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October 17, 2012

Dabo Swinney

MIKE FINN:  We're joined by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.  We'll bring on coach, ask for a brief opening statement, then go to questions.
COACH SWINNEY:  Thank you.
First of all, it's good to get back in action this week coming off I think a very productive open date, especially being able to get our players healed up and fresh.  The guys that were hurt, couple guys missed our last game, getting those guys back is very good.
I like where we are right now.  I like how they've practiced, come back to work this week.
Huge challenge in Virginia Tech coming off a good win versus Duke.  As you mentioned, a team we've now played for the third time here in the last year.  But a lot of respect for Virginia Tech.  They've pretty much been the measuring stick of our league.  Look like they're starting to really play with a lot of confidence.  We'll have a big challenge here on Saturday.  We'll have to play very well.
Offensively they want to run the ball, but it all starts with their quarterback.  He's as good as there is out there.  Defensively they're really doing a lot of things from a pressure standpoint that we're going to have to be ready for.  They're always solid on special teams.
It's going to take a complete game for us to have a chance to win.  But look forward to playing and getting out in front of our home folks this Saturday.
MIKE FINN:  Questions for Coach Swinney.

Q.  Coach, I wanted to ask, you mentioned the running game.  Really hadn't gotten into gear until the Duke game.  What did they do well to be able to move the ball on the ground against Duke?  How important is their running game in getting yards from their quarterback?
COACH SWINNEY:  They're a balanced team.  They want to be a balanced team.  If you just look at what they've done, they've thrown it 200 something times, rushed it 200 something times.  But being able to involve that quarterback is huge.  This is a 6'6", 250‑pound guy who when he gets downhill on you, even if you got a guy there, it's hard to get him down.
He made a pass the other day, they had him sacked, and the guy was hanging from his knees but couldn't get him down on the ground.  He's able to get the ball off.  Just his sheer physical presence in the running game.  Doesn't necessarily have to be a called run.  He has the ability to extend plays.  We're very familiar with that.  He's a dynamic guy and can hurt you in a lot of ways.
They've done a good job.  They're doing a lot of things from a motion standpoint that's creating a little bit of hesitation with how you flow your backers in some of those things.  He's done a good job of reading things.
They want to run the zone, the power, get downhill on you in a heartbeat.  But they got it going against Duke.  Looked like they started to click, get their confidence, probably played some of their best football of the year in that game on both sides as that game continued to move forward.
Big challenge for us in being able to stop them.  Then they rotate those backs.  I think all those backs are really good players.  All of them have done some good things.  Those two freshmen look like they have a chance to be good.  The Scales kid is a big, strong, physical runner.  Mixing it up, creating some hesitation with the shifts and movements they've done, the speed motion, the timing of the snap, when that motion is coming.  All those things I think helped them get the running game going.

Q.  Without giving anything away, when you look at the way they go personnel‑wise, do they tip what they do based on the game or can they do everything with each of those backs?
COACH SWINNEY:  Not really.  They're pretty much going to run their system regardless who is in there.  I'm sure they have things they'd rather do with certain guys.  But they pretty much call it the same.

Q.  Alabama‑Tennessee week.  Former alma mater.  I wanted your thoughts on how special that rivalry was.  You went 4‑0 against Tennessee.
COACH SWINNEY:  Bringing back good memories there, I like it.  Third Saturday in October.  It's always a special time.  That's one of those great games to be a part of, those traditional games.
We had a nice little run there while I was there, had some really hard‑fought games.  The one that probably sticks out the most to me is 1990.  That was my sophomore year.  We'd go up there.  We weren't a very good team.  We were 0‑3 that year, might have been 3‑3 when we went into Knoxville.  They were either No. 2 or 3 in the country.  Really had a good football team.
We end up beating them 9‑6.  They're lined up to kick the game‑winning field goal.  Stacy Harrison comes off the edge and blocks the kick.  It ricochets off his helmet 20 something yards down the other way.  Next thing you know we line up, Phillip Dole knocks in the game winner.
A huge win for us.  Propelled us to go on and have a huge year that year.  Another one that stands out at Legion Field.  They really had us beat.  We had beaten them several years in a row.  We put David Palmer in at quarterback.  The game, they pretty much had control of the game.  He took us all the way down the field and ended up in a tie.
But a lot of great games with those guys.  I'm sure this weekend will be another one.

Q.  Question for you about your offense.  What convinced you to go to the spread last year?  I'm sure you've answered this hundreds of time.  Curious what you think of this season‑long trend in college football of lots of teams scoring lots of points.  Do you think it's good for the game?
COACH SWINNEY:  Well, for me personally, I pretty much knew what I wanted to do for a while, I just didn't really have quite the personnel in place to be able to do it.
When I made the decision to go to this particular style of play, I didn't want to be a four‑wide, throw it every down.  When people throw the spread, the spread has gotten lumped into everything.  I want to run the football.  That's first and foremost with me.  That's just what I believe in.  I think you got to be able to run the ball.  There's different ways to run it.
I wanted to be able to be more of a spread power team, have the ability to run the ball effectively, a lot of play‑action built in, play fast, put a lot of skill on the field, create matchups in space.  That's really what has happened.
That's one of the issues with the tackling.  It's become much more of a space game.  Not everybody is playing in a phone booth anymore like we used to.  There's a lot more one‑on‑one matchups.  That's been an issue with some of the tackling.  You get a great skill player.  He's been able to win most of those types of matchups.
For me, I knew I had a special quarterback in Tajh Boyd that was here.  I knew that I had a great wideout in Hopkins who just played as a freshman.  I knew I had a great back and a couple great tight ends, Dwayne Allen, Brandon Ford, those guys.  But we had some great wideouts committed, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Adam Humphries, Charone Peake, some guys that were coming in here.
I wanted to be a little different in our conference.  That's why I made the decision that I did.  We hired Chad.  We've done very well.  We've rushed of the ball effectively.  We're throwing the ball.  I think defenses will catch back up.  I don't have any doubt about that.  It goes back and forth in cycles really.  But I love what we're doing.
As far as good for college football.  I'm sure when the forward pass came out, there were a lot of people back then going, Man, is this really what you want college football to be?  I'm sure you had some similar reactions.  I remember when, man, we broke the I, we split the tight end out, that was such a big deal.
What I think is great about college football is you have so much variety.  It's not the same every week.  There's 120 something Division I teams.  The NFL has 32 teams.  They recycle the coaches and players.  It's basically the same thing and that's fine.  It's a different type of game.  But in college football, you see a little bit of everything.
People have to be creative because sometimes you're at a huge disadvantage from a talent standpoint.  It's fun to see the creativity that you have in college football, in my opinion.  I think it's great.
But again, change the channel.  You'll see a defensive game on this channel.  You turn the channel, you're seeing a high‑scoring game.
I think it goes in cycles.  I would say right now there's probably some offenses out there that are a little bit ahead of the game maybe on some of the defensive things.  That will all change.  It will all go back the other way and there will be more adjustments.
I also think that things come back around.  Some of the things that you're not seeing as much of now, 10 years from now you'll probably see it a whole lot more.  It just kind of goes back and forth and I think it makes it fun.

Q.  Dabo, my question would be, why do you think there is this surge in offense?  High schools are running these schemes.  Just fast guys that might have been defenders now playing offense at the college level?
COACH SWINNEY:  I think it's a little bit of all of that.  I think the big part of it is the skill sets are so much more refined nowadays because of what's going on at the high school level.
These high school coaches, it's not like when I was playing.  Everybody played football.  We didn't have Internet.  We didn't have 50 million distractions.  You didn't have all that stuff.  Now these high school coaches, they got to compete with lacrosse, golf, whatever, fall baseball.  It's limitless the things these high school coaches have to compete with to get players.
I think what's happened is you've seen a transition and a change.  Guys have tried to make it a little bit more fun.  They've had to adapt to keep people involved so they don't just not play and play basketball, for example.  Basketball, you can play year‑round.  Baseball you can play year‑round.  The seven‑on‑seven, all that kind of stuff, being more creative, I think they've been able to develop a lot of skill.  I think that's just kind of transferred over into the high school level.
You look at what's going on with these quarterbacks, some of these guys that maybe used to play other positions are playing quarterback now because they want a guy that not just can throw it but who can run it and be very dynamic.
I think that's all part of it.  It's kind of trickled up, if you will.  I think if you really look closely, I think there's been a transfer to the NFL.  Usually everything trickles down, but I think in this case it's trickled up.
I think you'll continue to see that, I really do, because people are going to do what they got to do to win.  That's really all it's about, just trying to give yourself the best chance to win on game day.
MIKE FINN:  Coach, thanks for being with us.  Good luck this weekend.  We'll talk to you next Wednesday.
COACH SWINNEY:  Thank you.  Good to be with you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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