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September 21, 2011

Dabo Swinney

THE MODERATOR: We now welcome Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we got our biggest challenge yet this week this Florida State. This is a really good football team. Didn't take us long to get over that last one when we turned the film on and watched these guys. They are very, very talented and capable of I think being a Top-10 team.
So we are going to have to play our best game this week to have a chance to win it. But we are off to a good start. We'll practice and look forward to hosting these guys in Death Valley this weekend.

Q. Wanted to get your take on the expansion of the ACC, your opinion on it, and if the conference did go to 16 teams are there any other teams that you would like to see the conference submit an invite to?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, to be honest with you, I've said several times, I'm really just focused on the here and now. There's so much going on right now. Who knows what's what and where it's ever going to end or when it's all going to happen. I mean, there's just too many unknowns for me to really spend a lot of brainpower worrying about it to be honest with you.
I've got all I can handle on this season and this team and this conference the way it is today. I'll worry about the rest later. I'm a little, you know, more -- I lean more to being a traditional kind of a guy, and I'm a little sad to be honest with you to see what's going on in college football just from a tradition standpoint and the change.
But, hey, it is what it is, and you know, we'll embrace the changes as they come. But it's not anything that I'm spending a lot of time thinking about right now.

Q. Before the season I asked about who was possibly the biggest surprise you had seen to this point and you said Sammy Watkins, and he's validated that and then some. Is he even better than you might have anticipated to this point?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, he's really just doing what he's done in practice since the day he got here. And that's kind of why I said he was the biggest surprise and that's because, you know, I knew he was talented, but it's rare that you see a freshman that has the knowledge. He's polished, he's tough, the work ethic, the maturity. He's got all of those things, and that's why it was such a surprise to me that he was that far along. He looks like he's been playing three or four years.
But he's been -- he's just really done what in the games what he's done in practice. People are just now seeing it. So I'm not surprised with what he's doing based on, you know, how I saw him prepare and perform in our camp.

Q. How would you describe him as a receiver? What are his best assets that have carried him through these first three games?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, he really doesn't have any weaknesses as far as the skill set of the position. You know, Jacoby Ford was here, the guy was a great player and is a starter in the NFL, but a weakness for him is he's not a physically big guy.
There's always something that you can usually point out with different people with. This guy, he's got great size. He's a 6-1 plus guy, 207 pounds. He can fly. He's got great hands. He's tough. You know, he's got a great work ethic. He's explosive, in and out of touch. I think he really has everything -- when God made this one, He was in a great mood that day.
So I mean, there's just really not much that he doesn't have as far as being able to be great at the position.

Q. Have you figured out who is mad at you at the ACC office or your own athletic office with this stretch of Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech?
COACH SWINNEY: (Laughing) Oh, man, well, I don't know, you just take it as it comes. And one thing I've learned is nothing is easy, and there's no shortcuts. You know, if you want to be the best, you've got to go beat the best, and we certainly have a schedule that gives us that opportunity. And that's really how we have looked at it.
When it came out this spring, that's what I told the team: We have a schedule of champions, and let's embrace it and let's look at it as an opportunity as opposed to an insurmountable challenge.
It's a tough road for sure, but you know, we are just taking it one day at a time, one game at a time and just trying to play each play the very best we can and you know, when it's all said and done, look up and see what the results are.

Q. When you look at Florida State on film, do they look better than Auburn in any certain areas?
COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, I think they are a better football team than Auburn this year. Auburn is a very talented team. They have got a lot of young players. And I think that they will continue to get better and better as the season goes and they are going to win some games.
But Florida State, you know, again, like I say, they are, in my eyes, look like a legitimate Top-10 team. I know they slipped out of the Top-10 this year but only because -- or this week because they played the No. 1 team and got beat. But they match up physically and they present a lot of problems with their athleticism and their speed. They play hard. You know, the talent is not a problem with those guys, that's for sure.
We have got our, by far, toughest task.

Q. Where do you think you made the most improvement from the first two weeks of the season to last week and beating Auburn?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we still had a few things that are hurting us, like some big plays where we are, you know, really kind of some uncontested big plays where we have got to do a better job than that.
But I think offensively, we played our most physical game, and that was probably the biggest improvement. We knew that we were going to have to get better. We did a great job with our protection. We didn't do a good job last week. And so, you know and then again, we are continuing to be a dominant second half team.
But I just felt like we played a little bit more of a complete game last week than the first two. They are not anywhere close to where we need to be. But you know, we are making progress in all the areas. And our special teams were very solid last week, that's one of the things I think are going to be critical in this game are the special teams. That's what it came down to last year, and they got the better end of it.

Q. I'm sure you've been asked this a lot this season but you have a lot of multiple threats on offense; just talk about how tough it is to defend you guys.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, you know, that's what you want to have. We certainly didn't have that last year. Then when we lost Ellington, we were a very predictable type of team. Whereas this year, people have to defend our quarterback. They have to defend several guys at receiver. They have to defend Dwayne Allen. They have to defend Andre Ellington and that creates problems.
We are putting as many playmakers on the field as we possibly can, and we have got confidence in a lot of guys, and there are still some guys that have not had a lot of opportunity yet that we think are going to continue to emerge and at some point be a difference-maker in the game for us.
So for example, Charone Peake, he has not caught a pass yet and he has probably had two of the biggest plays of our game this past Saturday. He's backing up Jaron Brown.
So we are very fortunate right now with the guys we have, and it does create problems when they can't just zero in on one guy and that's what we want. We want to be able to spread the ball around. Tajh is doing a great job with that, and hopefully we can continue to develop some of our young backs to where Andre can stay fresh and not have to carry the whole burden.

Q. How tough can it be to focus on preparing for a team when you've got kind of a quarterback controversy at Florida State where if you're not sure if EJ Manuel is going to play or not, how challenging is that to prepare for?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we just have to prepare for Florida State and what they do and what they have done. The biggest difference is, you know, they really like to run Manuel. If he doesn't play, it's probably to change a little bit as far as how they call the came. They will probably just do more of something else that's already within their package and system.
We are just prepared for everything that we have seen and then we have to make adjustments as we get into the game and really see what direction it's going.

Q. Is there an easy explanation for your record against them at home, you've won four in a row at home, and FSU historically is a good road team; the games you've been involved in, where you've beaten them, is there anything in common that's happened during this little streak you've got on them?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we have just played well on that day. This is a tough place to play, just like going down there and winning in Tallahassee, it's not an easy task. And most of the time, that's the way it is when you go on the road. It's tough to win on the road, regardless of where you go and certainly Death Valley is one of the toughest venues in all of college football.
Those, whatever streak or whatever, on those particular days, we had the better football team. That's about it.

Q. You seem to have more and more North Carolina on your team than anybody in the in-state schools, what's been your secret to getting the North Carolina kids down there?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, the emphasis that we put on recruiting at State is No. 1, and then it's the people we have recruiting. We have a great coaching staff and we have a lot of guys with a lot of North Carolina ties. They have done a great job, that are highly respected by the high school coaches. We put a lot of work into North Carolina, and we have got four or five coaches up there covering that state.
We are very close to North Carolina obviously. We are right here at the line, so it's an easy place to sell to those young men up there. And then we have had success with a lot of North Carolina players, and I think that that history helps you with your credibility as you go out on the road recruiting.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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