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November 9, 2016

Dabo Swinney

Greensboro, North Carolina

DABO SWINNEY: Well, for us, coming off of an outstanding win against Syracuse, really proud of our team for how they played. Probably one of our best games of the year, and we're excited about getting back at it this week. Another opportunity to play at home, and as you said, a chance to -- if we can find a way to win the game, a chance to earn another opportunity to play for the championship overall, so we're excited about that. But it's not going to be an easy task. Pittsburgh is a really good football team, tough, physical, just going to get after you in the trenches. They're 5-4, but really to me, they are a few plays from a 7-2, 8-1 type of a team. They beat Penn State and obviously Penn State is highly ranked, barely lost at Oklahoma State, lost by a field goal to Virginia Tech, and last by one point to North Carolina. This is a very, very dangerous and capable team, a team that's certainly good enough to beat us, so just got to have a great week of practice, continue to prepare with the purpose each and every day, and just try to keep improving our team, and as we say all the time, try to be at our best here down the home stretch. We know we've got a tough challenge this week.

Q. I've been reading up on your school and your campus, and it seems to have a lot of traditions throughout the program, the campus. Talk a little bit about the running down the hill means to the team and what Howard's Rock means to the team and the traditions surrounding it?
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, it's just a privilege. This is a long-standing tradition here at Clemson. One of those unique traditions in college football that I think makes college football so intriguing and interesting to so many people. I tell people all the time, if you're a college football fan, whether you're a Clemson fan or not, you really ought to come and see a game at Clemson. It's just a beautiful game day setting, the pageantry that surrounds this game and the campus and the tailgating, and just there's a spirit here that is really special. Most teams come out of the locker room and go out to the field, but here we come out of the locker room, we go to the parking lot, we get on buses, we bus around, and the bus ride around is just -- it's just an amazing experience, and then to get off the bus and to see 80 plus thousand people just so excited about celebrating that tradition here at Clemson and to see the team introduced that way is, again, very unique and just a privilege to be a part of it, and it never gets old. Just a lot of fun, and definitely one of those things that people love to show up early to make sure they see.

Q. When you bring a recruit in, do they get to touch the rock, or is that something --
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, no, no, they can touch -- well, they can't run down the hill until they're a player, but they have the rock uncovered on game day, and all the students sit on the hill or stand -- they never sit, they stand on the hill, and they all have the opportunity to touch the rock and things like that on game day, as well.

And then once the game is over, they keep it covered and locked up when the stadium is not open, if you will. But people take pictures at the rock all the time before and after the game.

Q. How has Deshaun looked in practice this week, and is he definitely going to play on Saturday?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, he's looked good. We were just kind of slow with him, pretty good bruise there and took it slow with him Sunday and Monday and did a good bit more yesterday, and we'll be full go today. He's doing good, expect him to go.

Q. What does it say about your team that you were still able to just keep things rolling even when he went out of the game last week?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I just think that's what we talk about all the time. It just doesn't happen often at quarterback, but whether it's a receiver goes down, next guy has got to go in or a tight end or an offensive lineman, D-lineman, next guy has got to go play. We prepare; our twos get the same amount of reps as our ones, so I just think it's great, and I think it's a great sign of the maturity of a guy like Nick Schuessler, because again, it's hard when you're not necessarily going to rotate at quarterback in our situation, but yet he's got to be prepared to go lead the team and be the starter each and every week, and so it takes a tremendous amount of maturity and commitment and discipline to prepare as the starter every week, even though you may or may not play, and I just think it's a great testament to Nick and how we practice and how we prepare, the job that Brandon Streeter does in getting those guys ready. So it was great, just great to see him in a critical drive, to go in and finish a critical drive and complete a 4th down and a great drive before the half, I just think it's great confidence for Nick, and also a lot of confidence for our team to see him go out and perform in crunch time when we had to have to as opposed to just coming into the fourth quarter when the game is decided.

Q. Obviously Pitt's offensive coordinator Matt Canada was at NC State last year, and I think NC State gave you as much trouble as anybody you faced. Do you see a lot of parallels in the play calling from what you've seen on film with Pitt?
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, yeah, yeah. He does a great job. He really does. Another parallel is they've got a transfer at quarterback in there just like they had at NC State in Brissett, who's a very good player. Very impressed with Peterman. He's not quite as bit as Brissett was, but he's still a big kid, 225-, 230-pound guy that's played a lot of ball, smart, you can tell he's got a good understanding and command, runs well. They will use his legs from time to time, but they're going to run the football, and then they're going to try to establish that and create all the misdirections and play actions and a lot of shifts and motions, very similar to the things that they did, and they did, they had a lot of success against us last year up at NC State. A lot of respect for the job he does, and again, does an excellent job of creating some challenges. I mean, there's some option principles from a defensive standpoint as far as how you've got to defend them and how you've got to line up, the discipline you have to play with, the gap integrity, the eyes that you have to have on the back end so that you don't get sucked into things, and now you've got guys running wide open. So definitely a big challenge for our D-line because this is a very good offensive line that's physical and tough and has good chemistry. Obviously they've got great backs, and they use their skill very well within their scheme. Definitely a group we've got a lot of respect for.

Q. A lot of different concepts there; is that sort of unique when you see those option concepts mixed with some of the other things they do?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, I mean, again, I just think it's smart football. He does a good job of that's their philosophy, and again, it ties into when they get into some of their double wing sets, it ties into their overall philosophy of trying to find different ways to run the ball and set up misdirections and play actions. You know, with all the jet motions and stuff that they have, a lot of max protections and here comes the double post Wills and things like that, do a good job of utilizing their tight end. He's an outstanding player. He will pass protect, now next thing you know you get sucked in and he's slipped out on you, and it's some type of throw back. All those things are just a part of the bigger picture for them for sure.

Q. I was curious as you close in on another division title, what do you find most satisfying or most encouraging about this year's team that took this year's journey?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, just the consistency from day one, just, as I've said, this has been the easiest team I've had to coach. It's been the funnest team I've had to coach. These guys, the leadership has been unbelievable, and just very little drama or distractions with this team at all. I mean, they have been tremendous. Very accountable to one another. They have been businesslike from day one, I mean, as far as just how they've come -- when they've showed up to practice, they've been locked in. We've had very few days when I've walked off the practice field, all the way back to last spring and our off-season and our mad drills where I just felt like, man, we weren't locked in today. These guys have really bought into what we do and how we do it. Our accountability teams that we have, I mean, shoot, we've had very little issue there, and the guys have held themselves accountable. It's just been a fun team.

They have a rock-solid belief that they're going to win, and they're willing to do what it takes. I mean, they trust each other. They complement each other well. Sometimes they've got to compensate for each other, but they don't panic. They just keep playing, so I love that mentality with these guys.

Q. Players aren't stupid; they can figure out where they are and what they need to do to make the playoffs without the polls. Is it easier for you to be able to tell them just take them one at a time and if we keep winning we control our own destiny rather than have to look at the scoreboard and watch for help?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, well, I think for us, that's just our overall philosophy and has been for a long time, so it's just engrained in our culture here. We just always say it's about how we play, because if we prepare -- and how we play is based on how we prepare. If we prepare the right way, we think the right way, we play the right way, we're committed to doing the little things, then the scoreboard will take care of itself, and let's don't get caught up in worrying about the scoreboard. Sometimes you can play well and the score doesn't go your way, and you just stay committed. You know, I just think for us that's the mentality we have, every game is the biggest game of the year. We truly live that here. We put everything we've got -- we don't prepare any different for any opponent. We treat them all the same, and we know that we're good enough, but we've got to stay committed and focused and not get distracted by outside things that don't matter, whether it's a poll or if this, if that. Let's just stay locked in and keep it about Clemson and the things that we can control, and our guys have done a good job with that.

Q. You've got to respect James Conner for all he's been through and what he's accomplished. Is he the guy you've got to slow down on the Pitt offense this weekend?
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, there's no question. I mean, he's a great football player, big, strong, relentless runner. He plays with a ton of heart and toughness. I mean, just passion when you see this guy. Makes a lot of big plays for them, and he's definitely the heart of their team, there's no doubt about it. Again, when they get that running game going, they're a tough team to defend because you need extra guys to stop the run, and now you've got to be very disciplined on the back end.

Q. I get Williams and Watson being touted as NFL first-rounders, but I think Gallman and Scott are lower first round, early second rounders, as well. Why do you think they're not getting the same love as the other two guys?
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, I don't know. I guess they're just kind of -- they're just blue collar, they don't really have the shine, I guess -- Mike is 6'5", almost 6'4" plus, and obviously Deshaun is the quarterback, but let me tell you, Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott are two of the best football players we've had come through here, without a doubt, and both of those guys are going to be great pros as well, regardless of where they get drafted. They have such a great mentality for the game and both very unselfish guys, do lots of things, great people off the field, and that's why we've been winning is we have those type of guys all across our team, and that's the type of leadership that we've had, Artavis and Wayne Gallman and Deshaun and Mike, those guys have been phenomenal, but again, I don't really get caught up in what other people say draft-wise. They'll prove themselves, and when they get their opportunities, they're going to take full advantage, and whoever gets them is going to be very fortunate.

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