By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Coach Swinney met with the media on Friday to discuss both the Tigers 2011 ACC Championship season and also the news of Kevin Steele leaving the program as Defensive Coordinator.
“First of all everyone knows that we’re going to have a change in our Defensive Coordinator position,” Swinney said. “Coach Steele is a friend and Coach Steele has done a tremendous job here over the past three years and has made an incredible impact on myself and on our student athletes on and off the field. He’s a great example to me as a father and husband and I’m thankful to have had three years with him. We sat down and evaluated where we were and made a decision that was best for everyone involved. We agreed that a change was the best thing for the staff as far as where we were at the time. This frees him up to pursue other opportunities because he does have other opportunities. I got a call the day after the Orange Bowl so this allows him to pursue those things and for us to move forward and continue to be the best that we can be.”
As for the Orange Bowl, Swinney didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about that as he wanted to be able to move on from the game and onto the 2012 season.
“It was really a poor performance but as I step back from it, you can’t let the disappointment from a terrible night let us lose sight of our accomplishments of a very special season,” Swinney said. “We did some great things with a roster that had 42 freshmen. We’re just proud of our football team, had an opportunity to meet with them last night and we’ve just made great progress.”
“This team wasn’t perfect we didn’t accomplish all of our goals, there’s certainly a lot that we need to work on during the off season however this is a team that will go down in Clemson football history and wont be forgotten for a very long time.”
“Our standard is the best and right now that’s what we are,” Swinney said. “There isn’t a single undefeated team in this league, there’s one National champion and there’s one ACC Champion. It’s been a long time since Clemson’s entered the season as the defending ACC Champion and we’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way. I’m very proud to have accomplished all that we have in the past three years, you can’t lose sight of that. We’ve got to take the next step though and the next for us is to become a consistent winner. We’ve got to continue to put the foundation in place, we have a good one in place, have solid ground to stand on here. I have no doubt that this team can become that dominant team that this conference needs. That‘s our goal to become that type of team”
“I’m excited about where we are, we have 8 midyears that are enrolling at school here,” Swinney said. “5 that are already here and two that are coming this weekend and another here next week. We should definitely have 7 of the 8 here by the end of the weekend, I’m very excited about those guys.”
How much did the Orange Bowl effect the decision to part ways with Coach Steele?
“Not a lot,” Swinney said. “And I don’t anticipate any other coaches moving around as there’s been rumors to. I love my staff, unless someone takes a job somewhere I think they’re all pretty happy here. Good players and resources.”
Was Steele given an opportunity to remain on staff at a lower capacity?
“No and again Kevin is a very professional guy, understands the business and knew that a change was the best move for the program. I gave him my thoughts and he gave me mine, and we resolved that a change was best. It’s perfectly okay for two people to sit down and agree to disagree, we parted ways. The change was due to philosophical differences. We both agreed that change was good, you can write what you want. He didn’t resign, we just both agreed that the change was needed and will honor his contract. It was also the best for us. I didn’t want to fire him because I didn’t think he deserved to be fired, but we couldn’t resolve the philosophical issues we had and change was the best option. I have already contacted some possible coaches but I will not tell you their names.”
Swinney did not say what type of coach he was looking for but said that Clemson’s defense will continue to be aggressive and physical and that he hopes to definitely have a replacement for Steele by National Signing Day if not before.
As for rumors of Strength and Conditioning coach Joey Batson and Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell leaving the program, Swinney said that was not the case.
“That’s a joke, see that’s the problem is crap like that I don’t know where some of this stuff comes from, people have no clue when they make these statements,” Swinney said. “Joey Batson is as good a Strength coach as there is in the country. I have no idea where this comes from, he’s the most underappreciated person in the game. If he wasn’t a championship caliber guy though he wouldn’t be here. I don’t know where these people get this garbage. That guy is as good as there is and the way he handles our players every day, he’s the reason why we don’t have a lot of crap at Clemson with our players is because of the respect that they have for him. He is incredibly loyal and has a pulse for this team. The problem with the internet is that people have their own agendas that’s why I don’t read any of it. It’s the devil’s playground for a lot of people. I met with Coach Gruden and his exact comment was that our guys were lean, physical and looked good. He said that he hadn’t seen many programs with guys that look like ours. For people to create their own agenda, they don‘t know what they‘re talking about it‘s as simple as that.”
“I don’t know anything about the issues between Coach Caldwell and Chad either, give me a break man.” Swinney said. “Robbie Caldwell is a great coach, and we’re lucky to have him along with everyone else on this staff. If you can’t get along with Chad Morris you have a problem and if you can’t get along with Robbie Caldwell then you REALLY have a problem.”
As for the five signees out of the 2012 class who are already on campus, Swinney couldn’t be more excited about them.
“Well we’ll start with Jay Guillermo, I’m very excited about him. The best part about these guys is that have a bunch of linemen coming in. It’s a huge blessing to have them here in January and go through Spring Ball it’s like them being able to get red shirted. Guillermo is a high rated guy, he’s been committed a long time same with DeStefano, he’s a winner, brings the right kind of mentality into your program. Incredibly tough and smart, wakes up every day thinking about football. Same thing about Oliver Jones, he’s getting healthy again after knee surgery, they’ve got size, athleticism, quickness. Zac Brooks is the top player in Arkansas, dynamic, fast, right at 6 foot 2, I think he’s going to be a 215 to 220 guy a guy I’m very excited about. He catches the ball very well and we can use him in many ways. And Pinion he’s the best punter out there, he’s going to come in and make an immediate impact, the ball explodes off of his foot.”