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April 25, 2013

Dabo Swinney

COACH SWINNEY:  Well, I think we had a very productive spring.  It was a good spring.  It has a chance to be a great spring if we'll take the things that we learned and apply them this summer and come back more knowledgeable and improved in a lot of areas that we've asked each player to improve in.
I'm excited about this group.  This is a group that's got quite a bit of experience.  When we get back together in the fall, that experience hopefully will pay off for us.
We've got Tajh Boyd back, and it's the first year I've ever had a third‑year starter back at quarterback, so I'm excited about that.¬† I like the guys we have battling in the trenches on both sides.
Probably the biggest concern coming out of spring is our secondary.  But we've got eight signees that are on their way in here.  So really kind of hard to evaluate that group from a totality standpoint until we get all those pieces here this summer.
But I'm excited about the team.  We're a long way away from being a great team right now.  But I think we've got good ingredients and it should be a fun group to coach.  With that, I'll take whatever questions you've got.

Q.  You had to replace two good ones in Ellington and Hopkins; how do those positions look to you coming off the spring?
COACH SWINNEY:  I like the guys we have at both positions.  We've got some pretty good experience at receiver returning.  We've losing a guy that caught 82 balls, obviously, and probably going to be a first rounder hopefully tonight.  But you know, between Adam Humphries and Charone Peake, and Martavis Bryant, all three guys are going to be juniors, and all three are going to be solid players for us.  Really expect a combination of those three, or one of those guys to really step up, emerge and fill that void from Nuke.  I know they're glad he's gone.  That's for sure, because they've had a hard time beating that guy out.
But these guys have worked hard and I'm excited to see them seize the moment in this opportunity that they have.  But they're all really talented players, and I don't have any doubt they'll be productive.
Then at running back, Rod McDowell was a guy that was just critical to our success last year.  Really had some big moments for us.  Was huge in the bowl game for us.  He's going to be a senior.  He's very confident and just develops nicely as a player since he arrived at Clemson.  Then D.J. Howard will be a junior.  Another guy with some experience, had to battle through some injuries last year, but he also had a great spring.  Zac Brooks was a true freshman, so he's got some time last year, but boy, he had an excellent spring.
So I feel good about all three of them.  It will be a little bit more of a committee approach, and I'm perfectly fine with that.  All three of them can do some special things, I think.  So I think both of those positions will be fine.

Q.  The last couple of years you guys have been so young on the roster and still achieved big things.  A lot of these guys, as you mentioned, are experienced now.  Is it any different coaching them to be better than they were that they've got some experience?  Do you guys have to do anything different this summer to get them ready to take that next step?
COACH SWINNEY:¬† Well, I think a lot of that depends on those guys, the leadership.¬† We're still a young team.¬† We only have ten seniors on this team with a scholarship, ten scholarship seniors.¬† So we're a very big sophomore‑junior football team, but they've won 21 games in the last two years.
To me, the exciting thing about that is they've been through the battles.  They have that experience to draw upon now, the good and the bad.  I think both of those are critical from a growth standpoint.  So, you know, the biggest thing is the leadership in our junior group, and the ten seniors that we have, I think is what you have to count on in the summer.
You know, that's always the unknown as you go into it.¬† But I like this group.¬† Again, you've got a third‑year starter back at quarterback who has really become the leader of the team, not just the offense.¬† It's great to be able to deal with an experienced group, because you have different conversations with guys that have played two years than you do with a guy that's getting ready to play for the first time.¬† It's a whole different approach from a mental standpoint and the things that you can give them.
So that's probably been the biggest thing, and that was the biggest difference this spring.  Just more continuity out there this spring.  Not quite starting over in as many areas, especially last year when we really started over on the OL and DL.  So we've got a lot of competition.  Hopefully these guys will have the right mindset and pay the price this summer and come back and do some good things this year.

Q.  Just wondering with the injury to Sam Cooper what that does for you guys at the tight end position?
COACH SWINNEY:  Yeah, well, it's a big loss.  Athletically we're in good shape.  We've got some really good players at that position.  Stan Seckinger and Legget and McCullough, we just don't have any experience.  Stanton is a sophomore that played a little bit last year, and then Jordan and J.J. are both freshmen.
So the biggest loss with Coop is just that veteran leadership, that saviness, the craftiness that comes from playing.¬† It also he's a 250‑something pound thumper at the point of attack.¬† So we've got to develop those guys in a hurry.¬† We've got to ramp their development up.¬† We were kind of bringing them along because we had the luxury of doing that with a guy like Coop.
But now their development is going to have to speed up, and we've got to force feed them a little bit more than maybe we would have.  Athletically they're talented and capable of making a lot plays, but we're going to have to challenge them and grow them up in the running game.

Q.  The ACC and Notre Dame football announced last Friday the rotation for the schedule in football.  It's a few years down the road, but what is their presence and having them on the schedule do for not only your program but maybe for the conference?
COACH SWINNEY:¬† Well, it's great for our conference.¬† I think that Notre Dame has a great brand.¬† For them to be full‑fledged members in all of the other sports is a really good thing.¬† For them to commit five games to football is great.¬† It gives everybody a very quality, non‑conference game, if you will, that they can schedule.
I'm really excited about it.¬† I guess they're coming on‑‑ they're coming here in '15 is what I've been told.¬† It's exciting.¬† You got a chance to play a great traditional program like Notre Dame. ¬†Every few years they're here or you're going up there.¬† I think that's great for your overall schedule and competitiveness and all that kind of stuff and the fan bases.¬† I personally never have coached or played against Notre Dame.¬† So it's something that I'm certainly looking forward to, and I think it's great.
I just think it's a good thing for the overall conference to be able to have Notre Dame scheduled in there five times a year.  I definitely think that helps us.

Q.  Looking ahead here from a couple of years from the new playoff system, but with the BCS meeting coming with some results this week, your thoughts on how that is structured and maybe some of the locations of the game?
COACH SWINNEY:  I just think that it's taken what was already a great product and just made it better to be honest with you.  I mean, it's made it more competitive and basically added one more game, which I think is exciting.  Everybody hates when the football season is over, so now we get one more game.  So it will be fun for everybody.
I like how they've structured it as far as really incorporating the bowls.  Because I just, I'm a traditional guy and I just think that's a huge part of college football and having been a player and a coach and seeing the benefits from those experiences.
I like the fact that they're moving those playoff games up so that you've still got the bowl experience, and then whoever the two winners are, you get back to campus and you've got time to reload and prepare for one more game.
I just think it's exciting.¬† There's going to be a lot of anticipation, and, again, just taking what was already a great game, great product and it's made even better.¬† It's certainly a challenge for everybody.¬† People talk about playoffs and all that stuff, and listen, first of all, we have‑‑ in college football we have a playoff every week, every week is a playoff.¬† For us, we've got to win our division, and then you've got to go win a championship game, and now you've got to go win, if you're fortunate to get in that four, you've got to go win in those four games.¬† You've got to win that game and then you've got to win another game.
I think it's the best of both worlds because you have advocates for different things and strong opinions on both sides.  I really think it's a good compromise and solution that really can accomplish what everybody's after.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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