Swinney: Thanks for being here. Big opportunity this week. TCU- just looking at these guys they are a really good football team. It's obvious when you turn on the film that they are very well coached. The staff has been together a while and they are all on the same page because they know what they are doing. Good opportunity for our program. This is a good opportunity to guage where we are both mentally and physically. This is a group that is going to challenge you. Since 2005 they are one of the top seven winningest teams in the country. They've won a lot of ball games. They are very consistent and they recruit to a certain philosophy and they coach a certain way and they've done a tremendous job. It's a good opportunity for us to check the oil to see where we are.
Games like this are fun. Obviously it's not a conference game. But this is one of the top teams in the country and it's also a unique opportunity and experience for me because I can flip through the media guide and see my high school coach. He was there from 1971-73. Coach Toehill. He's as tough and hard-nosed coach as I've ever been around my whole life. So that's neat. He died early at 61 but it's ironic that we play TCU because he always used to wear TCU stuff and talk about his time as a coach there.
Offensively, they are very tough, hard-nosed, want to run the ball offense. They will line up and try to come right at you. They've got 10 guys back who have started (on offense). They have multiple personnel grouping ... their quarterback is a three-year starter and makes them go. He's the key to what they do. Doesn't make a lot of mistakes and is a smart guy. At running back, No. 24, Turner, is their work-horse. He's 8.5 yards per carry. That's a tall task and a big challenge for our defense.
They have a lot of skill guys. Skill guys for days. Bunch of veterans who have played. No. 85 and No. 6. No. 18 looks like Tyler Grisham. They are a very good bunch offensively but for us we have to stop the run and winning first down. Those are key battles for us. So far they've played just two games and scoring a bunch of points- 43 games, including against one of our teams in this conference.
Their defense is very physical and very fast. Looks a lot like Florida State and our defense to be honest with you. They have six guys back who have started. They have been one of the top defenses in the country. everybody knows about Hughes. He's the real deal. He's fast. Great get-off and he's powerful. Defensively their two corners are outstanding and their safety is a special player. No. 41 is their guy at linebacker who is as good as anybody we've played. They only give up 43 yards per game on the ground and obviously we want to be able to run the ball.
A game like this is pretty simple. Both teams will play extremely hard on Saturday. We've got a team that's playing with great effort on both sides of the ball. Not always great execution, but great effort and when you have you that you have a chance to win.
A game like this is probably going to come down to turnovers, field position and special teams.
Coach what do you think about the lack of touchdowns on the ground so far this year?
Swinney: It's just a lack of touchdowns. I don't care if it's throwing or rushing. Part of it too has been style of play. The goal is to find a way to win. There are a lot of ways to win the game. We will keep working and keep getting better but if we are going to get better and win the conference we have to get better.
Are you surprised at how your special teams have really been your offense at times this year?
Swinney: No. Not really surprised. The goal is to win. We have to find ways to win games every week. We really talked and preached special teams here. Michael Wade- I think he played more snaps than Ricky Sapp and more snaps than Kevin Alexander. It was like 35 or 36 snaps on special teams. You talk about a critical part of the game- it's critical. We only had 49 defensive snaps so we've put an emphasis on that. They know we can win games by creating field position, whether that's Dawson (Zimmerman) or good coverage. We take a lot of pride in that. It's been three crazy games in that it was two games in five days then you have two halftimes (with the delays). Then the crazy game at Georgia Tech.
Do you like playing a team like TCU? Nationally ranked and out of conference?
Swinney: I think the fans like it. I like it. I think it's good to step out of conference and play teams. Next year we play Auburn. We've got them for the next couple of years. When you study the film and you see different styles of plays. It's exciting. I don't mind playing a I-AA team. I like it to be a team from around here because it helps the state but when you are a competitor you want to play the best.
How do you deal with the flu bug?
Swinney: So far this morning we don't have any problems (with the flu). I've even had it at my house. Everybody is doing okay. We will get through it. It hasn't been a prolonged deal. Couple of days then guys are bouncing back. Most of them got sick over the weekend except Jarvis yesterday. Hopefully we will be okay but it's definitely something everybody has to deal with. It's a problem but Michael Jordan scored 63 with the flu one time. You try to do preventative type things- vitamins in the weight room, not sharing cell phones.
What about Kyle Parker coming off the game he had Saturday?
Swinney: He certainly didn't play his best game. But he's a freshman- we are going to have some wild moments with him. Look at this guy we are getting ready to play- he's a three-year starter. Experience comes from making mistakes. There are some wise people in here. That's really what it is. He's getting experience every day and every practice. His mistakes are very correctable. I look for him to bounce back and have a great game. I didn't want to screw it up. The only way we were going to move the ball is if we gave them the ball.
What have been the issues in the red zone so far this year?
Swinney: Critical errors. As I said Sunday. It's not really having many critical errors moving the ball down the field. It's across the board- not one player or one position. It's a tight end off the ball or a lineman or a quarterback with poor cadence or somebody not cutting back across or we've called a bad play. Across the board, really, we've had issues. But the good news is it is all things we can get better at.
How did TCU get on the schedule?
Swinney: Well Terry Don Phillips called me in the spring and said he wanted to talk to me and I was like, 'uh oh.' I thought we were playing Idaho. I think that had been released. But there were a bunch of I-AA teams Kyle Young had already researched. I want to win and every win counts but especially with what happened last year. I thought adding one of those games (against I-AA) wasn't positive. If you lose it they fire you and if you win nobody cares. Surely there had to be a Division I-A team that would want to come here. Terry Don Phillips got this look on his face and he said there's one. There's only one. He said it's TCU. I said 'holy smokes.' I just said let's play. Let's do it. It will be great for our kids. That's really how it happened. It sounded a lot better in the spring than it does now.
Will Chris Hairston practice today?
Swinney: I don't know. Probably not. He'll mentally practice. The good thing about Chris is he is one of the smartest players we've got. He can watch it on film and take it to the field Saturday. Some guys are high-rep guys. He's not. He's as smart as a guy we have. Mentally he will practice. It's something that's going to get better every day. If he don't do anything until Saturday and he's able to play Saturday- he's capable.
Is this a chance to get Clemson into the national picture?
Swinney: Sure, yes. It's a great opportunity for the team. Any time you play a ranked opponent it's a good opportunity. If you want a special year you have to win this game. It's not a game that will cost us the ACC Championship.
Have you had any interaction with Coach Patterson?
Swinney: Ironically when we got let go at Alabama Dennis Franchione got the job and he came from TCU. Coach Patterson got the job then and has done a great job since taking over.
Are you surprised this game isn't nationally televised?
Swinney: I am a little surprised. I thought it was an interesting matchup. But it's not.
Can you talk about the play of our defense?
Swinney: Second best game ever in the history of this conference. That's the best in my lifetime. In 1963 they played Virginia - boy that must have been an ugly game up there. I mean, Boston College, is a pretty good team. Coach Tranquill is a great coach. Y'all know what they've been. Big strong guys up front and can run the ball. They beat FSU last year and then we have a completely dominant effort. That's what I'm proud of- the kids have bought in. They are playing with great effort- I mean, you can coach them. Like the Bible teaches you- you run the race to win. Doesn't mean you are going to win but you've got a chance and that's what our kids are doing right now. Defensively- that's something that will be remembered around here for a long long time. Then they reenergized - after halftime- after a break, then after another break. That's really really good. About the only thing bad we did defensively was give up that touchdown. Let's dig in and hold them to a field goal.
Can you talk about Ricky Sapp and his early performance?
Swinney: I told Ricky- he's had three really good ball games. He's 16th in the nation in tackles for loss. Just fun to be around. He's got a lot of confidence and he's having fun playing. He's on his way to having a good year.
What about Brandon Maye?
Swinney: Well we just tried to coach him and teach him. When we've had teachable moments we've tried to use those. He's a passionate football player. A lot of times in the past, in his true freshman year and last year that passion would become a negative sometimes. He would channel his energy into the wrong direction. He's just maturing. Now he's a sophomore and he's learned from mistakes and keep getting better. I'm proud of Brandon because he's done a very good job of keeping his cool and when things don't go your way let's channel it in the right direction.
Does TCU do anything that would alter your game plan Saturday?
Swinney: We are just going to play our defense. Do what we do. Offensively they are multiple, similar to us in a lot of ways. Little bit of option in their option. Not a lot but a little bit. They want to run the football. I don't think it's anything we have to get out of our personality.
What about the issues in short yardage situation?
Swinney: Critical errors. We've got to coach better. Bottom line. They are things we totally control. We just have to do a better job.
What about Richard Jackson?
Swinney: You know Spencer in the spring had the edge. But this is a guy right now that's in the zone. He's got a lot of confidence. He's another one of those guys that's been through a lot and then matured. He feels good about the things he's overcome. Couldn't be more proud of him. He gives us the ability - again, with three points with a defense like we've got is like a touchdown. That's a weapon. There's been times around here you'd go for it on fourth down. We challenge our kickers and we created as tough as an environment that we could create in practice. He's leading the nation right now. Special teams player of the week and the Lou Groza kicker of the week. He's doing really good.
What is his range?
Swinney: If you watch that 53-yarder at Georgia Tech it would have been good from 63. So 65? 67? If you really needed. Would be a lot of fun this year to see what he can do. Hopefully we won't have to try that this week?
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