Dabo previews spring practice

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney previews the start of spring practice.

Press Conference Audio (49:21)

Opening comments ...
Swinney: I'm excited to get in here today and talk about spring ball. Looking forward to getting out back on the field and getting started. This is truly the start of something special in Clemson history. I believe that with all of my heart. The best part of my offseason is being out on the field and watching them compete against each other. We've got a lot of work to do. I need about 30 practices but we have to use 15. It's gong to be a very difficult schedule this year. Very pleased with the staff [and their offseason]. These guys have come together extremely well. Really like our chemistry [of the staff]. Enjoyed sitting in on staff meetings. We've got a lot of freshness in that room. Should have all of my staff completed next week. We have a director of high school relations complete next week. G.A. situation as well. Injury wise, we are in pretty good shape.

Ricky Sapp will not go through spring ball. But his rehab is going great. You'd never know he has a heart knee if you just saw him. He'll be fine by the time we kick it off in the fall. Same thing with Barry Humphries. He's worked well. Trained well. He has excelled in hte weightroom. Hopefully by the end of spring he may be able to do some technique things. Fundamental work. Same thing with Spencer Adams. My anticiaption for him is that he will able to do some contact at the end [like Jacoby Ford last year]. Tig Williard- he had appendicitis and will probably miss the first week of spring practice. If there is one guy that jumps out at me, probably the whole staff, it's him. He'll line up behind Brandon Maye at the middle linebacker position starting out.

Just came back from Texas. Spent three days out there with the staff. Coach [Mack] Brown and his staff - they were tremendous. He's like a walking book of cliff notes. I almost felt like I was cheating. It was almost like he could read my mind. Really enjoyed.

If I didn't get anything else out of that trip- I got one thing, there is no better place than Clemson University. We have everything we need to be special at Clemson. The only difference between Texas and Clemson is right there [points to head]. It's believing that something can be great. I've got to get everybody here to believe again. That's fans too. You gotta believe [points to a sign that says 'Believe']. It starts on the inside and works it's way out. Tha'ts me and the coaches and the managers and the secrataries. We take care of that then hopefully everybody else will believe as well.

It ought to be a fun 15 days. At quarterback, the best news is we have great kids. Guys that have very very similar qualities that you have in the quarterback position. I'm excited about seeing them line up and commit. It may not get settled. We may have to play two guys. We may play four guys. I have no idea. I know this though - this is a game of production and whoever produces will be the one that plays. Another big question is kicker. We have to figure out is Spencer Benton the guy? One thing I'm happy about is that we have one starter back at every position except kicker, quarterback and snapper. That's another question. We've defined our team goals. We'll speak with the team Sunday about the team.

We are going to open up practice to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Obviously we are looking at the quarterback situation. We will be better up front. No doubt about it. Five of our guys back this year, at this time last year, hadn't played a snap. We got to get people in the right places. That's going to be critical. Seeing how the playmakers emerge. Grisham is gone. J.D. is gone. Is Xavier Dye ready to be the man. We have guys around here that are so happy those guys are gone they can't stand it. Because they get the opportunity. Can't wait to see Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington. We are going to be very very conscious of trying to improve our tempo and being able to change our tempo with what we do offensively. Very in tune with what I want offensively and that's balance. Got to get our two-deep situation.

Ball security is critical. Every single day they will be coached ball security. We are going to cut out the pictures you post of these guys and put them on our wall of shame in our meeting rooms if they can't project the football. Defensively, they have to learn the system. We also have to develop our young guys. Should they be SAM, WILL, free [safety] or strong [safety]. I'm anxious to see our young safeties. DeAndre McDaniel will prove to be as good as we've had here and in the conference. Then anxious to see Rashard Hall and Carlton Lewis and Sadat Chambers.

Special teams will be a big emphasis this spring. We weren't very good at punting [last year]. That's a disappointing area we will have to improve in. Basically, we are looking for guys who want t o compete.

Will Kyle Parker be available for all practices and scrimmages?
Swinney: He's not going to miss anything. He'll be at every practice. Jack [Leggett] and I worked out a great schedule There will be some days where he'll be Deion where we will flex at two o'clock and he'll play a baseball game later that night at seven. Our first Tuesday he'll play in a baseball game at four and then practice with us at seven o'clock. He's only going to miss two baseball games. The Friday and Saturday night games at BC. He'll play that Sunday night after taking a commercial flight up there.

Is your hope to have your starter clearly defined at the end of spring practice?
Swinney: Ideally, you just go 'wow" with a starter. You know, he wows us and he separates. The other part of the that is, hopefully one separates or two separates where these are the clear cut two guys and you start working your reps second half of spring. It's important the first half [of spring] to give all the guys the reps. The film won't lie.

From the reports you've gotten, how are Willy's mechanics and confidence after the health issues?
Swinney: Well I don't know because we can't be out there on the field with them right now. I ask Willy, and of course, he tells me he's throwing it as well as he has in his life. I hope he is. I hope he's fully recovered.

Who is the No 1 quarterback going into spring? Is there one?
Swinney: No. We'll have to run somebody out there first but we see al

Is that the first time as a staff you've gone on a trip like that?
Swinney: The biggest thing is confirmation. We are doing the right things. You learn a new way to teach something. If you ever stop learning in this profession you are done. It was a great trip for us. Me, personally, to have the opportunity to spend the time with Mack, was priceless. Really appreciated his time. That's the first time we've taken the whole staff. I called Muschamp in January and set it up. I know guys on both sides of the ball there. We got there Sunday, had time. Then had all day Monday and all day Tuesday and got to watch them practice. It was very good. But I'm sincere in saying that I'm more encouraged by being at Clemson than ever. I came away from there thinking, man we've got great opportunities here. Great facilities. Great environment. Great players. We aren't there yet but if we can get that going right there [believing] we can do it.

What will be the major differences in the defense?
Swinney: There's only certain things you want to say in a press conference. There are some differences. We will base out of a four-man front. We will be more of a three-linebacker defense instead of a 4-2-5 structure in how we did last year. There will be some similarities with the bandit position.

Is it safe to assume that this year's version of defense will be more aggressive?
Swinney: Probably. Yes.

What about on offense? What will be the major changes there?
Swinney: Hopefully we can take care of the ball better No. 1. But we have to be better up front. That's where it all starts. We'll do some different things protection wise. We will simplify things compared to what we have done in the past and not try to be all things to all people and try to create an identity that we want to have offensively. Hopefully we'll have the threat of the quarterback being a factor [running]. That's the thing you want ... a quarterback that can hurt you with our legs. None of them are Michael Vick but they are capable guys. Just having that element as part of our offense will be some thing you see.

Does that mean zone-read? More of that in your offense in 2009?
Swinney: Yes and we've always had that. But we've just dabbled in it. We haven't featured it. We haven't made it a staple. You know, we have Spiller and Jacoby Ford and those guys ... there are a lot of things you can do if you have a threat of the quarterback [running]. And also in the passing game ... as far as how we move the pocket and making plays with it breaks down. I think you'll see C.J. Spiller be a featured guy. That's a big difference even though we saw it the last six games of the season. Really making him the featured guy in this offense. That will be different. He's been a featured guy but there's been a lot of side shows going on. We'll make 28- everything will go through him. We'll be a multiple personnel team with multiple formations. We want to be able to run the ball, play-action the ball, screen the ball, attack the field vertically and horizontally, while being balanced and unpredictable.

CUTigers.com Top Stories