By Staff Report.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney participated in the ACC Teleconference on Wednesday.
COACH SWINNEY: Good to be with you guys again this week. For us, we’re getting ready to play another really good football team and a Top 10 team. This time we’ve got to go on the road. This is going to be a game we’re going to have to really play very well to have a chance to win. Virginia Tech is, in my opinion, the best team in this league and they’ve earned that and they’ve got the best coach in this league, and he’s earned that. It’s a great environment they have, and we’re going to have to do a great job in managing that environment, taking care of the football, and playing with a lot of discipline and poise. But looking forward to going on the road and seeing how we perform and finding out a little bit more about our football team.
Q. As much as you pointed out the hard part is only starting for you guys. I’m just wondering, I know the schedule is laid out in advance and it’s really something the coaches have no control over. But your coastal division opponents are Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina, and FSU’s are Miami, Virginia, and Duke. Even though you’ve beaten them, it looks like they’ve got a pretty good inside track as far as scheduling goes to get back in this thing.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, as you said, we don’t have any control over scheduling, and that’s hit or miss every year as far as where teams are and how they’re doing and all that kind of stuff. But we just go and play the ones that we’ve got and take them one at a time. At the end of the year, somebody’s going to be in Charlotte.
Right now we’re in the driver’s seat, and we’ve just got to continue to stay focused on our business. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, we’ll be the ones representing this division. But it’s way to early to be worried about that. We’ve got a lot of work to do the rest of the way.
Q. How much progress did you see specifically from the defense in that Florida State game?
COACH SWINNEY: I thought we made a lot of progress. We didn’t have any critical errors, missed assignments in that game. We did a much better job with being in our gaps. But the biggest improvement is we tackled better. We were really poor the first few games, so it was good to see us tackle better.
We had a couple of really key stops with some one on one tackles. That was good to see. We did a better job in coverage. We had a couple of busts, but we turned a couple of guys loose. We still gave up three or four big plays, which is the biggest area of concern. Where their guy made a play on our guy, and we’ve got to win more of those match-ups. But I thought we had really good improvement. We’re not even close to what we want to be defensively but we are making progress, and it’s still early in the season, and they found a way to make some key plays and we’ve got to continue to do that.
Q. I’m curious. It’s a bit of a juggernaut so far this season, and I wonder if it reflects any change in your philosophies. I know you’ve had some changes in your overall approach to it. But what are your thoughts about the responsibility for calling plays? Do you leave it entirely to your offensive coordinator? If you could share your philosophy on that, I’d appreciate it.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, it’s really not any different than it’s been since I’ve been the head coach. You know, I trust both my coordinators. They do a great job. My background is as an offensive guy. From an X and O standpoint, I’m always a little more involved offensively just because of my background. I would say most head coaches are that way, whichever side of the ball they kind of came up in. Chad calls the plays, and we talked through things all the time, between series, halftime, sometimes during a series. But he has done a tremendous job in running our offense. But all of the coaches, everybody has input, and we try to have as many eyes on the right things as possible to gather as much information as we can so that we can do a good job of calling plays. The big part in our offense is we have to have good play calls, but the tempo we want to play at, the execution of the play, the decision making. Because sometimes we’ve got two or three things going on in a play, so we don’t really know what’s going to happen.
A lot of it is decisions by the quarterback. That’s been one of the bright spots on our team. Tajh has done a great job in making good decisions from an execution standpoint of the play that’s been called.
Q. Quick follow-up if I may. Your background when you were an assistant, you say you lean offensively. Is it hard for you — I know it can get confusing on the head sets as well. Is it hard to have to bite your tongue when things get really excited? You said sometimes you do talk about play calling during a series.
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, no, no, no. We’ve got a — I’ve been doing this a long time. First of all, we’ve got great chemistry on our staff. I go back and forth. I’m with the offense during offense, but I’m over on the defensive side during defense, and trying to keep up. There’s always a flow that you want your play caller to have you don’t ever want to interrupt that. Sometimes as a head coach, there is input that he needs as far as strategy, what we want to do, those type of things. That’s about it, but, no, it’s not any chaos or anything like that.
Q. Update on where you are with Nuke and maybe Howard and Dawson?
COACH SWINNEY: Again, as I said yesterday, I think all of them are probable at this point. Dawson has been doing some light punting. I think we’ll increase that a little bit today. I think we did some light, not full speed running with Nuke yesterday. We’ll push him a little more today. But D.J. looks pretty good. He’s going to be put back into practice today, which is good, as far as doing everything. We’ll still limit Nuke and Dawson today, but, again, my anticipation is by 6:00 Saturday night they’re going to be feeling like they’re ready to go. It’s getting better each day. It’s just one of those things that takes time.
Q. We know how great Tajh Boyd is doing in your offense now, but what was he like in the spring?
COACH SWINNEY: He was outstanding in the spring. He didn’t have a great spring game, and a lot of people tried to make a big deal out of that. But he had 14 really good practices in spring game. Got a diluted team and a diluted offensive line. We have 30-something guys that are on the team now that weren’t here in the spring, signees and all that stuff. From a knowledge standpoint, I was very pleased with how he picked things up. Tajh really grew as a football player last year. He really did as far as his knowledge of the game, preparation, those type of things. He started last January in really preparing himself to be not just the starting quarterback, but to be a great leader on the team. He set a great example with his daily work ethic and his commitment. Then with Chad coming in here and starting from scratch, I think it was great because we were able to build it from the ground up. So he got better all through spring. But it’s what he did after the spring. He went back through all of those practices and all of the installation and over and over and over this summer. He’s always throwing a ball, he’s always watching tape. The challenge for him to come back, a much better player at the beginning of camp than he was at the end of spring, and he did that. That’s why you’re seeing him have the success that he’s having right now.