Swinney discusses upcoming season

SUNSET, S.C. - Dabo Swinney met with the media Tuesday evening to talk about a host of topics in regards to the upcoming season.

Here are the highlights of that 30-minute question and answer session:

SWINNEY TALKS LEADERS: Swinney said this year's leaders are Thomas Austin, C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Michael Palmer, Ricky Sapp, Crezdon Butler, Chris Chancellor, DeAndre McDaniel and Kavell Conner.

"Those guys jump out at me," Swinney said. "They've really stepped up."

He's also confident with the group of seniors, all of whom sit in the front row for every meeting. Swinney looks forward to the meeting they've requested to have next week before practice starts.

"When you have kids taking ownership and some accountability, you're heading in the right direction," he said.

FROM THE OFFICE: On his desk, Swinney has a business card that was a contract write up that Spiller would agree to visit Clemson while he was a senior in high school. The card reads: 'I, C.J. Spiller, here by agree to visit Clemson on January of '06. Swinney said three of Spiller's high school teammates signed the card too as witnesses.'

"This was in the contact period in December when I was down there. He'd already been to Southern Cal and had four (official visits) left," Swinney said.

He told Spiller it was better to go six hours to the right place than 30 minutes or an hour to the wrong place. With Spiller's Heisman Trophy campaign, few around Clemson can argue that he went to the wrong place.

Swinney told Spiller, "If there is one thing I've come to know, you're a man of your word."

The card is a reminder to Swinney that if recruits are brought onto campus, Clemson has a chance. It's also a reminder to not listen to people who say you can't do something.

UNDERSTANDING HIS ROLE: Swinney also said Tuesday he believes he had his hand in too much last year. He's coming to understand what his role as head coach is.

"I'm much more comfortable now…my role is to manage the staff, morale, motivation, and discipline; determine the direction that we want the ship to go in and to us back in line with everybody pulling in the same direction—to really be a big picture person.

"I'll still be heavily involved offensively. Defensively, I enjoyed getting involved on that side of the ball during the spring, more than anything, to be involved to give support."

NO LOOKING AHEAD: Since this year's schedule was released in February, the focus for the team has naturally been on Middle Tennessee. Swinney and the rest of the Clemson coaching staff aren't letting the Tigers look ahead to the following week at Georgia Tech.

"Our focus is on Middle Tennessee. They're a very dangerous football team. They beat Maryland who beat us. They came within a gnat's hair of Virginia and Kentucky. They're a tough team," he said.

However, he also later admited the turnaround to play at Georgia Tech five days later will be tough.

"Playing (Middle Tennessee then Georgia Tech) is like playing in the snow in Minnesota and turning around and in 95 degrees in Miami. It's very contrasting styles of play with our two games to start out the season within a five day period."

IDENTITY OF THE OFFENSE: This season, Tiger fans will again see a spread offense and the formations will be similar to those of the past.

However there will be several different styles of runs with a blend of some option play as well.

Swinney said ball control type passing will be mixed with some shots and balance will be the key.

"We're going to be an attack offense. But I believe we're going to have to run the football," he said. "I don't think there's any question about…we've got to be able to throw the football when we want to."

THE QUARTERBACK RACE: The competition between quarterback will no doubt be the most talked about and anticipated part of the first weeks of practice. Whether it's Willy Korn, Kyle Parker, Tajh Boyd or Michael Wade, Swinney is counting any of the four out from getting the starting nod.

"I don't know how this is going to work out. We may have to flip a coin to see who is starting," Swinney said.

Though a starter will be named sometime before the Middle Tennessee game, Swinney said whoever earns the position must perform.

"We've got a lot of inexperience there and it's the most important position on the field," he said.

It's ideal that someone would separate from the pack, but for now, Swinney isn't sure if it's going to happen.

Korn and Parker will split first team repetitions. Wade will have some and Boyd will work his way towards that. But Swinney has to see Boyd before he's ready to give him first team looks.

Whatever happens, of course, can't always be predicted.

"Forrest Gump said, ‘It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.' That's quoting a great Alabama football player," Swinney said.

THE BIGGEST CONCERN: The biggest concern for Swinney right is solidifying the tackle position though the left tackle position is in good hands.

"I feel really good about Chris Hairston. I think he's on his way to being a really good NFL prospect. He's had a very good summer. His weight is in shape," he said.

Right tackle, however, is up for grabs.

"At right tackle, Landon (Walker) has a lot of starts under his belt. I feel much better about him now than at this time last year when he didn't have a clue what he was getting into," Swinney said. "Cory Lambert has shown some signs. This is it. This is his last year. He's shown some signs that he wants to compete. He could have a good senior season. J.K. (Jay) has shown us that he's got potential to play this year."

DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: Not surprisingly, Swinney said there are not as many concerns on defense as there are on offense after going through the spring. One position on defense that concerns him is safety. But he's pleased with who he's got at strong safety.

"DeAndre McDaniel solidified his position there with his play," he said. "You'll probably see Marcus Gilchrist (at safety) some. Sadat (Chambers) had a good spring. We'll have four freshman safeties that we're really high on from the recruiting process…we've got good people to work with there. We have a good veteran presence.

"What we do schematically how we move a couple of guys around from a package standpoint, based on what we see from the offenses put onto the field. It's what we do with Ricky Sapp, Kevin Alexander, and Scotty Cooper and where those guys line up."

SPECIAL TEAMS UPDATE: Swinney is sold on Dawson Zimmerman as this year's punter, but questions remain at kicker.

"I think he is going to be solid as a punter. He's got a little bit of experience. He'll be a little more mature this season. I feel better about that," Swinney said.

"The kicking situation, field goals, extra points and the kickoffs with Spencer Benton and Richard Jackson is thing I'm most anxious about. Its points, they could be the difference between winning and losing. We need somebody week in and week out to be consistent."

Inexperience at long snapper is also a cause for concern.

"Our snapper is going to be a first time snapper even though Matt Skinner is going to be outstanding throughout his career," he added.

NO MAGIC NUMBER FOR SPILLER: There's no set number of touches Swinney hopes Spiller will have. In Swinney's mind, he feels the best player in college football wears No. 28 for Clemson University. "I think he's one of the best players in college football if not the best," he said. "You could sit around and debate that all day long…he's one in a million and we've got him on our football team.

"Anytime he touches the ball it could be a house call. He's an explosive player that can change a game at any time."

The more touches Spiller has, the better.

"It's about touches. It's about him having chances to change a game. That's who he is," Swinney said. "Hopefully, he can help us meet expectations. I'm excited to see him promoted as one of the best players in college football because I know he is. He's gone about his business in a very humble way."

Also a solid performer in the classroom and off the field, Swinney can't help but rave about Spiller, who is in first year as being the feature running back.

"As Tony Dungy calls it, C.J. Spiller is uncommon. I think that's a special and unique thing in today's arena that we all live in," Swinney said.

INJURY UPDATES: Defensive tackle Jamal Medlin will take a medical redshirt… Stanley Hunter's seizures are a great concern for Swinney and the coaching staff… Tajh Boyd's knee still has a question mark because there's uncertainty how far along his recovery is at the present moment.

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