Dabo Swinney Press Conference

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

Opening comments...
Swinney: Thank y'all for coming again today. Had a good start to the week last night. We are headed back in the right direction as far as putting the right plan together for Duke. We reviewed all the mistakes from the Florida State game. The guys' attitude is really good. Really excited about homecoming. Especially here at Clemson. There are a lot of friends, family, alumni and former players who will be here to rekindle friendships. Looking forward to being a part of it. Looking forward to TigerWalk on Saturday and a lot of former greats will be here to lead the way. It's going to be a tough task for us. Duke is a much-improved football team. I don't think anybody would argue with that. Two teams with the same record who are both at .500. It's a game critical for both teams. Looking at Duke, they are very well coached. I've known David Cutcliffe for a long time. I've always had a lot of respect for him as a coach and a person. He has an excellent staff. Marion Hobby in particular who coached here with us. He's done a really good job of getting his guys to play hard, play with passion and believing they can win- and that's half the battle. They beat a good Vanderbilt team and a good Virginia team. We'll be ready. Should be a great day for Clemson football and I'm looking forward to seeing all the fans.

How concerned are you with the lack of energy Saturday?
Swinney: Well, I'd like to get back to playing Clemson football where it doesn't matter who shows up you just line up and whip them. Whether it's Florida State or Duke. It shouldn't matter. That should be our mindset. You coach that everyday. Every day you plant seeds. Like a farmer. You water those seeds. You harvest what you plant. I've got to plant the right seeds everyday. Seeds of hope. Seeds of encouragement. At some point you reap the right harvest and that's showing up regardless who the opponent is and you whip them. You play at a level they can't match. We aren't there yet. We did that in spots Saturday but we've got some work to do. You pick your battles in a situation like this and a lot of that goes back to an everyday, 365 days routine. A mentality in how you prepare. We are making progress but we still have work to do.

You talk about changing the mentality ... does that take a few games or a few years?
Swinney: I don't know. Before me and Cathy got our first house in Tuscaloosa it was a 99,000 garden home and we were fired up. We bought a $19 little maple tree in K-mart in the garden section and we planted that little tree, it was a Charlie Brown tree in the front yard. All I know is we planted it the right way and did all the right things. I didn't know how big it was going to be or how long it was going to take. I can't really answer if it's going to be this week- I hope so. Is it going to be in two games or next year? I don't know. It's a process. I go back to Tuscaloosa and it covers the whole house. But it started with a seed.

The complete game angle is that the only seed you are planting right now?
Swinney: Well it is seeds of hope. Seeds of confidence. Seeds of team. All of those things. These are young men. They are still mature. Still growing. Still learning. It's easy for me to look back and say, man, how did I get through that. But looking back, you wouldn't change any of it. There are a lot of things to be learned in both the good and the bad. I have to make sure the spirit.

Lewis and Riley, that combination for Duke- does that scare you?
Swinney: They are very good. He leads the league in passing. Eron Riley is a really good play and is a kid we've looked at. He can run. He's had a nice career and they've done a nice job of getting him the ball. They also run it pretty well. And what scares you about the quarterback- he's another one of those guys that can run. They scheme runs to where he's the primary ball carrier. A lot like the guy we played last week. We'll have to be in tune with Lewis. He's a good runner and thrower and they've done a nice job of getting their ball situation

Is this a fair situation for you?
Swinney: It is what it is. It's one of those things where you don't make excuses. You go to work. There are a lot of people out there who are in a lot worse position than this. I think it's fair. I'm getting a fair opportunity to lead young men and make a difference in their lives and make a difference in this program. It's not about me. I'll be fine. I'm going to do the best I can every day with a great attitude and a great work ethic. That's all I can do. Hopefully the scoreboard will reflect what I want to reflect- wins. But there's a bigger picture and that's what we are working towards every day. I'm going to try and do it the right way. As far as it this a fair thing for me, I don't really think about that. I've always planned on being a head coach, and you think you are going to do it a normal way- putting your staff together, going through spring ball, but I never dreamed of this, taking over in the middle of the season, inheriting the good and the bad and trying to make it work. Offensively we've done better. We weren't scoring any points. We scored 17, 27 and 27. We've gone from six penalties to three penalties to one penalty (offensively). We scored seven points against Wake Forest. Then 17 against a good defense in Georgia Tech. To 27 against a B.C. defense that shutdown Notre Dame. And 27 against a top five defense in Florida State. Do we have issues? Yes, youth and inexperience which creates mismatch problems. We went 97 yards to score and came up with some things to help us accomplish that. The kids never quit and we lined up with two minutes left with a chance to win the game. If we don't have that one pick-six, as bad as the defense played, instead of the onside kick we are kicking off to go to overtime. We've got some young guys that are growing up that will be good players.

Do you think the guys feel that - the positive energy and enthusiasm you are looking for?
Swinney: I hope so. That's what character is all about. Who you are when nobody is looking. It's standing up in the face of adversity and hitting it head on. We've got a lot of good character on this football team. No doubt about it. That's part of this job. It's not all about X's and O's. You have to motivate young people and encourage them and handle them the right way. There's a lot to play for. We can still have a really good finish. Everything you do in the offseason is about finishing. Well let's finish. We can cry over spilt milk or we can clean it up. We can whine all we want and talk about this and that. I'm hoping we can have a great finish. We've got two home games left. Playing in Death Valley - one of the greatest environments to play in for college or pro football. You've got a homecoming game coming up. You've got a great in-state rival game coming up. The main thing to be excited about is the chance to win Saturday. We had a lot of fun at Boston College- and that's our goal- to win the game. I want a complete game.

Do you think about Dec. 1 and think about the possibility of not being the head coach?
Swinney: No. Heck no. I don't have time for that. Like I said last night, I might be selling sunglasses on the beach in Hawaii. My mentality is to go to work. It's like the Dumb and Dumber mentality - when the guy who has no chance with the girl, asks her out and she says there's a one in a million chance, so you're telling me there's a chance! I'm excited. I don't think about woe is me. I'm blessed. If I'm not here on Dec. 1 I can go somewhere. I can clean gutters or something like that. And I'll do it with a good attitude. Those are things I can control. As far as Dec. 1 I don't know what day that is. All I know we have three ball games starting with Duke.

Is this team better now than it was a month ago before you took over?
Swinney: I hope so. I know we are 1-2. I hope we are a closer team. I hope we are a closer fan base. I hope we've been able to get people behind these guys. I think the fans have supported the team. You don't have to support me or this coaching staff. Support the players. I feel like we were fractured. I don't think we are now. It's not about me and these coaches, it's about these players. They are practicing everyday and working hard and trying to win. You can't worry about what happened at Florida State. What happened at Alabama. I have to worry about beating Duke. I know if we beat Duke there will be a lot of smiles in the locker room and then we'll move on to the next one.

Planting this many seeds- is it more than you expected? Are you surprised
Swinney: No. Because one of the things I've always enjoyed doing is dealing with people. Whether it's going to speak somewhere or dealing with kids or my family. I've dealt with a lot of situations in my life, personally, and professionally. One thing I've always been in tune to is figuring out what makes people tick. Even coaching a position. It's really no different, just a bigger scale. Same thing.

Meeting with the seniors yesterday- was that unusual?
Swinney: That's something I do every week. The leadership group is something we do twice a week. We are coaches, but sometimes the best thing you can do is be coached. Listen. I value the players' input. I think it's important to give guys a chance to be able to come talk to you. The biggest thing this week is getting healthy- two tough road trips. It's the 10th game of the year and we need to be healthy- physically and mentally. And that's my biggest challenge this week. I cut practice back this week to make sure we weren't putting too many things in. Let's cut back on the mistakes and the missed assignments and make sure we aren't doing too much.

The health of your quarterbacks- Cullen and Willy. Where are they right now in week No. 10?
Swinney: Cullen is good. Coaches voted him player of the day. He played very well. He made one mistake and we had a big time missed assignment at right tacke. Cullen looks away and then comes back and throws it right at his chin. He played really good. He had a lot of pressure on him the whole game. He made some good throws. Moved around well. The throw to Michael Palmer is a thing of beauty. He played a really good game. He's nice and healthy. Same thing with Willy. Willy didn't play much. The plan was to put him in there when we did. He did okay. His awareness wasn't where it needed to be. Wanted to put him back in there in the second half but we weren't on schedule. We didn't really have the opportunity to get him in there in the second half and we hope to play him more this week.

Is Akeem Robinson an option at tackle?
Swinney: Could be. That's one of the things we discussed. Cory didn't rep out there last week. That's not an excuse. But Akeem at tackle is an option. Could be.

Can you talk about your relationship with Coach Cutcliffe?
Swinney: I listen to Coach Cutcliffe every week so I'm well schooled on Duke because of the weekly teleconference. He's a class guy. Our relationship is pretty much professional. We've battled each other for years. Whether he was at Ole Miss or Tennessee. He's a Banks High graduate at Birmingham. He won at Tennessee. He did an outstanding job at Ole Miss. I'm not surprised to see him do as well as he has at Duke?

Have you studied his offense?
Swinney: He's always been great with quarterbacks No. 1. Pretty good history there. He's recruited good players and coached them up well. They like to run the ball. He's got different issues at Duke than what he did at Ole Miss and Tennessee. But that's what is impressive. They are going to take what is there. It is a spread type mentality as we saw against Wake Forest. They got in the I and did what they had to do to win the game.

CUTigers.com Top Stories