Dabo Swinney's Press Conference

CLEMSON - Dabo Swinney met with the media to preview the season opener against Middle Tennessee.


Opening comments
Swinney: Welcome all of you back. Some of you it's the first time you've been here. ... I'm excited about playing some football. It seems like it's been the longest preseason ever. I don't know if that's because of the schedule change. I'm not sleeping and I know our team is ready to play. Enough is enough. I'm looking forward to seeing what's going to happen.

I'm excited about opening it up inside of Death Valley and it's an exciting time for our fans. They are a very good Middle Tennessee team. I've been calling them Clemson north because they have about five guys who have played here or coached here. They will understand how to play here. I have a lot of respect for coach Stockstill. I have known him a long time. Willie Simmons lived in my basement for six months when he was a GA here. I know Justin Watts well and his daddy- a long time coach in this state. Russell Patterson- their strength coach- well his dad is my accountant. Go figure that out.

They have a bunch of guys over there but make no mistake this is a good football team. They beat Maryland last year and they lost to Mississippi State and Kentucky and Virginia the year before- all by single digits. They've played with good programs out there. They are a very capable bunch. We've had good preparation and I like where our team is right now. They are ready to play.

Offensively for us, it's all about effort. Every play. We have to take care of the football. If you look at the games we lost last year, we didn't take care of the ball. We've been good at that since the spring.

I think quarterback decision making will be critical. No doubt about that. The offensive line's ability to adjust will be critical. We have to prepare for a lot. They have a new coordinator so what you think you know you may not really know.

Then we have to minimize penalties.

Defensively, it always has to be stop the run. I know Coach Franklin is their coordinator and he'll spread you out and run the football. He did against us after only taking over 10 days beforehand. Us being able to stop the run is critical. They want to be able to run the ball if they can.

Their quarterback has played running back for them. He wasn't the starting quarterback last year but he's played it before. We have to contain him defensively. We can't let their quarterback do what he wants to do.

They don't give up a lot of sacks because they throw the ball so quickly. So when the team spreads you out you have to be able to tackle. You can't give up a lot of YAC (yards after catch). You look at how they beat Maryland last year they created a lot of turnovers and had a big play with a fake punt. That's another area that will be critical is special teams and that's something we've worked really hard on.

It's going to be a big test for us.

You've talked about Kyle Parker before but what did you see out of him to name him the starter?
Swinney: He's a very poised young man. Tremendous arm. Accurate. Outstanding decision maker. We've had a competitive situation here. He's been the best guy. He's been a little more productive and a little more consistent so he's earned the right to start. I'm excited about him.

Have you determined when and how Willy will play Saturday?
Swinney: No. That's not something we are going to pin down.

How is this team different from when you last played in the Gator Bowl?
Swinney: Well I hope very different. I'll leave that up to y'all to talk about and write about. It's different players. Different coaches. Different spring ball. Different camp. Different voices. We should be a very different football team.

How are you different as a head coach since you took over Oct. 13?
Swinney: We haven't got enough time to talk about that. I'm organized. I'm prepared. I've got people in the fox hole I don't have to worry about. I have everything how I would like it when you take a head job. There's no real template for being a head coach for six weeks. It's not really something that is done. You can't be all things to all people. Just very very different from a preparations standpoint. Taking over in the middle of the season you kind of tie it in the middle and let it hang on the ends.

Is there more pressure now or when you first took over?
Swinney: Probably about the same. Every game you want to win. Whether you are in the interim head coach you want to win. You only get 12 Saturdays guaranteed. It's pressure to win every week. You work hard. The kids work hard. Coaches and family sacrifice. When it all comes together you want to win. There's always that pressure. Any time you sit in this seat there's pressure.

Kyle has a lot of experience playing baseball in front of 10,000 to playing football in front of 80,000?
Swinney: We just practice. We practice. He's a very even-keel kid. He's steady Eddie and doesn't get overwhelmed with anything. It's a different atmosphere. When you strikeout with the game-winning run on base it's a long walk back to the dugout. But you look at the Regional this year where he came back and had the game-winning run. He'll do fine. If you are focused on the right thing you don't really even notice what's going on. Especially at home where it's friendly fire. So we aren't really worried about that right now. When we go on the road it will be a little different.

Looking at Middle Tennessee, they run a high-risk, high-reward defensive package. Do you expect to see some of your guys, especially Jacoby Ford in one-on-on matchups as they try to stack the box?
Swinney: They bring all that stuff. They have a lot blitzes. that's easy to figure out. If I'm going against C.J. Spiller I'm putting 10 men in there and seeing who else can make a play. But that's what football is about. That's why it's important to be a balanced football team. No question, everybody is going to challenge us- our quarterbacks and wide receivers and tight ends early. The beautiful thing about C.J. is there are a lot of ways to get him the football without lining up and turning around and handing it to him. That's all the game within the game. Certainly they are going to try and stop the run and make Kyle make plays with our wide outs.

Are you worried about Jacoby Ford? Are you being cautious with him at practice with that hamstring?
Swinney: He hasn't been cautious. I guess in the back of your mind you always worry about it skill wise but he's practiced well. He's making all the cuts. I was leaving last night and him and Chancellor and Butler were working hard on him getting extra release work.

Is Richard Jackson going to be your starter at kicker Saturday? Could that change?
Swinney: I don't think so. Richard Jackson is going to be the guy we are going to with this week. I let him call it his own shot last night - right hash, 53-yarder game winner and he nailed it. Spencer has kind of had a little pull and has been out of the battle and Richard has taken advantage of it. Spencer will do kickoffs and Dawson will be the punter. Richard has a very very strong leg. Him and Spencer can absolutely bomb it.

What gives you confidence this offensive line will be more physical this year?
Swinney: The fact on how I saw them work during the offseason and during the spring. Last year at this time we were coaching all assignments now we are coaching technique. They know what to do. Chris Hairston was a first-year starter last year. Mason Cloy has now played 13 games. Thomas Austin is our best player, a three-year starter. Cloy makes all the calls because he's been there. Landon Walker and Cory Lambert - Landon hadn't played any and Cory hadn't played a whole lot. Antoine McClain- he was fresh out of Aniston high school. I'm proud of that bunch. They are doing a good job. We've got some veteran tight ends there helping us out as well.

How do you know Coach Stockstill?
Swinney: I used to see him all the time on the road recruiting. He's one of the good guys recruiting. Met him for the first time in Augusta recruiting. Really really good guy. We had a lot in common. A good family guy and I'm proud of what he's accomplished. He did a really good job here for a long time. When he moved on to East Carolina it gave me an opportunity. It was a good situation for him and me. He energized his career. I'm sorry he ended up at South Carolina for a couple of years after that. He's done a great job with that program.

How much do you need Xavier Dye and Brandon Clear to step up for you on offense?
Swinney: Well we need them. Dye has had a good preseason. We had him back yesterday after a tweaked hamstring. Brandon Clear has had a really really ... the light has gone on for him. He's positioned himself to be a factor now. Brandon Ford has great ball skills but still a little bit away from being a complete ball player. Dye and Clear need to come through. You won't get all answers to all questions in one ball game. You could see us with a lot of different combinations at receiver this year. Guys could be anywhere. Jaron Brown is a guy before this season is over - people are going to be talking about him. Same thing with Marquan [Jones].

What was your first reaction to having to play two games in five days?
Swinney: My first reaction is that I'm destined to have three days to prepare for Georgia Tech my whole career. It was like somebody was playing a cruel joke on me. Not only that - it's you go from Tony Franklin with five wides to Paul Johnson where they play in a phone booth. But that's football. I'm looking for a normal week around here. You get antzy. From a planning standpoint it's a little unusual to open a season with two games in five days. I'm excited about it because it's a good opportunity for us and we'll see what happens. We have a busy 10 days or so.

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