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April 23, 2014

Dabo Swinney

DABO SWINNEY:  We're excited about what we got done this spring.  I think that the success of spring always depends on what you get done in the summer because the spring just kind of lays the groundwork for the season.  It's where you get ready.  The summer is where you really transform.  We got a lot done as far as what we were trying to do staff‑wise, but now it's about each player taking that ownership and that accountability to grow and get better.  We're in the middle of‑‑ I'm in the middle of all the player meetings right now.  Our staff has met with the players, and everybody has got good direction on what they've got to do to transform and come back better than they were in April.
We've got a good football team with a chance to have another excellent season, but we've got to work with a great edge this summer, and looking forward to getting back on the field with them in August.

Q.  Next month down at Amelia, you coaches will rejoin the conference‑wide discussion with eight conference games versus nine and maybe even the possibility of doing away with divisions and just having one large league.  Where do you fall in that discussion?  Where would you like to see the league go as it progresses in the playoff era?
DABO SWINNEY:  Well, I've been a proponent for keeping the eight teams.  I like the flexibility that it gives us, especially selfishly for us here at Clemson, and the fact that Notre Dame is rolling in as a non‑conference opponent, as well.  In fact we'll play them next year.
But I like the flexibility that we have with that and being able to‑‑ we played Auburn three years in a row, we're playing Georgia two years in a row, we've got Notre Dame next year, of course we play South Carolina every year, and I think that is something that helps us as a league as we get into this playoff type of format.
I've been a proponent of that as far as divisions and all that kind of stuff.  I'm really kind of indifferent on that.
The one thing that I really wish that was different was when a young man comes to Clemson, it would be great for him to be able to play every team in the league at some point over his career.  With the setup that we have right now, that's just not the case.  I don't think we play Virginia‑‑ we just played Virginia this year, and I'm not sure we play them again until maybe 2020 or something like that, and I don't think we go back up there until maybe '23 or '25.  So that part of it I wish was structured a little bit differently.

Q.  In that regard would you be in favor of doing away with the permanent crossover?
DABO SWINNEY:  You know, I think that that's probably something that would definitely be impacted by that.  I think that for us, I mean, there's no way we're not going to play Florida State, for example.  They're in our division.  I just think that Clemson and Florida State have to play each other.  That to me is like Alabama‑Auburn playing each other or Alabama‑Tennessee.  It's just something that I think should happen.
Our cross‑rival has been Georgia Tech.  I don't know if there's a restructuring that might satisfy all of that.  But again, for me, I'm pretty indifferent on just the division stuff, the bigger thing for me is if there was a way to where you would have more flexibility as far as these guys being able to experience playing every team in this league at some point before their four years are up.

Q.  Obviously with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins being gone, how do you feel those two positions have kind of showed up in the spring, and what have you taken away from your quarterbacks and receivers moving into this next chapter for you?
DABO SWINNEY:  Yeah, well, that's the interesting thing about college football is guys have to move on.  Everybody loses players every year in college football, so it's important that you develop your guys, and it's something that we, I think, do a great job of here.  We really put a lot of focus on our backups all throughout the season even and especially during spring ball.  We're working three groups.  We work three groups all of fall camp, and then once we get into game plan time in the season we spread our reps evenly with two groups because we really believe in the development of our players because you never know when a guy is going to get hurt or obviously a guy is moving on.  You need to have guys that are ready.
And then the recruiting part of it, you have to recruit at a high level and do a great job of evaluating so you can sustain success.  We lost two great, great players right there, obviously.  Those guys won a ton of games over the past few years.  But I think we've recruited well.  I really like Cole Stoudt.  I think that he has performed every time that he's been called upon in three years.  He has prepared to be the starter every week, even though Tajh Boyd was there.  He was always ready, so I think he understands he's got an experience that is very good for us.  He has a great feel for our system, and again, he's been on the big stage many times and has performed well.
And then Deshaun Watson is as talented a freshman at any position that I've ever been around.  This guy is special, and it is really a blessing to have a guy like that in our program.  He's just going to continue to rise and get better, and he'll have an opportunity certainly to play this year.  Cole is our starter, and I think he's learned that, and he'll give us good leadership as we go into summer and go into fall camp, but as I told him, he doesn't have a lifetime contract.  It's about performance now, and Deshaun Watson I know is going to continue to compete and see if he can win that job.
Nick Schuessler is a guy that we have confidence in and I think really doesn't get enough credit, but he is a young man that is developing.  He's a developmental player, and he's doing his part to be ready for when his opportunity comes.  It's unfortunate that Chad Kelly, that we lost him.  Great talent, I hate to lose a player that is probably one of the worst things that you have to do as a head coach is to dismiss a player, but sometimes that's just kind of‑‑ that's just the way it is.  Sometimes you have to dismiss a coach, and none of those things are easy.  But especially when you have a great talent like Chad Kelly.
But I know that he will grow from it, and I know that he will learn from this and land on his feet, and hopefully he will become the player and person that I know he is.
But that's where we are at quarterback.  And then at wide out we brought in three true freshmen in January.  That was a huge, huge blessing for us because those guys got some invaluable experience all throughout the spring, and so by the time we get those guys on August 30th, they're going to be obviously way, way further along than they would have been if they didn't come in until July.  Three really talented players in Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester, and I think we hit a home run on all three of them, and I'm excited about what they're going to be able to do.
And then we're going to get Charone Peake back.  Charone Peake has kind of been out of the conversation since he got hurt last year, but if people remember this was one of the best wide‑outs in the country coming out of high school and was really on his way to a great season last year before he got hurt.  He looks great and he'll be back to help shore that group up.

Q.  I was just curious what was your reaction when the complaint was filed by that organization about how you've handled your religious beliefs with the team?
DABO SWINNEY:  I was a little caught off guard by it.  That's just‑‑ all I can say, and I don't know if y'all saw, I think I put a statement out this morning that I had written.  It pretty much sums it all as far as my thoughts on all that.  But I'm very proud of our program.  I'm very proud of how we run our program, the culture that we have here and the young men that we develop here.  There's really‑‑ to me there's been already too much talked about all that stuff.  But the statement is what it is, and for me, I'm very, very proud of the way we do things here at Clemson.

Q.  Do you anticipate having to change the way you do things there?
DABO SWINNEY:  No.  No.  We do things, again, the right way and always have, and we'll continue to run the program the way we always have.

Q.  What's your assessment of your running backs at this point in the spring?
DABO SWINNEY:  Well, I think that that's a position that we have a chance to be greatly improved this season.  Our offensive coaches are really excited about the pool of guys that we have there, DJ Howard is our senior leader that seems to kind of just gotten over that injury bug that has really hampered him, and he had his best spring.  We're really excited about Zac Brooks.  He was a guy that got hurt last year, was making great strides, hurt his shoulder.  He's back and had an excellent spring.
I think he is a very dynamic player.  Wayne Gallman is a guy that you're going to hear a lot about.  He's not a complete player yet because he's still a freshman and we've got a lot of things to teach him and coach him up on, but he is the whole package.  Going to be, I think, an excellent, excellent player for us this year and as he moves through his career.  He has the size that we like.
C.J. Davidson is the other young man, another young guy that really made great strides last year, got hurt right when he was turning the corner, come back and was a factor for us in the Orange Bowl.  Very talented junior.  Those four guys all bring something to we need to the table, and I think it's a very, very deep group.
And then you're going to throw in Adam Choice, who's going to arrive here this summer who's an outstanding runner, and then Tyshon Dye, I keep reminding everybody don't forget about Tyshon Dye.  He might be as talented as anybody we have.  He's going to be coming off an Achilles injury, and we anticipate getting him back at some point during the season.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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