Dabo Swinney Press Conference

CLEMSON - Head coach Dabo Swinney met with the media Tuesday to preview the Music City Bowl.

Opening statement
Swinney: It's good to get back on to the field today. Kind of chomping at the bit to get back to work. We had a really good team meeting last week. We addressed some things. Just finished up finals. These guys have had a lot on them. Been under the gun. Had a slow start to finish the season. I felt like they all needed a couple of days off, depending on when finals were. They seemed much more fresh today and refocused. We had a little bit more of your typical Monday practice. We had a little more condition than normal. These next 12 days are important. We have one objective: to win the football game. I thought we got off to a good start today to accomplish that objective. We got all of our younger guys a good start on spring practice.

Kentucky is your typical SEC team. They'll play though, hard for four quarters. They won't give you anything. They had some tough losses and some big wins. We'll have to play a high level--much better than we have as a team the past couple of ball games for us to win. Looking on defense, in particular, they're good inside. No. 91 is a first-day NFL pick. Offensively, you have to know where 18 is. He's there go to guy. I think he's second in rushing and first in receiving. He's got a bunch of touchdowns. They like to play in the wildcat formation to get him touches. We'll have to be well prepared defensively and know where he is. 20 is a good player. Their quarterback is a freshman. I think Hartline is practicing. There's a little bit of an unknown there. I think we've got everything ready to go. There's a lot of work between now and then.

Last time you played Kentucky, it was not a great experience. How much do you use that to drive this team?
Swinney: Our senior group is pretty much the main guys who were in that game. That's what bowl games are--matchups that don't happen a lot. You usually refer to the last time we played them. They're aware we got embarrassed last time we went to Nashville. We'll have to do a better job. Kentucky will bring a lot of fans. It's almost like a home game. We'll have to be highly focused. It'll be a hostile environment from that perspective. Hopefully, we'll have a lot of fans there. We don't spend a lot of time talking about four years ago.

How key is it finish on a high note?
Swinney: You want to create momentum for you off-season. Everyone is going to finish, it's a choice of how you finish. Finishing the game would be very meaningful in creating what we want to do for next year.

What's the most important step in avoiding it like the 2006 game?
Swinney: How you practice and meet. The sense of urgency. Get what you demand--that's what I've told the coaches. We're going to demand excellence and flat get after it in practice. We're going to put the gear on tomorrow and get after it. It's going to be a hum-dinger. It'll be that way the next day and the next day. Communicate to each other. Make sure that we have calls that are right and have a high level of execution. If we can run the football, stop the run, and win the turnover margin, we're going to win. The past couple of games, we haven't done that. I pay a lot of attention to the turnover margin. We're running the ball pretty good, but did not play well against the run the last couple of ball games. Offensively, turning it over leads to be a negative in the turnover margin. Every point matters in game like the ACC Championships. They came back to work today. I'm pleased with this group.

How much work will C.J. get?
Swinney: His best game was Wake Forest. He had a break. We'll try to have him as close to 100 percent by game time. You've got to let it rest. This is a good thing for us.

What will you put out there to get these guys to play?
Swinney: It's the next game. These guys are motivated to play well. It's a nationally televised game. It's a time to put the last stroke on this picture and finish on a positive note. You can create momentum for the off-season. It's nothing more than that. You just want to win the game.

How much did work with the jayvees help Kyle last year in the bowl practice. How will this help Tajh Body?
Swinney: It was tremendously helpfully. He hadn't done a skele. Tajh has gotten three times the amount of work since he's been here and Kyle was here a whole spring ahead. This will be very important for Tajh and the rest of these guys to get ahead in spring practice. It's fun to work with these guys with all the other guys off the field and coaching them up. Tomorrow will open it up. We'll do some one on one and crossover with the linebackers, running backs, defensive ends, a little skele--they're having to learn our terminology. They've been scout team.

Is it reasonable to think Tajh will push Kyle for playing time?
Swinney: You have to compete. There's no guarantees at any position. Kyle's had a good freshman year. Nobody cares about that next year. Every year you have to earn your position, especially when you're a young player. I don't think anything is out of the realm of possibility. Last year, if you told me Rod McDowell would beat out C.J. Spiller, I would say probably not.

What have you said to Willy?
Swinney:He's a first class guy. He's a good player and wants to be the guy. He's looking for a different opportunity for himself. He's had some tough breaks. He's handled everything in a class way. I've asked him to come out in the spring and give us another arm. He needs to keep himself sharp and we could use him. Nobody has worked harder than Willy Korn. Nobody has sacrificed more than Willy.

How do you approach practice on Christmas
Swinney: This is a business trip. Yea, you'd rather be home on Christmas. That's not the way it is. You make the best out of whatever situation you have. We're going to have a great time. The 24th, we're going to have a big Christmas Eve dinner and party. I think the seniors are performing. We'll have entertainment. It'll be a special night. This is family too. We spend more time with each other than our families. We'll be doing it a hotel. On Christmas Day, we'll have a chapel service, a nice brunch and we'll go to practice. You've got to remind these guys they're fortunate to do what they do. You only get to be a college athlete one night. Christmas night, we're going to the Titans Chargers game. If you're an athlete that kind of comes with it. You've got to embrace it.

Have there been any personnel changes?
Swinney: There have not been any. It's the same starters right now.

Have you started thinking about life after Palmer, Austin, Spiller?
Swinney: It's all about personnel. Always has been and always will be. You've got to have good players. That's how it is in college football. There will be another great tight end, running back, wide out, another great linebacker--whatever. That's what makes it fun. Guys who don't turn out to be great don't. Guys who you think will don't pan out the way you hoped. I'm excited about next year. We've got a lot of guys back and a lot of experience at key positions.

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