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April 21, 2011

Dabo Swinney

COACH SWINNEY: Good to be with you guys today. Real pleased with what we got accomplished this spring, finishing up a couple weeks ago.
The biggest thing for us this spring was trying to reestablish ourselves on defense as far as filling a few holes. We're two years into our system there and have played pretty good. But we lost some good players. We really like what we have from a front line standpoint. But the biggest thing for us defensively is creating a little depth.
Offensively, we've installed a new system. Had some coaching changes this year, and brought in Chad Morris to be our offensive coordinator.
I really like what we got done from an installation standpoint in 15 days. We really didn't try to get it all in. We were just trying to get good at what we were doing. I felt that the team responded well. I think we've got good, genuine enthusiasm among our team right now, and high morale.
The big thing though is getting the rest of these guys in this summer. We probably had 31 scholarship guys that were not on the field this spring. So we've got a lot of guys that will be joining us in July and August before we can really complete our team.

Q. You touched on it a little bit in your opening statement, but when you decided to make the change on offense, what made you decide to go in the direction of Chad Morris and more of that hurry-up, no-huddle type scheme?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I felt like we have the personnel here and the personnel that we were recruiting I thought would really fit this system well. It's really what I wanted to do.
I felt that we'd be able to be a little unique within this conference and play at a fast tempo, spread the field make people have to defend the patch of grass that's out there.
When I'm talking spread the field, we're not talking about four and five wides, two backs, two tight ends, and mix it up with our personnel. The main thing is Tajh Boyd is a dynamic young player that can really do some things throwing the football, but also rung the football. I wanted to involve every ounce of his skillset, and I think this system will do that.
Playing at the tempo we play at, hopefully we'll put a lot of pressure on defenses and be a tough team to defend.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your offensive line and the former walk-on, I guess, who has taken over a starting spot there, Phillip Price. Can you tell me about his story and what he's shown you to earn that starting job over for Hairston this spring?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, he's been here and this is his fifth year. So he's a guy that's been in the program for a while and has played. He came here as a tight end. He's been on scholarship for three years. He earned a scholarship a while ago. He's been a back-up guy.
We didn't move him to the offensive line until last year, so he was a big, athletic kid that kind of was battling behind some tight ends, Michael Palmer and Dwayne Allen and Chad Diehl. He's kind of a role guy for us. Short yardage, goal line guy.
We just felt if he could pick up the weight, he'd be a good tackle. We made the move last year, transitioned all last season and got some playing time and learned what to do. He's a 300-pound guy now that still has that good athleticism. Really just came into the spring with the mindset that he wasn't going to let anybody beat him out. He did a great job. In fact, he got our most improved award this spring.
Brandon Thomas is a guy that we have high expectations of who is backing him up right now. He did not have as good a spring as we need him to have. He's a talented young player, but has not really decided to be great yet.
I'm proud of Phillip and how he competed and really became a consistent player this spring. Hopefully that will carry other over into the fall, and he can fill that void that Chris Hairston left.

Q. What was your approach to defense this spring in terms of trying to keep it effective even though you have to replace a defensive star like Bowers?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we fortunately last year really felt like we developed some good depth. We had good depth last year. We had a lot of guys that got a lot of time. But any time you lose a junior early, that creates a void.
But Malliciah Goodman has been a really good player for us for two years. He's backed up Da'Quan as a freshman and sophomore. So he'll be a junior, and hopefully this will be his best year as it should be.
Guys should be getting better as I think Malliciah has. He had a good spring. He's got some big shoes to fill. Same thing again. Our front four are very experienced guys.
Malliciah's played a lot. Brandon Thompson I think can be as good a D tackle as there is out there. Rennie Moore has played a lot and really came on this spring. I think he'll be the athletic type like Jarvis.
Over on the other side, Andre Branch has been a starter for us a couple of years. Kourtnei Brown is a senior backing him up. So we've got a good front line group, the biggest issue is our depth. We've got some young players. Cory Crawford came in in January, and he's got a great, great future, but he'll be a freshman backing up Branch.
Of Course we've got Kourtnei as a back-up. But Tyler Shatley inside at D-tackle is a young player that's played some but not a lot. And Tavaris Barnes is one of those red shirt guys that looks like he's going to be our back-up three technique.
So got to create the depth from young players. That's going to be the biggest difference from last year where we had our depth was experienced.

Q. Can you elaborate why Boyd is a good fit at quarterback?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, again, I just think we have the opportunity to be explosive with this system. Tajh has got an explosive arm, but he can also run the football. I want people to have to defend that, and this system's going to allow us to feature what he can do best.
Andre Ellington is a great zone runner and power downhill type guy. He'll have an opportunity to be featured in this system as well. I just think hopefully he'll create more opportunities and touches for not only Andre, but our other skill players by lengthening the game and getting more plays at a faster tempo.
Chad Morris has a tremendous background. Of course did a good job last year at Tulsa, and helping them lead it to ten games, ten wins. So hopefully we'll have the same type of success over here that they've had over there.

Q. You made the bowl game last year but finished 6-7 overall. Just how you evaluated this in your overall season and how do you sort of rack that up?
COACH SWINNEY: Very disappointed season for all of us. There were some positives from the season. It's ultimately a bottom line deal. You're just looking at wins and losses. But when you're a coach, you have to look at all aspects. Go back and evaluate everything in your program and how you're doing things. There are a lot of positives.
One of those real positives, and not everybody sees this, just how our team handled the adversity and how they hung in there together. They didn't sprint. The defense played well enough to compete for the championship last year, but we just couldn't score points.
We moved the ball. We had a lot of 10, 12-play drives, but we had a hard time scoring. We needed to make some kicks. We couldn't make kicks. It was just kind of a perfect storm.
So you battle every game, and next thing you know you look up and you have a loss by three points or two points or four points. So it was very difficult.
But, again, I'm proud of our team for how they competed and battled. I think with the changes we've made, with where we're heading recruiting and laying the foundation of our program, I think that we're heading in the right direction and our future is very bright.

Q. Are you concerned at all or are you on schedule in getting this freshman class to the point where you can say they're academically fit and ready to enroll?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we had four come in in January. So we've got 25 guys that are out there that we're tracking and following their academic progress to get them all here by the end of the summer.
But I think we'll have one for sure that will probably be a prep school guy. But the rest of them are all on track. Hopefully we'll all make it and be very successful student-athletes here at Clemson.

Q. It occurred to me while I was looking at the depth chart that was sent out today, how fluid is that in particular areas? Obviously there are some places it will be hard to budge somebody, but is left tackle still pretty fluid? How fluid are you at linebacker and some of the other places?
COACH SWINNEY: I think we're pretty set coming out of spring. Looks like with our first groups, I would say. Anything can change. Everybody keeps bringing up left tackle, but Coach Caldwell was probably as pleased with Phillip as he was with anybody on the line this spring.
So we're real encouraged there that we can lineup and win with them. Hopefully some other guys will respond.
But the bigger concern for me is our depth. Who is the back-up left tackle? Who is the back-up right tackle? Who is our second-tier offensive lineman. That is the bigger concern.
We've got to have some young guys that are going to have to play. We red shirted 14, 15 guys last year, played four. So we've got all of those red shirt guys that will be playing for us this year. I would say probably 10 to 12 true freshmen.
So you're looking at 26, 27 freshmen on the field this fall for us for the first time. So I think that's at the bigger concern for me.
Our first line group, I think we're going to be okay on both sides. It's just the majority of our depth is going to come from inexperienced guys, talented but inexperienced.

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