Dabo Swinney Press Conference

CLEMSON - Interim head coach Dabo Swinney met with the media Tuesday to preview Saturday's game against Florida State.

Opening comments ...
Swinney: Appreciate y'all coming today. Big game this week. They are all big. This is a great opportunity for our team to go on the road again. Another really good football where we'll have to go into their environment and find a way to win. FSU is obviously coached by Coach Bowden. Very unusual and awkward under the circumstances but he's a man I have a tremendous amount of respect for. We are both Alabama guys. He went to the same high school as my mother. I'm looking forward to that. Defensively they are very very good. They are not hard to figure out. Here we are and come get it. You've got to man up to beat these guys. They are good for a reason and have been good for a long time. Mickey Andrews is one of the best in the business. If we make the same mistakes we made last week it will be hard to overcome these guys. They are what they are. The are athletic. They play with passion. They play with a great motor. No. 99 - he leads the league in tackles for losses. Their linebackers can run. Their secondary guys have been there forever. They'll be able to match us talent-wise, skill-wise and depth-wise. I don't think that was the case last week. I thought we had more athleticism offensively against their defense. Offensively, the biggest difference I see now they are playing much much better on offense. Jimbo has done a great job and has them headed in the right direction. Quarterback has done well for them - I think he's the third leading rusher in the conference. He's made a lot of plays with his feet - Ponder. They have outstanding skill on the outside that will challenge us. And Smith is having his best year - leading the league in touchdowns. But I've been pleased with our team and how they have responded. I was pleased with practice yesterday. It was crisp. I'm anxious to get in there today. Looking forward to the opportunity to go down to Tallahassee and I have all the respect in the world for those guys.

Clearly you have to run the ball more efficiently this week.
Swinney: I think we had 120 yards rushing ... which was more than what Boston College was giving up. I was kind of hoping for about 150 but we had some sacks that cost. No question we have to run the ball and play-action off it. That was one thing that helped us against Boston College - coming off play-action. But we have to take what is there- if they are going to load the box we have to make some plays. When we made some plays last week it opened up some things. We aren't going to change our approach- but we have to be smart and execute.

As you look back at Boston College and look at Cullen's interceptions was he just really forcing the ball too much?
Swinney: It was bad decisions. First interception, he just didn't go through his progression. That was disappointing. He had Jacoby. Second interception, Tyler was a little tight on his alignment and he was late on his throw. That one cost us. First one we overcame it. The last one was play-action ... was probably more disappointed in that one to be honest with you. Earlier in the game they dropped the coverage and he checked it down to Spiller for about 20 yards. It was a first down play call and it was a similar type of play-action. The back was sitting right there and there was nobody within 15 yards. We've got to get No. 10 to take the check down. He has a lot of confidence in his arm and he can throw it. But it's like I told him, just drive the car and do what you are supposed to do and we'll be fine. He made some big plays for us - early in the game and late in the game. That pass to Michael Palmer. Then he made great throw to Aaron Kelly. But we have to correct those mistakes. He'll learn from it.

Did you send a message to Cullen to remain loose even after the interceptions?
Swinney: Absolutely. I don't want him to get tight. Hang loose. Shoot at the end of the game and I want to crawl under a table or something and the whole team is telling me "hang loose" coach. That was a learning moment for me. Cullen has to play loose. He's a good player. He's got a big big arm and we knew we were going to have to throw the ball. They made some nice adjustments with the outside running game. We had a chance to put them away offensively. And we took the next step because we found a way to win. One of the things we have done around here ... we lose "because of" well we won "in-spite of" and that's what you have to do. So we took a big step forward there. This week we have to play a complete game. I'm looking for a complete game. Our best game. That's what it's going to take. We can't go in there and play a half game and beat these guys.

Has Cullen's approach changed?
Swinney: Well I wasn't coaching him then so I can't speak to his approach. I've challenged him to make plays and cut it loose. I need to reel him back in a little bit and be disciplined and take what is there. We are going to give him opportunities to make plays. You are going to have a tipped ball every now and then and something like that but the three interceptions he had Saturday he'll be the first to tell you it shouldn't have happened.

What has been the biggest change with Cullen this year that has caused his drop-off in production?
Swinney: I think a big part of that was four seniors up front last year. He got in a comfort zone. He's had some unfortunate interceptions this year that weren't his fault. But the inconsistency up front. Trying to do too much. Having the weight of the world on his shoulders at times. Brett Favre set a mark for interceptions and the next year he had his best year ever. Cullen is a good player. I'm trying to coach him everyday and getting him to finish the way he needs to finish. But he's playing with emotion and good effort and making plays with his feet. That's what I didn't see earlier in the year. He did that in the Georgia Tech game. We've been doing our scramble drill here every Tuesday and Wednesday and that's something we hadn't been doing. We've been emphasizing that the last couple of weeks. He did it the other night when he hit Jacoby on a nice adjustment. He's doing more of that and making plays with his legs. I'm pleased with the progress we've made there.

How much did you try to make sure and get C.J. the ball more last weekend?
Swinney: Pretty big effort. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but that guy gives you a chance to win every time he touches it. Coach Jags told me after the game I told him not to kick to that guy. That's what we are going to try and do every week- try to get it in the hands of the guys that can win the game for us- No. 28, 1, 13, 80, 6 and 86. We are living in the here and now and those are the guy that have been there and done that. 28 is going to be a big part of what we do every week.

What has it been like working with Billy Napier in the capacity you have since the coaching change?
Swinney: Billy has been fun to work with. He's done a good job with the quarterbacks. He's very organized and we think a lot alike. He listens. He's got good ideas and has been really good. It's been a work in progress but we are starting to set in. My biggest thing was being efficient with our time and our game planning and organization. He's done a really really good job. He's been a huge huge help to me.

You've been on the job for about three weeks now. What are the biggest things you've learned?
Swinney: I learned I can't do it by myself. You better have good people around you. You better be organized. I learned that I can do this job. I thought I could do the job. Now I know I can do the job ... whether it's here or wherever. I've learned that people watch everything you do. I was so used to living in my own world. Like correcting a punter for running off the field 80,000 people give you a standing ovation. People really pay attention to whoever is sitting in this seat. And I'm also learning that there are a lot of things that I've always believed in that are still true today. Show people you care about them and they'll listen to you. Just be who you are. If you try to be somebody else then it's not going to work. I'm just trying to be me and do the best with the circumstances. I've got a little tablet - that I write these are the things I've learned this week. I've gone through a couple of tablets. Just things come to you all the time - here's what I learned this week. How to handle this discipline this way. Stuff comes up and I don't know where it comes from. You come in here and ready to go - and you are like WHAT? It has nothing to do with Florida State. That's why you have to have good people around you.

Is the time the biggest thing to surprise?
Swinney: Probably. Probably. Just the other stuff that comes along with it. It's pictures. It's mail. It's stuff. Nobody wanted a picture of me other than my mama when I was a receiving coach. That's just what you have to do. This is a great great job. People are passionate about this job. It's the position here. You get letters. I can't begin to tell you ... I'm going to vote for Gene Stallings by the way. I'm voting for Gene Stallings - if anybody can fix the country it's Gene Stallings.

Has Florida State's offense turned the corner under Jimbo Fisher?
Swinney: He's doing a good job. It all starts with the quarterback. I think he's found a really good player in Ponder. The other kid is playing well too- the Richardson kid. Ponder has been efficient. They are still going through some growing pains up front in certain spots with some younger players. Jimbo has done a really really nice job. They are No. 1 on offense in all of their games. I mean, they are good. They can score and they are dangerous. They've been very good on defense since I've been here but they've been inconsistent on offense.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of talk about the defense, which minus the Alabama game, has been pretty good.
Swinney: The defense has been outstanding. I tell you what. They've played good all year. But it's been 58 minutes. The Maryland game- they played good and then they gave up the 76 yard big play. The Wake Forest game, they play good and then it was third and forever and they get it and go down. Georgia Tech- they did a great job against a very difficult scheme in chaotic circumstances and then boom a huge gain on third and long. This week, they didn't give up nothing. They played 60 minutes. That was my message - don't let them have anything and they did. They shut them down. The defense is getting better better and better. One of the top defenses in the country. I'm really proud of them. My message now is just keep swarming. We are doing some good things but we are still leaving a lot on the field. I want our defense to smother people. We had some missed assignments. We played a little high at times. We aren't satisfied and there's still more. We have to finish sacks and tackles for losses. They are giving us a chance to win and that's what we want.

What was the call Terry Bowden made to you about after the change?
Swinney: I got a call from Terry Bowden actually that day- the 13th. When all this stuff came about. That one really meant a lot to me. I talked to Coach Bowden- which was great, even that night after the press conference. Terry Bowden left me a message - he said listen Dabo- all the Bowden's are behind you 100 percent, give me a call when the smoke clears. I can't tell you how much that meant to me. Class all the way. That gave me a lot of peace and move forward and make the best of the situation, let's rally the guys and go to work. The Bowden family is unbelievable.

Could you sense the Bowden Bowl deal was wearing on Tommy as time went on.
Swinney: Well I think Tommy's been doing pretty good because he won four out of the last five. I guess on the outside looking in, they are just so professional. This has been their business their whole life. Tommy grew up in this. Bobby has done it his whole life. Since I've been here it has kind of been business as usual because you just want to really win the game. Coach Bowden never made it an issue. He never made it a bigger deal than it was always a big game because it was Florida State.

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