By Trey McCurry.
Coming off two tough losses to top-15 teams, Clemson (2-2) makes its first trip to Chapel Hill since 2002 to face a tough North Carolina (2-2) team. “We are trying to get back on track in conference play. It is a big opportunity for us. We lost one at home, now we need to go get one back on the road.”
“North Carolina is very talented. They may have a few guys out, but they still have very good talented players. T.J. Yates has gotten better every year. He only has one interception and is already over 1,000 yards this season. They have a very veteran offensive line. Their skill players are as good as we have seen all year. Johnny White is as good a back as we have seen all year. He is just a tough, physical back. Joshua Adams, Jheranie Boyd, and Erik Highsmith are good, big wide receivers. They like to throw the deep ball and use a lot of play action. They also do a good job of getting the ball to the tight end.”
“They want to run the ball so we have to stop the run. They will do a lot with power and the zone where they will bring it an extra guy. It creates some conflicts for you as far as your reads. If we can stop the run and make them one dimensional, it will be key.”
“Defensively, Quinton Coples is an outstanding player. He has played end and tackle. They have a bunch of first-day NFL picks at linebacker and safety. They are big and can run and keep them in the game. One safety returned last week and had a pick-6, and they have another one coming back this week. For us, we have to run the ball effectively, especially on first down. We have to take care of the ball. We went from #7 in to nation to turnovers to #51 in just one game.”
Looking back on Swinney’s time as the head coach at Clemson, he has always faced some adversity. When asked about how he handles that, Swinney had a great response. “You just get back up and be honest. You make sure everyone understands the reality and not the perception. The truth is we lost two games to very good teams and had good opportunities to win both. Our job is to learn from it, get that fixed, and get better. Life is about adversity. The choice you make when adversity comes it what matters. Some people get bitter, point fingers, or quit. I am not a quitter; I’m a winner. I always have been. For us, we have hope. I look at some teams, and they just are not very good. We are a talented team and have hope. Our guys have shown up and we just have to make sure we don’t lose sight of all the good. We do a lot of good things. We play hard for four quarters. We are going to get better and we still have a long way to go. We control our own destiny in the conference and that’s the main thing.”
A main topic of concern going into this week’s game at North Carolina has been the wide receiver core. “This week the reps will be different. It will be more of a heavy four-man with the reps. We aren’t giving up on anyone, we will need all of them sometime this year. The four guys will be Nuke, Bryce, Jaron, and Marquan. They will be the main core.”
Defensively, Clemson has very talented players, yet seem to have had consistent problems this year. Tuesday, Swinney addressed that issue. “I am disappointed. Our problems on D have been uncontested big plays. We know what the problems are and we will get it fixed. The bottom line is that we will. When you play good teams and make simple mistakes, it will cost you and it cost us against Miami (FL) big time. We have played some great defense. They only had 100 yards and three points in the second half Saturday. The games turns on four or five plays and it was really just busts.”
Closing, Swinney was again asked how last year’s team and adversity compares to where this year’s team is at this point. “This is a different team. We haven’t laid an egg like last year at Maryland. This team has shown up and played like you need to beat good teams. We just have self-inflicted wounds. We are good enough. We don’t have to play perfect; we just have to play our game. If we stay the course, we will win plenty of games.”
Clemson’s last two trips to Chapel Hill have resulted in big Tiger wins and this year and this team look to continue that trend as Clemson tries to get on track and get to Charlotte for this year’s ACC Championship game.