon here or build a rocket. This is football. We need to eliminate mistakes. Play together. Play tougher. Hopefully the staff will be able to do that and we'll have a great second half of the season.

What was it like firing Rob Spence?
Swinney: Most difficult thing I've ever had to do. He handled it with class. He's a great husband and a great father. Most difficult thing I've ever had to do. And having to do it with only an hour on the job.

Did you think Coach Bowden was losing the team?
Swinney: I can't address that. I can't address things that may or may not have happened. I didn't see it. One thing I complemented on the team today ... was no finger pointing. Guys are just going to work. I commended them on that. My job is to try and lead these guys. Love these guys and to get them to love each other and believe in each other. Believe in what we are doing and believe we can have a special season. I can't sit there and tell you I can see the future. All I can tell you is the guys that run out there every Saturday, for the next six weeks, they are going to be playing with their hair on fire. We are going to unify this group. One heartbeat- everybody playing together. That's our only chance. I told them today, if you can't do this this and this, get on out of here. But if you show up on the practice field tonight you're all in. We have pocket 10's. I need my players to be all in.

How much do things change for you on the sidelines Saturday?
Swinney: Y'all act like this happened last week or something. Heck no I haven't thought about that. For sure we are going to put Billy Napier up top. Probably going to put Jeff Scott up top. Two good sets of eyes up there. We have a system that we operate under that we'll make a few adjustments but hey, I'm just going to show up and coach football. I'm going to coach with poise and make good decisions and listen to my coaches and get these guys to play hard. If we make a mistake- don't panic. Just play for four quarters. That's my goal- get these guys to play for four quarters like this is the last play of your career. Coach Stallings used to say there are five or six plays that determine your game and whether it's won or loss.

Are you more of a play-caller or a guy that will veto play calls?
Swinney: I'll probably do both. I'll be very active in play calling. But I'll also rely on Billy. I've got a lot of confidence in Billy Napier. If it's a bad play it will be my call. If it's a good play it can be Billy's call.

Are you worried there just may be too much new stuff with a new quarterback and everything else going on Saturday?
Swinney: The only thing I'm worried about the first time is running down the hill. I've never done that before. I'm worried that I will run down the hill and fall. I'm jacked up about it. I always handle team captains so this is the first time I'm going to do that. That's a fair question. But it's not like Willy Korn just got here. He's been here. This is the first time we've played an option offense. Throw that in there as well.

What have you seen of Georgia Tech?
Swinney: Defensively, they are really good. They've got as good a front as we've played. No. 91 is a ball. He's going to bring it. No. 93 is probably a top 10 NFL type talent, Michael Johnson. Those two guys that's probably where it starts. Good inside. Really good at linebacker. They've got veterans in the secondary. They kept somethings from Tenuta. It's going to be a difficult task. Best we have played. Offensively, I have not studied them. But they force you play disciplined to defend the option. Coach Johnson - how about going up against that guy? He's a heckuva a football coach. He can call this stuff in his sleep.

How does this impact recruiting?
Swinney: Well it's going to impact it drastically on the front end. You've got an interim head coach situation. There are going to be some things lingering out there until this job is resolved. One thing I encouraged coaches to do is get on the phone with these guys. Don't go a week without talking to these guys. We are going to be positive and talk to them honestly. What we'll do immediately is talk to the committed guys and the guys we are recruiting actively - hey- don't give up on Clemson. I told the freshmen today I hope we can win them all out and have a chance to stay there and coach these guys. But if we don't, Clemson is an awesome place. These freshmen, I told them today, you chose Clemson for the right reason. Whatever happens with the coaching situation- these kids, they need to stay the course. Same thing I'll say to the kids we are recruiting - Clemson is going to do it right. I have zero regrets about coming here. I may be here seven more weeks. But this is truly a special special place. Special place to go to school. Special place to raise a family. Any recruit that doesn't give Clemson a sincere look is making a mistake. Coach Bowden did an awesome job of leaving this program much better than he found it. There is a tremendous opportunity here.

Will you come off the road recruiting?
Swinney: I don't know. I'll put that on my list.

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