Swinney previews Virginia Tech

Staff reports, Tigerillustrated.com
Tiger Illustrated

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CLEMSON -- Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney addressed members of the media Tuesday at his weekly news conference, this time to look ahead to his team's Saturday night tilt versus Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The following is an edited transcript of Tuesday's presser.

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Q: Do they use their QB any different this year?

Swinney: "Not really. They're going to run him. He's not turning it over, he throws the ball well on the move. He gives his guys good chances to get those 50-50 balls. They use a lot of speed motion, max-protect. He's made some big plays and then he's made some big plays in the run game. Late in the West Virginia game he broke one that was about 60 yards on what was a zone-read power. They do a good job with their scheme because they stress you horizontally and vertically. You have to be disciplined and set the edge."

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Q: An update on Marcus Edmond, Travyon Mullen and Mark Fields?

Swinney: "Edmond is probably still a no-go. He's probably out another week. He is getting better. Mullen is in the (concussion) protocol. I don't have anything to do with that. That's day-by-day. Mark Fields, we'll practice today and see where he's at."

Q: Having beaten Auburn and Louisville, how much confidence does your team have going into this game?

Swinney: "Every game is so different. That past performance doesn't mean we'll play well this time on the road. Any time you draw from experience, it gives you something to expect. We've gotten a lot of good experience on the road. You have to go play well. The experience is definitely good. Early in the season you're trying to develop your team more. It's a different place up there, a different team. We're battle-tested. We've played two top 15 teams, one of them at their place and then we played a tough Boston College team physical. We've had our noses bloodied. It hasn't been all rosy. So yes, I like the way our team has responded. Hopefully we can continue. We're still growing, though. We're a confident team but we are a team that has to play well and must continue to improve. Every week for us is the biggest game of the year."

Q: You have some key players from the state of Virginia. What does it mean for them to be in this game in Blacksburg?

Swinney: "It's always great any time you can go up there and play in your hometown. Clelin will be one of our captains this week. We recruit guys from the Southeast. It's always special for those guys to have an opportunity to play in front of their own folks."

Q: Your thoughts on taking a team on the road?

Swinney: "It's not any different from playing at home in my opinion. If you're a good player, you're a good player wherever. It shouldn't matter what the weather is or what stadium you're in. Championship teams and great players don't get distracted by those external factors. There is a certain mindset you have to have when you go on the road. You have a lot of energy against you and you have to not get distracted by it. You have to have mental toughness. I just think if you're a good team, you're a good team wherever. You shouldn't just play well at night or day or regardless of the uniform you have on. Last year we got beat at home. It happened. I just don't get caught up on us being on the road. I enjoy being on the road."

Q: You're about 61-percent running so far this year. Where do you want to be?

Swinney: "I've always tried to gear us toward balance. I think the best football teams have balance built into what they do. I think the best teams can run it when they need to and can throw it when they want to. Tell us what you're going to give us and we'll take that. Last week they didn't want us throwing the ball, so we rushed it for 342 yards. I love the fact that we can run the ball for 342 yards against tough, physical players. From day one you have to be able to run and you have to be able to stop the run. If you cannot do that, you're in for a long season. If you can run the ball, you have explosives that come off of that. Now last year, Pittsburgh wasn't going to let us run the ball. We had 630 yards. I think we threw it for 580 yards. That's what that game dictated. Over the course of the year I want to see balance. If you're too one-dimensional, somewhere along the line someone will be good enough to take that away."

Q: How do you think Bud Foster has adapted to the new-age spread?

Swinney: "I think he's always been ahead. He's always played a hybrid scheme. From a personnel standpoint, he was always there. He's tried to recruit longer guys, more athletic guys, guys who can play in space. They've had some big-time corners come out of there. It's a really good secondary we're getting ready to play. The guys up front, they don't have quite the depth they've had but their first five or six guys are really good players."

Q: Bud and Brent the two best D-coordinators in football?

Swinney: "I think their background speaks for itself. They're certainly two of the best if not the best. Consistency is what you look for. Brent is the epitome of that and so is Bud. Two outstanding coaches."

Q: You rotate a lot of guys up front on offense. How have you been able to successfully and consistently do that?

Swinney:"We just play them. We have good players and they deserve to play. We have a bunch of guys who could go start for many teams. Both Anchrum and Pollard could start for many teams. Both, I look at both as starters. John Simpson probably had his best game this past week. He's a great player. Taylor Hearn can jump out there and play tackle. We have good depth. I think we're going to have more depth, flexibility and versatility than we've ever had up front. We believe in them. We just play them. We play them in critical situations, too. You've seen that at a lot of positions this year."

Q: Justin Fuente talked about how Clemson is a stick of dynamite and at any time can just go off on teams. Your thoughts?

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Swinney: "I think we're a good team. He's a coach and he's getting ready to play a good team. We're a coaching staff and we're getting ready to play a good team. With their offense, they have guys going everywhere. If you don't have your eyes on the right thing or get distracted, there goes that tight end on a swap. We've got to do a great job and have to be right where you need to be. We have to all be on the same page. As soon as you're not, you've got a turnover or you've given up a big play. This is a really good matchup."

Q: Will you still look at the title game film last year to evaluate them?

Swinney: "It's a different team. They do a lot of the same things. You have some familiarity with personnel, but it's a different team."

Q: With Alex Spence, is his range about the same as Huegel's?

Swinney: "I think the longest he's made in practice is 53 yards. He's got plenty of leg. That's probably his limit there."

Q: Were you surprised that you had some boos from the crowd last Saturday?

Swinney: "I looked at our team and said, 'They're booing us, boys.'

"They're (fans) used to seeing explosiveness. It comes with the territory. I'm never going to apologize for a win and I'm never going to allow our players to not appreciate a win. If the fans don't, that's their choice. Each win counts. Other teams have good players, good coaches, off-season programs. I loved that game Saturday. What happened in the fourth quarter was a result of the first three quarters. I'll take it every week. If we're not happy about a 14-7 win or a 34-7 win, we might need to rethink things. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to win. That's why we celebrate every single win. Most of the time we've won. If we don't, fine, let's go get better."

Q: How important was last Saturday for Kelly Bryant's maturation?

Swinney: "He didn't manage the pocket very well. It gave us more to coach him on. Now it's a different deal. It's a great opportunity to coach him. He was a little frustrated. You want certain things and they're just not there. To see him manage that and bounce back, that was great. You have to go through stuff like that. I thought he did a great job. I thought our coaches did a great job. We made enough big plays when the opportunities presented themselves. It was a good game for him from a teaching standpoint. Every game presents different challenges. He responded really well. We have a system that has answers. We just have to process it and trust it."

Q: This looks to be a fourth straight week of a fist fight. Is that good for you?

Swinney: "In this league we just know we're going to play good people every single week. The biggest thing is everyday at practice. Today will be a tough practice. We'll have good-on-good, one-on-ones. It's just what we do. We just have that mentality, which is what you have to have on gameday. We're fortunate to be 4-0. Hopefully we can be 5-0 and have an unbelievable September. If it doesn't go our way, we move on and go to October and improve. We'll keep coaching, keep working, keep learning. This group, though, has responded well. They've had some emotional moments, big plays go against us, physical matchups and we've played against an unbelievable quarterback and good defenses.

"We've been a target for a long time. It's not just this year. We know we are going to get everybody's best shot here. We embrace that week in and week out. We spend our time on what we see. It's just a given. Whomever we're playing, we're going to get the best version of that team every week."

Q: Have you paid attention to the back-and-forth between the President and the NFL? Your thoughts on that?

Swinney: "No. My thoughts are on Virginia Tech and the Hokies. I'm not getting into that mess."

Q: Before the season started you said you felt Jabril Robinson had put in a great camp. How has he played thus far?

Swinney: "He had probably his best game this past Saturday. He might have had his worst game against Louisville. Too many mental errors up there. He had his best grade against Boston College."

Q: 2011 up there at Lane Stadium, what do you remember about that game?

Swinney: "I remember not many people gave us a chance to win. Seemed like every week we were playing a highly ranked opponent that year. It was cold, it was rainy and I just remember we played a big game and played well defensively. We made just enough plays offensively. Mike Bellamy popped one. It was a hard-fought, tough game. It was a long ride to the stadium. We stayed in Roanoke but it seemed like forever to get there. I remember looking back at the bus and the whole team was asleep. I said to myself, 'We're going to get our butts kicked.' But we played well. They had good players, too."

Q: Now the expectation is for you to win games like this. Isn't that a testament to how far this program has come?

Swinney: "There's at least a 50-percent chance that we can win the game. Back in those days there was about a 10-percent chance (on the outside). People believe in us just a little bit more. We've always believed on the inside that we could do it. That was a fun night, a great moment. It kept the momentum going."

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Q: A shame that these programs don't meet up more?

Swinney: "We've played them a lot since 2011. They're a team we have seen quite a bit. I love for us to play everybody. There has to be some change in the schedule. Yeah, it's good that we're playing. You don't know when you'll play some teams again. We'll eventually play some of these other teams."

Q: Did Travis Etienne look as good on your film (grade) as he did to us Saturday?

Swinney: "No, he looked a little slow. He didn't really hit the hole. (Laughing). Heck yeah, he looked good. You can't deny what you saw. He just runs like every play is the game-winning play at the Super Bowl. He has that mindset and you love that. He has that desperation to him. Feaster, after four games, and Travis have separated just a little bit. They've definitely earned more opportunity. That's not to discount Adam and C.J. C.J. Fuller had some huge plays in the ACC Championship game. We'll need both of them this weekend. We have four really, really good players there. But to this point, Feaster and Travis have warranted a little more opportunity."

Q: Venables says he feels like his defense still does not have an identity. Can you expound on that?

Swinney: "We're playing a ton of guys. We've only played four games. We haven't seen everything just yet. We're still learning. If anything, the identity is they're going to show up and play with great effort every week. Offense turns the ball over on the 10-yard line, defense doesn't pout. They respond. We can see that for sure in this group so far. They've been pretty consistent for four quarters."

Q: Any aspect of the defense better than you anticipated?

Swinney: "Not really. I was very confident that we were going to be pretty good defensively. I felt we had the most depth and functionality we've had at all three levels. We play a ton of DBs, a bunch of guys inside who can play, a deep linebacker corps. Nothing has really surprised me. Some of those younger guys like K'Von and Isaiah, Travyon, Terrell, just pleased with them."

Q: Maverick and Dorian okay now?

Swinney: "Yes."

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