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November 10, 2010

Dabo Swinney

THE MODERATOR: We now welcome Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney. We'll bring on coach, ask for a brief opening statement, then go to questions.
COACH SWINNEY: Good to be with you guys again this week.
Well, this is another opportunity for us to go on the road. We have not been a road team this year. Tough task to go down and play in Tallahassee. It will be a night game, a great atmosphere I'm sure. We're going to have to play our best game to be able to win down there.
But our focus is just on trying to get better as a team and try to have the best finish as we possibly can. It's the biggest game of the year for us because it's the next one, and we're trying to have that good finish. Gets us eligible for a Bowl if we can win this one. Certainly keeps us alive in our conference. Same for Florida State. So a lot on the line for both teams.
We're going to have to play very well. But we're looking forward to it. So far we're having a good week of preparation.
With that, I'll take whatever questions you have.

Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you about Da'Quan Bowers. He's putting up remarkable numbers as a pass-rusher. I'm correct, he blocked the kick earlier in the game, right?
COACH SWINNEY: I believe it was Jarvis Jenkins that got his firsthand on it, but Da'Quan was right there as well.

Q. Can you talk about him as a pass-rusher, what he's brought? His numbers are out of sight.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, he's come into his own this year. He's been a good player his first two years here. But this has been a year, like a lot of players, the light kind of goes on for him. Not just on game day, but just the off-season, how they prepare, take care of their bodies, the commitment, all that type of stuff, knowledge of the game, studying the game. Those are the areas where Da'Quan really grew up in. He played at 290 pounds this year. He's been playing about 273 this year. He's a very smart player, but has worked really hard in studying and preparing every week.
He's playing like a man on a mission. When you put great work ethic with great talent, most of the time you get a great player. That's what the case has been for Da'Quan. Awful proud of the season that he's had. If he continues to play and finish the season like he started it, he's going to put himself in contention to win some of those post-season awards.

Q. I know it takes a combination of all these things to make a guy that successful. Out of strength and quickness or technique, what area does he really excel in?
COACH SWINNEY: Size, speed and explosiveness, the combination, athleticism to go with it. I mean, you just don't find many guys 274 pounds that can run like Da'Quan, can change direction like Da'Quan, and have the power and explosiveness in their hips like Da'Quan does. That's what makes him special. He can speed rush you or he can turn that speed into power and get up underneath you. He's strong enough to bull you.
When you put a high motor with it, you got a tough day's work. He's just put it all together. In the past, he has shown flashes of that, but then he would not be consistent with his effort, things like that. This year, he's been at a different level.

Q. Coach, I'm sure you've seen reports that Christian Ponder has had to miss a little practice time at the start of the week and is day to day. I guess you have the luxury of having some film on EJ Manuel. How much are they alike or different to prepare for? Are you preparing as if Ponder is playing?
COACH SWINNEY: We're just preparing what they do offensively because it's not going to matter who's under center. They're going to do what they do regardless. They're similar players in that regard. I mean, they're both big guys. Both can run well. We played a little bit against Manuel last year. We certainly have watched their Bowl game from last year. He was the MVP of that game, I believe, and a good player.
He's played a little bit this year. But Ponder is the leader of their team. That's an obvious thing you're going to keep up with day to day. Here is a guy, he's a redshirt senior. He's got a tremendous amount of experience, a lot of success. I think this is the best offense we've played all year.
So definitely he's the starter for a reason. But Manuel is a very good player, and he's just waiting his time. If he plays this week, they're not going to change what they do or become something different. We have to prepare for what we've seen.

Q. The play last year where Ponder was hurt after the interception, some guys might not have gone out there and tried to knock DeAndre out of bounds. What did that say to you that I don't think it crossed his mind to let it go at that point in the game?
COACH SWINNEY: Christian Ponder is a guy that every coach would love to coach, I can tell you that. He's a true competitor. I have a ton of respect for him. He's been a very good player, handles himself the right way. He plays the game the way you're supposed to play it. He may make mistakes, do this or that, but that sucker plays hard and he competes all the way to the end.
That particular play, the game was over at that particular point. He is still laying it on the line. There's a lot of guys that kind of would have gone over there, dove at his ankles, gone over and tried not to make the tackle. Not surprised at all that he went over there and tried to take his frustration out on DeAndre.

Q. Offensively are you looking for any certain things to improve upon after the last few weeks?
COACH SWINNEY: We just got to finish in the red zone. That's our big Achilles' heel. We really were doing very well for most of the year. We're really struggling with our kickers right now in putting it between the pipes. That's the big thing. When you have long drives, 12-, 15-play drives, you get no points, it's very deflating.
We have to execute a little bit better as an offense. We've done some good things, but we've been shooting ourselves in the foot. This past week we put it on the ground five times. But we're growing up in some areas. KP played a very good game this past week. We're going to need him to play well. We're growing up at receiver. We got a couple of freshmen that are stepping up big-time for us and are continuing to get better.
So we've made some progress. But for us on offense, it's about executing, getting 11 guys to do their job, stop shooting ourselves in the foot. We need to get a little bit of help from our kicking unit, as well.

Q. Coach, probably for the first time since you were a preschooler, this game is going to be played without a Bowden on one sideline, or two for that matter. There's probably a little bit of that influence from that family in what goes on with your coaching.
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, yeah. I got a ton of respect for the whole Bowden family. I had the privilege of working for Tommy, also played for him for a year. But Coach Bobby Bowden, he's a guy that I've respected for years and years and years, even when I was a player, got into coaching, started studying the coaching profession, all that stuff. He's just an icon.
Real privilege for me to have been able to get to know him first through Tommy and then obviously with the transition here and all that. He's just been first class all the way. Been good to my family. It's going to be different.
One of the things I'll never forget is being a part of that game last year here at Clemson, his last game as the head coach here at Death Valley, that's something I'll never forget. I was just visiting with him before the game and after the game. Just a gracious man that's given this game, the game of football, so much.
His influence will still be greatly felt down there in Tallahassee, there's no doubt about it. Even though he won't be there, he'll be in a lot of people's thoughts, I'm sure.

Q. Can you tell me what your time with Tommy, any particular influence he had in what you do every day as a coach?
COACH SWINNEY: Coach Bowden was just a great person in how he dealt with the staff. He really treated everybody with a lot of respect. Genuine guy. Loved his family. Really set a great example to me as a father, how he dealt with his children, how he dealt with adversity. He was a great example of applying your faith to your daily walk. Also just seeing his relationship with his father was very inspiring to me.
A lot of the things that Tommy did and brought into the program were obviously things that Bobby Bowden, he grew up watching his dad do. Some of those things we still keep as a part of our program and always will, some of the things we may do in pregame, things like that. There's a lot of things that I learned from Tommy Bowden and Bobby Bowden.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for being with us. Good luck this weekend. We'll talk next week.
COACH SWINNEY: Okay. Thank you now.

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