Dabo Swinney Press Conference

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

Opening Comments...
Swinney: I hope y'all are doing good today. Thanks for coming. Really proud of the way the guys played in the Duke game. One of our better games of the year for us. Proud of the way the guys responded coming off of a difficult road trip in Tallahassee. Really pleased with how our defense had responded. I thought we were the more physical team and we didn't turn it over. If we can continue to do that and take care of the ball and the offensive and defensive lines are physical in the trenches we'll have a chance to win. Very pleased with that. Pleased that we were able to play a lot of guys. Morale is good. It is always great in practice when kids can see themselves on film. As far as practice this week, we got off to a good start yesterday. We did have some mistakes and things we need to get corrected today. But practice was good last night. Hopefully we can come out today and have a have a sharp tempo. We are getting a good feel for Virginia as a staff working all day Sunday and yesterday. I feel good about where we are headed on both sides of the ball. We are a healthy team. Probably as healthy as we've been. That's good. Dorell Scott is probably the only we've still got questions on and hopefully he'll make progress today. Focus this week is to see if we can have another complete game on the road. I know we won at B.C. but we had to overcome some mistakes to get it done. Start creating good habits. Winning becomes a habit. That's how our practice will be.

Virginia - the biggest thing that jumps out about me is they are very good at home. They are 4-2 at home. I think they started 1-3 and then they beat North Carolina, East Carolina at home. Playing at their place definitely gives them a great advantage. Tough place to play. As a team, I think they would feel good winning the game 10-7. So we have to score points. If it's a very close ball game, that's the kind of game they want to have. Defensively, they are also second in the league in the sacks. They've got some good players up front as they've always had. No. 51 - he's a first round draft pick. You better know where he is. He'll have our full attention. They are a 3-4 type team. They play more of a 50 front. They'll play an even front as well. They have good personnel. One unusual statistic- their DB Hall leads the league in forcing fumbles.

Their defense if very similar to Boston College in a lot of ways. Systematically they are big physical guys. Overall we'll probably have more team speed. They make you the distance. They are a coverage type of team. Not anything like Duke who is more of a pressure team. They make you put drives together. Will you be patient enough to run it and take what is there?

Offensively, they are very well coached. The biggest difference in Virginia since the last time we played them is they throw the ball all over the place. They'll put five out on you so you have to do a good job from a coverage standpoint. They know what they are doing offensively. They are second in the league passing behind us. They have three guys that are in the top eight in receptions in the conference. Ogletree, Phillips the tight end and the running back Peerman. They do a good job spreading it around. And they have a big guy they will throw the ball down the field to - No. 80.

We are excited about having the opportunity to see if we can put some games together here. Obviously there's a lot on the line. Last trip wasn't pleasant.

I guess you are not surprised with the character of the team that they bounced back like they did after the loss to FSU. Why is that?
Swinney: Well somebody asked me that in the post-game press conference. They asked me was I surprised? The answer was character. When you are around these guys you know what their makeup is and we have good kids on this team. They want to win. They go out and work hard everyday. There is no finger pointing. They have bought in to what we are trying to do. Everybody is going to work and doing what we have to do to give ourselves the best chance to win. We have two weeks left- these are special days. I tell these guys- five years from now, two months from now, 20 years from now- they are going to miss this. Everybody does. When they look back they miss the work- the structure, your teammates. You miss it. When you get into the real world, and real life, you miss it. I tell them- this is a special time you have left. They'll always have that bond so you want to finish as strong as you can. Don't wait on it to happen, make it happen. I think they will continue to play hard for themselves, each other and for Clemson.

Looking at Virginia, they've had as many ups and downs as team in the league. Is there something about them that has been a key for their success or lack of success?
Swinney: They haven't been very good with turnovers, like us. I think they are last. Obviously that is the factor for us. The biggest thing for them is to continue to protect. When they get their receivers in space they have to protect and that's something they have been pretty good at doing. Our OL vs. their DL, their OL vs. our DL- those are the matchups. Like I said last week- we are going to have to win some matchups and we did. We sent a message early when we took some shots. Same thing this week. This is a game that will be in the trenches.

This will be the third game in a row to have the same offensive line. How big of a deal is that for your offense?
Swinney: It's a beautiful thing. We saw it this week. This is our second game because we started Lambert at right tackle against Florida State. There's something to be said for that - it's critical. To have guys working with each other. Thomas Austin- outside of a couple of plays he played a heckuva game. We voted him player of the game. I mean, we could give it to Spiller every week but Thomas did a phenomenal job. Having Chris Hairston back is big. But having those same guys start every game is critical. I talked with Marion Hobby late Saturday night- he talked about Bobby Hutchinson. He said your guys are getting better. And he said I always knew Austin was going to be a heckuva. But he said I've never been more proud of a guy than Bobby Hutchinson. He scratches and claws and fights and he gets it done. That's been a really good move for us. He's held up. He's not always the prettiest guy in there but he gets it done.

What do you make of C.J. Spiller the last couple of games?
Swinney: Sounds like we've got a Spiller for Heisman ready to kickoff for 2009. I think he's the best player in this conference. He's a great football player. That's what he has developed into. He's matured in front of our eyes. He played in a Wing-T offense and now he's learning how to pass protect, how to run in the zone scheme, where his eyes should be. All of these things. He gets it. He's a great receiver out of the backfield. Lining up in the slot on the outside. He's got a special special skill set. He's the fastest guy on the planet in a football game. I think he's the best player in this conference and what he's done this year- he's put himself on the map.

There are some that are already suggesting he would be a first round draft pick. If that's the case would you advise him to go ahead and go into the draft?
Swinney: That's a decision him and his family have to make. Go through all the factual information. We'll consult with different people and see what comes back. I'll support him either way. I'll say one thing about C.J. Spiller- he's his own man and he's not afraid to make a decision. He came to Clemson and he surprised a lot of people when he did that. Graduating is important to him and his mom. He's a great young man and we will have a Spiller for Heisman campaign ready to go.

Is the biggest change in Cullen the last couple of weeks his health?
Swinney: Best game he played all year. He had one minus. If you were out there it was windy. Windy all over the field. He made some throws that were some big time throws. The post to Aaron Kelly. The pass to Michael Palmer- he made a great catch. I'm proud of Cullen. He's playing looser. He's playing calmer. He's making plays off of scrambles where nothing was there and he scrambles and makes a play. That's a credit to the receivers and a credit to Cullen. He's done a real good job. He's cut it loose. Hopefully that will continue.

Talk about Palmer's emergence the last few weeks.
Swinney: He's the Tyler Grisham of the tight ends. Blue collar. Does everything good. Good blocker. Good receiver. Good route runner. Good guy motion. He's a good protector. He's just good at everything. Very very smart. Has a great football instinct. He's the complete player.

Can you talk about James isn't worried about the rushing record at this point and that he knows that you guys have to get C.J. the ball to win?
Swinney: James knows he's a great player. He needs four more touchdowns and he'll be the all-time touchdown guy here. 260-something yards here to get the rushing record. He knows C.J. is a great player. James set the tempo in that game Saturday. He set it early and he set it late. He ran as well as he has all year. If we would have left in there Saturday he probably would have had it Saturday but I like to look over there and see him with the hat on his head knowing we've got a win.

Can you talk about Jamie Harper and what he has done this year?
Swinney: We had a good coaching moment during the game Saturday but let me tell you, Jamie Harper is going to be a great great player here. I'm going to have him on a little bit of a regiment in the spring if I'm here and get him in great shape. I think he's been enjoying that dining hall here this year. He's as good as you'll find in the country. I predict he'll be one of those great Clemson fan favorites if he stays healthy.

C.J. has gotten the ball a lot more since you've taken over but now so has Aaron Kelly. Has that been an emphasis?
Swinney: Made it an emphasis to get him the ball. No question. We didn't do a good job earlier in the year of getting the ball. Aaron has responded well. He dropped a touchdown Saturday but he's play well. He's only dropped two passes all year. He dropped one Saturday and dropped one against Wake Forest. I don't think he's dropped any balls to be honest. He's really put himself together a nice season. I was happy for him Saturday. They kept telling me, "well Aaron only needs three catches." I said heck let's just do it here at home and not up there at Virginia. Those last two catches- I said here's what we are going to do. The first one he ran for about 12 yards. He's a tough guy to defend and he has a great great future in the pro game.

It seems like the guys on offense are not only getting better but they are having more fun.
Swinney: Well we are getting better and they feel themselves getting better. How we've gone about our business- showing them the film, showing them a drive chart and changed how we've graded them. We have a drive tracker where we say this is what happened, this is why, etc. But the biggest things is turnovers- they have gone down to zero.
Virginia plays a coverage defense like you guys do but it seems like you have been more pressure the last couple of games.
Swinney: Well we've shifted it up more. We were pressure against Duke. We have been a very good coverage team- fourth in the nation right now in yards per pass but we've been more pressure as of late.

Is that because you are more involved on defense?
Swinney: I'm involved more in everything. I've been an offensive guy my whole life but I understand things that create issues in the passing game. I've had some inputs. Coaches have been great. Vic and those guys know what they are doing over there. Probably good for them to know that if hey- we want to bring a house blitz, it's okay because the head coach is all for it. They haven't been hesitant at all.

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