By Staff Report.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney met with the ACC media on Wednesday.
DABO SWINNEY: Thanks for having me back this week. Good to be back in action. It was a good open date for us, really like how our team has practiced and responded from our last outing, and the best part about it is we’ve been able to get a lot of guys healthy and just kind of recharge. Ready to get back going again. It’s senior day for us this weekend, and we’ve got a tough challenge here with Wake Forest. This is a very, very capable football team, very well coached, and we’ll have to really play well to be able to find a way to win this game. But with that, I’ll take whatever questions you have.
Q. Could you just talk about the progression of Brandon Thomas and just kind of what he’s done? It seemed like you were maybe a little down on him at the start of the year, but he’s certainly really put his stamp on that left guard position as the year has gone on.
DABO SWINNEY: Well, he’s done some good things. He’s still got a ways to go to really be what we think he’s capable of being. But very happy that he’s been able to get the time that he’s gotten this year. He stepped up for us in a big way when David got hurt early in the year. It’s provided us with some options in the OL as we’ve moved through the season. It’s created some depth. He’s done a good job. He’s probably been the most inconsistent, but he’s the sophomore and the rest of those guys are seniors with the exception of Dalton, who’s a fourth year junior and has started every game he’s played in. I’m proud of Brandon, but again, we are hoping for even more out of him as we continue to move forward.
Q. And what was maybe the biggest change or what was he able to do to kind of at least get that starting role?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, he’s a physical player. I mean, he’s got great athleticism and can run. We do a lot of pulling with our guards if you watch us play, and that’s something that is very natural for him. So just really did not have a great camp, but just didn’t pout, kept working to get better, and when he got his opportunity, he was ready, and that’s the thing that — that’s what I’m most proud of about him is he kept working and took advantage of the moment, and then he continued to battle and hold off David to get that starting job back, and that’s a credit to Brandon. But mostly just his physical play and just being a little bit more consistent is what’s kept him there, and then his athleticism has been a big part, as well.
Q. Wake was 3 and 9 last year and all of a sudden they’re a team standing in your way to win the Atlantic Division. How surprised are you just what a turnaround they’ve made this season?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, we were 6 and 7 last year, and we were a long way away from competing for the division. You know, that’s just college football. This is — they’re a good program, incredibly well coached, and if you look at their roster, they red shirt just about everybody. They were very young in some spots last year, and a lot of those guys are just growing up. They do a great job with teaching their system and developing guys within their program. They have a lot of pride in the program. So I’m not surprised at all. Wake is a team that can line up and beat anybody on any given day. I mean, these guys play hard, they play disciplined, they’re very rarely in the wrong place, and they usually do not beat themselves. I know they had a couple games where they’ve had some turnovers, but just a very solid program and football team. We’ll have to — we’re going to have to play well.
Q. What were you kind of really looking at doing during this bye week coming off that Georgia Tech game?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, first of all, especially with it being as late as it is in our season, 12, 13 weeks in a row here, the number one objective was we had seven or eight guys that were really beat up, that we just need to rest and just get them well. And then we had a bunch of other guys, too, that the toll of the banging and clanging for that amount of time, just bodies were wearing down. So just the backing off physically was the number one objective and just really focusing in back on the basics of what we do, I mean, really fundamentals, techniques, get back to here’s who we are, this is what we do and why we do it, and let’s really concentrate on ourselves for a couple days. We did some self-evaluating, obviously got a head start on our opponent Wake Forest. But it’s been really good. I think we achieved all our objectives, but for the most part we were able to have a good balance as far as how we practiced last week with also trying to achieve our objective of getting everybody some much-needed rest. The way they came back Monday, I could tell that they were really excited about finishing the season and certainly had a lot more bounce in their step than I had seen a couple weeks prior.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Dwayne Allen. I’m doing something on tight ends. I just wanted to talk a little bit about his production this year and what you’ve seen from him.
DABO SWINNEY: Well, he’s been tremendous. First of all, he’s been an excellent leader for us, but Dwayne is a rare guy at the tight end position. Tight ends are hard to find. They’re really hard to find as far as guys that have the whole package. You find a guy that catches the ball well but maybe struggles blocking or a guy that’s a real physical guy at the point of attack but he’s an average route runner or whatever, or maybe the size is not always what you want. But Dwayne really has everything you could possibly want in a tight end. He’s very physical and can block and likes to do it. And yet he’s got the athleticism of a wide out. He can stretch the field. He can put pressure on the safeties. And then he has great hands and body control. You see him going up and making plays and adjusting his body, and this is a 6’3½”, 6’4″, 255-, 260-pound athlete. So he’s just very unique as far as his combination of talents that he has for that position and takes a lot of pride in learning the game, takes a lot of pride in his performance and his execution. I mean, he is a perfectionist. That’s why he’s going to be a great player for many years to come. This is a guy that has an incredible future at his position.
Q. How complex do you think this defense is to learn, and do you think that’s maybe played a role because you had so many young guys at backup roles play on this defense?
DABO SWINNEY: Our defense is very complex. Certainly it’s not a simple scheme, that’s for sure. There’s a lot of things that these guys got to know from a coverage standpoint, and it’s all got to be tied together. And when all 11 guys are doing their job, it’s pretty good. But all of a sudden you’ve got two or three that don’t, then you’ve got the potential for some problems, unless you’re just so dominant — and I don’t think we’re a dominant defense right now. We’ve been dominant at times, but mostly inconsistent, and again, that kind of goes back to what I said before the season. But I think we’re on the right track. I like how we’ve practiced the last couple weeks. I think that we’ve gotten back to just some basic stuff. You know, another thing, too, you see so many different things defensively. This week you’re looking at this, the next week you’re looking at that, and there’s a lot of variety, if you will, with the offensive schemes that our defense plays against. You know, but our coaches have done a good job. It is frustrating when you see guys make mistakes, especially with things that you’ve worked on. You’ve seen them do it right. But that’s all part of the process, and we’ve just got to keep working through it.