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September 14, 2016

Dabo Swinney

Greensboro, North Carolina

COACH SWINNEY: Good morning, everyone. Big thing for us is we're excited to have another opportunity to play at home. Happy to be 2-0. A lot of positives these first couple weeks, but also a lot of mistakes, areas for improvement, things we've got to clean up, perform a little better in certain areas.

End of the day we're happy to be 2-0, but definitely looking for a lot of improvement as we go into this ballgame this week. Just trying to play our best game.

South Carolina State is a school we're familiar with here in this state. We always think a lot of Coach Pough, the job he does. They have some good players. They have some guys we actually recruited.

Again, for us, it's about trying to get everyone to play to the best of their ability with attention to details, clean up some of the fundamental mistakes that we're making as a football team, trying to get to 3-0.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Swinney.

Q. You were in the Playoffs last year, played for the national championship. Obviously that's a goal this year. The way the system is, still learning it. Is it enough just to win every week or do you have to be impressive? How important is that?
COACH SWINNEY: It's enough for us. Our goal is not to be in the national championship. That's not on our goal board. Our goals are to win the opener, to win the division, to win our state championship, to win the ACC, and to win the closer. That's our goals. Anything that happens outside of that is out of our control.

If we do get a chance to go to the playoffs, the national championship, somebody wins some great award, those are all just products of our weekly commitment.

So those are things you don't control. That's why I've never put on there, We'll go to the national championship. What if you did win all your games and somebody doesn't vote you in there? It's not any different than it was when it was the two teams that were playing.

Our goals are what I just stated. But in a nutshell it's just to be the best we can be, the best version each and every week. As I said yesterday, we can win every game 13-12, I'll take it. If that's not good enough to get us to the national championship, so be it. Again, those are all things that are subjective.

At Clemson, with the schedule that we play, if we win every game 3-0, I think when it's all said and done, we would have that opportunity. Again, we don't control that.

But the objective is to try to win. It's just like my golf game. When I make a 4, I just write a 4 on the card. It's a 4. It doesn't say that I hit the woods, shanked it off a tree, it landed up miraculously by the green, I chipped up, one-putted. It just says 4.

That's the bottom line for us. We got 12 games on our schedule. Man, we want to win 'em all. Our philosophy here is you can't win 12 until you win three. If we get 10 along the way, we want to win 11. We want to put everything we got each and every week into that game, trying to find a way to win.

That's one of the things I'm real proud about this team. We are 2-0. We did go to Auburn. For some reason, that's all of a sudden just an easy thing to do, I guess. Don't get much credit for that.

Our team is not playing its best football or up to its potential right now. But they're still finding a way to win. I have a great appreciation for that in a big way.

Q. Offensively you have so many weapons, such high expectations. I know you score points and move the ball. As an outsider, it seems to be sputtering a little bit.
COACH SWINNEY: No question, yeah.

Q. Is there a reason for that?
COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, we can't catch the ball. I mean, it's really that simple (laughter). Looking for some kind of conspiracy theory or something... The bottom line is we're not catching the ball.

We had eight drops Saturday for 172 yards. We didn't have eight drops until the fifth game of the year last year. Went back and looked at it. We had four drops in the Notre Dame game in a hurricane. We didn't have eight drops total until the fifth game of the year, but yet we had eight in one game. That doesn't count the four drops that we had in the Auburn game.

We've had 12 drops in two games. That's a problem, because we've dropped touchdowns, we've dropped easy plays. We've done a lot of good, too. You can't ever really seem to get in a rhythm.

But we will because we're too talented. We're kind of in a little funk right now. We're working through that, practicing hard. Just a lack of focus, concentration. We'll get that corrected. When we do, the reality is, if we do a better job of catching the ball, we would have had two games with 500-plus yards. I'm not getting these questions. But at the end of the day, we got to execute the plays that are there. It's really that simple.

I know everybody wants to look for some underlying theme. But I don't know how else to say it. I coached wideouts my whole life. I'm tough on those guys. I'm sorry, that affects everything involved. It affects the defense. It affects field position. It affected third down. It affects the psyche, energy, the quarterback, the left guard. It's as simple as that.

When we start pitching and catching a little bit better, all the rest of it will come together. That's not to say we're not going to have issues to correct each and every week. We're humans. But that is a major problem right now, and it is the major problem that we've got to get turned around. The good news is we will because these guys are too talented and they got pride in their performance.

Q. For years the ACC has struggled to get the football recognition with the SECs of the world. Your program, FSU and Louisville are now packed in the same division. The trends of the last five years for these programs has been way, way up. Do you feel like the Atlantic Division is getting the respect that it deserves? Secondly, is there kind of an SEC-like element to how competitive these programs are on a national basis?
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, there's no question. I mean, the SEC has been a phenomenal conference, and still is. But I've said for several years that people just don't really know, but they're going to know. As we stepped out of conference the last several years, not just us at Clemson, but as a whole, I think people have taken more notice.

Then you look at what's happened in the playoffs, the national championship scene, all that stuff. I think this conference is well-represented and very strong. You look at the head-to-head last year I think in the rivalry games, the SEC, ACC, it was pretty good.

Those things are all cyclical, all that type of stuff. This conference right now in 2016 is as good as there is in college football, there's no question about it. Unbelievable quarterback play, incredibly competitive. It has been. We've had 10, 11, 12 bowl teams. Those are things that are incredibly difficult to do. So I think that speaks to the competitiveness of this league. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day. A bunch of great coaches in this league.

If you look at the NFL, the Draft, all the players that have been drafted out of the ACC, they're right there at the top.

Look at recruiting, all the great players that are coming to the ACC that have tons of SEC opportunities. I think it speaks to where this conference is.

For me, I've never really made it about the conference, I've always said it's about the program. You can be a bad team in a good conference. Be proud of your conference, but you need to worry about the program that you have. That's what we've tried to do from day one, is just focus on Clemson, trying to be the best that we can be here, do things the right way, and go play people.

Don't talk about it, be about it. In over eight years now, we've been able to establish ourselves as a relevant program. We're just one of those teams that has a chance. We're not better than anybody else, but we do have a program that can compete. I think there's several other schools just like us in this league.

Just as you pointed out, you look at this division, it's not just Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, look at what Pittsburgh is doing. There's some really good football teams in our league. I think that's just going to continue. I don't think there's any question about it.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for being with us today.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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