Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney held his weekly teleconference Sunday evening to review the win over Syracuse and look ahead to the game against Charlotte. An edited transcript of Swinney’s teleconference follows:
“Really proud of our team and our staff. Just an excellent win. Good experience for our team to go on the road for the first time and have a little adversity and being challenged like that on the road in an excellent environment. But just outstanding win for sure.
“Defensively I thought we set the tone. Really did an awesome job. 187 yards and dominated up front. Great job on third and fourth down. Our red zone defense was excellent. Obviously we had the ability to get a bunch of pressure on the quarterback. Eight sacks and 15 TFLs (tackles for loss). Just really pleased with the positioning of our defense. I think we only gave up three big plays, and very correctable things there. Had a few times where we didn’t fit properly and jumped offside on a third-and-4. Missed a couple sacks. Really should have had double digits, but missed a few. But all in all, just really proud of our defense. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’re having fun, the effort is tremendous and our fundamentals are getting better. Our alignments and adjustments are improving. We’re still a work in progress, but I really like what I’m seeing. And again, the back seven guys are just doing an awesome job for us and really coordinating what’s happening on the field out there. So, just really an outstanding performance defensively. A lot of guys got a chance to play. I think we played about everybody we could defensively, so just being able to get in and get some experience is huge as we continue to develop the team.
“Offensively, very explosive, just got to become a little more efficient at times. But really proud of how we protected our quarterback. Zero sacks and only had five negative yards on the game. A lot of big plays. Good to see Amari (Rodgers) really have a game like he had. What a big shot in the arm he is to get a guy like him back. 612 yards total offense, and again, just a lot that we’re still leaving out there, some plays that we feel like we can make. But just being a little more efficient. Didn’t do a good job on third down last night, and obviously a couple turnovers. But all in all, just love our explosiveness that we had. Our receivers, a lot of yards after the catch. I think we had 180 yards after the catch. That’s the most we’ve had since about 2014 or 2015 in a game. Four out of our five scoring drives were 70 yards or more. So, again, just lot of good things, but a lot of room for improvement.
“But as a team, I really think the experience of going on the road is good for us. We’ve had a good first quarter to our season. We’re 3-0. I would say we’re definitely ahead of where we were this time last year, without a doubt, and I think we’ve been challenged more. So, if we can now just keep improving, I think we’ve got a chance to be a good football team. We’re not a championship caliber team right now, but I don’t really know anybody that is in September. But we are a work in progress. I like how the guys are improving, and if we’ll continue to do that, we’ve got a chance to compete for this league and beyond.”
“Injury wise, I think we’re in pretty good shape. We had several guys kind of banged up here and there, but nothing major with anybody. So, knock on wood, we’ve been very fortunate there. And like I said, getting Amari back is a huge shot in the arm for us.”
Injury update on Derion Kendrick (back spasms)
“He’ll be fine. It was just something that was acting up in the game, and it just kind of had to settle down. But he’ll be fine.”
Question: What’s your assessment of how Jackson Carman has performed through three games?
“I’m so proud of Jackson. He has done a heck of a job for us. He’s consistently graded a winner and had one of the highest grades on the team this past week. That’s one of the reasons I feel like we’re ahead – I think we’ve been challenged more in these first three games, and we know more after these first three games that’s going to help us as we get into the second quarter of our season. But Jackson’s been a huge bright spot for us. Y’all heard me talk about him in camp. I’ve been really pleased and encouraged because he’s taken it to game day. He’s playing fast, he’s physical, he’s a really smart football player and takes a lot of pride in his job. It’s just amazing how far he’s come in a year in every aspect – as a player, maturity, buy-in, you name it. It’s fun to see where he is. He’s a heck of a guy, man, and off to a great start after these first three games.”
Question: Brent Venables said last night that Isaiah Simmons had a chance to leave for the NFL Draft but made the decision to come back because he had things to improve on. Is it safe to say he’s one of the top players in the country and an example of how coming back for a final year can make you a better player?
“I don’t think there’s any question. He’s definitely one of the best players in the country. He’s worked really hard. I mean he’s a one-year starter. Sometimes these guys get drafted on potential and then they get to the next level and they’re not a very good player, so they don’t play. The more you play, the better you have a chance to be and put really good tape together, which enhances your opportunity at the next level. He was probably a second-, third-round pick last year, and he’s got a chance to be a very high pick if he can continue to perform and demonstrate the football knowledge and improvement, because he had a lot to improve on from where he was last year, and he’s doing that. He’s off to a great start. He’s still got to improve fundamentals and things and doing his job, not trying to do a little too much from time to time. But we’re using him in a lot of ways, and he’s one of the most dynamic players we’ve ever had. He can really do it all, and he’s full speed all the time. I love his physicality, his effort, but what I probably am proud of him the most is just how he’s grown as a man and the leadership. He’s really become a leader for this football team. But he’s special. It’s fun to watch him, no doubt.”
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