Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says the Clemson-Florida State game is always a special one to be a part of and he believes Saturday’s 8 p.m. showdown in Tallahassee, Florida will be just as special when No. 3 Clemson visits the 14th-ranked Seminoles.
Below is a transcript of Swinney’s conversation with media on Wednesday as part of the ACC Coaches’ Teleconference.
COACH SWINNEY: We’re coming off a good break, and really like the mentality of our team. I thought the break was really good for our guys. We’ve had an excellent week of practice to this point. We are probably as healthy as we’ve been in a long time, and excited about a huge challenge down in Tallahassee.
This is a great football team. You know, Top-12 team that is capable of beating anybody in the country, and you know, just got a lot of respect, always have, for Florida State. Always incredibly well-coached and skilled players everywhere, always good in the trenches. It’s just really kind of the same old story with Florida State year-in and year-out. And Clemson-Florida State, it’s a special game to be a part of always. Hard-fought game by both teams and I think both teams have a lot of respect for each other.
It’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere, tough place to win. We haven’t won down there in a long time, and a lot of people have had a hard time winning down there. It’s a great environment and their crowd does a good job, but again, for us, just looking forward to getting back and playing. We’ve got five weeks left.
It seems like the season has flown by and each and every opportunity is a special moment and looking forward to, again, getting back out there and continuing our journey for this year this weekend.
Q. It’s been a long time since Clemson and Florida State have bye weeks before they played each other. Does that basically even the playing field?
COACH SWINNEY: You know, it seemed like we had one other time where we both had a bye week, but I really can’t remember to be honest with you.
You know, I think that it just gives both teams the opportunity to get a little fresher and be at their best. I think that’s probably about it. But if you’ve got somebody dinged up, an opportunity to get them healthy, and things like that.
But you know, it will be regardless of whether you have an open date or not, Clemson and Florida State line up and play, you’re going to get the best, there’s just no question about it. Everybody wants to play well on both sides and understands that you don’t have a big margin for error in a game like this.
Q. In watching the NC State game, it seemed like the defensive line was stemming more than normal the entire game. Was that a game plan or was Coach Venables just sticking with what was working?
COACH SWINNEY: We have a game plan. We usually move quite a bit defensively. We’re in and out of different fronts and we’ll shift alignments and things like that. But we did a good job. We only gave up one touchdown defensively.
Biggest disappointment of that game, obviously the turnovers, which especially not scoring inside the five, which allowed the opponent to hang around in the game, and they did a good job. I thought they ran the ball; it’s probably the worst we’ve done against the run in that game. But give them some credit, as well. It was all part of the game plan.
Q. Is it possible for someone who has not played or coached college football to understand the bond that exists between players and coaches?
COACH SWINNEY: I think that’s hard. If you haven’t coached or played or been a manager or trainer and been in that locker room, it would be hard to understand; or played some type of team sport where you’ve had to really sacrifice and work together as a team. I think it’s definitely a special experience when you get to be a part of it.
Q. Gerard Parker, the interim coach at Purdue, made it a point to say that you had reached out to him after last week. Just your thought process behind reaching out to him and kind of what were you telling him?
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, we just, you know, he actually obviously was put in a unique situation.
He actually sent me a text message, I guess maybe on Friday. I made a point to watch the game Saturday and then had an opportunity to call him. I can’t remember if I called him Sunday or Monday. But I had a chance to call him and visit with him and talk to him about, you know, just my thoughts on their game.
I’ve never met him, but certainly kindred spirits, if you will. He’s by trade a receiver coach, and we had a great conversation. Just really tried to give him some insight into my experience here and some of the things that I felt like, you know, were necessary and some of the things that you’ve got to do to give yourself a chance, and to also tell him to enjoy the moment.
So we talked about a lot of different things. Not going to get into our conversation, but it was a good coverings, good chat, and I wish those guys nothing but the best.
Again, it’s a difficult situation, and you know, hopefully they can finish strong, find a way to win some games, but more importantly, one of the things I talked to him about was don’t focus on the scoreboard, don’t focus on the results. Just you’ve got to change how they think, how they play and you’ve got to get them to buy into something that’s bigger than the scoreboard.
You know, especially those guys that are on their way out of there, and try to sow some good seeds and build a foundation for what it’s going to look like eight years from now or seven years from now, regardless of whether he’s the coach there or somebody else is in there. Make the most of this opportunity and feel good about it once you get done.
So we talked a lot about a lot of things like that, and some football stuff, as well. But it was a good conversation. Again, never met him, but wish him nothing but the best.
Q. Because there are the parallels, does that kind of take you back to 2008 a little bit?
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. That’s a difficult situation. Especially when you’re a young coach. I mean, I was 38. He’s 35, I think he said. You know, you go from — you’re a young coach, and you go from one of them to now you’re the leader of them. None of those guys came there for you as the head coach.
So there’s just a lot of moving parts and a lot of dynamics and a lot of things that you can’t control and things haven’t been good and that’s why you get put in that situation. Definitely some parallels.
And again, I hopefully gave him some good insight and hopefully they can find a way to win a game or two and that those kids can finish on a positive note.
Q. You’ve beaten Florida State seven times at Clemson but only once down there at Tallahassee. How much of an impact does beating Florida State have on recruiting, and is there an incremental impact on beating them in Tallahassee?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, there’s probably not many coaches out there that got a lot of wins in Tallahassee, that’s for sure. It’s a tough place. Tough place to play, and they usually got pretty good players that take a lot of pride in their performance.
It’s a place we definitely have had opportunities to win, but you’ve got to finish. You’ve got to make the plays to win the game when they present themselves, especially when you’re on the road against a really good team.
Heck, I don’t know that we’d been down there where they haven’t been ranked. They are usually always ranked Top-10, Top-5, Top 15, whatever. It’s pretty hard to go on the road and beat a highly-ranked team like that.
As far as recruiting, I’ve never bought into, oh, one game makes, decides or recruits mine. I don’t think it comes down to that. I think your consistency as a program, the people of the program, the direction of the program, the academic success, the culture, all of those things are ultimately what I think guys make decisions on, on what’s best for them. I don’t necessarily think that, oh, if this team wins, I’m going here.
Somebody’s going to win Saturday night and somebody is going to lose and guess what, ain’t nothing going to change for Florida State or Clemson. If we beat Florida State, they are still Florida State, and they are still going to have the Top-10, Top-5 recruiting, because it’s a great place, got a bunch of good coaches down there. They have had a great tradition, and it’s the same thing here. If we win, it’s not going to make us have a better class and if we get beat, it’s not going to make us have less of a class.
We have a good, solid program with a good foundation, and that’s why we’ve been able to have the consistency, and Florida State is the same. They are one of the top programs in the country year-in and year-out, and again, got a lot of respect for them. But we’re just focused on trying to win the game.
Q. Quick update on Austin Bryant? How close is he?
COACH SWINNEY: Close, yeah. He’s best he’s been I think since camp. Sure is good to have him back.
Q. How important is it going to be for you guys to establish the run in this game and maybe just be a little bit more effective with that against Florida State?
COACH SWINNEY: I just think it depends on how they play us. We didn’t run the ball great against NC State, but we threw for 400 yards. I think we’re an offense that we’re going to take what you give us. We love to have balance in what we do, and it’s for us always a priority to try to be able to establish the run game, because everything else kind of flows off of that.
So it’s a huge priority and very important, but they are very good. They are, shoot, it’s probably two best D-tackles we’ve played. These guys are stout. They do a great job at end. 44 I think is a great football player. They are a good group.
We definitely want to try to run the football and stay patient with that, but sometimes the game dictates different things and sometimes we want to move the ball. Sometimes you get into these games and sometimes our runs turn into passes. Y’all don’t know that and the media don’t know that; y’all just see passes. But it’s things that are built within our system that happen.
Ultimately, the objective is to move the ball and to have first downs and finish those drives. That’s what we have to do a better job of is finishing the drives. Now our last game, we had four trips in the red zone and zero points, three inside the five for zero points.
So that’s the main thing is finishing those drives and doing a better job of taking care of that football. So I think if we do that, then the rest of it will come together like we want.
Q. An update on Wayne Gallman; was he able to do everything last night?
COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, practiced every rep.
Q. And plan going forward rest of the week?
COACH SWINNEY: For who?
Q. For Wayne.
COACH SWINNEY: He’s practicing every day. Practices every rep. The plan is for him to practice. He’s good. He’s ready to go.
Q. You’ve got Wilkins and Boulware; how important are they to your overall success?
COACH SWINNEY: I mean, they are very important. You have great players, to be successful, it takes certainly there’s a lot of great coaches out there that do a phenomenal job of coaching but maybe they are not just quite as talented. But that doesn’t make them any less of a coach.
But I think for us, and the success that we’ve had, I think we’ve got a bunch of good coaches here, and the credit goes to the players. We’ve had some great players like Shaq, like Boulware, that are just blue-collar guys that buy in, provide great leadership, and you know, are sold out to be the best they can be.
And again, buying into the philosophy of the program, and I think that’s critical when you have guys of that type of calibre, that type of talent, that lead and provide the type of leadership that you need for the rest of your team, because that’s how you establish your culture.
Ultimately the culture is what really drives everything in the program. So they have been huge, huge parts of that, along with a bunch of other guys.