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September 15, 2010

Dabo Swinney

THE MODERATOR: We now welcome Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. We'll ask for a brief opening statement and go to questions.
COACH SWINNEY: Good to be with you guys this week. Getting ready for a very good team in Auburn. They're outstanding really in all three phases with good personnel. We'll have a big challenge going down there in that environment, 90 plus thousand, Game Day, all the other stuff going on surrounding the game.
At the same time we're excited about it. I really think our team has embraced the opportunity. Practices thus far have been pretty good this week. Hopefully that will continue today. But for us to be able to go on the road and win down there, we're going to have to really go play smart, be poised, execute at a high level.
Look forward to it. Hopefully the biggest thing for us is we're going to find a little bit more about ourselves Saturday night.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.

Q. Coach, you touched on the environment down there. You have much experience playing down there and coaching down there. Can you expand on exactly what it's like and how you address your players about that.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I mean, it's kind of like going to play here in Death Valley, Clemson. That's kind of what it's like. We understand what a great environment it is because we play in one every single week with rabid, passionate fan base that we have. It's going to be like being the visitor at Death Valley. That's the best way I can describe it to our players. They understand that.
But we've played in other environments that are difficult to go to. But Auburn does a great job. They're really into the game. I think they're going to have a blue-out, Game Day is there. There will be a lot of emotions flowing in the game. It's a big game for both teams. Again, we've been in big games before. Thus far we really haven't been challenged yet with some adversity. We haven't been on the road yet. Auburn has.
It will be a big test for us and hopefully, again, we'll be able to pass it.

Q. I don't know if you mention this to your players. I'm sure they're aware. The ACC/SEC, the few meetings that they have during the regular season, playing a bit for the conference, do you address that at all with them?
COACH SWINNEY: No. Our only concern is things that we control, and that's how we play here at Clemson. Obviously, anytime you get an opportunity to showcase your program on national TV, you want to do well, regardless of who you're playing. There's been a lot of talk because the ACC didn't have a great weekend as a conference last weekend.
We're not trying to do anything other than just play the very best Clemson football we can. It's a long season. All that stuff is fun for people to talk about. That will all sort itself out throughout the course of the year.

Q. Coach, what has been the biggest challenge for you coming in, putting your mark on that program, trying to take it to the next level?
COACH SWINNEY: Just changing the culture here, making it to where it's a culture of belief in self, believe in team, that you can do something special in every area of the program, trying to get everybody all in. That's what we talk about here. That's a total commitment to being your very best on and off the field. Been working on that since day one.
Last year we made a lot of progress in our first year. We took some steps. We won our division for the first time, played in our championship game. We won our Bowl game against an SEC team, a physical SEC team, in Kentucky. We hadn't won a Bowl since '05.
It's slowly coming together. I think we've made a lot of progress. Hopefully we can continue in that direction this season. A lot of it you have to address in recruiting, and we're trying to do that as well.

Q. Obviously Cam Newton is kind of a focal point of their offense. What do you see in him? What is it going to take to keep him under control?
COACH SWINNEY: As we got closer to the game, he's grown about three inches and put on 15 pounds over the last couple days (laughter).
He's a player. He's the real deal. It's not often that you go against a guy that's 250 pounds or so and can run and throw the ball. You try to just load up. He's their leading rusher, but he can throw the football. He's got a big arm. It's going to be a big challenge for us. He looks like Daunte Culpepper in his younger days or JaMarcus Russell. He's very talented. He's had success. He goes to junior college. I think takes them to the national championship. Junior College Player of the Year. Then he came there, won the job.
He's a guy that's used to having success, has a lot of confidence in himself. That jumps out at you on tape. You can do a great job in coverage, a great job with your rush lanes. He makes one guard miss, it's 20 yards down the field. You're trying to figure out what happened.
The key for us, we have to tackle well. We have to do a great job with our rush lanes and mix it up as far as where he has the ability to flush to. When we get ahold of him, we've got to tackle. He breaks a ton of tackles.
Definitely going to be a big challenge for us. It's hard to simulate that in practice.

Q. Coach, given who you played the first two weeks, how confident or unsure are you about your ability to step up and face this opponent this week?
COACH SWINNEY: You can only gauge everything on what you've had to deal with thus far. We've had two tests and we passed them well. We've won at home. We dominated the teams we're supposed to. That's the only thing you can measure.
We're going to find out more about our team Saturday night because we have yet to go on the road. Not only are you going on the road but you're going to a very difficult environment to win at. Until you face some adversity, it's hard to really know how you're going to respond.
I think we're going to respond great because I think we have veteran leadership on both sides of the ball in some key spots that have been in tough environments before and I think are really looking forward to the opportunity.
Every team is different. Last year's team, when adversity came, they got stronger, they got closer, they responded. This year's team has yet to be face with that. That's one of the things you're always interested to see with your football team.
But win or lose Saturday night we're going to learn something and we're going to have a lot to improve upon, I can guarantee you that.

Q. The ACC's reputation for a minute. In conversations with us, after the beating that the conference took last week, wouldn't it be nice to have something to say in terms of, We beat Auburn? You mentioned before beating Kentucky in a Bowl game. Wouldn't it help the conference?
COACH SWINNEY: There's no doubt, you want your conference to perform well every week when you're playing out of conference. I know there's been a lot of talk about last weekend. I don't care what logo you carry with you, when you go to places like Oklahoma and Ohio State, it's a high likelihood you're coming out of there with a loss. Those are difficult places to play for a reason. These are top programs. It's not like they just lost to somebody.
Virginia Tech, James Madison, that shouldn't happen. Just like Ole Miss and Jacksonville State shouldn't happen. It's college football. The first weekend, I'm not sure the SEC had what they would call a great weekend.
You just got a come ready to play every single week, regardless of who you're playing, what conference they're from, what division they are. Otherwise, you get beat.
But absolutely, for us to be able to win on the road early in the year with an opportunity like this, it's great for our program, but certainly good for the conference as well.
When it's all said and done, I hope that we'll have a really solid champion from this conference that's proven to be just that.

Q. Against an offense like this that has a lot of play fakes, misdirection, how much can it help to move McDaniel up in the run support and how disciplined to your guys have to be not to bite on some of those fakes?
COACH SWINNEY: That's going to be a very big key in this game. First of all, they play an extremely fast tempo. It's almost like two-minute the whole game. That's really kind of the feel of the pace when they're rolling. So we've got to do a good job of disrupting that flow by winning first down and maybe getting them out of their comfort zone.
With all the formations, motions, shifts, very unique alignments that they will have from time to time, guys moving around, you can't get distracted. You cannot let your eyes get distracted. You've got to stay focused on what your true keys are, because ultimately it's going to come down to a few plays. They get to it a lot of different ways.
So the discipline with our eyes and our alignments, rush lanes, things like that, that's going to be a critical part of the game.

Q. You moved DeAndre up a little bit to help with that run.
COACH SWINNEY: He moves around. He'll be playing deep middle sometimes. Sometimes he's down in the box. He's a guy we try to put in position to make plays. So, yeah, he's all over.
That's another thing that I think is critical with these guys, with so much misdirection, we got to tackle well and we have to rally to the ball. We got to get there. We need to get as many hats in the picture as possible.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for being with us. We'll talk to you next Wednesday.
COACH SWINNEY: Okay. Thanks, guys. Take care.

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