Opening comments ...
Swinney: Hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving and gotten back on your diet routine and workout regimen. Real excited about playing for a championship. This is really what it is all about. When you start out on Aug. 3rd, this is what you start for. It's all about winning championships. That's why you do the offseason program and the weight training and the spring practices. Doesn't matter what league you are in, or what level of football, or what sport for that matter, it's all about trying to be a champion. I'm very proud of our team for earning the right to play for the championship. It hasn't been done around here in a long time. There's been a lot of players and several coaches to come through here in 18 years. It's a great opportunity for us. If you can consistently win this conference, you've got a chance to play in a BCS bowl. And if you start doing that, you get the opportunity at some point if things go right to play for a National Championship. It's a great opportunity for us.
And really, it comes down to four quarters. It's four quarters of football in this championship game. That's it. The team that takes care of the ball will win this game. It starts with great preparation this week and do the things that allowed us to get here. That's pay attention to detail, pay attention to detail and win matchups. We have to win the physical matchups. Do that and we'll have a chance to be successful.
Want to congratulate Georgia Tech. They've had a super year. They were 7-1 in their division and we are 6-2. They've gotten better as a football team and we've gotten better as a football team so it should be a classic matchup in Tampa with these two teams playing either other once again. We played all the way to the end the last time and most likely it will be that way again.
Offensively they are averaging 6.4 yards per play. They are averaging over five yards per rush. They are only averaging five completions per game, but over 24 yards per completion. So they get it in chunks. They do what they do - it's the dive, the pitch and the quarterback and then they throw one up on you. They'll throw you some curve balls. It's critical that they play critical and everybody does their job and tackle well.
Everybody has to rally to the ball. We have to have our eyes on the right keys and the reads. And then trust. But try not to give up the chunk plays. We gave up an 83 yarder, a 29 yarder, a 30-something yarder ... we can't give up those chunks.
The other side of the ball- they've been consistent. They have two or three nice blitz schemes that they try to keep you guessing. No. 91 - I think he was one of the best players we played all year. I voted him an All-American. He's the real deal. They've had a good year at linebacker. Their secondary is extremely solid. No. 1 has great instincts. They've rolled guys all year on the defensive line so they should be fine (after suffering an injury).
Looking forward to heading down to Tampa. The team will arrive down there in the 3 o'clock range (Friday). We'll have a walk-through and see the venue and head over to the hotel and get on with our normal Friday routine.
Looking forward to it and proud of our team.
Who runs your scout team this week as Nesbitt and Thomas and everybody else?
Swinney: Yes it is. It is a critical part of our preparation for our guys. Mike Wade is the quarterback this week. He did a great job the first time we played them running the option and running the scheme. He'll work at quarterback all week. We've got Bryce McNeal as No. 8. It's obviously a difficult thing to do. For us it's more of a normal type of preparation on the offense, because they are a traditional defense.
Will you look at moving Chris Hairston back to right tackle to work on Morgan like you did earlier this year?
Swinney: I think we have played very well at right tackle. Didn't play good Saturday. Didn't play well at all. But you have to look at the whole picture. Landon [Walker] has really come on and done a nice job. Obviously we have plan A, B, C, D and E if you need it. He's going to make some plays, you just hope to minimize his impact but we'll have several plans. Landon and David [Smith] have done an excellent job the second half of the season.
They are doing the same thing they've done all year ... correct?
Swinney: Oh yeah. They do what they do. They don't change a lot. He'll mix up a different way to block the same play. But when you pull it all back it's the same thing. They concentrate on excellent execution. That's the bottom line. They've had a lot of success. I don't anticipate seeing many changes.
Is it an advantage or disadvantage playing a team twice in the season?
Swinney: There are advantages, obviously. Especially early in the year when you aren't really sure. They had played Jacksonville State and we had played Middle Tennessee and we had a new defensive staff. It's an advantage that you can turn on the field and the guys you are coaching can see themselves against that team - again. So you can see how they played you and what the change was throughout the game and what the adjustments were. It's also a disadvantage because they are studying you and they are learning how you play them. They will throw a few curveballs at us. We had a new defensive staff and they weren't sure how we would play them on a short week.
Paul Johnson's offense works in the ACC. What does that say about him as a coach?
Swinney: I respect him because he does what he believes in. If you are going to be successful that's what you have to do. That's the bottom line as a coach. If you don't, it's not going to work. I give him a lot of credit because he's totally committed to his scheme. The proof is in the pudding as he's been extremely successful.
Why don't other teams switch to his given his success?
Swinney: It's recruiting. It all goes back to recruiting. Now a days you have to win the recruiting battles too. That's what it boils down to. He'll always be able to recruit to his system. He'll get the quarterback he needs. The running back he needs. My background isn't option football.
C.J. said he felt like they had a good practice
Swinney: Oh yeah. It's a very tough loss. No doubt about it. But you have to move on. This is a championship game. This is postseason play. When they crown the champion in the Super Bowl, but dog gone it, they lost to the Packers. It's all about winning and being a champion. Just like if you go undefeated and you lose it ... nobody cares. These guys pay a huge price. You never want to lose. You never try to lose. They pay a huge price when nobody is looking. They work their tail off all year long to play a championship. It's hard to win, first of all. Look around the country and see the coaches, the good coaches, without jobs right now. It's hard to win in college football. To win a championship is even harder. It's a hard thing to do. When you have the opportunity to be a part of it, it's pretty special. I started coaching 1993. We were in the SEC championship in '94, '96, '98, '99. These guys understand how special it is to play for a championship. They understand what it's all about.
What do you say to the people who say this game is diminished with Clemson and Georgia Tech both losing last weekend?
Swinney: I just laugh at that. It's the championship game of our conference. We beat South Carolina last year. Georgia Tech beat Georgia last year. It doesn't matter. When you play a team from this conference or the SEC, you better be ready to play. Teams from our conference had a lot of great wins this year. N.C. State just beat North Carolina and also beat Pitt. Pitt finished 10-2 this year. Wake Forest beat Stanford. FSU beat a 10-win BYU team this year. We didn't play very well and we are disappointed about it. Georgia Tech, I'm sure, feels like they didn't play well. And again, this is championship football. If you look at the ticket to this game - it says 12 teams, one game for the championship game.
Do you feel prophetic for talking about the fact that you would probably see Georgia Tech again this year after that Thursday night loss?
Swinney: Oh yeah. Real prophetic. If I was prophetic we'd be undefeated and in the Rose Bowl. So much for that. I'm just proud of my guys. Proud of our team. I can easily take myself back to that moment. A painful night. A very painful thing. To be in the locker room - but what I saw during the game and what I saw in the locker room at halftime and what I saw on the practice fields after that- I was just convinced this was a special group. I knew we had questions on offense and weren't very good but I was convinced we were doing the right things. I saw great ingredients for a special group. That's what has happened to these guys. We are disappointed we aren't undefeated, but we don't apologize for winning our division and doing it our way. We were a 2-3 team and we've gotten to do something no other Clemson team has done. Now we have a chance to be ACC Champions once again. Last time we did it the ACC was an eight team league.
Can you talk about Bobby Bowden and what is going on there?
Swinney: I know there is speculation he is retiring today. I think he should have the opportunity to do what is the best for him. If he feels like retiring is the best thing for him then we should celebrate him and honor him in the right way. He's a great football coach, but he's so much more than a great football coach. You couldn't line up enough people on I-10 or I-95 that he's impacted their lives. He and coach Paterno are amazing. It was in a Sports Illustrated. I wish him nothing but the best. It's a great great profession. You have a lot of opportunity to do a lot of great things in this profession, but there's a lot of bad things too.
Can you talk about their skill players?
Swinney: Dwyer, you watch him in his stance, he's almost falling forward and he's running downhill in a hurry. He's a fast guy and he's gone in a hurry. You have to win the physical matchups and clog it up so there aren't lanes. If he gets any kind of lane it's 10 yards easy. And plus he's hard to tackle. He's a great player. A durable player. He's been carrying a lot of the load. Nesbitt is outstanding and a great feel for this offense. The fakes- the carrying out of fakes. He's really good. He's a capable thrower. He made two huge plays against us to beat us. I think they were 3-of-14 on third down but two of them were monster plays. No. 18 is a heckuva a player. He's been an excellent pickup. The leading receiver, No. 8, has 44 catches. It's amazing. It's pretty easy to figure out where the ball is going, you just have to stop it.
You've scored 46 touchdowns this year while Georgia tech has 43 just rushing. What is that like to prepare for that kind of production?
Swinney: To be honest with you, at least you know they are one dimensional. Sometimes you aren't really sure what you are getting. You know what you are getting here. They aren't going to go four wides on us. You prepare for FSU, you know they can beat you either way. That's difficult from a preparation standpoint. These guys it's about execution because they can out-execute you in a heartbeat. They complete about five passes per game. You know what they do. They aren't trying to trick you ... they want you to line up and stop you.
You said you've developed a lot as a head coach since that Thursday night loss. How so?
Swinney: Staff meetings. Trying to be efficient with the coaches time. Our practice schedule. If you manage the schedule then you manage what all you can point in and what goes on your gameplan sheet. Again- it's just part of the growing process of what we need to practice and what we don't. How much time we need to spend on the field. How much time we spend in the meeting rooms.
Would you be in favor of a playoff?
Swinney: I'm not for a full-blown season's over last week and lets roll into the playoffs kind of deal. I'm not for that. I love the bowls. Love it. I would be for moving everything up and having all these bowl games on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2 and then have one game after that. You aren't really arguing who is the seventh and eighth place team. I think you could easily have one more game.
Do you think TCU could play with Alabama or Florida?
Swinney: Absolutely. They can play with anybody. I think we played them better than anybody has all year. I was prophetic with that. I'm telling you that quarterback is a good player. That's what they have. Plus a lot of veterans. Very good on defense. Balanced on offense.
As a prophet, can you predict any more illegal plays this week?
Swinney: No. Doug Rhodes told me if we had an illegal play he'd come down from the press box and flag it himself. I'm sure me and Paul (Johnson) will have a chuckle about that before the game. I will say this about Doug, because I respect him. We've had some difficult moments this year but he really wants to get it right. He holds people accountable. We turn things in every Sunday and by Tuesday we have a report. He does a teach tape every week. That's the approach he takes to this and he holds them accountable and then he grades them (the officials). Whoever grades out the highest at each position is how they select the officials. So it's a reward for them too.
With the contact period starting when will you send your coaches out on the road since you are playing in this game this week?
Swinney: We will get started Sunday. The most important thing we can do with recruiting is go win this ball game. There's just so little time. We talk to our recruits and we tell them that the only reason the other coaches aren't seeing you this week is because they aren't in the championship game. I promise you they'd all rather be where we are. We'll hit the road Sunday. We'll be wide open in our recruiting for the next few weeks of the contact period. We'll do home visits and I'll be able to get out on the road as well. Looking forward to that.
What happened with your interior defensive line play Saturday?
Swinney: We didn't play well. Jamie Cumbie played good. He was the one guy that brought it. Honestly, we didn't play well anywhere. Guys lining up wrong. Guys not playing with their eyes. Didn't play good. Didn't play smart. We didn't get blown off the ball or anything like that. Didn't play smart, gap-control football. You start lining up wrong, and doing the little things we had to do ... just as a whole not a good day.
Can you talk about Michael Palmer?
Swinney: He's just been tremendous. I'm happy he made first-team all-conference. I think he needs three more catches to set the single season record here for tight ends. I couldn't think of a more fitting guy. He's been very unselfish since the day he got here. He's a lot like Tyler Grisham was when he was here as far as work ethic. Michael was about a 220 pound tight end when he got here but played because he was so smart. Now he's about 260-plus guy. Just really developed into an outstanding player. He's good at everything else. I think he can play in the NFL. Probably won't wow anybody at a combine. And he's an excellent long snapper. Could be very good at it. That would give him another option at the next level.
What did Steve Spurrier say to you after the game Saturday?
Swinney: He was great. He made an interesting comment to me. He's been in enough of these rivalry games. Several of their coaches texted me after the game. He told me, "You know what? I lost to Florida State many times and then went and won the conference the next week. Go do it." I thought it was very encouraging. He didn't have to say that to me. I appreciated that.
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