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October 31, 2012

Dabo Swinney

MIKE FINN:  We now welcome Clemson's head 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 this week.  Excited about traveling up to Durham.  Very impressed with Duke.  It's easy to see why they've had the success they've had this year when you really watch them on film.  Very sound offensively, defensively.  Dangerous in the special teams.  Just a lot of guys that you can just see believe in what they're doing.
They play very hard.  They've had a couple games that have gotten away from them, but they have really competed their tails off for four quarters every week and we're going to have to play well.
We look forward to going up there.  Had a good week of practice so far.  Looks like we're going to be a little bit healthier this week than last week, which is a good thing.  A couple extra days was good for us coming off the Thursday night game.
Look forward to coming up and competing at a place that our none of our guys have been up to before.  Hopefully it will be a good trip for us.
MIKE FINN:  Questions for Coach Swinney.

Q.  Dabo, middle linebacker is such a critical position to the defense.  What led to you giving Spencer Shuey a chance in there a couple games ago?
COACH SWINNEY:  Just performance, just how he played in the Georgia Tech game.  We thought he played great in that game.  Stephone has been great, too.  We just felt that Spencer out‑performed him.  We tried to reward performance around here, hold these guys accountable weekly.
It's been good because I think Stephone has responded.  But Spencer has followed it up now with a couple good ballgames and is playing really well for us.  Just really simply the way he's performed.
He's a fourth‑year guy.  Really smart.  Really understands what we're doing.  Committed himself physically.  He's gotten his body in great shape and is playing very fast.  A lot of that is confidence in the knowledge of what we're doing.
Again, I think that's been a real positive.  It's created the kind of competition that we like.

Q.  You mentioned this is his fourth year in the program.  Some guys hang around that long and never do really develop as much as you would like.  He seems to have really peaked at this point of his career.  How much improvement has he made since he first came?
COACH SWINNEY:  Oh, man, he's made a ton.  He's always been a good football player.  Spencer has never been a bad player.  He had a lot of learn, redshirted, didn't get a lot of experience at linebacker as a redshirt freshman and sophomore.  He's been a great special teams player since he's been here.  Been probably one of the most respected guys.
My experience has been kind of the opposite.  Most of the guys that are committed ‑ you have some guys that don't pan out, usually they're not quite as committed as they need to be ‑ but Spencer has always been a committed guy.  Guys like that, if they continue to work, usually they end up being very solid players for you as juniors and seniors.
I've seen a lot of guys that their best years were their junior and senior year.  To me that's the way it should be.  Guys should be improving, getting better.  Spencer Shuey is one of those guys that has developed nicely and got an opportunity this year.
We had some opportunities with guys being out, things like that.  Shoot, he stepped up and has taken advantage of it, earned the trust of his coaches and teammates.  He's performed very well, very well.

Q.  With Sammy, just wondering after his performance last week if he's kind of finally hitting his stride after the early season for him.
COACH SWINNEY:  Yeah.  He really has not played bad.  Again, he played great in the first game, just didn't play a whole lot.  One of his first touches went for a touchdown.  Didn't play great at Florida State.  That's when he was starting to get a little sick.  We didn't know.  Next thing you know, he's out another game.  Then he came back.  I thought he played pretty doggone good against Virginia Tech.  Over a hundred yards all purpose, did some good things for us.
People expect him to just do the superhuman stuff because that's what he's made look easy.  He hadn't had moments like that yet.  But I knew it was just a matter of time.  He's just too good a player, practices great.
Certainly didn't expect him to go have 200 something yards, but I thought he would play well against Wake Forest, and he did.
He's played four and a half games now.  He's kind of settling in.  As I said last week, we're going to need him to play great down the stretch for us to have the type of finish we want to have.  Good to see him be able to make some of those plays that people expect him to make, running away from people, breaking tackles, that type of stuff.
Again, as I tell people all the time, he impacts the game regardless of what the stat column says.

Q.  Certain things you liked out of your performance from that game last Thursday?
COACH SWINNEY:  Well, our quarterback got back on track.  I didn't think he had played particularly well the last couple ballgames.  He didn't play terrible; he just was not quite as sharp.
I thought he was outstanding.  I mean, he really played extremely well.  It was good to see him perform like that.  Took care of the football.
We just talked about Sammy.  It's good to see him have a break‑out game like that.  Again, we're really going to need him to play well down the stretch.
Good to see us spread the ball around to a lot of guys.  I think that's what makes us dangerous, when we involve a lot of people.
Defensively our best performance.  Good to see that.  We're getting better.  Five sacks, creating turnovers, tackling better.  Those are all positives at this point in the season because, again, I know where we were.  I know how far we've come.
Again, we're still a long way away from being great, but we are much improved.  The guys played with great energy.  They just seemed very focused on trying to be the best that they can be each day, each game.  I like that mentality that I see out of our team.
Solid, solid win for us in executing our plan to win.  That's what we got to keep focusing on.

Q.  How much of that was playing Wake versus Virginia Tech the previous week?
COACH SWINNEY:  He did not play well against Virginia Tech.  He missed some throws that were open.  Not to take anything away from Virginia Tech, but he wasn't near as sharp in any phase of the game against Virginia Tech.  Just played much better.  So that was good to see.  Things he controlled.  He performed a lot better in that area.

Q.  How did Bashaud Breeland look last night in practice?
COACH SWINNEY:  Pretty good.  Feels a lot better.  We'll go again today.  I think he's going to be able to go.  Probably will not start, but looks like we'll have him available and ready to role.

Q.  Regarding Duke's passing offense, is it the sophistication of it, the confusion it can create?
COACH SWINNEY:  The biggest concern is it's hard to get to the quarterback.  They get rid of the ball.  They are very sophisticated.  They're very well‑coached.  They know what they're doing.  It's all coordinated extremely well.
Every defense has weaknesses.  The quarterback knows where to turn the ball to.  He just doesn't hold the ball.  That's why they're one of the least‑sacked teams in the game.  Lots of screens, then they'll take their shots.  Even when they do, that ball comes out.  You can tell that's something they coach very hard.
That's the biggest thing, is we've got to try to find some way to affect the quarterback and make him a little bit uncomfortable, maybe have to throw some balls earlier than he wants.  One of the ways we got to be able to do that, we have to be effective in coverage to help our guys a little bit.
It's a big challenge.  They have the ability to move the ball against anybody they play.  We're going to have to be really sharp, especially in the secondary, that second level, with our backers, being coordinated, being where we're supposed to be, when we do bring pressure, matching up well.
MIKE FINN:  Coach, thanks for being with us.  Good luck this weekend and we'll talk to you next Wednesday.
COACH SWINNEY:  Always good to be with you.  Thank you.

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