Dabo's Corner - Georgia Tech

Dabo's Corner - Georgia Tech


Dabo's Corner - Georgia Tech


Heath Bradley

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney previewed the game with Georgia Tech in his Tuesday press conference.



Opening Statement

“We’ve got another big challenge this week for Georgia tech. This is a rivalry game. It’s always, always a tough game. We’ve had some knockdown drag-outs with these guys, and we haven’t won them much lately. This is a big game for us. It’s a big game for Georgia Tech. They’ve had two overtime losses. I’m sure they’re disappointed with how they played last week. Listen, we’ll get their A game. This is a team that took Miami to the last play of the game. They took Virginia Tech to the last play at their place. This is a team that’s capable of playing and beating anybody. Heck, last year, we were 8-0 feeling fat and pretty. We’re going to have to play really well to win the game. The big thing is it’s really good to be at home. We’ve played three of our five games on the road. I didn’t even know this until last night on the radio show, but Don was telling me that seven of our last nine have been away from home. I really want to challenge our crowd. The best environment in college football this Saturday needs to be here in Clemson. I’m telling you, the energy from the Valley is awesome. Our players feed off that. Looking at Georgia Tech, offensively, they’re a veteran offensive line. They know what they’re doing up front. But it all starts with the quarterback. 13 killed us last year. He set every record in the book against us last year. He’s also leading the nation in touchdowns by a quarterback. He is a very dangerous player. Their A backs, 25 and 17, are dangerous players. He’s a fast guy. He’s got four of the top 20 longest plays in Georgia Tech history. He’s one of the few guys out there who’s rushed for over 100 and returned for over 100. He leads the ACC, and I think he leads the nation or at least the FBS, in yards per carry. They always seem to have a 6’4” or 6’5” guy. They’ve got two of them. They’ll play action you, and you’ve got to be able to win those one-on-one matchups. You have to do a good job of leveraging the ball. This is a game defensively where, if you look at the game last year, we’ve got guys in position but they don’t make the play. Playing with great discipline is something we’re going to have to do in order to make plays and create turnovers. They’ll cut you inside; they’ll cut down the perimeter. That’s something we’ve really got to work hard on in practice. We’re going to go live in practice, live everywhere. Defensively, they run a three-man front. Because of their scheme, we’ll have a lot of individual blocks. I think they’re going to get 45 back this week. He’s a very good football player. I can’t pronounce his last name, but I know that he can play. I think the secondary is their strength. They have a lot of veterans that have played a lot of ball. Ball security, in a game like this is huge. Offensively, you have to maximize your opportunities, because they are in four-down territory all game. That’s just who they are. So we have to maximize our opportunities. That’s a recipe for disaster. Georgia Tech has forced nine turnovers this year and has scored eight touchdowns off of them, so they cash in. In special teams, again, they have dangerous returners. 17 and 14 are guys that are involved. All those guys are capable of hitting big plays. It’s a challenge for us and a team that we have not had much success against. That’s what I’m looking for, and it all starts with today, just trying to win today and have a good day of practice.”

On players getting bored on defense:

“Maybe that’s not the right word, but guys need to just do their job. That’s not his job. His job is to take the quarterback. When you do that, you have major issues because they always have numbers. You have to play with great discipline every single play over and over until the game is done. They live off the big play. That’s how they’ve beaten us. They have had some huge plays and turnovers. Everybody has to do their responsibility and you’ve got to win some one-on-one matchups. You’ve got to maximize their opportunities.”

On using Andre Ellington on kickoff returns:

“We’re going to try to. He’s been working it all camp. We’re pretty confident in Sammy Watkins. I think everybody saw the other night that Andre is just a natural. He’s just gifted. That’s why he was our special teams player of the game. The field position he created was just huge.”

On how discipline differs against Georgia Tech:

“This is different because it’s always assignment football, but when you’re playing conventional teams, you’re running what you’ll be running all year long. The thing about the option is that they spread you all the way across the field. That’s not how most people play. It’s still that everybody has a job to do.”

On whether the defense is prepared for the Tech offense:

“We’re going to find out Saturday. We made significant improvement in the second half at Boston. We won one-on-one matchups. We played more confidently. Outside of a couple of guys, we tackled better. That was improvement. This is a challenge for them. Most of the guys out there haven’t played against these guys. Simulating in practice what you’ll see from Georgia Tech is very hard to do. We’re going to challenge them, we’re going to coach them up, and then they have to go and execute. It’s not taxing mentally.”

On the play of the offensive line:

“After five games, I’d say that the arrow is way up by that group, for sure. I didn’t think we played great up there. IN the first half, I thought we were average as grits. In the second half, we played much better. That was disappointing to have one-on-one blocks we didn’t finish. Our offensive lineman of the week was David Beasley. He was awesome. He must have loved the cold weather up there or something. Brandon Thomas played well too, but we know what Brandon Thomas can do. We know what Dalton can do. We know what Shatley can do. Shatley is like a veteran now. Giff had his worst game up at Boston, but he’s solid. I was pleased to see Reid go in there and get a few snaps. I’m very encouraged with our offensive line.”

On return of Sammy Watkins to practice:

“He looked great. You’d never know three or four days earlier he was being rushed to the hospital. That was a crazy situation. As they kind of explained it to me, it was the perfect storm. The next thing you know, his kidneys are reacting to it and it’s all out of whack. That’s kind of what they said. It was kind of a perfect storm. He’s back at it and had a good day yesterday and he’s ready to go.”

“They’re pretty confident of what it was and why it happened.

Offensive game plan heading into GT:

“It all comes down to execution. It’s about us more than them, us doing our job and taking care of the football and running the ball effectively. We’re confident in our offense’s abilities, but we felt good going into the game last year as far as how we matched up. They outplayed us. We put the ball on the ground, and the next thing you know, bam bam bam. I think they scored the first five times they touched the ball. We actually won the second half, but we just got too far down. All of a sudden everything changes. We weren’t quite as patient as we needed to be and we forced some things and made mistakes. It all comes down to us and how we play and execution. I think we’ve got good people, we’ve got a great quarterback, and we’ve got great skill. As long as we do that and take care of the ball, we’ve had a chance.

On improvement of defense:

“We’re just trying to win this week. We’re just trying to get better. We’ve got a lot of issues. We’ve got a lot of improvement to do in a lot of places. Anything other than that is a waste of brainpower. We’ve battled hard, and it hasn’t been pretty, but we’re 4-1. There’s a lot of coaching and teaching going on on this football team every day, and a lot of learning. We need to kind of change that a little bit. That’s kind of where we are. I think we’ve shown some maturity. We’ve had two situations that maybe in the past, Clemson hasn’t handled quite as well. I thought it was a real sign of some maturity and the type of focus that they have. They were ready to play. They played with good energy. We had some mistakes in the first half, but the energy and the effort was very good. I think all three areas made some plays. We’re not a complete team by any stretch of the imagination right now.”

On defensive personnel changes:

“I wouldn’t say it’s in flux. I’d just say we’ve got a lot of competition. We’ve got to play a lot of people because we’ve got a lot of young players. I think we’re looking for some consistency in the secondary. You don’t know when your opportunity is going to come. We need that competition because that just makes everybody better. I like the competition that we’ve got going on. There’s really not that much difference among any of them. I think Corey Crawford is improving. He’s a young player that’s playing a lot of snaps. I kind of wish he was a backup right now. They’re the right kind of guys. They care, they like to play, and football is important to them. We just have to coach them.”

On play of defensive line:

“We’re just really young in there. Those three guys, those upperclassmen, those sophomores, they have a big challenge. Maybe they played a few snaps last year, I don’t know, but they didn’t play very many. That’ll be a big part of the game.”

On becoming a great defense:

(Mistakes) “Oh yeah. They can embarrass you quickly. The only thing that’s keeping us from being a great defense right now is mistakes. It’s not talent. There are critical, critical errors. That starts with us as coaches. We have to do a better job trying to get those guys to do the same things over and over. Great defenses don’t beat themselves. Great defenses get beat. Great defenses don’t beat themselves. They don’t make some of the mistakes we’re making. Those are things we have to eliminate. Now, in the second half, you saw a whole different deal. How bad was that fumble that we had at the end of the game, or the fourth-and-inches we didn’t get. Our defense went right out there and stopped them.”

On if the defense has the talent that is needed:

“Absolutely. Oh yeah. I just laugh when people insinuate we don’t have good players on defense. We recruited them all, and we’d recruit them again. Sometimes a guy’s not a great player until he’s a junior. We just don’t have a lot of experience on defense, but they’re getting it and they’re getting better. There are a lot of guys playing a lot that just aren’t quite ready for that type of role. Are we just getting beat? Are we just not good enough? No, that’s not it. I’m encouraged. I’m not discouraged by our defense.”

On Safety play:

“Inconsistent. Meeks has been very solid. I think Meeks has been a very, very solid player. He probably had his worst game up at Boston. Everybody else has been inconsistent, up and down, up and down. Our standard for him is a little higher. He’s great. He’s as good as he’s ever been. He played all of last year, about eighty percent of the year. We’ve just done some really not smart things back there.”

On Tajh’s improvement as a runner:

“That’s one of the biggest areas of improvement this year. That was one of the worst things he did last year. He was very inconsistent with his footwork and very undisciplined with his eyes and not fully committed to that part of his game. He’s still got a lot of things he’s got to get better at, but he’s much better at that element.”

On units placing pressure on each other:

“They’ve got a job to do. It has nothing to do with the defense. We just want to get a first down, and another one, and then go score. It really has nothing to do with the defense.”

On Nuk Hopkins:

“Not really. Of course, I’ve been with Nuk for three years now, so I’ve seen him out at practice every day. He wasn’t quite ready as a freshman, but he was the best we had. He was just a freshman, just a young guy playing out there with athleticism, and we were trying to teach him every day. He was a great freshman, not a great wide receiver, but a great freshman. He does things now where you’re just numb to it because you see it every day. He has a gift to catch the ball and react, and now he’s put the technical part to that gift. You put all of that with that gift that he has and the physical development that he’s gone through, and it’s been pretty special to watch him. He didn’t show up here like Sammy. Nuk has been a guy that’s been developing, and he’s as good as there is in the country. It’s because of his total development and commitment to being a great player at the position. If we put together a highlight tape of the plays he’s made in practice, it would be unbelievable.”

On the hire of a nutritionist:

“I’m excited about it. I haven’t had a chance to spend much time with her since she just got here. It’s just become a big, big part of it. There’s so much education out there now of what’s good and what’s bad. To have a person here full-time is going to tie it right in with our strength and conditioning program. They’re going to have the opportunity to be the best they can be. You see it on every level. You see it in the NFL. When you go to these NFL teams, they have their chefs and they have their dietitians right there. He’s tremendous. He’s talked me off the ledge a couple of times. The guy does a great job. He has an opportunity to visit with our team a couple of times every week.”



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