CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney addressed members of the media Tuesday morning as part of his weekly news conference, this time to preview his team’s upcoming 3:30 p.m. matchup with Boston College on Saturday.
The following is an edited transcript of Swinney’s Tuesday presser:
Opening statements: “We have a lot going on this weekend especially with the Hall of Fame. Phil Prince and I think Fred Cone are going to be the captains. It’ll be cool to have them back.
“We’re excited about being back at home. BC is 1-2, but it’s a division opponent. And we have to look beyond their record. They played a good Northern Illinois team that beat Nebraska at Nebraska. The lost to a 3-0 Wake Forest team, which is a very good team. They lost to a tough Notre Dame team in a game that kind of got away in the fourth quarter. This is a tough, physical team. It’s a different mindset you have to have when you play Boston College. Coach Addazio does a great job. They rarely beat themselves. They’re going to force the issue. We’re looking forward to it.
“Offensively they’re a lot of 11 and 12 personnel. They are using tempo more this year. Their explosives come off the run game. I’m impressed with their quarterback, a young player who can make some plays. They run a lot of boots, play-actions and max-protections. Lot of discipline that we have to play with versus these guys.
“Defensively they’re very experienced. They have 12 guys back who started at some point last year.
“We were excited to win the game last week, but we need to improve on a lot of things. A lot of room for improvement as we get back on the field this weekend.”
Q: How close is Marcus Edmond to getting back to 100-percent?
Swinney: “Trayvon has earned the right to be the starter right now. We have a lot of competition at corner right now. As the saying goes, you can’t compete for the club in the tub. Hopefully he’ll be back this week. If not, he’ll be back soon. He’s a really good player. When it’s all said and done Marcus will have a chance to play at the next level. He just hasn’t been able to get on track because he missed a good bit of camp with a hamstring. Who runs out there first? That’s kind of a week to week deal at that position. We have good players there who are competing every week.
“D.J. Greenlee still has a sprained MCL, so he’s out.”
Q: What’s your take on the secondary thus far?
Swinney: “They’ve done well. They’ve only been out of position one time. They’ve been in position. We haven’t had a million pass interferences. We had two quickly in the Auburn game but cleaned that up. We didn’t play as well with our eyes the other night, but they’ve been more disciplined as a group. I felt like it would be the best, maybe the deepest, most versatile group that we’ve had. We haven’t come close to what our potential is. After three games and a couple of top 15 matchups, we’ve held our own. I like the depth.
"It’s unfortunate that we had a couple of guys go out. Muse got kicked out. Van was out, but we’ve had other guys go in and play. We’ve got a bunch of corners who can play both sides. We don’t talk enough about Ryan Carter. He is one of our MVPs. He is a very good player. I mean outstanding. He does a lot of things that people don’t notice. He could go play safety for us this week and do a heck of a job. I like where they are and how they’re competing. We’ve never really been able to rotate like we have this year.”
Q: Do you feel like Tavien Feaster separated just a little bit last week?
Swinney: “I thought they all played well. He had the most production with his opportunities. He played a heck of a game. When you have competition like that, just like corner and safety, you have to maximize opportunities. All those guys are going to have opportunities to play. From week to week you might see someone get hot. Really proud of how he played last week.”
Q: And your assessment of Travis Etienne through three games?
Swinney: "Just taking advantage of his opportunities. Obviously you can see the talent. He’s not the only player we have. A lot of water that goes under the bridge. He has to put the work in. He has to be dependable, trusting, accountable and take advantage of opportunities. I tell them to take advantage of their opportunities whether it’s 10 snaps or 50 snaps. You want more plays, let’s do a great job with the opportunities that you have. I think Travis has done that. He has to settle down some on the kick return and that’s just a matter of nerves, because he’s got excellent hands. His ability to run the ball - which was an inside zone call - is there obviously. He didn’t even run it where he was supposed to the other night. He just made a big play.”
Q: Talk about younger players staying composed, particularly Travis bobbling a couple of kick returns.
Swinney: “I didn’t go over there and yell at them. I told him to catch his breath because he was going right back in. I just told him to settle down. That’s just a young guy getting distracted. You have to let them grow through it and show confidence in them. You have to talk to them about it and prepare them. He’s now been on the road now, he’s made some mistakes, he’s had some success.”
Q: How important is it to do things without the football in your view?
Swinney: “Very important. It used to infuriate me when a receiver had three catches and everyone is giving him high-fives after the game, but in 50 plays he graded awful. How you play without the ball is more important than how you play with it. Everybody can play when the stands are full. What are you doing when no one is watching in the off-season? You can’t just show up on game day and say you’re really ready to go, but be that guy who didn’t show up during the off-season. It all matters, at least it does here. It’s important to be a complete player when you are a skill guy. To me it’s much more important what you do without the ball. The two long runs the other night … great runs by Travis, but an awesome block by Tee Higgins down the field. Diondre Overton sprung a big block downfield.”
Q: Do you feel like the offense still has a ways to go?
Swinney: “Yes, we have a long way to go. It’s not Ray-Ray or Renfrow or Deon. It’s everybody. It’s just the Clemson offense and as a group we have a lot of room for improvement if we’re going to be great. You win a big game, it’s awesome and feel good about it and then you watch the tape and realize that you have a lot of work to do.”
Q: How pleased are you with Falcinelli thus far?
Swinney: “Really proud of him. He is one of the MVPs of this season so far. You thought he’d go play well. Two years ago Robbie told us he could be a great player. He just had to go through the process. He has done an awesome job. We didn’t have any issues on the road the other night. You don’t even notice him. He’s done a great job. He’s one of our captains this week.”
Q: You challenged Ray-Ray to really take it to the next level and mature earlier in the off-season. He said on one occasion that he felt he was mature. What did you see that maybe he didn’t see?
Swinney: “Work ethic. That’s part of the issue. We weren’t on the same page. What he thought and what we thought were different. Consistency and how you practice everyday, energy, how you handle yourself, playing fast on every play, taking as much pride without the ball and just knowing how hard you have to work to be elite. It’s part of a guy maturing and growing. He battled through some injuries his first couple years around here. I’m very proud of him. He had a great spring, an awesome fall camp and a great first three games. It’s happened because of better practice habits.
"At times I would agree he was awesome, but we needed to see more consistency. He’s become a much better receiver. He wanted to just be an athlete and outrun people. You have to have technique at this level. You have to buy in to become a good route-runner. He’s got great feet, great change of direction. He’s worked really hard with his timing. He’s worked really hard and has accepted the challenge there. He’s on his way to having an awesome year for us. I want him to be a guy who I will know exactly what I’ll get every week.
"He’s a great person, too. He’s one of the nicest kids on our team and always has been. He’s not a bad guy. It just always came easy to him before he got here. He played running back, too. They don’t get tougher than Ray-Ray. He thinks he’s 6-4, 220. He has that type of mentality. He’s just had a lot to learn about football and defense and just being a receiver.”
Q: Three games in please talk about Kelly Bryant. Has he passed every test you’ve put out there in front of him thus far?
Swinney: “Well we’re 3-0. We have a long way to go. If he stinks it up this week, they’ll be asking us to put the other guys in. After three games, yes, he’s done great. Proud of him.”
Q: Is there one player who is the guy in terms of leadership?
Swinney: “We have a very accountable group. There is a lot of leadership on the team. The guy that surprises me, it’s probably Clelin Ferrell because he is just a second year player for us. He was kind of quiet in the recruiting process. He never said boo in the recruiting process. He was a low-maintenance recruit. He came here and has such a sweet personality. He’s got a good spirit to him. He’s become a great leader for us. He has become an incredible leader and takes a lot of pride in how he mentors younger players. He goes out of his way to help lead those guys. We have leadership at every position, though. Every single position.”
Q: Talk about Dorian O’Daniel’s season so far.
Swinney: “He’s had three great games. You always saw the talent and flash and skill. Now he’s making plays. He’s sort of the Vic Beasley of our team. He just had so much to learn when he got here. What a football player. He had to get serious about football. I think he had to get serious about being great. That redshirt sophomore year, you saw some real signs in him. Last year he just took off. He’s just picked up beyond where he left off. He’s become a very accountable person. Very studious. He is unique and dynamic. He’s something special.”
Q: Talk about Spiers thus far.
Swinney: “He’s done a great job for us. I felt like he could be a weapon. After three games he has been as advertised. He is another developmental guy. He came to camp. He was a quarterback and a shortstop. He wasn’t a punter. He is a well-rounded athlete. When he came to camp, I felt he had a real shot. He red-shirted last year and really worked on his craft. He has worked really hard to become a technical guy. He’s got a great mindset that you love to see. His confidence is really high right now. Defense feels good about getting a stop and your offense is on the five-yard line because Spiers just launched one. And he’s going to get better. Three games don’t make a career, but he can be one of the best we’ve had here.”
Q: Can you speak to the job Brandon Streeter has done since he’s been here.
Swinney: “He does a phenomenal job for us. I knew I was going to hire him seven years ago. It was just a matter of timing. He always did an awesome job and we’d stayed in touch. He’s got a great family. His wife is awesome and she’s a Clemson grad as well. He’s just the perfect fit. A great fit. He is a very good quarterback coach. He’s also our recruiting coordinator and does an awesome job at that. He’s a very good technical coach and has a great demeanor. He’s steady. He’s a very poised guy. He’s tough and demanding. He does a great job with how he handles our players. He works really hard in preparation and attention to details. He has been a great addition and we’ve won a bunch of games since he got here. He did a great job with Deshaun Watson and it’s kind of rubbed off on Kelly Bryant.”
Q: Why do you think you haven’t been more dynamic and productive in the punt and kickoff return game?
Swinney: “We don’t get as many opportunities as we used to. They moved the kick up, so you don’t get as many opportunities. We also try not to give up a lot of points. We’ve had some big ones, though, and at critical times. I think Artavis was a pretty good return man. Adam Humphries took one to the house against Louisville. The kick return by Fuller against Alabama was huge. I think we’ve improved and have gotten better. We took one to the house last year with Ray Ray but it was dropped on the goal line. We’re heading in the right direction. Maybe we’ll pop a few more regularly.”