Swinney: "Going to be huge, huge challenge"

Dec 31, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney reacts as he watches warmups before the 2015 CFP Semifinal against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believes the Tigers will have a huge challenge Saturday night when No. 3 Louisville visits Death Valley.

A transcript of Dabo’s teleconference with the ACC follows:



Opening Statement

DABO SWINNEY: Good morning. First of all, proud of our team and the fact that they fought really hard last week on a short week to get a big win in Atlanta. You know, we’re where we hoped to be at this point, but as we get into division play this week, we’ve got our biggest challenge to date. This is an outstanding football team that we’re getting ready to play, playing as good as any team in the country, that is for sure. But we’re looking forward to it. Big challenge, and glad to be at home and have the opportunity to host Gameday and all that stuff. Always adds a lot of excitement for our fans. But at the end of the day, it’s a division game and a huge opportunity for both teams. I like the mindset of our guys, and everybody understands what we’ve got to do to give ourselves a chance to win this game. Should be a very competitive game but one that we’re looking forward to. 8:22 kickoff Saturday night, should be a great night for football in the Valley.

Q. You’ve probably been asked this a million times, but what kind of head coach would Brent make, and why don’t you think he’s a head coach by now?

DABO SWINNEY: I think he’s a great coach. I think he’d be a great head coach. I think there’s a bunch of guys on this staff that I think would be great head coaches and will be great head coaches at some point. But I can’t answer that. I’m sure he’s had — I know he’s had opportunities to be a head coach, but I just don’t think the right opportunity has come along that he’s wanted for whatever reason. You know, I think he’d be outstanding. He’s got everything to me that you need to be successful.

Q. Is there anything to I guess AD’s want to hire offensive guys in general; does that work against a guy like him?

DABO SWINNEY: It shouldn’t. You’d ask to have the AD’s. I’m not an AD, but it shouldn’t. I think a great football coach is a great football coach, period, whether you’re a coordinator or not a coordinator or a defensive guy or an offensive guy. Those aren’t really the things that measure whether or not you’re going to be a good head coach.

Q. To take a look at Lamar Jackson the past few games, what you can say about going up against him from what you’ve seen on film?

DABO SWINNEY: Going to be a huge, huge challenge, as big a challenge as we’ve had around here. I mean, he’s a great player, capable of impacting the game on any snap. He’s one of those guys, as I say, he’s one of them hold-your-breath guys when he touches it, and when you’re in this business, you come along those guys along the way, you’ll come across a few of those type guys, and he’s definitely one of them. When he touches the ball, you hold your breath because he’s got the ability to change the game or impact the game on one play.

And for him being a quarterback, he’s got kind of a lot of options because he can run it, he can create more opportunities for other people because he’s such a threat of running it, and then he can throw the football. You know, the play action that they have is very difficult because of the threat of their running game. This team is averaging 7.8 yards a rush, so it’s a big, big challenge and a great player and a great competitor. That’s one thing that I will say just watching him on tape, this kid will compete. I always have great respect for guys that compete with every ounce of what they have, and that’s what I’ve seen in him.

Really good player, one we’re looking forward to competing against, and we’re going to have our hands full in trying to slow him down.

Q. Staying on Lamar Jackson, he doesn’t have as much experience as like Justin Thomas or certainly other quarterbacks out there. Does that play into the game plan as far as just trying to give him different looks that maybe he hasn’t seen before?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, I’m not going to get into, again, specifics of a game plan and what we’re going to try to do. I don’t think that’s very smart to really discuss and talk about, but I think that at the end of the day, he’s a sophomore, he played quite a bit last year, and ended up being the guy and did great in the bowl game and all that stuff. He’s got as much experience as our guy had last year, probably more than Deshaun had as a sophomore, because Deshaun missed half the year. So I think he’s got plenty of experience.

Q. From your defensive guys, have you sensed a bit of just a confidence about them? Certainly a few of them were — they say, hey, listen, this is the No. 3 defense in the country and they don’t seem to like all the talk about Louisville’s offense.

DABO SWINNEY: No, we don’t sit around and talk about all that stuff. We’re very structured in what we do. We have our meetings. We study the opponent, and we focus on what we’ve got to do to give ourselves a chance to win and what we’ve got to do to be able to affect or stop or slow down, whatever it is, that opponent does, and that’s what we focus on. We don’t get focused on all that other stuff.

Q. As you watch Lamar Jackson on tape, in what ways does he seem better to you or how can you explain what he’s doing now as opposed to when you saw him in person or on tape early last season?

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, well, we played them I think the third game, and he was a freshman. They had a couple of veteran quarterbacks, and Coach Petrino was trying to sort through that, and there’s only so much you can do with a freshman to kind of get him up to speed. I think they knew they had a tremendous prospect on their hands, and we saw that, too, with the tape.

But he just didn’t have a full grasp of everything, and they had other guys maybe early on that maybe they felt like, okay, gives us a better chance to win from a complete package standpoint. So I think that was the biggest thing early on. But as I said the other day, that sorted itself out pretty quick, and as he got more and more confident through his reps and his practice and the opportunities that he did get, the game slowed down for him. By the end of the year, he was playing at a really high level, making great plays. You watch what he did against Texas A&M, shoot, he’s a good player. Really good player. That was the biggest thing, just last year early on, he was just inexperienced, and now he’s got great experience to draw on. Just like our guy, he played as a freshman and ended up getting hurt, but he came back and played against South Carolina. But last year was night and day, just because of his experience from that freshman year, and that’s what you’re seeing with Lamar. He’s not a rookie anymore. He’s a guy that’s played and played in big games and big moments, so his confidence has taken off and the game has slowed down for him because of it.

Q. Four games into the season, what stands out to you the most? What’s impressed you the most about your defense and maybe your confidence in their ability to stop him perhaps this week?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, just our consistency in preparation. I really am pleased with — we’ve had a couple of lapses in the first four games but not a lot. I mean, these guys have been very consistent with their performance, and especially their preparation. That’s the thing that I’ve been really, really pleased with. This is a fun group to coach. I think they’re a close group. They’ve got good chemistry. And then probably the other thing is we just — to this point, we have not given up the amount of big plays that we had given up last year. Even though we finished in the top 10 defensively, we were near the bottom of the country in big plays allowed. People get a lot of big plays. Now, they’d have a hard time scoring, but we gave up a lot of big plays last year, and so far through four games, we’ve done a good job of minimizing that.

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