Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney held his weekly teleconference Sunday evening, reviewing the second-ranked Tigers’ 49-21 win at Georgia Tech on Saturday and looking ahead to this Saturday’s game vs. Syracuse at Death Valley. A transcript follows:
Swinney’s opening statement:
“Really proud of our team. I think we played our best game yesterday and that’s really what our goal was, to put it all together and I think we did that. We just played with a lot more detail. We have a lot of room for improvement, but I loved the focus of our team and the confidence we played with. I think we definitely grew up a little bit as we start this second quarter of the season. So, big win for us. That’s two big wins on the road now, and really happy for our guys, especially our seniors — four in a row vs. Georgia Tech. But I think the biggest thing I would state is the work that was done in the trenches and our offensive line and defensive line. This was a team leading the country in rushing, and for us to out-rush them four years in a row is a huge credit to our offensive line and our defensive line, getting the job done there. So, just really proud of the performance I saw.
“Defensively, held them to 2.6 a carry and we averaged 6.9 a carry in the rushing game. So, huge deal there. We talked a lot all week about an opportunity to score on defense. We were able to do that. I was happy for Cle (Clelin Ferrell). We were incredibly disruptive. We had four sacks and 10 tackles for loss, and they had 74 yards in negative plays, as opposed to we only had one negative play the whole game, minus-6 yards. And we affected them on third down. So, a lot of good things defensively. I think the biggest, if there’s a negative, is they had eight fumbles and we only got one of them. We’re going to have to work on a little fumble recovery drill or something this week and see if we can come up with a couple others because we missed a couple huge opportunities to get some short fields on them, where the ball didn’t quite bounce our way. We dropped an interception, we had a couple costly penalties, and then a little disappointed with us in the red zone. They did have three touchdowns in the red zone. But all in all, again, just so many good things defensively and excited about where we are on that side and the development of some of the guys.
“Then offensively, it was definitely our best game, most efficient, most explosive. The one constant in our four games, ironically, is what we were the worst at last year – and that is our explosiveness. But we have been incredibly consistent in four games. We’ve had four consecutive games where we’ve averaged 7 yards or more per play. … The records go all the way back to 1938 and that’s the first time ever that we’ve had four consecutive games where we’ve averaged 7 yards or more per play. So, that just speaks to the explosiveness that we’ve had in four games. The biggest thing that we’ve needed to do is just become more efficient and the past two games we have done a better job of that for sure. So, just proud of our team. We had 480 total, 7.3 per play and 6.9 a rush. We rushed for 248 yards. We only had the 6 negative yards. We were very good on third down and we were 100 percent in the red zone. … We had five explosives and I think five different receivers in the passing game had one. So, a lot of guys made a contribution. We had a couple penalties. We had the two turnovers which led to 14 points. They had 14 points off of turnovers. We did have two drops. We missed a couple throws, but all in all, it was our best performance. Still have some details we need to clean up and improve on, but just a tremendous effort offensively.
“Special teams, BT Potter, man, six touchbacks. Our punt return team continues to be a difference for us. Amari Rodgers, I’m really pleased with what he’s done. He averaged 16 yards a return. I think we averaged 29 yards on kickoff return. We only had 1 punt return yard given up and then we forced another miss. I think our pressure that we can get up front on field-goal block team is a factor. So, all in all, lots of good things in the game and things that we can build on moving forward.
“Just excited to get the team back in here tomorrow and looking forward on Syracuse. Us coaches are onto that tonight. We’ve got a big challenge with them coming in. Division game, two undefeated teams. This is going to be a huge week for us.”
Swinney on whether anything has changed at quarterback for Clemson:
“I know the first question everybody wants to know is if anything has changed at quarterback and all that stuff. I’m not going to address any of that tonight. Our players are off today, and if anything changes, you guys will certainly know about it. But I’m not going to get into any rotation or depth chart issues or any of that type of stuff. Just really proud of the win and excited to get started with Syracuse.”
Injury update on linebacker Kendall Joseph (groin) and whether he will be available vs. Syracuse:
“I hope so. I think he was pretty good today. We’ll meet in the morning and get the update from Danny Poole as to where everybody is, but we’re very hopeful and expect him to be able to go.”
Swinney on freshman wide receiver Justyn Ross
“He’s got incredible ball skills. He’s very fast, and then you saw last week his ability to run after the catch. He can plant and cut on a dime, and that makes him special. But he’s big and strong and he’s really picked up the offense well. So, he’s taking advantage of his opportunities, and you’ll continue to see a lot of No. 8.”
Swinney on the performance of freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence at Georgia Tech after watching the film
“I think the biggest thing is there’s some footwork things in the run game that he can clean up where he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be, but he really played well. It was certainly his best game. He was very poised and I think the game has slowed down for him. He’s making good decisions and he’s decisive with the ball. … He made some beautiful throws, and then he missed one. We had an opportunity for another big play to Tee (Higgins) and just kind of missed him high. But I thought there were just some technical things that he needs to clean up, but I thought he managed the pocket well and was patient when he got outside the pocket. You saw that when he was able to find Amari. He was accurate.
“The other thing I was pleased with is that he took advantage of what I call some ‘layups’ that are all built into the run game from time to time when defenses give you some soft coverages. He took advantage of those two or three times. So, he did a lot of good things for sure but definitely still room for improvement … But I thought this was definitely his best game and he was very productive with his opportunity.”
Swinney on the targeting call against linebacker Chad Smith in the Georgia Tech game
“I can’t critique the officiating and all that stuff, but it’s a bang-bang play. You probably see that a bunch where it doesn’t get called, but it got called and they held it up, so it is what it is. But probably the biggest thing is he could just try to go low. Just tackle him lower. That’s really it.”
Swinney on whether Clemson still wants to redshirt linebacker James Skalski
“Yes, if we can we will. But again, we reserve the right to change our mind on that at any moment.”