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August 31, 2016

Dabo Swinney

Greensboro, North Carolina

Q. Last year with the advent of cost of attendance, you said that despite the good intentions, you suspected that it would create a recruiting nightmare because of the varying amounts around the country. I'm wondering if those concerns came true or if they've been eased at all as you've gone through a recruiting cycle with it.
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, well, I think it's just now really kind of taken root to be honest with you, and we have seen some issues in regards to that where it's come up in the recruiting process because this school can -- because it's not equitable, and one school, if they go there for four years then you're going to get an amount more dollars, so it's another thing that you have to battle in the recruiting process. So yeah, I've seen it. Fortunately for us we're not at the bottom. We're not the highest. We're kind of above average I would say, but we're still -- it is an issue and probably will continue to be.

Q. Do you feel like you've lost a prospect at all because of a cost of attendance variance?
DABO SWINNEY: I don't. I don't at this point. But I think it's been something that has caused some pause for some people. Again, I think we've been able to really sell just the value of our program, and okay, you might get a little bit more money to go there from a cost of attendance, but here's the value of Clemson, and what's the experience. You can't make a decision just on that, but it is definitely a part of the equation now that was never in there before.

Again, I think it's great that the guys are having the opportunity to get that. I think it's been a huge difference. But the formula for how that stuff is calculated is very different from school to school. I think it's something that needs more consistency across the board.

Q. Dabo, I wanted to ask you about your memories of your first game as a head coach. There's over two dozen head coaches who are starting new jobs this week in terms of on the field. I want to ask your memories of that in terms of if you recall something that really pleased you to see from your team before the first game as a head coach and something that you remember sort of bothering you or concerning you.
DABO SWINNEY: Well, you know, my first game as a head coach I was made the head coach on a Monday, and I may not be the best guy to ask that question because most of the time when you get a job it's after the season and you've had the spring and the off-season to really kind of develop your culture or get some things started and get to know your guys as the head coach and kind of pull it all together.

For me, I came to work on a Monday, and now you're the head coach and you're playing on Saturday. My memories are a blur from that particular week. But I think the biggest thing to me was just trying to inspire and motivate those guys and get them to buy in to that moment and what we were trying to do, that the rest of the season could be the best of the season. Again, my situation was a little different. There was a lot of things concerning me going into my first game with about three days to get ready for Paul Johnson, the first time we'd seen the triple option. You've got GA's now as full-time guys, totally different roles for everybody, and you do it in three days.

It was a very daunting challenge that particular week, but probably the most that sticks out to me the most is because the week was such a blur in trying to get things ready, the moment for me was probably when I got off the bus at the top of the hill for the first time ever and approach Howard's Rock. I had never done that. I'd always been on the field, and that was an unbelievable moment for me that I'll never forget and kind of the culmination of that week.

And then when we started the tiger walk that week, we'd never done that before, and when we showed up and there was about 15,000 people there, it was just an amazing moment.

Q. What are you looking to learn most from your team in this opening game?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I'm just anxious to see us play and see how we respond, see where we are. As a coach, as a college coach, you think you know where you are, but we've had a month of practice, and practicing against each other. We practiced against each other all spring, and you can't help but know yourself better than you would know an opponent as far as the tendencies of what you do and verbiage and things like that.

So to me as a coach, there's only so far we can take them without going and playing games. Just really truly kind of finding out -- checking it all and seeing where we are, seeing what we've got to do from this point forward to improve our team. I think no matter what happens Saturday night, win or lose, we're going to be a team that's going to greatly improve throughout the course of the year.

So just seeing where we are and how we respond to the adversity of the game in a very difficult environment, and then also seeing some of these guys that we're expecting big things from this year, seeing just -- we've seen really good performance on the field at practice, but seeing if that translates and carries over to the game situation.

Q. I was wondering, I know you opted to take the ball first a lot last season. I was wondering if you could share your strategy for the coin toss Saturday at Auburn, or if you're going to keep that under your hat.
DABO SWINNEY: Yep, under our hat.

Q. Could you just talk a little bit about what goes into that decision? Is it strictly your strengths versus the other team's strengths, or do you factor in crowd noise on the road, that sort of thing?
DABO SWINNEY: All of the above. I think that certainly your strengths as a team can factor into that. The weather conditions can factor into that, whether it be, again, the rain, the wind, whatever. All those things are a factor. We make those decisions kind of on a weekly basis.

Q. Just wondering in the opener how you envision the Christian Wilkins role, considering that he's been practicing at both end and tackle, and whether he'll primarily stay at tackle, without giving too many secrets away?
DABO SWINNEY: We've got a good plan for Christian. Again, not going to lay out exactly how we want to use him, but all I can tell you is his role will be critical in us having a chance to win the game. He's prepared and capable of playing end, and he's prepared and capable of playing tackle. You could see him at both, you could see him at one. We'll see how it goes.

Q. With all the talented defensive players you lost in the NFL Draft this year, what have you learned about that side of the ball coming out of camp?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I think we've got -- we've recruited well. I think that we've got some guys that are ready to step in. I don't necessarily think that you just replace a Shaq or a Dodd with one guy, but I think that we have strength in numbers. I think we'll have a combination of guys that hopefully we'll be able to fill that production that left. We did lose DJ Reader, but I think we're as good as we've ever been at D-tackle, and we did lose B.J. Goodson at linebacker, but we're better at linebacker, and not because B.J. is gone, we're just better because we have more functional guys. Last year we had B.J. and Boulware, and then everybody else was a freshman. So all those guys now are sophomores, and we're just -- we have more guys that are ready to go play winning football for us at backer. So I actually think we're better there.

And then I think at corner, I think we're better, for the same reason. I think we've got more guys, more competition, more guys ready to play. The one area that I think we're probably the greenest right now is our depth at safety, as far as with Muse and Denzel Johnson. Those are two guys that are redshirt freshmen that are going to be good players but have zero experience. So I think they'll improve as they go.

We do have Korrin and we do have Ron Carter that can play safety, as well, if we need to put them in that role, so that gives us a little bit of a buffer, but that's probably the one area where I think we've got to be a little bit more cautious with how we substitute with Jadar and Van Smith. The rest of those positions I think we're going to have good-quality depth where we can play guys, and I think over the course of the season, that is very beneficial.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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