Although Clemson is now entering the postseason, Dabo Swinney still held his weekly press conference to discuss the matchup with Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game. Swinney started off by saying he was glad to be in the media room because it meant that the Tigers are in position to compete for one of their team goals.
Here is what we heard:
Swinney has consistently stated that it has been easy to coach the current group of Clemson players because they have faced a unique experience and have manifested what they learned in the locker room to lead the younger players to success.
“It goes back to when we started this spring, a total different mindset just because they had an experience to draw on that no previous team had. They’d had a 14-1 season, but we lost the wrong game. Alabama was 14-1, too, but they won the National Championship. They lost the right game. That was a tough pill for everybody to swallow going back to work in the spring. It’s a different mindset, I think, a different understanding of knowing what it takes, not just thinking that you know what it takes, but also knowing that you’re good enough. The leaders of this team have been incredible,” Swinney said.
In comparison to last year’s post season, Swinney said the Tigers are thankfully an undoubtedly a fresher team and in a better position with depth.
“We won last year in November, but our guys gutted it out and we were an exhausted football team. We didn’t finish well and we were kind of hanging on to get to the finish line. Not only did we play 10 straight, but we had no competitive depth, and that’s what I said would be the biggest change and what would pay off. We’ve got more guys that can go play. We don’t hold our breath this year. We played more guys throughout the season, we’ve developed more confidence, and our schedule and the open date came at a good time and allowed us to recharge,” Swinney said.
Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins sees the difference from this year’s team to last year especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“Last year, I felt like we didn’t have as many guys with experience on defense, so we had to play a lot of the older guys. We didn’t have as much of a rotation as we would have liked. This year, we have a lot more guys we can play out there and rotate and do a lot of different things with. I feel better at this point than I did last year, myself personally. It’s been big that guys are ready and able to step up this year.”
While Clemson may have gone into the last post-season with a better record, safety Jadar Johnson said that the loss to Pitt has had a positive impact on the team.
“I would never want to wish a loss on a team, but I feel like that was one of the best thing that happened to us this season. I am glad it happened at the time it did because I wouldn’t want it to happen later in the season, like say the ACC Championship. I wouldn’t want it to be then. That is a little too late, it would kind of put a dagger in our season. It happened at the perfect time just to get us locked back in and refocused for the later part of the season. It is all about the fourth quarter. Nothing is more important than what you do in the fourth quarter,” Johnson said.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables, credited his players on Tuesday for him being named a Broyles Award finalist. He also expressed his desire to have a few of Clemson’s players leaving early back for another year.
“I was just like, ‘man, these guys don’t have to leave. You’ve got more eligibility,’” Venables said. “College is awesome. There’s an innocence in what we have right here on a college campus that you lose, and I hate that for guys. That’s all part of the growing up and leaving, and then some guys are ready for it.”
Venables continued on to say there’s no doubt in his mind that all the players leaving after this year will have success in their lives.
“These guys are going to do great because they’re ready and all that, but I’d love to have them just one more time,” Venables said.