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Swinney: "NC State Is A Big Challenge For Us"

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney discussed NC State on the ACC's weekly teleconference.

Opening Statement:
We're excited about being home and having homecoming here in the Valley. Proud of our guys for how they played up in Boston. It was a long trip up there and back, but really I thought played our best game of the year.

NC State is a big challenge for us, veteran team. I think 17 starters back, definitely the most experienced and complete team that I think Coach Doeren has had, and they're undefeated in the league just like we are, so both of us are tied for first place in the division, and both teams want to stay in control of their destiny, so this is a huge game, big challenge for both teams, and we're looking forward to playing these guys.

Offensively they're a very good team, scoring 34 points a game, very impressed with their quarterback that's transferred in, outstanding back who's ranked nationally. They've got, I think, one of the best players in the country in the Samuels kid. They're athletic and physical up front, big tight ends and speed at receiver.

Defensively they're eighth in the country in total defense, so they're playing very well, and again, a lot of seniors and juniors on defense, so I think the experience is paying off for those guys. Very, very good defensive front.

And then special teams, they hurt us last year. No. 7 is a very dangerous returner, fast, and same thing with 13. Their punter leads the league, so this is a really good team that we're going to be facing on Saturday, and for us it's just trying to continue to find a way to win each and every week, and to do that this week we're going to have to continue to improve.

With that, I'll take your questions.

 I wanted to ask you about Leggett the tight end. It seems like you guys have effectively used him downfield as much as any tight end in the league. Can you talk about his development and what you expect from him?
Yeah, he's just been a guy that came in here and has gotten better each and every year, has really worked hard. His first two years -- he was a receiver in high school, so it was kind of a transition to tight end. Ended up playing as a freshman and wasn't a very physical guy as far as doing the things we needed at tight end early on and had to develop physically, and the mentality that you have to have, and it's been a steady progression for him.

He kind of put it all together last year as a junior, and he was a finalist for the Mackey Award, had a great year, and he worked really hard in the off-season to continue to improve in some areas that he needed to improve in, from a playing without the ball standpoint, and he's about 260 pounds, he's long, he can run, and he just -- he's just got a great feel for what he's doing.

Again, last year's experience was big for him, and he's just kind of picked up where he left off and is a real weapon for us. We use him in a lot of different ways.

But everybody notices him when he's catching the ball, but where I'm proud of him is he's made a lot of improvement, like I say, without the ball in his hands, which is what we needed.

 And staying on the tight end theme, the guy you're going to face, Jaylen Samuels, I know they call him a tight end but he sometimes lines up as a fullback or a slotback, just the problems he presents.
Well, as you said, they use him in so many different ways. I don't really know what he is, either, other than he is a football player. That's what he is. He can play a lot of positions. Can probably go over and play on defense very well, too. He's just a dynamic guy, can play running back, tight end, receiver, you name it, and they get him the ball so many different ways, which is not like he's just sitting back there at running back or lining up as a receiver. They're creative in how they use him. He's their lead scorer and lead receiver and a guy that can do a lot of good things when he gets it in his hands. We've got to know where he is.

He does a great job without the ball, too. He's a good blocker. He's just a really good football player and just from a measurable standpoint -- it's like, well, he's not really a tight end and not necessarily just a fullback or tailback or receiver, he's really a hybrid and combination of all those things.

Can you get anything out of the film from last week at that quagmire in Raleigh with Notre Dame and NC State?
Not much. Not much.

It looks like if a player's head pops back now, it's automatically being called targeting like it was with Boulware against BC. Are you seeing it the same way?
I think they're erring on the side of caution and throwing the flag whenever, I guess, maybe they see a violent hit just to look at it and make sure that it wasn't targeting. And I think for the most part, the review has gotten the call correct but there have been some instances that I've seen where I immediately knew when I saw it that that is not targeting, and then the biggest disappointment was the review didn't get it right, either, or the replay.

But I think that's been the minimum. I think the frustration that maybe some people have is they see it clear and the call is made, and then the replay reverses it, but I think that's the way it's supposed to work. I think they're erring on the side of caution, and the only issue I have is when the replay doesn't quite get it right in my opinion. But I don't think that's -- I think that's been minimal instances. For the most part I think they've gotten it right just like they did with Ben. I knew immediately that that wasn't targeting. I didn't need to have a replay. I was more frustrated that it got called, but it's just like you said, I'm not sure he -- I think it was a bang-bang play, and they're just erring on the side of caution. That's really it.

What's the main challenge that NC State provides on offense and defense for you?
Well, I think their offense, they're doing a good job with the balance of what they do. Their quarterback is playing very well. They've got a new offensive coordinator and a quarterback that transferred in with him. They both came from Boise.

The quarterback has thrown zero interceptions. He's fourth in the country in completion percentage, nine touchdowns, and again, no interceptions, and then they've got a running back that's 16th in the country in rushing. He's averaging almost six yards a carry, 100 per game. So I think they've got a really good system.

They have very good complementary plays that come off of what they do best, and then they've got great experience. They've got nine starters back on the offensive side.

They've got good speed, and they've added a little bit of size to their receiving corps this year, and then over on the defensive side, I think this is an excellent defensive front. I think this group and Auburn are the two best defensive lines that we've probably played. They're active. They do a good job getting after the quarterback. Same thing; they've got eight starters back. They've got good experience. They're all seniors and juniors. So it's a really solid team.

And then their punter leads the league. They've got a returner that took 100 yards against us last year. Just a dangerous team all the way around and a team we're going to have to really play well in all three phases.

I know coaches at all levels are reluctant to release injury information, and I was wondering, in your experience over the years, have you seen opposing teams target certain players that they know are injured, maybe even target body parts?
I have not. I haven't really -- I know maybe that's happened, but I really haven't had much experience with that at all.

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