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September 19, 2012

Dabo Swinney

DABO SWINNEY:  Good to be with you.  First of all, it's just a really special game to be a part of.  Got a great amount of respect for Florida State, and it's a great place to go play a game.  Two good teams battling it out every year when these teams get together.  It's always an exciting game, and I don't have any doubts that it'll be the same this year.
You know, obviously a very huge game.  You know, it's getting into conference play for us.  They've already played one, but not only conference play but division play, so from that standpoint there's a lot at stake.  Obviously it's not going to be the end‑all.  We both have a lot of games left to play after this, but certainly a huge, huge game for both teams.  Proud of where we are at this point.  We wanted to be 3‑0.
I don't think we're a great team yet at all.  I think we've got a chance if we continue to improve each week to be a very good team at some point, and we're going to have to play very well to have a chance in Tallahassee.  It's a tough place to get a win.  Offensively they're explosive, their quarterback is special, they're running the ball really well, they've got all kinds of scheme out at wide‑out, their tight end is a good player.  They are solid up front.
Their defense is as good as anybody in the country.  They're one of the best defenses last year, and right now giving up three points in three games, I don't care who you play, that is hard to do, because some of these games they're getting up on a lot of people and they're playing a lot of guys, but they're still not giving up points.  That's a real compliment to their defense.  Big challenge handling their front and all their speed that they can put on the field.
Their special teams is something that could very well determine this game.  But we're going to need a great week of prep.  I think we've had a good start so far and looking forward to being down in Tallahassee in a great environment and hopefully playing our best game.

Q.  One of the things that their defense does well, particularly well, is pressure the passer, particularly from their defensive ends.  What are the keys for you to keep Tajh‑‑ his mobility is certainly going to help to keep some of the pressure off of him.
DABO SWINNEY:  Well, you're exactly right.  I think Werner, heck, he's leading the country in sacks.  He's certainly a top guy in this conference.  They do a great job.  They have the ability to get pressure with four guys, and when you can do that, that is a huge advantage from a defensive standpoint.
So the big thing is that's the match‑up that we've got to be productive in.  If they dominate our offensive line, it's going to be a long night.  We've got to be able to‑‑ I mean, they're going to win some battles but we've got to win more than they do in the line of scrimmage, and then as you said, our quarterback has got to make plays.  We've got‑‑ he's got to extend some drives with his legs.  There will be some times where it ain't going to be pretty and he's going to have to scramble.  So far this season he's made some really big plays for us in that regard, and he's going to have to play great in every area Saturday night against this defense, because I mean, this is a big, big challenge that we're facing.  Definitely the biggest challenge to this point, and may end up being the biggest all year from a defensive standpoint.  These guys are as good as anybody you can play in the country.

Q.  A lot of teams can pressure you from one direction or the left side or the right, but they come at you from everywhere it seems like.
DABO SWINNEY:  Yeah, they do.

Q.  Is there one spot to concentrate on?
DABO SWINNEY:  You've been watching the same film I'm watching.

Q.  I spend a lot of time in the film room.
DABO SWINNEY:  Yeah, there's no question, they've got the ability to pressure you.  So we've got to be smart and make sure that we give ourselves a chance to be successful.  We've got to be able to run the football.  I mean, that's a huge part.  We can't be one‑dimensional.  We've got to have some type of balance against these guys and just do what we do.  We've got to execute our system.  There's going to be some‑‑ when you've got this amount of talent on the team, on the field between both teams, there's going to be some wins and losses throughout the game.
But it'll come down to turnovers and who makes the most big plays and who can win that battle more often than not at the line of scrimmage and probably special teams somewhere along the way.

Q.  I was just wondering, DJ Reader has stepped in pretty early and been able to play for you guys.  I was wondering what you've seen out of him so far and what he's shown you in the first three games.
DABO SWINNEY:  Yeah, we really like DJ Reader.  I'll tell you what, we are so excited about him.  Way ahead of where I thought he would be as a true freshman.  He is a big load, technically sound, plays with low pads, he's tough, strong, physical, likes to play, likes to practice, and athletic, a big, athletic guy for his size.  I really, really like what we've seen out of him in three games and expect big things from him as he continues on through his career.

Q.  And he's trying to do the football/baseball, play both sports at the same time.  You guys have experience with that with Kyle Parker.  Drawing from that experience, how difficult is that for a player and how difficult is that to accommodate on you guys' end?
DABO SWINNEY:  Well, I've got a lot of experience in it because obviously my starting quarterback was their best player on the baseball team.  He wasn't just a player, he was the best player, led them in home runs and all that stuff.  But I've also had a basketball player, Nuke Hopkins played basketball here his first year.  I've had several track guys, Spiller and Ford ran track every year.  I've had to do that a number of times, and I don't have any problem with it.  If guys can help other programs, then I'm all for it, as long as they're productive and they can contribute to the team and their success.
And DJ, I'm actually excited about seeing him because I can't imagine a pair of baseball pants fitting around his thighs, first of all.  They're going to have to put two pairs of pants together to get this guy in a uniform, and I want to see him on the mound.  I've never seen him play baseball live, so I'm excited about that.
But it's just something that you have to work with.  You've got to do a good job with the other coaches of the sport.  And then that particular player, he's got to do‑‑ he has to go above and beyond.  When you're going to play two sports, when everybody else is having off time, if you're going to be successful, you're probably having to go and work on your own and do some things just to stay in tune and in shape and make sure you're ready when that time comes.  And I think he's done that.  He's worked his schedule where he can go and throw the ball a little bit and he gets in a couple batting cage sessions here and there when he gets an opportunity.
When it's time to play baseball, he'll go over there, and we'll support that 100 percent.

Q.  When you watch the film of Florida State's win against Wake Forest, do you look at that and say, yeah, they're better than they were last year because they're doing this better or they're doing that better?  What do you notice on the film to explain that game last week?
DABO SWINNEY:  Well, first of all, they're playing at home, and that's always a big advantage when you have an opportunity to play at home.  Secondly, they got that No.3 back there, and he's a very special player if you pay attention to that game.  Wake had him sacked one time, and he's big, strong, athletic guy, he breaks away, and next thing you know he throws a touchdown pass on a complete scramble busted play.  So that's a big factor for them.
The other thing is they're running the ball very well, and they're creating a lot of explosive plays.  I mean, that game really got away in a flash, taking the punt back.  They're hitting long runs, a couple long passes.  Next thing you know it's 30 something to nothing at the half, and it's pretty much over.  But they're just playing very good ball in all phases.  They're dominant on defense.  Heck, they've only been in the red zone three times in three games.  Heck, I hope we can cross the 50 and get a 1st down after watching the tape.  I'm telling you, these guys have played really, really good defense.  They're being very efficient, making explosive plays, running the football on offense.  They've got a special quarterback.  They've got all kind of skill outside that can run, and that's why.  I mean, they're just physically dominating their opponent to this point.

Q.  Considering how you've played this season so far, do you kind of think, okay, well, we played Auburn already, we've got Sammy Watkins back, we're totally ready for this test here?
DABO SWINNEY:  Oh, absolutely.  We can't wait.  I wish we could load the plane and go today.  We're excited about the opportunity.  We also recognize that it's a very difficult task we've got in front of us, but we're excited to have a chance to go compete and just see where we are.
As I said, we're a work in progress.  I don't think that we're a great team right now.  I think we've got a chance to be really good.  If I'm on the outside looking in, I'm probably picking Florida State, too.  But that's why you play the game.  We're going to go down there and compete our tails off, and if we can give ourselves‑‑ we're going to have to play really well, there's no doubt about that.  We've got to play really good.
And the other thing we've got to do is take care of the football.  You turn the ball over against a team like this that can play defense like they can, it's a long day.  So we've got to just continue‑‑ and we've done a good job of that, so if we will continue to do a good job of taking care of the football, win that turnover margin, the guys can make plays make plays, quarterback is going to have to play really well, not just give up any just big bust type ‑‑ they're going to score; we just can't give up those charity type plays.  We've got to make them earn everything they get.  If we do that, hey, we've got a chance.  But we're excited about it, and we'll be ready.

Q.  How big is it for the league not only to have two top 10 teams playing each other because it's pretty rare but also for you guys to go out there and look like two top 10 teams?
DABO SWINNEY:  I don't know about all that.  But Florida State is a very good team.  Jimbo has done a great job down there.  He don't get enough credit.  That guy has done a phenomenal job.  Florida State and Clemson should be two of the best teams in this country every year.  When I got this job here, and I know when Jimbo got the job there, that was his goal, and that's certainly my goal.  It's very exciting after three, four years here that we've won a Conference Championship, Florida State has played in the championship.  Both of us have battled really, really hard.  We're both recruiting at a high level.  So we should both be one of the best teams in the country.  I think Jimbo would probably tell you the exact same thing, and I think he's done a phenomenal job down there in kind of building Florida State back the way they should be.  And we do, we need Clemson and we need Florida State from a conference standpoint to be what they're capable of being, and that is two of the best football teams in this country.  There's no question about that.
From that standpoint it is great for the league.  It's exciting.  But you know, this is just one game, and I know everybody makes a big deal‑‑ but it's just the fourth game.  That's it.  It's the fourth game.  It's a big game.  It's a huge game.  But if we win it, we've got eight more games to play, and it ain't over.  If they win it, they've got a bunch more games, and so do we.  You've got to take care of your business week in and week out.  They're not going to crown us or dethrone us with one game.

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