Swinney: Good to be with you guys again. Another good team win. Proud of our team. This is a group of guys who have bought into the team concept. They've been like that all year. Now that we've had a chance to play some ball games, at some point, as I told you guys way back when, you can now see the bigger picture.
There have been times when the offense was struggling and the defense picked them up. The team has really bought into the team concept. We really played some good football- in particular on offense. I gave our offensive staff the game ball for that game. No turnovers on the road. No critical penalties. They did a tremendous job with our scoring opportunities. Just really proud of the offense and the coaches in general. Presented them with the game ball. They are doing a super job over there.
Players of the game - Brandon Maye on defense. Kyle Parker offensively. Probably his best performance. Very efficient. Just continues to improve. Proud of his leadership as well. Kevin Alexander - last week he was the defensive player of the game. This week he was the special teams player of the game. Having a good year this year- plays SAM. Plays end. Covers kicks. On the punt team. Never takes himself out of the game. We are getting more out of him than any other player.
C.J. Spiller was the ACC Player of the Week again for the fourth time. The guy is an amazing player. I am going to officially change his name today ... in hopes of creating a little more awareness. Ocho Dos. C.J. "Ocho Dos" Spiller. Maybe some people will figure it out then.
Really excited about Virginia. If you look at them they are like an NFL team. Huge team. We elected permanent captains yesterday after meeting with our seniors. Every team is different. Some years it's a landslide of who the captain might be. This year there were a lot of guys who got votes to be captain. This year there were a bunch of guys who were even. Thomas Austin, Michael Palmer and C.J. Spiller, Kavell Conner, Ricky Sapp and Chris Chancellor. Those guys will take us the rest of the way. I'm proud of those guys.
Virginia- they are a very capable team. They beat Maryland. They beat North Carolina. They are very capable. And I promise you- when y'all see them walk in the stadium, they are massive. Offensively, they have 10 guys who are 6-6 and up and they are capable of being physical. We'll have to play well for sure. They play two quarterbacks, we are preparing for both.
They will mix in some wildcat. They want to get No. 4 the ball. Their running back is 245 pounds and a downhill guy. We'll have to do a great job of handling our gaps and not getting knocked off the ball. We got a couple of good skill kids.
The biggest thing, and I know y'all will bring this up on their offense, they got five new coaches this year. For whatever reason they are dealing with some transition on that side of the ball. But make no mistake it's the same formula of success for us once again- stopping the run. We have to make them a one-dimensional team. Do a good job in the gaps with tackling.
Their defense- very well coached. They play hard. One of the better defenses we have played. They are a true 3-4 team which is unique because they are the only team in the league with that scheme. The real key for us offensively is we have to run the ball. If we let them play a two-shell (two-deep) then that's an advantage for them. They are winning the point of attack. They are hard to move. Big tough guys who play two-gap. They do a good job of stripping the ball. The corners are 6-2. Safeties are big.
And then we have to take care of the football. Their special teams? They've done it all. They have faked field goals, extra points, throw backs on the kickoff return. You name it, they've done it. Coach Powell isn't getting a lot of sleep this week. I don't know what to expect in special teams or if they will kick it to us. They've squibbed it. They've onsided it.
Thought the kids bounced back last night and turned the page. Practice was crisp. Should be a good week.
Conceivably you could come on the field already Atlantic Division champions if Boston College loses at noon. How do you avoid a letdown in that scenario?
Swinney: It don't matter. That's just how it is. It really doesn't matter. If that happens that's great but there won't be any celebrating on the field until afterwards. There's not going to be any let down. We won't spend 30 seconds talking about Boston College this week, I assure you. We are worried about Virginia.
Will you watch that game?
Swinney: We leave the hotel at like 12:55 from the hotel. We won't be sitting around watching that one. It doesn't matter. We are prepared for this football game.
How special would it be for the seniors to clinch this championship on Saturday at home?
Swinney: I think that would be really special for those guys. I still remember my last senior game in high school. We played Thompson. I caught a touchdown before halftime tied it up then we got our butts beat. I'll never forget it. These guys put so much into it for 12 Saturdays. I remember my last game in Tuscaloosa was ironically against South Carolina and we drove those suckers up and down the field. We drove Chris Rumph up and down the field. It's special. You understand the next time you come here you'll be on the outside looking in. It's a special day... then to throw in the added bonus of winning a divisional championship title- something that has never been done here. These guys were four years old the last time Clemson won an ACC Championship. I was a junior at Alabama 18 years ago. It's a great opportunity for them. That's why you play the game. All year long they have been working towards those goals.
Can you talk about this senior class and how they came together six weeks ago?
Swinney: This senior class didn't come together six weeks ago. They came together in January. They've been together. They aren't any different than what they've been against Georgia Tech, TCU, camp. They've been solid as a rock since day one. Haven't wavered one bit. I knew at the Georgia Tech game - I knew it. I knew this team had a chance to be something special in how they responded. How they dealt with each other. How they went back to work. This is a team that came together way back. Not six weeks ago. Football teams aren't made during the season. They are made January through August. They've done a real outstanding job with leadership.
Can you talk about the offensive line's development?
Swinney: They have become dominant. They really have. They continue to get better. Very few mistakes up front. Playing with discipline. We got one senior this year. One senior next year - so it's a very young offensive line. We weren't very good last year, that was well-documented, but they have vastly improved. We aren't the New York Giants, yet. Proud of Landon Walker and how he's improved. The chemistry of having David Smith in there. The sky is the limit with McClain. Dalton Freeman - is a freshman and he is a football player. Thomas Austin- our one senior leader. I think he's the best lineman we've had in here in a while as far as the total package. He's the leader of our team. Mason Cloy- same thing. He's really grown this year as a player. Done an excellent job for us. And Chris Hairston - he's a good football player. He's got an NFL future if he continues to develop. He's as smart of a guy as we've seen on this team.
What about Ricky Sapp?
Swinney: I'm proud of Ricky because he's a humble player. He's hungry. He had a great off-season. He's well-coached and this is a great scheme for him. He's playing hard. He made a lot of hustle plays the other night. Ricky is so much to coach. I remember him as a freshman ... kind of a rough around the edges high maintenance kind of guy. He got voted captain. He's as low maintenance. When your hardest workers are your captains- that's a good combination. He's been all-in from day one. Comes to work, always smiles. Great future in front of him.
Do you tell your guys to ignore the premature congratulations.
Swinney: Well I tell them all the time to enjoy the journey. Enjoy the Tuesday practice. Enjoy the meeting. This team is coming to an end in the near future. I tell them all the time though don't believe the hype. Be careful of what you listen to. I tell them all the time, everybody is patting you on the back - don't listen to that either. Stay focused. Keep your eye on the prize. Don't ever get to low. Don't get to high. Stay focused. They are human beings - it's football focus and that's our job as coaches so when the time comes on Saturday they are ready to play mentally and physically.
Everybody talks about the high-profile kids leaving this program. Do you have a guy like a "Rudy" kind of guy that are rooting for Saturday?
Swinney: I got one, but he can't play. His name is Jess Bowers. Jess Bowers - I did a walk-on try out back in the spring. He couldn't workout because he didn't have his physical but he was the best looking guy so he made it. He's a senior so you only had one year and we needed good guys. He goes through all the summer and he gets through camp and they call and tell me he's ineligible to play. He's actually bounced around and was in a couple of movies- Radio and Leatherheads. I called him in because I wanted to talk to him because dressing out is what these guys live for. I told him I'm sorry that I wish I knew earlier and I told him he wasn't eligible. But it turns out he was 26 years old from Walhalla. I told him he could be in a jersey on the sidelines. He just smiled and grinned and took it in stride. That sucker- he's a defensive lineman. He's been there every day - all of camp. But Thomas Austin came to me and they said if they could all and take some of his travel money and pay for him to go the bowl game. I thought that was a very selfless act. We are checking into it. Tough camp guy. Got a couple of carries in the Coastal game. We have 17 seniors - most all have had chances to play.
Brad Scott said yesterday Thomas is getting ready to pass his leadership to Chris Hairston and the other guys. Is that important?
Swinney: I think so. Like Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper being around C.J. Spiller with how he works and how he practices. For Thomas to be around Matt Sanders and Cloy and these younger guys ... for them to see how Thomas has done things in the offseason when nobody is looking. Handling himself in meetings - it's a priceless tool to have within your team. Chris Chancellor- guys that have a lot of people looking at you who have had success.
It's not everyday you say goodbye to C.J., Jacoby, Thomas and those guys. Will that be your thoughts 30 minutes before game time having to deal with those emotions?
Swinney: We will honor our seniors. Each one will come down the hill on their own. I will greet them and take a picture with them, which is something we started last year. Then the team will come and meet them. But when we kick it off, let's go to work. It's already an emotional thing for me. I'm really close to a lot of these guys. This is why you coach. It's all about relationships. I've got Justin Smiley, who I recruited many many years ago- he's now starting guard for the Dolphins. He calls me or texts me. Every time you say good bye to your seniors, it's a hard day. We are going to miss them. Great group of guys.
Can you share some thoughts on Jacoby Ford?
Swinney: Just chatted with him a little bit yesterday. Special young man. I'm going to miss Jacoby. One of the most pleasant guys you could ever be around. Same way to coach. He always responds the right way. Always has. Just loves to play. Loves to work. Never been a problem for anything. Going to graduate in December and he loves Clemson. Loves it here. To see where he comes from, really not a good player as a wide receiver to being dominant. I'm just so proud of him. He's really grown into a great wide receiver and has a great future in football. I love tough guys and he's as tough as they come. Doesn't mind playing without the ball. He got a lot of votes for captain and has done a great job.
Do you have a favorite C.J. Spiller moment?
Swinney: When he said he was staying at Clemson. Standing in the back of that press conference and not knowing what really he was going to say and seeing him spea from the heart. We've had a lot of special moments together. Lot of laughs. Shed some tears together. Really proud of the man he is. He's a man. Just a great role model. Understands the platform that he has and really wants to use it the right way. Very deserving of everything.
You mentioned how Virginia will bunt their kickoffs or squib their kickoffs. What's the difference?
Swinney: A squib is where they kick it hard and it's a low liner and you don't know where it is going to go. It's not that far apart. If I kick it full speed at a line drive it's like playing dodge ball up front because you just don't know. A bunt ... you just kind of tap it and hope the guys go off their line too quick. It's an onside kick but not a hard one.
Who will handle your kicks this week?
Swinney: I don't know. We are going to let them compete all week. Both of them were perfect yesterday in team and individual. I'm concerned but hopefully we can kind of get them back mentally focused and back on their routine. We know they can kick. It's not like we haven't seen them do it. It's like a great shooter who's in a slump. You know he can do it he just needs to get back into the groove. Hopefully we get going on offense and it doesn't come down to a kick. We are in a situation where we have to let them compete. Off to a good start this week, though. They hit it as well yesterday as they did all year.
Dabo Swinney's Press Conference
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