Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney held his first Sunday teleconference of the season as the Tigers prepare for Auburn. A transcript of the teleconference follows:
“It always takes more time to get to this game every year. It takes more time to get to that first game with almost a month of camp. All of a sudden once you get to that first game you have so much to do. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to try to get ready for that next one. It seems like they always go so fast. I am just really happy that it is finally game week and we get to look forward to actually having a game to play this weekend. And see where we are.
It is a long season and we have a lot of work in front of us. We have twelve Saturday’s that we are guaranteed. Our approach doesn’t change. We are going to try to win the opener. We want to get off to a good start.
It is going to take an incredible effort. To find a way to win at Auburn. I’ve been down there many times. It is as good of an environment as there is. Their fans always show up and it is always a highly contested game. It is usually a great one to watch. I have a lot of respect for Auburn. They have a lot of talent on that team. I know they are coming off a disappointing season last year, but if you really pull the curtain back and look at their games they really competed and had a chance to win several more games. It truly is a fine line, a play here or a play there.
We are coming off a great year and neither one of those things matter. This is about this season and these two teams. Somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose but I think both of these teams have opportunities to have excellent years.
We are just focused on trying to get a good plan and put our best foot forward together. We are excited about it and looking forward to traveling down there on Friday and getting this thing started.”
We are relatively healthy. We did lose Austin Bryant. That was a big loss for us. We have to have several guys step up and fill that void in a position where we were already thin losing some great players like Dodd and Shaq.
Chandler is doing great. He had a torn ACL and we have already repaired it. The road for his comeback started last week. It was disappointing for him but he will be better than ever. He did have the surgery. I believe it was Thursday.
Carlos Watkins is fine. He hasn’t missed any more practice. He is ready to go. He will be ready to go and he will start for us. I expect him to play very well.
Do you think Xavier Kelly could see the field at Auburn?
Nothing has really changed there as far as what our plan for him is. Right now we are going to get him ready and probably make a decision here on him in the near future as far as do we go ahead and burn his redshirt and play him and what not. That has not been made so baring a catastrophe or something we won’t play him this week. We are going to make that decision a little bit later and kind of evaluate where we are.
You haven’t played Auburn in four years. Do they look exactly the same as four years ago or do they look differently?
Well people always change. We look different. They look different because you have a bunch of different people. But Auburn is always Auburn in that you turn on the tape and they have dudes that can run and size and athleticism. They have been well coached for a long time. That part of it never changes.
What do you want to work on this week to get ready for Auburn?
We just cross the I’s and dot the T’s on our actual plan. You spend all of camp working on yourself and getting ready for your season. The last week you turn the page and really start focusing on an opponent. For us it is making sure the guys have a great understanding of what we are doing, why we are doing it and how their job impacts the play or the call or whatever. And just making sure that we are sound as we can be going into a very difficult challenge. Both teams have more time to prepare for this game than we do any other all year. There are a lot of unknowns. They have players we don’t know a lot about and we have players they don’t know a lot about. You don’t ever really know until you see a team for two or three games. You look at last year and you study tape. For us they have a new coordinator so we study a lot of LSU but those are different people running around. You try to get yourself ready to know what you are doing and be ready to apply it to anything you may see. There will be some unknowns.
We try to get guys to where they feel like they don’t have camp legs. I think our schedule has been good and we will continue that process this week and get them mentally and physically ready.
How difficult of a decision was it for you to let Kevin Steele go?
It was very difficult because I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Steele. He is a great football coach. He is a great man with a great family. I have a tremendous amount of respect for and love for.
Coach Steele was a huge part of us laying a foundation here in 09, 10 and 11. He helped us win our first ACC Championship in 20 years. I have a great respect for who he is and his work ethic and all of those things.
It is always difficult when there is a change. It was just a situation where I felt like he needed a change and I needed a change. That is kind of what happened.
That has nothing to do with how I feel about him as a man and as a coach. It is pretty obvious the type of respect people have for coach Steele. You don’t get jobs at place likes LSU, Alabama and places like Auburn if you’re not a heck of a coach and that is what he is.
Does he being out of work four or five years ago to being a coordinator again at a top program speak to that?
Absolutely. When we had a change here he still had three years left on his contract. That is the type of respect that we had for Kevin and I still have for Kevin. This guy has an incredible track record and background for many, many years. He has worked with some of the greatest programs and coaches around. You don’t have those types of jobs without having great respect for the coach.
Are there any guys that you need to have a really good week to take a next step on the depth chart?
I am not going to really get into that type of stuff. The guys know what they have to do and we are at a point now where we feel good about our two deep as far as a coaching staff, as far as where we are going to start. The next thing is we have to go see some game performance. There is just so much you can do in practice. The competitive part from a practice standpoint we don’t get much more of that this week as we really get them ready for this game. The next step is for some of these guys is lets go get some game performance.
What can you tell me about your memories of the last game you played at Auburn?
Well to be honest that was kind of the story of our season. We didn’t end up with a great record but I tell you what I knew that year that we were on the right track as far as the type of culture that we were building with our players. I thought that game was the epitome of it as far as how our season went.
We ended up losing five games by six points or less and two of them in overtime on the last play of the game.
I remember thinking it is one thing to see Cam Newton on film and another to see him in person. I knew we didn’t have enough. I think we were up 17 at one point and I knew we didn’t have enough. That is what great players do. I don’t think anybody really knew how good Cam Newton was. By the end of that year everybody knew.
It was a great environment. Auburn is never going to be out of it at home. You are kind of down when you get off the bus there. You have a lot to do. But our guys competed hard. It was a very physical game. I remember that and I remember we had a couple of opportunities to win it. We had a guy open in the endzone in overtime right before the kick and we don’t make the play. Then we make the kick in overtime but we flinch the ball and have to kick it again. Chandler Catanzaro was a freshman that year and that was kind of the story of his year too. He missed a lot of easy kicks but made a lot of long kicks. He went on to be the leading scorer in the history of our school.
It was just a tough game that night. I remember that locker room but it was just a part of our journey to be where we are. I am sure it will be as competitive this time. Hopefully we can find a way to come out on the right side of it this time.
What is your reaction to Auburn naming Sean White and likely losing a starting defensive back?
I don’t have any reaction to that. I am really just focused on our guys.