Swinney: Been a productive open date for us. Real pleased with how the guys have worked and we also had a good break with fall break yesterday and today because it gives us additional meeting time and team time. Should be as healthy as we've been Saturday. I know all the guys are excited to get back after it this week after playing. I do think the open date came at a great time for us. We've spent a lot of time focusing on attention to detail and what we've been doing right and wrong. If we'll play how we practice, we'll have a chance at a great second half. Hopefully the rain will hold off and we'll have a real productive day today.
One of the things we've talked about is learning how to win. The first way you do that is to not beat yourself. From that standpoint we are on the same page. Everybody is excited to get back out there and play. It's a good team we are playing this week in Wake Forest. Tough opponent. It's a good opportunity for us within our division for us to hold court at home.
Offensively they are definitely the best offense we've play. They are very balanced. Riley Skinner has 37 starts. A lot of gamesmanship and a lot of poise. He has a lot of experience and he really understands what he's doing. His great attribute is he makes first downs. He's an excellent scrambler. The biggest thing he does such a good job of is scrambling around and finding a guy [downfield]. When he scrambles, he delivers the ball [downfield]. Kind of like what Matt Ryan used to do. That's what he's really mastered when you watch the game. He dinks it out to a running back in the flat and you are out of position and he runs for 20 yards. He's what makes them go.
They also run a significant amount of misdirection with their offense. They are extremely athletic group up front. They are all redshirt guys and they all have a bunch of starts under their belt. They do a good job executing. They have had a lot of big plays and they will take shots. They have good running backs- they are both veteran guys. Their wide outs are new guys but they have done a good job spreading the ball around.
They are definitely the best group we have played.
Defensively, they move and stem as well as anybody we play. They have a lot of movement right before the ball is snapped and as it is snapped. We have to be poised in our snap count and using that as a tool for us. They understand gap control. They do have a lot of first-year starters defensively but all of those guys have significant playing time and they've developed in their system. They do a great job of execution and that's what we have to do- execute. We have to eliminate the things that beat ourselves. I think this is going to be a big game for Kyle Parker. He's got to do what he's coached to do. We can't beat ourselves.
Special teams- it's all about field position when you play these guys. That's going to be a big part of this game- is who can win the field position battle because they get so many first downs it always seems like they are punting from the 45 yard line.
Big challenge for us but we are looking forward to it. Proud of our team and we are ready to go back to work.
The internet is blowing up with rumors of differences between you and Billy Napier. Is that true and have you overridden him on a bunch of calls this season?
Swinney: There's no truth to that. I hired Billy to be the offensive coordinator. I probably have over written three calls in five ball games. It's no different on the defensive side. I got a great relationship with Billy. I probably picked a bad day to invite people to practice. I don't know if y'all pay attention but we lost to Maryland. Everybody wants to write about me and Billy ... well what about Coach Pearman, and Coach Scott and Coach Steele. I have all the respect in the world for all my coaches. One of the things I like about Billy is he's got some fire to him. I had the band out at practice. It was one of those spring practice days where nobody was in good humor. And I'm glad about that. I don't know where that comes from. I don't override play calls or anything like that. I manage the game. I may say hey let's take a shot or hey let's run it. We aren't just randomly calling plays on game day. I don't know how else to answer that other than it's just way far from accurate. That's just part of this job.
Are you surprised that you've only overridden three calls?
Swinney: I hire people to do their jobs. I say three it may have been one or may have been five. I like to say I make all of the bad calls because it's my responsibility on both sides of the ball to make sure it's right. I've looked at all the film during this open date- sure there were times when you say well dad-gum that's a bad call. Most of the time, where we've had success it's been because of our crisp play an execution. When it's not going well, it's been a combination of us not executing properly or a missed assignment or a dropped ball instead of a bad call. That goes back to us coaching them better - bottom line. That's the attention to detail that we've focused on the last two weeks because if we execute we have a chance to be successful.
What have you changed during the off-week? Anything?
Swinney: Yeah. We don't go to the next play unless it's right. It's got to be right. Got to do it right as opposed to get our reps in. I'd rather get less reps and get it right. Last Wednesday and Thursday were two of the best practices we've had. Yesterday was excellent. We will have a chance to have a much more successful start of the season.
Thomas Austin said you chewed out every player on offense last week. Is that an accurate assessment?
Swinney: I don't know if "chew out" is the right word. Motivate may better. Hey- it's not okay we are losing ball games. Let's not pat each other on the back. That was same thing with the coaches and that's my job to make sure we have the right kind of environment.
Do you take a playoff mentality right now considering how wide open the Atlantic Division is?
Swinney: It's very important we hold serve at home. It's the same opportunity for all of us. Everybody has a will to win. It's that will to prepare to win and that's what we are working hard on. Hopefully that's what this team is learning to do - to win. All we need is a little bit of success. We have good leadership on this team and we want to make a run here.
Is it enough to get better execution on offense or do you make personnel changes as well?
Swinney: We've got a good system. We have to execute better on both sides of the ball in critical situations. Certainly there is always the opportunity to make changes personnel-wise and we'll make tweaks here and there. We have to gain that confidence from practice to make that critical play that is required.
Dabo do you say "must-win" with your players?
Swinney: No. "Must focus" on execution. Must focus on preparing to win. That's the bottom line. Each player must be focused on what they have to do to the best of their ability from one play to the next. Nobody wants to win more than these kids to be honest with you. It's preparing to win. It's the details of their execution. Where are their eyes supposed to be? If I'm supposed to step here I do. If I have to step and drop and pass I do. It's execution. That's what we must focus on. Not saying "it's a must-win it's a must-win."
Are you and your offensive staff all on the same page?
Swinney: All on the same page. Our offensive staff works well together and is all on the same page. Those guys have done a great job. He's done a great job of coordinating. Our staff is tremendously close and they all want to win and they all care about the kids. They are good people, good husbands. We are all on the same page.
Is it just that this team needs a couple of 85-yard drives for touchdowns to get the ball rolling?
Swinney: I hope so. I really do. That would be great. But again, it's reality, nobody wants to hear it ... just two or three plays and it's a different circumstances. The unique thing is we'd still have the same issues. Just three plays and we are 4-1 and the perception is different but we still have the same issues we have to get corrected. That's what losing does- magnifies things. We need to sustain some drives. Getting better on first down is critical. We've got some young guys that are playing in some spots and we stub our toe a little bit. That's no excuse. We've had a couple of guys that have done well on the practice field and it hasn't quite shown up on game day yet. I really believe we will punch through.
There seems to be some angst whenever you guys play Wake Forest... is that accurate?
Swinney: There's angst every week I can assure. Wake Forest has done a good job, especially since this Skinner kid showed up. In 2006 we beat them in a close game. Gaines Adams had the big play. Aaron Kelly made a big play. They are a team that doesn't beat themselves. Very well coached. Coach Grobe has done a tremendous job building that program. in 2007 we got them pretty good. Last year it was a down to the wire game again. We had opportunities to win and so did they. I think Riley Skinner ... third and 16 he scrambled around and made a play. It's been a big game for both teams. Hopefully Saturday we can play a nice game and play some Clemson football.
How is Wake compared to you?
Swinney: Offensively they are certainly ahead of where we are. 37 starts at quarterback. Offensive line has a lot of starts. More experience than us at wide out. I haven't been able a year yet and they've been working that thing up for a while now and got it greased up good. The flipside of that is defensively we are a veteran group. Really good instincts. We aren't doing everything perfect on defense by any stretch. We have a lot of guys who've played a lot of ball and it shows.
How would you assess the offensive line at this point in the season?
Swinney: Far from dominant but we are better. We aren't the same group without Chris Hairston. Glad to get him back at 100 percent but we are nowhere near where I want us to be. We are better- there's no denying that. You watch our game against Wake Forest last year and I can hardly watch it. We've done a better job of not getting sacked. Last year we had a bunch of sacks. We are one of the top teams in the conference as far as not getting sacked. We have to be able to run the football- but just one thing is first down. We have to be better on first down. That would fix a lot of our other issues. First down efficiency- that's a big focus for me. That's run, pass, play-action on first down. we don't need second and 12 or second and 10.
Has Kyle passed up some opportunities to run the ball this year?
Swinney: He definitely has. That's one of the things we've really challenged him this week. That's that gamesmanship. He's played five games. There have been opportunities where he could have gotten the first down but he's waiting to make that play. He's got to run with a little bit more awareness. Really that's been the last two games. At times that has shown up but he can continue to do a better job with that.
Swinney: Hopefully he'll have a better second half but that's mainly due to this being a one-horse show. He's had some touches and I have all the confidence in the world in Jamie but we've got the best player in the country ahead of him. He's the future. He'll have his good days here. He'll get his opportunities as the season goes along.
Is there a temptation to go to the wildcat given your plethora of talent at running back?
Swinney: I think we've run two snaps out of it this year. One of them we should have a big play on but we didn't block correctly. It's in our play book. Certainly that's an option. You must have been watching Monday Night Football last night.
Are you surprised at how close the Atlantic Division race is right now?
Swinney: It's college football. Nothing surprises me in college football. Just because you lose a game, or a couple of games doesn't mean you are a bad team. It's all about getting better and playing one game at a time and not letting a loss beat you a couple of times and getting ready to play the next game. The teams that can do that will have the most success. It's a very close conference. Look at what Duke was doing last year. They gave a lot of people trouble last year and are doing it again this year. I don't see any team that is so dominant that can just show up and beat somebody. Obviously Virginia Tech looks like they are a strong football team. Miami is a strong team right now. I don't see anybody that far ahead or that far down.
Do you search for other players now going into this game to help you on offense?
Swinney: I think part of it is ... you have to be fair to some guys now. We've got some guys that need to make sure we take advantage of opportunities. Hopefully Xavier is a guy that can continue to emerge for us. He's practiced well and has continued to emerge. Dwayne Allen can help us. Other guys- like Brandon Clear, he can stretch the field but he hasn't had the chance to make the opportunities down the field.
How much of the offense 's lack of success is due to a first-year quarterback starting?
Swinney: He has certainly made mistakes but he's not the reason we are 2-3. He's given us the opportunity to win. He's going to make mistakes. He's a freshman. We have to do the best job of minimizing mistakes. He's made some really really good plays. He's made some big plays and had some little things like a third-and-five and he could have easily scrambled for it but he's looking for the big one or maybe missing a protection.
It was one year ago today you took over. Thoughts?
Swinney: I woke up today and my wife said that to me this morning ... it's Oct. 13. It's been a crazy year. I love my job. I love being here. I wouldn't trade it for anything. As I look back I can clearly see the progress that we've made. We've gotten a lot done. It frustrates me because I'm not really a patient guy. I want to win now and I want to be 5-0. But we are doing it right and I have no doubt about that at all. Just keep doing what you are doing. I love being at Clemson. Even the Sunday after a Maryland game and you are miserable, I still love coming to Clemson. I'm excited about what is coming. We are going to build a program here that is going to sustain success. We are going to build a program here that is right and we will continue to add playmakers. As I look back to that day for me last year, I have nothing but good memories. It was a crazy crazy day but I'm more proud of our players
Dabo Swinney's Press Conference
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