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October 4, 2017

Dave Clawson

Greensboro, North Carolina

DAVE CLAWSON: Yeah, we need to bounce back after a tough, hard-fought loss against Florida State. I thought our kids played their heart out.

We just credit Florida State. They made some plays to win the game, and we made some uncharacteristic mistakes in terms of the turnover battle, and we turned it overcoming out once; that led to points and turned it over on the 15 going in, and again, credit to Florida State. They made the plays when they had to.

And you know, certainly looking forward to this week to get back on the field, but Clemson right now is playing at an extremely high level. Probably as well as anybody in the country, and you know, just a credit to Coach Sweeney and his staff. To lose the calibre of players they lost last year, a quarterback like Watson, a running back like Gallman, receivers like Williams and Scott, a tight end like Leggett on the defensive line, and Watkins and linebacker Boulware, and two of their players in the secondary; you look at that depth chart and you kind of think: Maybe this is the year they take a dip, and there's no dip.

I think collectively as a team, they are playing probably as well as any point they did last year. Right now they have a good chemistry going. They are playing at an extremely high level in all facets of the game.

Their quarterback has stepped in and done a tremendous job for them, Kelly Bryant, and you know, again, they have got cane back and Ray-Ray McCloud back and they still have that skill and defensively, extremely well-coached, aggressive and talented. So this will be another great challenge and a great test for us.

Q. You have to play Florida State and Clemson on back-to-back weeks. They did you no favors with that, did they.
DAVE CLAWSON: No, we requested this. We request that every year (laughs).

But you know what, the schedule's the schedule. I joked about it yesterday in the press conference, and you know, every time the schedule comes out, different people have different complaints, and we have to play both those games.

You know, whether we play them back-to-back or a month apart, we still have to play them. Again, I don't know if anybody would request that. We certainly didn't. But it is what it is and you know, we have to prepare for them.

Q. When it comes to scoring points in bunches, Clemson is right at the top of the list, but with that being said, isn't their defense playing at an even higher level than their offense right now?
DAVE CLAWSON: I mean, I don't know. Pick your poison. I mean, they are undefeated. They are the reigning national champs. I think their offense -- what goes very overlooked with Clemson this year is just how well their offensive line is playing.

I think in my four years here, this is as good of a Clemson offensive line as we've ever seen. These guys are athletic. They are well-coached. They are on the same page. I think that group as much as any group has allowed for their transition at quarterback because they are playing so well. And they have got explosive playmakers. I mean, you know, Hunter Renfrow is an excellent, excellent player. Ray-Ray McCloud is a very, very explosive big playmaker; Deon Cain. There is nobody with them that you can cheat against.

You can't say, hey, we'll double this guy and try to live over here, because all their guys -- and their running back group is really impressive, too. They go three-deep, Feaster, Fuller and Travis Etienne, I believe is how you pronounce it, and the Etienne kid averages I think eight, nine, ten yards a carry. That's how you score points in bunches is when you're well protected and you have dynamic skill.

And on defense, they are just incredible. I'm sure there's a lot of guys playing for Clemson right now that will be playing on Sundays, and it starts with their defensive line. I mean, those two tackles, Lawrence and Wilkins, are all conference players. I think their ends are incredibly athletic. I mean, Ferrell is a great pass rusher and Austin Bryant makes some very athletic plays. Their linebackers are good and they can cover in the secondary.

There is not a weakness with this team. This is a complete, well-coached -- they are capable of winning, low-scoring games because of their defense like they did at Auburn and if they have to win a game 52-49, they can do that because of their offense.

Q. Given what you just said, what's the message to the team about, okay, here is what we need to do to hang in this game like we hung in the game last week?
DAVE CLAWSON: Well, you know, it's never about who you play. It's about what we do, control the controllables. We have no impact on our schedule. We have no impact on how good Clemson is. The only thing that we can control is our preparation, getting ourselves ready to play and our kids have done a great job with that all year.

So far this year, all five games, we've come ready to play and we haven't always played perfectly or executed to the level we want but I think our effort has always been there, and that's what we can do. We've got to go down there and prepare as well as we can, and you know, I know our kids will play hard, and they are looking forward to the challenge.

Q. It was kind of a deflating defeat last week. Do you sense because it's Clemson, the mood of the team is not one of dejection but one of excitement? What's the mood there?
DAVE CLAWSON: It's college football. I mean, you want to win every week but you're not going to. The two weeks before when we played Appalachian State, a lot of ways, they probably outplayed us and out-gamed us and executed better than us, but we made some big plays and they made some mistakes and allowed us to win the game.

Last week, the table kind of flipped on us; that we played well and we out-gained them and moved the ball and we made some critical mistakes. You know, you go through the course of most seasons, that's going to happen. You have to bounce back. I mean, there's a game the next week. Nobody feels sorry for us. You know, by the way, you have the defending national champs the next week.

Our kids are pretty resilient. They were down on Sunday but you know, we've had a good Tuesday and a good Wednesday of practice, and we enjoy these games. These are great challenges for us.

Q. You obviously had some good players coming back to your defensive line, but to be leading the nation right now in tackles for loss, what do you think has been the biggest key to that and just being able to get behind the line and make some plays there?
DAVE CLAWSON: I just think at that position, we've had consistency. Our defensive line coach, Dave Cohen, I think does a great job of developing players. These kids now for four years have been in our strength and conditioning program. They run the same drills every week. We're in the same defenses. They learned to play with their hands.

I just think there's a lot of consistency in terms of what the expectations are and how hard we expect them to play and we have great leadership at that position.

You know, Wendell Dunn is a very, very strong leader, not just for our whole football team but especially in the D-line room. I think he and Duke kind of set the standard of what's expected there, and other guys are starting to live up to that standard, whether it be Willie Yarbary, Zeek Rodney or Elontae Bateman, and we have depth there. That's a position that we can go seven or eight deep and that allows us to keep guys fresh. It is a good group for us and they have gotten better every year.

Q. Can you talk a little about Jessie Bates and what he does for you back there, because he looks like he's in two or three places at once, it seems like, on some plays.
DAVE CLAWSON: Well, to be honest with you, Jessie is having a good year because he's not trying to be two or three places in one play. He is doing a very good job of doing his job within the scope of the defense. I think sometimes players who are good players like Jessie, he can try to do too much and they end up not doing their job.

I think last week Jessie did a great job of doing his job, of having his eyes in the right place and having the proper leverage and being inside when he should be inside or outside when he should be outside.

He's a very good, fluid athlete. He's a very good tackler in space and he's one of those guys that just has athletic intelligence. He has a very good feel for spatial awareness, the quarterback's intentions, and he has really good body control. He's become an outstanding player for us.

We kind of expect that now from him because we've seen it so many times.

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