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September 13, 2017

Dabo Swinney

Greensboro, North Carolina

DABO SWINNEY: First of all, just proud of our team for a hard-fought game last week and how we competed. Just how they're going back to work this week in preparation for another big challenge, our first road game, first conference game, division game. Excited about going up to Louisville, obviously, game day and all that stuff. It's fun to be part of those type of games.

But this is a really, really good football team we're playing. You know, just looking forward to watching our guys go and accept the challenge and compete. At their place, and just try to improve our team. This is another big step for us.

So great football team. Offensively they're obviously led by Lamar Jackson who is as good a player as there is on the planet and good skill. Defensively got a bunch of guys back. They've got nine starters back and 11 or 12 guys that have started at some point in their career, so veteran group and a big challenge for us, but looking forward to it.

Q. As you see Lamar Jackson's film from this year, does he seem like anymore of a different defensive challenge than he was last year?
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, man, just part two. I mean, he's definitely a more mature player. He's bigger, stronger. Just like all players as they gain experience, they gain confidence as well. So he's a very confident guy and has a great understanding of what they're asking him to do. Knows who all his players are. Does a good job of finding his backs and checking the ball down and just has a great feel for the game. He's still a guy that you can be in great position on but you've still got to get your hands on him and get him down. And that's easier said than done. So he's a dangerous football player, no different than last year.

Q. Are you hoping your defense does better or differently than you did against them last year?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I mean, we missed some tackles. That's always the thing. We had opportunities where we had him hemmed up and just didn't make the play. We've got a -- I'd like to see us do a little bit better job from that standpoint and then we came out of coverage a couple times. This is a guy that you've got to cover forever. Because he will run around and extend plays and when you come out of coverage, there's big plays. So there were a couple breakdowns there that we had.

But to be honest with you, the biggest thing we need to do is not turn the ball over five times. That would be the best help for our defense. They played a ton of snaps, and when he touches the ball that many times, he's just going to make plays. So we've got to -- our best defense might be doing a little better job offensively in taking care of the football, unlike we did last year because we really had control of the game, but we just kept giving him opportunities and he took full advantage of it and brought his team back and we were in a fight for our life there at the end.

So hopefully defensively we can shore up a few things. Offensively give ourselves a little bit more of a chance, especially on the road in taking care of the football.

Q. Now that you look back on that wild game last year that you guys won like you said in a really close game there at the finish with Louisville, is there some perspective about how it kind of set you guys off on your path to the national title and Lamar off? I think a lot of people talk about that game being a jumping point for his Heisman campaign. But just looking back at the impact of that game, how do you view it in the larger scheme of things?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, for sure for him he had a lot of big plays and it was a great stage for him and he played his heart out and certainly did not hurt any, that's for sure. He had already played well coming into that game but certainly added fuel to the fire for a Heisman campaign and all that stuff.

But for us it was just part of our journey. They're all big. They really are. I don't know who we played the next week, but it was big too. Every game that we were able to find a way to win was all a part of the journey last year and Lou allowing us to have a chance to make the playoff. And you've got to get in the playoff first to have an opportunity to win the national championship. So that was definitely a big win, and it put us in the driver's seat in our division. And allowed us to continue to stay in control of our destiny at that point of the season.

This is the same way. This is just part of the journey. We can't win the division, we can't lose it. But boy, you certainly have an opportunity to really create good momentum toward our next goal, which is to win the division and this conference.

Q. Obviously you're going through it this year with Kelly Bryant. But what is the key to putting a less experienced quarterback in a position to succeed, and how do you go about planning for that versus planning for a returning starter or someone who has a little more game experience?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, I think that starts in your off-season, starts back in February when you get -- you kind of turn the page and start over with a new team. It's really your spring practice and using your spring practice to really evaluate where that particular player is mentally, the type of ownership that he may or may not have. For us, he's not a freshman. He's not a very experienced player for us, but he is a junior. He has been here for the past two years and he's sat in the room for all the game plans, he's been on the headsets. He understands game situations.

He had a great model in Deshaun Watson to pay attention to every day as far as how he prepared, how he handled success, how he handled adversity, how he handled the media, all that type of stuff. So that part, I think has been helpful.

But the biggest thing is you just have to evaluate through spring where he is and you put a good plan together as you go into the summer. You have to let him compete because he had to win the job because the other guys are freshmen.

For us as a staff, we really haven't changed much. We haven't had to pare down the offense or anything like that. He really has a great understanding and command. The biggest thing for him is just getting the game experience. That's why these two games were so huge. And to see him play well is a credit to his preparation. Coach Streeter has done a great job with him. He's going to have some ups and downs as we go through the course of the season. But just really proud of him. I think he's in a good place, and we've got to continue to put him in position to be successful week in and week out.

Q. How much of a problem is it for Brent Venables that the guy with the most speed is going to touch the ball every time on the field?
DABO SWINNEY: It's a real problem. He's dynamic, like I said. He's a problem for everybody he plays because he's a special talent. He has a feel for the game. He's really matured and grown into being a great quarterback. He's got a cannon for an arm. He's fearless running the football. He's fearless throwing the football. So, you know, he touches it every snap. It is a big, big challenge, that's for sure.

Q. Did Brent kind of turn to you at the coach's meeting and say can you get us 30 and don't give them any short fields?
DABO SWINNEY: No, no. Brent just stays focused on what he's worried about. He doesn't have to say that. We all know we don't want to give this guy short fields, and points are at a premium when you're playing a guy like this. Because you know he's going to make some plays and that's just part of it. But it should be fun.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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