By Heath Bradley.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney held his weekly press conference where he looked ahead to Saturday’s game with Virginia Tech.
“If you watched it, I think you saw what Virginia Tech is really made of. They got down 20-0 at Homecoming and then they probably played their best ball all year. This is a team, in my opinion, that has probably been the bell cow of this league the last several years. I know everybody talks about how they haven’t been great this year, or as consistent, but they’re Virginia Tech. It’s hard to win on the road. I don’t care who you play, it’s hard to win on the road. Quite frankly, they’ve done a pretty good job when they’ve come to Death Valley. It’s a game that I don’t have any doubt we’re going to get their very best, and it’s going to take our very best to win. It all starts with their quarterback. He makes plays, sometimes, that aren’t there because of his athletic ability. He threw the ball all the way across the field to score a touchdown. They’re balanced. They want to run the football, but I think they’ve done a good job having balance in their system. It’s a very talented group up front. They’ve got some very capable wideouts. Again, it’s a complete group over there that I think is playing pretty well. For us, we’ll have to stop the run. Defensively, they’ve got their whole front back. This is a big, thick group on the defensive line. They’re hard to move. They are very talented on the back end. Fuller is back at corner, and they’ve moved Exum to the other corner. He was the rover for them last year. They’re bringing a lot more pressure than in the past. They’ve been known to play a lot of robber coverage in the past. When people line up and play man-to-man, you have to be able to win some of those individual matchups. Hopefully we’ll have a great day on Saturday. Just like our last game against Georgia Tech, I’ll challenge our fans to give us a great crowd. I can’t tell you just how much of a difference our fans were against Georgia Tech. That’s what you want your home field advantage to be like. I look forward to getting back out there with our fans.
On Sign in the Team Room
“That’s actually been there for a couple of weeks. We talk about the price that you have to pay to be great at something. When you sign your name to something, it should have some meaning. We’re just trying to hold everybody accountable for paying the price. We’re on a quest to be the best. We’ve been talking about that since day one. But we’ll only be as good as the total commitment of everybody in the room.
“They’re all back. They’re all practicing and look good to go.
On Bye Week
“It’s been good. Last year, we played eight or nine games in a row. To be able to get it right when we had it was almost perfect, if you could draw it up. We’ve had open dates around here when we play two games and get an open date. We’ve played six games, three out of five on the road. We’ve really battled. We’ve had a lot of guys banged up. There’s a long list of guys with bumps and bruises. I thought we had a good week of practice last week as far as getting ahead preparation-wise and working on some fundamentals. They had a bounce in their step we haven’t seen in a couple of weeks. I do think we’re fresher than we’ve been in the last couple of games.”
On Practice During Bye Week
“We don’t just go out there and throw the ball around. There’s a lot of film study. There are more times when you’re able to reflect. When you have more time, you’re able to see more film. You’re able to see more, and we’ve done it. We’ve got a lot of guys that are improving. Some of them aren’t quite coming along as fast as we want, but the great majority of our guys are improving.”
On What Tigers Need to Improve
“Yeah, just being more consistent. We’ve done that. If you look at the last couple of games, in the second half, we’ve been pretty doggone good. We’re just tightening things back up and refocusing and recommitting to the details.”
On How Chad Morris is using Watkins
“I promise you, we’re not doing anything different with Sammy than we’ve ever done. He’s only played two and a half games. The rest of the team has played six. The ball is going to go where it’s dictated to go based on the defense. We don’t force things. That’s the way the game is played. If people want to roll up on Sammy, that’s their choice. We have other people who can make plays. We try to involve him in a lot of different ways. We’ve got at least six more games to play, and barring any conspiracy or injury or whatever, he’s going to be great.”
On Tackling in Practice
“We’re full speed, but we’re back to thud this week. We’re just trying to get our team healthy. We’ll pick our spots as we go through. Unless we’re just really struggling for some reason, we probably won’t go full practices live.”
On Travis Blanks
“I think you’ll continue to see Blanks in his role. I think that hopefully Barnes is coming on. I thought he played well against Georgia Tech, in particular. D.J. Reader has been really productive with his time. We’re really pleased with our D-tackles. They’re all playing with a lot of pride and toughness. The guy I hope to see a lot more from in the second half is Carlos Watkins. I think you’ll see Tony Steward a lot more in the second half of the season. He looks like he’s got his confidence back. Mentally, he is very engaged, very dialed in. It’s just putting it together from a confidence standpoint on the field. Tig has played lights out. That’s been one of the things with him not getting as much time. I think that you’ll see him get more time in this second half. Garry Peters is another guy that has put a couple of good games in a row together. Darius Robinson, it’s been fun to watch him in practice. I’ve been really, really proud of him. He reminds me a lot of Coty Sensabaugh.”
On “Beamer Ball”
“We put attention on special teams every week. I don’t know how you can put more emphasis or meet more on special teams than we do. We did it up at Boston, and we’ve done it against Georgia Tech.”
On DJ Howard
“We just play them. We’ve got a ton of confidence in those guys. It’s been fun to watch Rod have some success. D.J., we really, to be honest with you, have been comfortable with him. He’s just been banged up. When you get a banged-up shoulder, that’s a tough position to play. He’s probably the best he’s been since before camp.”
On Team 6 Weeks into Season
“Hopefully, I can just base it on what I’ve seen out of them. They’ve shown good leadership, they’ve got a lot of pride. They’ve responded to every situation. They’ve found ways to win. Everybody wants to get that first win. They’ve responded with every challenge to this point. Whether it’s playing well in the first half, not playing well in the second half. It’s going to be one of them, and it’s a choice what we’re going to be in this second half. Confidence-wise, on the national scene, here at Clemson, there’s a lot out in front of us.”
On Tajh Boyd
“Not really, because he’s responded. Going back to last year and a couple of those situations where he was in a funk, he’d never get out of it. He’s really battled back. That’s kind of what I was saying earlier. You’re going to have a tipped-ball pick. You’re going to have some of that. But we’ve had some bad turnovers that you shouldn’t have. The pick on the screen, the pick on double coverage against Boston College, those are things you just can’t do. He’s been great.”
On BCS Rankings
“Again, we’ve played six games. All we have to do is take care of business. If we take care of business, then we’ll be in position to have a special season. If you look at where we were last year and how we finished, it’s all about what you do each Saturday. We control our own destiny from that standpoint. Do things have to happen for us to get back in the national picture? Yeah, there is a lot that has to happen. The bottom line is if you take care of business, that thing changes drastically. We just have to control what we can control, and that’s playing as well as we can play against Virginia Tech.”
“Probably a B. It’s hard to win, guys. It’s hard to win football games. I’d give us an A if we were 6-0, but we’re 5-1. We’ve been on the road three out of five times, and we’re 2-1 on the road. You have to look at the makeup of your team. What’s their experience? What’s their attitude? What’s their leadership? We’re going to find out.”
On the ACC
“I sell Clemson. I’m proud of the ACC. I think that we have a very good program here that can compete with anybody and is going to become one of the top programs in the country year in and year out. I’m proud to be in the conference and proud to represent this conference.”
On JUCO Players
“Bart, I finally agree with you on something. I am all in with you on that, one thousand percent. It’s an issue. There are certain things every school will have to overcome. There are certain schools out there—you look at what Kansas State has done over the years, what Texas Tech has done this year. I want to build through the draft, so to speak. That’s my background. We did it when I was at Alabama. My junior year, we brought in John Copeland. He completely changed our team. Terrence Cody, Alabama brought him in. Florida State has brought in a couple of game-changer defensive guys. It is a problem for us. It’s not that we can’t get them in. It’s that you have to meet degree percentage rules. The problem that we have is having a degree program that they can transfer into where they can be eligible. It would be nice to be able to recruit a couple of the great ones.”
“It can be a little different for a guy that was a qualifier out of high school and wanted to… For us, to get a guy that was a non-qualifier in and fit him into one of those degree programs, it’s tough. It’s hard. It is a limiting factor for us. But it’s not something we can’t overcome, at all. I’m fully confident we can build a great program that can compete consistently and nationally with our normal recruiting areas. Maybe you had a bunch of graduation that year at a certain position.”
On Spreading the Offensive Touches
“We talk about it. We talk about rotation and certain scenarios. We’ve done a pretty good job, for the most part. It’s something I keep up with on the sideline. I’ve got somebody keeping up with that for me because we have a lot of competition right now.”
Is Military Appreciation Day A Distraction?
“Heck no. This is awesome. I get fired up every time I hear the jets roaring by. It’s really been fun to be a part of that. Having an opportunity to spend time with Daniel Rodriguez has really impacted my thinking. It’s a different perspective. I didn’t come from a military background, but I certainly have gained an appreciation for the military being here at Clemson. They’re a great group of people. Those are some great words they live by every single day. They’re a great example to the rest of us.”