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January 7, 2017

Jeff Scott

Tampa, Florida


Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I think the biggest thing is it gets our brand out there at a national level. Everybody's got smart phones in their hands, they're checking their social media probably 10 times every hour. So to be able to get your brand and your message right in front of them on a consistent basis I think is huge.

Then I think the way we've been able to separate ourselves by the type of content that we put out there has been very unique. But it's something that Coach Swinney and our athletic director, Dan Radakovich, they wanted to really improve our social media presence about two years ago. I think it's definitely paid off for us.

There's so many high schools we go into for the first time, and the head coach will tell us, Man, y'all put out the best videos, the best stuff on social media. I use a lot of your stuff all the time. Whenever that's your very first meeting with a coach, he already knows all about you, your staff, your program, it definitely pays off.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Oh, absolutely. I believe it does. The way that recruits look at Clemson is different now than it was three or four years ago. Not just because of the winning and what we've done on the field, but because of what they've seen through social media, the content that we've given them over the last few years.

Q. Is there anything from an offensive standpoint you took away from last year's game?
JEFF SCOTT: Obviously we watched the game. It's one thing going into a game against Alabama, that type of defense, that type of scheme, and trying to wonder what could happen with some of the things you do schematically, if this would work, if that would work, than actually experiencing it and doing it. Some things we thought would work in that game did not, and there were some things that we weren't sure about that we had success with.

I think experience, not just from a coach's standpoint, but with the players, having that experience, being out there with them.

They got a lot of the same players back. We got a lot of the same players back on our offense. I think there's definitely a lot of confidence that comes with that, but also schematically there are definitely things you can pull from last year's game, last year's experience.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: It's huge. I've gotten that question a lot. First thing, I give Charone Peake a lot of credit. He probably had one of his best games of his Clemson career last year in place of Mike. He really did a great job all year.

There's no question, Mike Williams is a difference maker. He makes defenses defend us differently when he's on the field. He's a guy that Deshaun has a lot of faith in. They've had a lot of things together. They have a high confidence in each other, knowing where the ball's going to be, knowing where Mike's going to be, those type of things. So I think having Mike and Deon Cain, two guys that are probably leading our team in touchdowns from a receiving perspective in this game this year, is definitely an added benefit.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I think obviously it was a very difficult year, him having to sit out. It's also difficult when you have an injury like that, it's different than an ACL or shoulder injury or something where you know you're hurt, you're not ready to go.

With his injury, it being a fracture on a piece of his neck, he felt like he was healthy. But really from a safety standpoint, you couldn't put him out there. I think that was very difficult for him.

But he handled it the right way. That's what we talked about. Hey, your time's coming. You just got to be patient and be ready.

This spring, whenever he got out there, there was a little bit of concern early on. Is he going to be tentative with the neck when he gets put in similar situations? But I can remember very early in spring practice, within the first three days, he dove for a ball. Whenever he dove, he hit his neck on one of the safety's knees going down. Kind of put him in a real bad spot. He jumped right back up and went right back to the line for the next play. That was kind of the moment we said, He's back, he's good to go.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I think really at this point last year, he wanted to play. He wanted to come back and play in the bowl game, in the playoff games. He felt like he was healthy enough to do that.

But we just didn't want to take any chance with bringing him back too early. We knew that having an entire spring to go through would be a lot better timing getting ready for this season.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: When he first got injured, honestly Mike has been a guy, you know, he's had a situation in practice where he ran into a ball machine one time that was in the corner of the indoor. It looked like he broke his leg. He laid around, rolled around for about five minutes, then jumped right back up and was okay.

To be honest, whenever it happened, once they said, He's moving, I said, He's going to be fine. I thought he'd be back in the game the very next series. Once they held him down longer and longer, started talking about some of the things, it got serious.

I think at halftime is whenever we got the news, good news, bad news. Good news is that it's not a situation of paralysis or anything like that, but bad news is he's going to be out the rest of the year.

I can remember at that point sitting there at halftime in the locker room thinking 8-5, trying to figure out where we were going to be because he was such a key part of our offense.

But I think the very first thing you think about is his career. He's a guy that's got a special future ahead of him at the next level if he'll continue to stay healthy. So that was the first thing that kind of went through your mind, is being sure that he's going to be healthy, be able to walk, be able to play again. Once we heard that, we could deal with him sitting out a year.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Yeah, I think especially early on, Mike has a unique ability in the one-on-one man situations versus some of the top corners to be able to still win those matchups because he's a very physical guy, to be able to go up and attack the ball.

Charone Peake, who replaced Mike, is a good receiver in his own right, but a little bit different. He's kind of more a little bit of a space guy, really good on the end cuts, things like that. But Mike was definitely very talented in those one-on-one man matchups.

We definitely had to adjust to a few things. We've been able to notice having him back this year definitely has allowed us to win more of those one-on-one matchups.

Q. Does he allow you to stretch their defense more than anybody?
JEFF SCOTT: Yeah, I believe so. Obviously, Deshaun being able to run the ball is a big thing. If you're going to come down and stop Deshaun, you're putting guys on islands on the outside. We've got a lot of respect for their defensive backs. They're some of the best. Last week against Ohio State, I think they all have corners slated to go in the first round. It's kind of the cream of the crop, if you will. I think it's a great matchup, one that will be important for us to win on the outside. If they can man us up on the outside, we consistent win those matchups, it will be a long night.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Well, yes, there is. I mean, you kind of go into the game after you study it for a week, Hey, this is a week that we feel like we can execute and win without having Deshaun run the ball and be a major factor.

Then when you get to this part of the year, that's kind of been our pattern. I think we went through that last year, experienced that. Our goal was to play 15 games. Not that that was a guarantee or anything like that. We understood what we had to do to get there. But we also want to be smart enough that we scheduled it out right, so that he is healthy enough to be able to play in this game if you get here.

There's definitely some of those conversations. We always want to have the quarterback run as a part of our scheme. There's certain weeks where we felt like we could call a few less quarterback runs than other weeks.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Yeah. Everything's on the table. No question about it.

Q. How do you try to minimize the potential damage of their defense?
JEFF SCOTT: That's obviously a focus. It's a focus every week, but even more of a focus and emphasis this week. Not just are they getting turnovers, but they're turning them into touchdowns. That's a big thing. We have to help our defense out just by the way we protect the football.

This is not a team that you want to turn the ball over and give them short fields. Field position is going to be critical, as it is in every game.

But the biggest thing also when you talk about turnovers, I think you can hurt yourself if you talk about it too much. It's not a situation where we pulled up all 11 of their defensive touchdowns and showed them to our guys. That's not the picture we want our guys to have. They know what protecting the football looks like. They know the importance of it.

We had that conversation, Do we want to show it to them. Somebody in the room said, They've watched it every week on SportsCenter. Every single week they've had a defensive touchdown, it seemed like.

Our guys know. They understand that's important. Not just executing, getting first downs, but also keeping the ball on our side and not putting it at risk.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: First of all, it's kind of the legend of Hunter Renfrow. I heard about him for a year before I ever met him. I would say no less than five or six head coaches down there in that area of the PD had either called me or texted me about Hunter Renfrow. A big part of is we had Adam Humphries, who is now with the bucks, playing for us. Adam was a very efficient player for us, made a lot of plays. Adam actually started more games as a wide receiver than anybody in Clemson history. So I had several coaches from that area say, Hey, I think we found the next Adam Humphries. He has the 'it' factor. He plays quarterback. He's a coach's son.

I was looking forward to meeting him whenever he came up to our football camp. Whenever he came up, I didn't really think that was him because he was only about 150 pounds. I think he looked like he was in the seventh grade, and he was getting ready to go into the 12th grade.

Doing some of the drills we do at our football camp, you could tell, putting him in different positions, his quickness and suddenness was really good. Even though he hadn't played receiver before, some guys are just very natural when you ask them to do something. It's fun. I'm asking him to do something for the very first time, and he does it really well, better than he even realizes.

So myself, who put a lot of different receivers, talented guys, through those same drills, I could tell the difference where he really couldn't tell because it's the first time that he went through it.

We've made a living at Clemson having a few guys like that. Coach Swinney, he was a walk-on at Alabama. Myself, walk-on at Clemson. Hunter just had kind of that 'it' factor.

The thing that surprised me is I didn't think he would be ready to go quite as quickly as he was, as a redshirt freshman.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: What makes Hunter special is his change of direction, being able to put his foot in the ground, make guys miss. The position we put him in, the things we ask him to do, match him up against linebackers. He's a very difficult guy to cover in there. Him and Deshaun have great chemistry. They're on the same page. There's a very high trust level between both of those guys.

But, yeah, I do see some of the things he did in high school carrying over to that slot position here at Clemson.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Really proud of Jordan. His first two years, he nicknamed himself Lazy Leggett. That kind of tells you where he was as a football player his first two years. Was athletic, but didn't quite understand the work ethic and the attention to detail and daily commitment it was going to take.

It really came to a point in his career maybe two years ago where he was really thinking about transferring and going somewhere else and getting a fresh start.

Coach Swinney's message to him is, You can leave if you want, but you're going to have the same issues wherever you go. It's something you're going to have to make a decision and correct if you truly want to be a great player.

He chose to stay here and to do that. I'm very proud of him. He's made a 360-degree change as a player on the field, off the field, everything about him, and now put himself in the top category of tight ends in the country, has been a great play-maker for us.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I've seen good maturity. He's gotten more physical at the point of attack, his blocking, which is something he knew he really needed to work on and make a focus. He's become even a better route runner, understanding leverage, coverages, different things. Has definitely set himself up well for the future.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I think Mike has a combination. A lot of guys that are his height are more straight line guys, good vertical guys, but maybe don't have the change of direction. Then sometimes you can get these 6' guys or 5'11" guys that have good quickness and change of direction. Mike is one of those rare guys that have both, that can run after the catch like a 6' guy. Also he's very flexible. His position is one you have to make catches in a lot of different body positions, back shoulder catches. You find yourself in a lot of different positions.

Sometimes guys of his height have a little bit of stiffness. Mike has zero stiffness. He's just very flexible, fluid.

His catch radius is very big. I think that's something that helps him. He's improved a lot in becoming more of a physical player. That was really probably the biggest thing he had to work on from his freshman year to where he is now, is putting on some weight and being more physical attacking DBs, not trying to run around them, run arcs to the sidelines and those types of things.

Last year he was 210. This year he showed up at fall camp at 225 and has played very well at that weight.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Yeah, I mean, we were told he would be back for spring practice, probably January, February be able to do our winter workouts, mat drills, those type of things. Really we were told that once he was back, there really was no concern from that injury, that he couldn't reinjure it or anything like that. It was healed completely. It was as if he had never been injured before.

So for us, it was more mental, to be sure that he could kind of put that behind him. He did a great job in the spring and got banged around a little bit, popped right back up. Really, there's not one time I can remember at all since he's been back, whether spring, two-a-days, even this season, where he's flinched at all from what happened last year.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I mean, personally I felt like through fall camp last year, I told everybody in our room, Y'all enjoy Mike Williams this year because he's going to be gone. We've had three guys leave as true juniors to go to the NFL from the wide receiver position. I thought Mike was going to be the next guy because he really put himself in that position to have a great year.

The benefit for him is he was able to stay and get his degree. Also I think he'll be more prepared for the next level because he's stronger, he's bigger, more mature physically and mentally than if he would have left last year, which probably would have happened.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: If it was a guy like Deshaun Watson, I'd be happy to do that. I think that's what they have on that other side.

I think because we've been very fortunate to have great freshmen players. Samuel Watkins was a guy that came in day one 18 years old that was a freak. I felt like he could have played in the NFL at 18 years old.

Deshaun was a freshman that was different than anybody else. That's what I see with Jalen on the other side. He's just so mature beyond his years. He shows great poise. It's unheard of really to see a guy like that be able to be as successful as he's been this year at a place like Alabama. It's really incredible.

But that top 1% of guys, we've been fortunate to have a few of those guys at Clemson as well, that's where I put Jalen.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Yeah, I think he will be. I think he's in a lot better position this year obviously than he was last year. Before he's really ready to go out there and be the man, be the starter, I think he still has a little bit of work to do this spring, which is normal.

But I think I'm very excited to have him in this game. He's been a great play-maker for us this year. I think the combination of Mike and Deon, being able to roll those guys throughout a game...

We joke all the time, I think Alabama probably is definitely the exception to this rule, but usually we joke that most teams have one and a half corners that they trust. So the point of that is, they're not going to be rolling a lot of corners. Most teams aren't going to roll a lot of corners throughout a game. If you can roll talented receivers, you're going to wear them down in the fourth quarter.

With Alabama, these guys, you know, they can play for a long time, very talented. They've got more depth than most people do in the defensive backfield.

Q. (Question about Coach Saban's defenses.)
JEFF SCOTT: Number one is recruiting. No question about it. They recruit as good or better than anybody in the country. Number two, they have a very sound scheme. Coach Saban obviously is one of the best defensive minds in all of college football.

What you notice as an offensive coach is they make you earn every yard that you get. Offensively sometimes you can play against some defenses and you can find some easy, cheap plays, cheap yards, cheap touchdowns. You just never see that with an Alabama defense.

Every single catch is contested with a guy on their back. It's just the receiver ended up making a great play over that defensive back. There's no easy layups. Also running the football is very difficult. They're going to make you earn every yard up front.

Then the other thing offensively, when you're playing a defense like this, is every play counts. We learned that last year. There's a couple plays we'd love to have back offensively last year as well. You have to make every play and every possession count against this type of defense.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I think they are. I think what makes them a little bit better, they look like they're a little thinner and faster, especially No. 10. He looks very quick and fast. Very aggressive, as usual. But I think the defensive ends are a little bit different than last year. These guys played coming in on third down. Now they're every down defensive ends. Their quickness reminds me of like Vic Beasley that we had in the past. You're not going to sit back there and hold the ball very long with defensive ends like that.

To have the guys they have inside with that push, if you were just kind of drafting an All-Star team, I mean, that's exactly what you're going to have.

Then with the talent they have on the back end, it's incredible. Makes it very challenging.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: Yeah, they did. They're one of the few teams that has the depth to be able to rotate those guys up front.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I would say having a running quarterback, you know. That's about it. Look at the success we had last year. You've got to have that because they're so talented that you're not going to sit back there in the pocket and just keep throwing the ball. They're going to break. They're going to get back there in the backfield. Your quarterback is going to have to break contain and make throws on the run to move the ball versus this type of defense.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: More experienced. I think we have a very veteran group really at every single position. We kind of had that senior captain that's been around, that's played a lot of ball, been through a lot of battles, has a lot of experience. That's probably one of the biggest differences from last year. Then obviously having a guy like Mike Williams over in the boundary, he makes us different in that aspect.

Other than that, a lot of things very similar. Each year you turn the page. I think for our offense, we feel like these last two years has really kind of just been one season. A lot of the same guys have been in there. There's a lot of confidence and momentum that comes from that.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: That's hard to say because he was so talented last year, as well. It's like trying to decide what the difference is in Tom Brady this year from last year. I mean, he was Tom Brady last year, too. That's kind of where Deshaun is.

There's no question, every year, because of your experience, you get better as a player. I know there's been a lot said about some of the interceptions and those things. The people that are inside the building, the coaches inside the staff room watching video every day, grading the game video, calling what we're doing. Also the players. We feel like Deshaun is at his very best that he's been in his career. Would love to see him go out on a high note.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: I think coming back, the biggest thing is being more physical. I think it helped. He knew going into this season that he wanted to add some weight. He was 210 last year going into the season. He was 225 this year. That's a big thing for him at the next level.

He's going to be a boundary receiver. They're going to put their best corner over in the boundary. It's going to be physical matchups and physical battles.

I think early in his career, like a lot of receivers, he wanted to run around a lot of those DBs. Now he realizes you got to run through them. Those guys aren't going to let you just be able to get on top, hold your line, keep width for the quarterback, those type of things. You're truly going to have to be physical and run through guys and win the one-on-one physical matchup. I feel like that's where Mike has taken his game to the next level this year.

Q. Against Ohio State, it's like you ran a fake toss, let Watson run behind it like a trick play (indiscernible).
JEFF SCOTT: He was. That shows a lot of improvement in his game. That was really an area where we needed Jordan to improve from last year to this year. We knew what he could do catching the ball, running routes, the passing game. Really for us to take the next level offensively would be for him to improve as a blocker.

He's definitely done that this year. Each game, you go into it kind of with a game plan. Once the game gets started, you start seeing what they're doing defensively, it can change your game plan. We found something that was working for us and decided to stick with it. Jordan did a great job with that.

Q. You never want to say a loss is good. Since Pittsburgh, your focus has been crystal and on one thing. Did Pitt help you get refocused?
JEFF SCOTT: It did. I don't like using the word 'refocus' because I really don't feel like we lost the Pitt game because our guys weren't focused. Offensively we had one of our best games of the year outside of two costly turnovers in the red zone, then that third-and-one, fourth-and-one at the end of the game. Really it was probably our best throwing and catching game of the year with over 500 yards passing.

I feel like our guys all year long have played at a consistent level. But I do think that loss definitely reminded the guys that nothing's guaranteed. Sometimes you go through the season, you're working hard, all that. You just assume that this was going to happen. I think it was a good reminder to our guys that, Hey, we don't have another Mulligan. Everybody is talking about wanting to expand the playoff and all that. I feel like we've been in the playoff ever since that Pitt game, week 11.

Q. I talked to the Alabama defensive coordinator. Normally you want to stop the run. He said he'd love to see you guys run, they don't want to see you pass the ball. How effective is that passing game?
JEFF SCOTT: Well, it's definitely important. For us, we want to be balanced. Whenever we rush for 200 and pass for 200, I think we're undefeated in the history of the school. We want to be balanced in what we're doing.

Defenses have to make decisions. Offensively we want to control the game with our tempo, with our speed, different things that we're doing. At the same time we want to figure out what the defense wants to take away. We're going to adjust off of that.

We feel very fortunate that we have players at each position that we can run the ball when they're trying to take away the pass or throw the ball when they're trying to take away the run. With a guy like Deshaun, who makes great decisions, we call some of those run-pass options when we give him that decision, post snap he's making it right, if you will.

I think it's definitely a cat-and-mouse game. I know they'll have some new schemes and new things for us this year, just like we will for them.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: They're definitely excited. Whenever we came in from the airport, I passed the hotel I used to stay at when we were recruiting them. It brought back memories that three years later, here we are. They are excited, as well as Artavis Scott, to be back closer to home.

This has been a great area for us in recruiting. I think it's only fitting we get an opportunity to play for a national championship right here in Florida.

Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SCOTT: The first thing you do is you look for weaknesses and where you want to exploit. After about 10 minutes of watching video, you figure out there are none, so you might as well forget that area. Then you really just worry about being yourself.

That's really what our message has been all year: Hey, it's about Clemson, about us. Obviously we have to know the defense, what they want to do schematically, all that. At the end of the day it's about our execution, it's about what we do. So we spent a lot of focus on us.

But there's definitely great players all the way around, and no weaknesses that we can find.

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