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September 6, 2017

Dabo Swinney

Greensboro, North Carolina

DABO SWINNEY: Really just recapping from last week, proud of how our team performed, showed up ready to play. Excited about kicking the season off, and it was a good opener for us, an opportunity to play a lot of guys, get some experience, and achieve that first goal.

But much bigger task this week as we get ready for a great Auburn football team. This is a very talented and deep team. They've got all the pieces to have a great year, and should be a fun game Saturday night here in the Valley. Anxious to see our team go compete against an opponent like this.

Q. I was hoping you could talk about Auburn having faced them in back to back years. What's the biggest difference you've seen from last year to this year out of Auburn, Coach?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, the biggest thing for us, we opened up with them last year, and I remember nobody really wanted to give us a lot of credit for that win early in the season. But man, I really came away very impressed with Auburn and their personnel, and I think the biggest difference is last year they were unsettled at quarterback when we saw them. They played three or four guys against us. But just very impressed with their quarterback. They have solidified their depth. They've got really good skill, and you know, their running back led the SEC in yards per gain last year, good up front on both sides in the trenches there, very deep in the defensive line. Defensively they'll be easily a top 10 defense in the country.

So it's just a complete team, and I think just the addition of Stidham coming in and his understanding of what they want to do offensively and the nuances of the zone read and his ability to throw the football down the field with great poise, that's the biggest difference. But other than that, I mean, they're Auburn. I mean, they're always one of the most talented teams in the country, well-coached and physical. Not much has changed from that standpoint.

Q. Defensively I'm wondering your thoughts on Deshaun Davis there at the Mike position.
DABO SWINNEY: Great player. If you're talking about 57, I believe, he's a great football player. All those backers, they've got three guys back that got starts last year, actually four of them that have had starts at some point, so just a very experienced group. He's one of them. He's outstanding.

Q. What was the best thing that you liked seeing from Kelly Bryant's performance?
DABO SWINNEY: Just what I saw that he was able to duplicate what I've seen on the practice field. I just didn't know because I hadn't seen him play yet in a game, certainly not as a starter going in. I knew what I'd seen in practice, and I was hopeful that it would show up and that he would have the confidence and the poise on game day that I've seen in practice, and he did. He played with great poise and confidence, had an excellent presence to him, and just continued doing what he's done all fall camp, made great decisions, made the throws we needed, made plays with his legs. So just a lot of confidence.

That was good to see in his first start. You know, because again, it's just different on game day, and just happy for him, and now the next step is can he consistently perform. Obviously the challenge becomes much greater, but the decisions are still the same, and can he consistently perform like we need him to decision-wise and et cetera as the margin for error gets less.

Q. Do you get the sense that he has that kind of poise, that he's ready for this spotlight against Auburn?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, I mean, he's been great. All I can, like I said, judge is based on his daily focus and preparation and performance in practice, and now I've got a game to go by. He's been outstanding. He really has.

You know, and he's not a freshman. That's the other thing. He's a guy that's put a lot of work in. I think when you've put the work in, usually you're usually a pretty confident person, and he has put the work in. He's grinded for two years for this opportunity, and I think he's excited about it. You know, looking forward to going and competing against these guys.

Q. I don't believe you saw pet way last year when you saw Auburn. What kind of challenges does Pettway pose for your defense?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I mean, he's a 240-pound sledgehammer. He's hard to tackle, especially with all the misdirection that they incorporate into their offense and jet sweeps and this and that. Next thing you know they're splitting you in half with a 240-pound guy. He's very good and very durable, very consistent. Again, you don't luck up and lead the SEC in yards per gain. He's a great football player for sure, and I'm not sure about -- 21 is a great player, too. I know he got banged up last week. Not sure if he's -- where he is, but they've got an outstanding group of running backs.

Q. How much are you unsure or not about your defense after playing Kent State?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I mean, we played really well, so I mean, that's the only thing I can really gauge by right now. We'll know more Saturday night as far as what we've got to do moving forward throughout the course of the season to get better. Obviously the objective is to find a way to win the game, but I'm sure there will be some things will come out of this game and really have to go and work on. That's just what you do as you go through the course of the season.

But you know, you've got to get challenged week in and week out, and this past week they met the challenge. We played really well. Obviously they didn't really throw the football very much, but we practice against each other every day. We have competitive drills every single day, good-on-good. You know, it's a daily grind around here, and hopefully that keeps us sharp and prepared for great opponents on game day.

Q. When you think back to the program that you took over and the program that you're in charge of now, what is the biggest difference in the last eight, nine years at Clemson?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, this is my ninth here as the full-time head coach. Just the biggest difference is just belief. You know, if I had to just say one thing just to peel it all back is we have an attitude of belief in who we are and what we do and how we do it, and you know, that's probably the biggest thing. That was my No. 1 thing when I got the job was really creating the right mindset. It's been a process over the past eight years in establishing the right kind of culture and the type of consistency that we want to have, but if I had to say one thing, it's just belief.

Q. What do you think the biggest factor was for you establishing that, being able to do that?
DABO SWINNEY: Having a vision for what it's supposed to look like, being able to articulate that and create the buy-in with your players. You know, develop leadership. There's so many things that go into it, get the right people in place, and then just, you know, not grow weary. Just stay at it. One day at a time, understanding that you're going to have success, you're going to have failures. It's just all part of the journey. You know, it doesn't happen overnight, and just staying -- keep the main thing the main thing. Continue to stay focused on the core values that were set forth in the program from day one and what the vision was laid out to be, and that's what our focus has always been. Nothing has changed as we go into year nine year.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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