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What we heard: Friday’s practice for the Fiesta Bowl

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, athletic director Dan Radakovich, President Jim Clements and members of the Fiesta Bowl Committee met with the media following Friday’s practice in Clemson.

Here is what we heard.

Swinney says practice is going well so far.

“We are not ready yet. We still have fifteen days, but we are starting to make the turn that we need to make,” Swinney said. “There is always a little bit of a process that you go through once you get them back and get them started.

“We have a plan that we believe in. This is the part that I like. We are getting to that point where we grind it up pretty good.”

Swinney says in a game like the Fiesta Bowl against a team like Ohio State, it is critical that they take care of the football and win the turnover battle.

“I think we are even (for the year) and the other teams are on that plus side so we are fortunate to be here because obviously we have had an enormous amount of turnovers in the early part of the year,” he said. “The last several weeks we have done a better job and hopefully, we can continue that trend.

“It is everybody. It’s not just the offense. It’s the defense getting turnovers, it’s about winning the margin and in a game like this, that’s critical.”

Former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was back in the orange and white on Friday as he helps the Tigers prepare for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett as the scout team quarterback. Boyd was in full pads on Friday and was wearing Barrett’s No. 16.

Boyd is a growing trend of former players in college football that have returned to their schools and within the NCAA rules can participate in practice as scout team players. Boyd, who obviously is very knowledgeable in the power spread, gives the Clemson defense a nice look at what they will see out of Barrett.

“He did a good job. There is a little different edge when he shows up,” Swinney said. “He has not practiced with us since the Florida State game, but we coaxed him out here. He has a lot going on. He is in The Nut Cracker this weekend. I just found that out so please somebody get some video of that. I need video evidence of that. It’s at the Peace Center.”

Swinney said Boyd is in play during practice and he can be tackled.

“We bounced him around a little bit,” the Clemson coach said.

Scott said he did not need to turn on the film of Ohio State to realize how talented its secondary is. Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator caught glimpses of the No. 3 Buckeyes while watching football during the regular season, and he knows exactly the type of challenge second-ranked Clemson will face against that group in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Dec. 31.

“Those guys, the corners and the safeties, they’ve got outstanding ball skills,” Scott said on Friday after Clemson’s practice. “A lot of the biggest times when you’re watching video where you go, ‘Wow. Look at that,’ it’s a guy making an unbelievable interception, one-hand grab, something like that.”

Swinney said he was not surprised by what happened at Wake Forest in regards to former Deacons’ radio analyst and coach Tommy Elrod giving opponents information and game plans over the last three seasons.

“Nothing shocks me. I have been doing this a long time. I mean, I have seen it all,” Swinney said. “I have seen people parked in parking decks. I have seen it all, and heard it all, so nothing really surprises me.”

On Friday, Louisville suspended offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway from the Citrus Bowl for accepting information from Elrod just before the Cardinals hosted Wake Forest last month. A Deacons’ equipment manager discovered play cards on the Wake sideline the day before the game, which turned out to be specific plays the Demon Deacons planned on running against the Cardinals. They were plays that had not been used before.

Louisville admitted early this week that Galloway had accepted Elrod’s information in their own investigation. Virginia Tech also came out and said a coach on the old coaching staff had accepted information as well when the Hokies played Wake Forest in 2014.

“It’s a shame. You want to feel like everybody in your group here is for you and not trying to hurt you in that regard,” Swinney said. “It’s one thing, and as coaches we all pick up the phone and call people that we know and say, ‘Hey, we play this team. What do you think about them? Is that guy a good player? Is he as fast as you thought?’

“You are always looking for every little scouting edge you can get when you are comparing, but getting the plays from the (opponent’s) camp, that is a different deal.”

Radakovich said he believes there is an ethical obligation by a school, team or coach to pick up the phone and say something. Of course, reports have indicated Clemson was not contacted by Elrod during the three seasons he was leaking information.

“In the ACC, we have sportsmanship rules that are there,” Radakovich said. “There is not one specific rule about this specific incident, but it is kind of covered up by the sportsmanship obligation. So when you get substantive information, and look, coaches all know each other … That’s not substantive. But if you get substantive information, I think there is an ethical obligation to report it.”

Radakovich confirmed he and Clemson President Clements have spoken to ACC commissioner John Swofford about Wakeyleak.

“It is something they are looking at right now and hopefully in the very near future they will be closing that loop.”

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