Wednesday Dabo Swinney interview

CLEMSON – Head Coach Dabo Swinney talks about Wednesday's controlled scrimmage, looks ahead to Saturday's spring game and more.

WEDNESDAY: It was a great way to finish spring practice. The best day by far for the offense. It was very crisp, execution was outstanding—made a lot of big plays. Kyle Parker had a tremendous day. Brandon Clear had a couple of touchdowns—great catches. Bryce McNeal had a big day. He had about a 60-yard bomb touchdown catch. Marquan (Jones) had a big day. Terrance Ashe did a nice job. No. 8 and 23, both had really big days. Ellington had a long touchdown run. It all goes back to those guys up front. We finished strong as a unit today. Those guys were looking pretty good. It was a great way to finish for them, for them to break the last pads practice with some confidence, as a unit. Tomorrow night, we'll split the team up and that's the last time they'll be together as a group until the fall, when we get back. Our first group up front on defense did some good things, as well. We mixed and matched. I thought Spencer Benton and (Chandler) Catanzaro kicked the ball well today. Dawson (Zimmerman) punted well. It was a good way to finished up on a Wednesday practice.

ACHIEVING THE SPRING GOAL: The objective was to hopefully become a smarter team and understanding our concepts and systems on both sides, being able to focus on technique and fundamentals and not as much as what you're doing, but getting better at how to do it because your understanding is much further along. That's pretty evident that we were able to accomplish that at a lot of positions. Defensively, I thought we they had a great spring. Offensively, with a freshman quarterback, you can only kind of go at his pace. It's been slower than I would want. It's all new for him, but we've got a lot of veterans around him. He's had to kind of jump there, kind of jump up there where they are—a little inconsistency from time to time. Overall, I'm pleased with our first groups on both sides and some of the depth at particular areas. We've got to have a big summer. A lot of these guys have to make huge strides this summer. That's really where they should make their big strides, now that they've been through a spring. They've gotten film and understand the teaching behind the concepts—go work it all summer, study it and come back to camp being a better football player. That'll be the challenge. I'll meet with all the players next week and address each one of them individually on where they are and what they need to do to get better—their roles and so forth. I'll sit down with all of the players. Overall, it's been a good spring. I feel a lot better about Richard Jackson, although he didn't have a great day today. He's really been consistent all spring. Dawson has punted the ball well all spring. That was a big area of concern for me—just looking for consistency. They've both been consistent. It's been good. I think we've identified some guys that have a chance to be in the return game for us. That was a big area for concern and building the foundation for the fall.

CONCERN ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH : Always, the biggest thing there, I still feel so much better right now than I did last year, just because I really feel good about the first five. I really feel like we can line up and go play and we're going to get Mason (Cloy) back. I feel good about him too. We're coming out of it with six guys that I'm very confident can play winning football for us. Last spring, we went into the spring with two guys who had a lot to prove coming into the fall. I feel good about where we are. I think Phillip Price made a lot of progress this spring. He needs a big summer. I think Brandon Thomas made a lot of progress this spring. He needs a big summer. Those are two critical guys for us, to be able to have some roles, as far as us being able to be the type of dominant offensive line want to be. Matt (Sanders) and Kalon (Davis), hopefully those guys are going to continue to come along as well. Two that need to have big, big summers, that's Brandon and Price.

BIGGEST GAIN THIS SPRING: Somebody asked me that the other day. I said David Smith, if I had to throw out one guy. He's just solidified us up front. He's got a chance, if he'll stay on the path he's on, to be a great player—a dominant player…I can't imagine him not being in our best five, based on what I saw this spring.

INJURIES: (Ben) Ramsey's been out. He's going to be OK—it's an MCL, kind of like what (Chris) Hairston had during the season. That's another veteran guy that we can get some work out of. He's very smart, knows what he's doing. Cloy has been out, but he's on the mend. He's gotten some work this spring, gotten some team work. He's got to have another team summer to get healthy and 100 percent. The biggest injury is (Wilson) Norris. That's probably going to be something that's going to keep him out the rest of the season. Scotty Cooper is the other one that has just been the real frustrating one. We haven't been able to get him out this spring. He's been out for a while with that tear in his groin. We'll get him back too. He'll be a factor for us.

RETURN SPECIALISTS: (DeAndre McDaniel) is a guy that we're definitely looking at (punt returner). He's got great ball skills. He certainly could be a guy that we might slip back there from time to time. A lot of times we'll have two guys back there. I'm pleased with what I've seen out of Marcus Gilchrist. I think Bryce McNeal is going to be a factor. He's more a punt return kind of guy now. It's the same thing with Jaron Brown. It's all punts. Marcus is also going to be a kick return guy. Same thing with Jaron (Brown), as well. Ellington and Harper are some guys that we've put back there as well. Marcus will be our key guy.

SPRING GAME: We split the team. We're pretty thin as it is. You put Harper on that team and Ellington on that team. You tell Rod (McDowell) he's going to play on both teams every third series. We'll be pretty vanilla. I just want to see them compete. Line up and compete. It doesn't matter what you're doing. Line up and compete and play some football. It's still throwing and catching and tackling. I hope it will be a great day for our fans. It is on TV all summer. You've got to spend a little bit of time getting ready for it because you don't want to look like the village idiot running out there. Now, you split the team, substitutions…I'll give them some time tomorrow night to get their game plans together. It'll be a fun day. I really hope we have a great crowd. It's going to be a great weekend here. Hopefully, we can win the baseball game against Georgia tongith nd kickoff the rest of the week. I'm awful excited about Friday night. Our ball, hopefully it's a great turn out. There are a few ticket still available…I hope Saturday is just a great day to be a Clemson Tiger. Come out, enjoy this beautiful campus, all that it offers. We've got a lot of former players coming back that will be around for our flag game, just meeting our fans. I hope that people will come out and enjoy it. Let's get 40,000. Let's show up. When they show this thing on TV this spring, let's show that Clemson is serious about some football, even if it's in the spring.

PICKING SIDES: We split the team on Tuesday. I've split the staff. They don't know how I've split it yet. We'll do it tomorrow. They'll flip a coin and they get to pick the team. Not knowing what team they get, they have to divide the two teams pretty evenly, because they don't know what two they're going to get. We split the teams as even as we can. The teams are already split. The coaches know what the teams are, but they don't know what team they're on and what staff they're on. I'll unveil that tomorrow. Flip a coin, and the head coach of the team that wins it has got to decide which team it wants to be. Top Stories