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They really understand the process they have in place on a weekly basis. It's a daily focus on what we want to accomplish. North Texas- there's a lot of unknowns with North Texas. If you study them a little bit - they had four straight conference titles from 2001-04. There is tradition there and they have resources. They have junior college guys sprinkled throughout the team so there are some unknowns there. And when you study them from last year, the first thing you look at is there record, and it's not very good, but of their losses six of them were by a total of 24 points and four of those they had the lead in the fourth quarter. What that tells me is that this is a bunch that is capable. They've got some good players on this team - a couple of guys that we'd like to have to be honest with you.
There are always unknown in a opener but it's really more about Clemson. It's about us. How we play and how we prepare. Offensively they've been very good - school record 4,900 plus yards. Over the last three years- it's been the best three year offensive production in school history. They know what they are doing on that side of the ball for sure. Coach Dodd has stepped aside and brought in the offensive coordinator from South Florida. So for us, you've got North Texas with a head coach with an offensive background, now you have study South Florida. There's a lot of things you have to prepare for. They have some experience coming back on the offensive line with four out of five coming back next year. No. 5 - he's a ball player. 19 touchdowns last year, 1,400 yards rushing. He showed his speed in the Alabama game last year. He can really run. If he gets to the open field he's capable of big plays.
They have a couple of guys banged up at wide outs- No. 15 and No. 19. but both can play.
Defensively, 10 of 11 guys they are starting have all started at least three games. No. 23, a junior college guy gets a start at corner. They have big bodied guys. Kind of like what we practice against. From a scheme standpoint, they are very sound in what they do. They play a lot of different offenses on film. Every single week they are sound in what they do. They've got good answers to the questions for sure.
But this is about us. Hopefully this is a team that will show up Saturday and be ready to play. This is one of 12. I think the guys are really working towards being game ready by the time we kick it off at 3:35. We are looking for good execution- how are these guys carrying things over from the practice fields. Yesterday's practice - hopefully that's a good indication of how we'll play Saturday. A lot of focus and very few busts. That's what you are looking at. Like I told my players, you have to be students of the game. Knowing your technique. Knowing your opponent. Really being a student of the game and hopefully we'll be a smarter football team this year.
Our first goal is to win the opener and we've got that opportunity Saturday at 3:35.
WHAT IS YOUR IDENTITY THIS YEAR?
Swinney: Last year's team was three or four guys that was the heart and soul of the team offensively - Jacoby, C.J., Michael Palmer - those were probably the three main forces. This year- we'll be a much more balanced team as far as production. You may see one guy - Jamie Harper or Andre Ellington both rush for over 100 yards or one guy goes for a lot. Same things at wide receivers. You are going to see some guys this year have career games. It's not going to take much for that to happen because most of them are young guys. Dye and Ashe have had some moments from time to time. It's a more evenly distributed offense. I don't know we have a guy that is as explosive as C.J. Spiller but not many people do.
WHAT ABOUT THE WIDE RECEIVERS?
Swinney: I feel good. I just base things on what I see in practice. It's really never been any different since I got here. The first year we had huge numbers at wide out with Derrick Hamilton and Kevin Youngblood and everybody was saying Airese Currie couldn't be the guy. Then he lead the league in catching. Then we had a guy named [Curtis] Baham after him then Stuckey. He was back to back all-conference. Then when Stuckey left, well, we surely don't have anybody now. Then we had this guy named Kelly and Grisham. Then they left. Then Jacoby couldn't be the No. 1 guy. Seven years we've had a wide out make first or second-team All-Conference.
All those players- they listen to what you say. All I can tell you is that we've got good players. They are young, and they will make mistakes but I think we have really good talent. It's been kind of fun to be honest with you because it's been extremely competitive. The guy I hope is ready to seize the moment is Marquan [Jones]. He and Brandon Clear have had two good camps. Hopefully we'll see that on game day. But I don't think we have anybody right now that has separated above the other. At practice they've all been consistent. I think Jaron Brown has a chance to be special. Same thing with Bryce McNeal. Also Nuke Hopkins. They practice hard and they are tough. Now they got to go do it.
ARE WE MAKING TOO MUCH OF THE LOSSES ON OFFENSE?
Swinney: That's the nature of college football. If you sit around and worry about what you don't have, you lose focus of what you do have. You are going to have young players from time to time you have to survive with. We lost a bunch of players last year like Cullen Harper, James Davis, Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham and we had to start over in some spots. Some people questioned my sanity on how we would use C.J. You just have to go with your gut and your instincts. But college football- that's what is awesome about it - every four years somebody is leaving. You have to take what you got and make the best of it. I like our players. Until I see us play a couple of times it's hard to truly have a gauge of where we are. We have the ingredients of a good football team.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DWAYNE ALLEN AND MICHAEL PALMER?
Swinney: Dwayne is just way more explosive and talented as a sophomore. Michael Palmer- he was such a student of the game from the time when he got here. I think as a sophomore, Dwayne is a lot stronger and a lot more physical. Palmer was never as big as Dwayne Allen is today. So he's ahead from a physical standpoint. He's done a great job.
BYRON MAXWELL SAID THIS TEAM'S PERSONALITY IS LIKE YOURS. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT?
Swinney: I just want our team to be tough, hard-nosed and do things with class. I hope that they have a personality as a team that plays with passion and playing hard. A team that gives great effort. When people watch this team, I hope they say, 'gosh they play hard.'
DO YOU THINK THESE FIRST TWO GAMES WILL PREPARE YOU ENOUGH FOR AUBURN?
Swinney: We don't overlook anybody. When you only have 12 Saturdays. La.-Monroe beat Alabama. App. State beat Michigan. When you start overlooking people you get beat. We aren't going into anything thinking it's not going to be a challenge. We focus on ourself, giving great effort and technique. If we can focus on that formula for success every single day hopefully the scoreboard is going to take care of itself. But yes, if we get opportunity to play young guys we will. It's great for morale. It's great for depth. But we are coming in with guns blazing like it's the biggest game of the year because it is.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CATMAN?
Swinney: He's 80-something percent. It's what he made in camp. He's kicked from everywhere. We've tried everything- different holders, different snappers, different groups. Everybody has had equal opportunities and he flat out won the job and it wasn't even close. Here's a young guy who is not played yet. I'm sure he'll be pretty nervous for the first time when he runs out there and kicks it through the uprights. Extremely focused young man. He's about his job all the time and he's dialed in every time I see him. I'm glad he took advantage of his redshirt year. Gotten stronger. He's been extremely consistent. If he's anywhere close to what he's done in practice, he'll lead the country. I expect him to get off to a good start.
SPECIAL TEAMS- HAVE THEY BECOME MORE IMPORTANT?
Swinney: We put a lot of emphasis on special teams. You can win games and lose games and try to choose to win games with special teams. We do a lot of stuff with the staff when it come to that. We don't just talk it, we walk it. We believe in our routine as far as how we game plan and install things. We use our best players. Coach Powell gets first pick- whoever it is- doesn't matter. The players will tell you- if you are on that punt team that's the most important play of the game. There's not many offensive plays where you are going to get 40 yards. If a guy doesn't have that mentality you have to get him off. You have to be sold out on special teams. If you break it down, it's 25 to 35 snaps in a ball game. That's a lot of plays. So, we've got great emphasis from week to week and we do that. Coach Powell does a great job coordinating that and we've got a lot of eyes helping him out.
LAST YEAR YOUR AVERAGE STARTING POSITION WAS THE 37 YARD LINE. DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY THAT IT MAY NOT BE AS GOOD THIS YEAR WITH THE LOSS OF SPILLER IN THE RETURN GAME?
Swinney: C.J. was awesome. Jacoby was awesome. But there were a lot of times they weren't even touched. There were some great blocking. That's a credit to the other 10 guys out there. We work hard in our return blocking and our protection. I think Marcus Gilchrist is going to be outstanding. We may not lead the country with four kick returns for touchdowns. You get a guy like Spiller and you give him a little crease and he can take it the distance. The biggest thing offensively, regardless of field position, is we have to move the chains and pick up first downs.
WHO ELSE WILL WE SEE IN THE RETURN GAME?
Swinney: You'll see Jaron Brown, Bryce McNeal, Marcus Gilchrist and Hot Rod. Andre Ellington has done some deep returns on kick returns. Nuke Hopkins - you could see him on punt return situations. Right now we are going into it think Marcus is going to be our guy. He's pretty excited that C.J. and Jacoby are gone. He's anxious to show he's a pretty good player as well.
WILL YOU SCRIPT PLAYS FOR TAJH BOYD?
Swinney: We are going in to try and do anything we got to do to win the football game. Tajh is a guy, for obvious reasons, other than the fact that we think he's going to be a great player, we have to do whatever we can to get him as much experience as possible because we feel like he's the future of the program. We have to get him ready to play. Watching him learn how to game plan. Learn how to prepare to be the starter. We'll have him ready and get him ready for every opportunity we can. When the season is over we need to feel like No. 10 is a whole different dude because of his experience obviously.
THERE USED TO BE A GUY AROUND HERE THAT WOULD AUCTION OFF THE FIRST PLAY OF THE GAME. DO YOU DO THAT?
Swinney: Not that I know of. (laughing) No auctioning off.
WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF PRESEASON FOOTBALL IN COLLEGE?
Swinney: Yes that would be great. I know what we have on both sides of the ball and we start learning each other and then we become smarter at what the other side does (because we know what's coming). I think it would be good. That's why NFL teams do it. They have preseason games and would spend a couple of days practicing with other teams. I think it would a great thing. High school - they have jamborees. They scrimmage other teams before they really kick it off.