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January 11, 2020

Tony Elliott

New Orleans, Louisiana

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I think that's huge, especially when you're talking about the quarterback position, that they hear the same voice all the time.

And also just working the relationship that I have with Coach Streeter, and everybody else on the staff, too. We can almost finish each other's sentences and we have similar thoughts. It allows us to be efficient and effective, to put together the best plan.

But it's something that we rely on. Gives us a comfort level with each other and allows us to just go work.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Not at all. It's actually a dream come true to be at your alma mater, to have an opportunity to work for Swinney, who's the best head coach in the country, not just because of what happens on the field, but because of who he is as a person. He's a father figure to me. So many times I've looked to him for advice just from a marriage standpoint, raising your children.

Just something we talk about all the time is just bloom where you're planted. There will come a time where I'll be uprooted and have to move on, but I'm not looking for that. It's going to have to be something that is lead by the spirit, the right opportunity.

Right now focusing on being the best version of myself where I am, and that has helped this program for everybody in the program being committed and loyal to the program is why you see the way our players play.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: (Laughter.) That's right, that's right. Well, you know...

The thing about it too is what I understand is every situation is different. I don't take it personal. I understand that each administration and AD is looking for a certain fit. I understand who I am and what I'm about, and one day there will be a certain fit.

At this present time we're just living history and I'm just enjoying it.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Yeah, correct. Any time it comes to the Championship game it's more of a business trip if you look at the schedule and the structure. Basically this is Thursday of a game week, whereas when you go to the first round, the playoff game, it's more of a bowl feel.

We're out there for a week. Here, no, we're isolated, locked in, and it's a business trip.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, team's been focused all year. That's what we been trying to tell everybody, that team has been focused. Obviously didn't start as fast as we wanted to, but it wasn't a lack of focus. They had great preparation. It was just a function of we hadn't been in one of those games in a while and we had to get back used to playing at the playoff level.

And then once they were able to get their feet under them, then they took off. I think this team has been focused all year long. They came in with unbelievable expectations and had a little bit of adversity, persevered, and then from then on, they been locked in and loaded.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: It's a different feel. It's a different feel. I think he expressed it his comments where he has a feeling that he didn't prepare the best last time around. He was a freshman, and rightfully so. Freshman, fourth team guy. He was coming home. It was the bowl experience, so he was had a whole week in New Orleans, probably the liaison for everybody. Travis, where do we go, what do we do? He was probably leading everybody around.

An then he got hit on that first kickoff that kind of sat him on the sideline for a little bit. I think this trip around he understands what's at stake, especially the team that we're playing. So I think he has some motivation. Been really proud of how he's done a great job of managing the distractions. You worry about a guy. I mean, you think about for him, this is a dream scenario. You're back in New Orleans playing against LSU.

But he hasn't made the game bigger than what it is. He understands that he's playing for his teammates. In order for him to be his best come Monday night, he needed to make sure that he handled the distractions associated with him in this particular game.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Man, biggest thing is you got to establish the running game. Got to establish the running game, and the way we're built, we're built to run between the tackles, and they're built to stop the run between the tackles. Got to be efficient running the game, can't give up on the run, and then you got to make the competitive plays.

You're talking about one of the best secondaries in the country. Coach Aranda does an unbelievable job. You've seen over the course of the season the confidence level, the level of communication is really, really improved. They're playing at a very, very high level. They're going to be juiced up.

We got to establish the run, and then when we have our opportunities to make those contested one-on-one plays, we got to make them.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, I don't know if you could say anything is in particularly at stake other than this is what our young men -- this is the expectation. They expect to be in this game, and they're playing for legacy.

So I think it's more just big picture legacy is what's stake here. At the end of the day we told our guys, there ain't a whole lot of pressure. Just go play. This is what you worked for all year.

I don't think they quite understand the type of season they been a part of or really understands the last two years. And I really don't really understand it. You tell me -- no, I'm worried about this game. I'm not thinking about the record.

I think down the road, you know, when you step back ten years from now you realize what kind of history you been a part of. I think in this particular game, these guys have worked to are this opportunity. They're not going to take it for granted. They understand that you don't get -- there is a lot of coaches. I'm very blessed to be in this situation. I think about a lot of coaches that I respect in this industry that haven't had an opportunity to be in a game like this.

They're not taking it for granted and putting more pressure on themselves. They just want to go out and play well, and they're playing against an unbelievable team, one of the best teams in football history at the college level, and they want to see how they stack up.

Q. Talked to much about your counterpart, Venables. Tell me a little bit about the challenge it's going to be putting up similar types of points and production?
TONY ELLIOTT: I actually prefer the underdog role, so keep talking to Coach V. But no, the defense here, as I said, they've really improved. You watch them early in the season and they were putting some pie es in there, had some younger guys playing, had some communication issues.

Now on the back end they're adjusting to every formation. That defensive line, man, they do a great job, one of the best jobs I've seen being able to transition between a two-gap odd defense to a four-down penetrating defense. It's very difficult when have the big guys that are two-gappers, but these guys can penetrate.

Then when they get to third down, oh, my gosh, they're exotic. They bring a bunch of speed on the field, they twist, they try get after your quarterback.

So the challenge for us is on base downs we got to be efficient running the football. You're not just going to knock these guys back. I think they're 3 -- they list him at 345 in the middle. I think he might be a little bit bigger than that. 345, 300, and then they got Chaisson on the end that can create havoc in the run game.

So we're going to have to do that. And Stingley and Fulton are two of the best corner combinations in the country. For us, we have to make sure that we get off to a fast start, especially with their offense. We got to play complementary football. Last week we weren't very complementary early. Put a lot of pressure on the defense.

But if we can be efficient, and put together some good drives early, weather the storm -- I think for us, we understand the situation they're in. They're going to come out greased up ready to go. We got to weather the storm, establish the run game, be efficient, and then our playmakers on the outside got to make plays.

Q. Every team is different. Was there a specific moment you felt like you got a pulse on DNA of this team?
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, I think that the North Carolina game would probably be -- you found out just how much heart that this team has. We know one of the core values of our program is to have heart, to not flinch in the face of adversity, but we haven't had a whole ton of adversity over the lasts couple years.

Trevor was in that situation for the first time, and so you had an opportunity to see these guys not flinch in the face of adversity. That's when you knew these guys were cut from the same cloth as the previous teams that came before them.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I think last year's group you had all those senior D-linemen, and it was almost like they all came back and they knew why they came back. This is a younger team. They're trying to figure it out. The legacy of last year's team, that championship kind of is credit to those -- the senior leadership.

That's guys wanted the same outcome, but their motivation might have been a little bit different. They had to figure it out. I think the difference with this team is they know the expectation and they knew the desire that they wanted, and now they just had to go figure it out.

I think this team has really learned what our core values are. We're not entitled to anything. Everything is earned. Got to go work every day and have that 1-0 mentality each week, and best is the standard.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Right. I think that for both teams you're going to do what got you here. You're going to go with what you have confidence in. I think that that's a fair assessment maybe for people on the outside. For us, we talk about all the time this we want to take the ego out of it and we want to play however the defense wants to dictate.

If they want to give up the big play, then we're going to hit them fast with the big play. If we need to be efficient and put together drives and score points, we're willing to do that. So for us, philosophically we want to be good at both. We want to be able to control the pace of the game when we need to, be aggressive when we need to, be able to run the football.

And so for us, we're not necessary living on the chunk play, because we understand that if you don't get the chunk player you could be in trouble. We're going in with the mindset of our game plan is figure out how the defense wants to play us and then don't get your ego involved. Let's go win the game, whatever it takes to win the game. That means we got to be efficient and put together 85-yard drives every time we get the ball, then that is what we got to do. If they're going to give us the big play, stop the run, and put us in one-on-one coverage, then we got to hit the big plays down the field. That's how our mindset is.

Q. (Regarding Travis's role.)
TONY ELLIOTT: He's got to be at his best. In this game, all of our playmakers got to be at their best. I think biggest thing for him is try not to do too much, not be too amped up in this situation. So for he's done an unbelievable job of controlling his emotions, blocking out the noise. Even kind of put some restrictions on his family. Look, I'm not dealing with tickets, anything. I'm focused in on playing my best. So he's ready to do whatever.

Again, how they defend us is going to more dictate his role. We're planning on letting him touch the ball in the run game and then get him involvement if the pass game, and when there are situations where we have to throw the ball down the field, he's got to be very, very effective in pass protection, especially on third down.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I would imagine with his age and experience he would add some leadership to the team. I think that especially in their third down packages I think he provides a different element, because he's a big and fast enough guy. That looks like that's their philosophy on third down, is to get some of the bigger two-gap guys off the field and bring in some speed guys to create some matchup problems with your offensive line.

So I anticipate that. I would imagine it gives them more depth. If you look at them, they've had to play Queen and Phillips a lot, even late in games when the score is out of hand. Not sure the depth situation. So probably just add some leadership and some depth for them.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: The core values that are set before our team were internalized. That you never quit, never flinch in the face of adversity, and they just have the heart of a champion. That's what you learned. We didn't execute very well, especially early in the game. Give credit to Ohio State. That is one of the best defenses we've played in a very long time. But there were some things we could've did better, and it was small things. It was footwork. It was alignments, assignments, communication, things that we didn't take care of, Clemson.

What they learned is that even though you don't necessarily play with great technique, if you keep fighting and scrapping and you have that will to win and you just keep on plugging, eventually you'll work yourself out of a hole. I think they just proved that we have a heart of a champion within this program. This is a championship program with a championship chin and a will to fight.

Q. (No microphone.) How much does that add a dimension, of at this point in the season?
TONY ELLIOTT: Yeah, all cards are off the table. You got to have all your bullets in the gun, and it's whatever it takes. That's what so beautiful about these young men in program. They're so selfless. They'll do whatever it takes. Travis probably wants to touch the ball in the run games 30 times if he could, but the two biggest plays that he made were in the passing games, and he was ready to do that.

And then he sacrificed and had some really, really good pickups in pass precision. At this point in the game, we're just trying to figure out a way to win. It ain't about style point, it ain't about egos, it ain't about me or Jeff on offense. It's about putting together a plan that gives these young men to be successful, because as coaches, they deserve that.

They've worked extremely hard to get this to point. At this point, we've got to get out of the way as coaches and let them play, and they're willing to do whatever it takes.

Q. (No microphone.)

Q. What have you seen him do?
TONY ELLIOTT: I think just goes back to how his mindset was coming into the season. Even though he had a great sophomore season, he came in with a different mindset. A little bit more attention to detail in the meeting room, taking better notes, asking better questions, just consistency with his practice habits day in and day out.

I think in particular for this game, he's really, really taken to heart what we talk about. Simplify your life. Even as coaches. We have to do a good job of that, too. When you go to this point you got to simplify your live. You got to cut out the distractions and the voices outside of the program that don't matter and focus on what it takes to be successful.

That is, best preparation day in and day out so you can play your best on Game Day. So that's what I've seen the biggest in this particular game, is he's done a great job with the magnitude of this game. You think about for him the magnitude of this game.

Whatever the situation was with LSU in recruiting, he comes to Clemson, and now you have an opportunity to play for a national championship against LSU in New Orleans. Man, that moment could be extremely big if you don't manage it right. I think they hasn't really focused on the magnitude of the moment. He's kept it in perspective, and all he's focusing on is being his best in the moment.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Yeah, I was hoping that after we had the plan for Chase Young that we wouldn't see another guy like that I can that. Oh, my gosh. That young man is unbelievable. I mean, he's one of the best that I've seen just with the assortment of pass rush moves that he has. Chase no doubt was the best defender in the country and he was built a little bit different.

Chaisson is a little bit quicker, a little bit smaller, but has a greater assortment of moves. He can beat you around the edge, he can up and under, he can spin on you. Just has a knack for his twist game.

So for him, we've had to work extremely hard to make sure that, one, we know where he at each and every play, and then try get any kind of tips and clues as to what he's going to do. He does is great job mixing it up. And he can stay on the field in every situations, so on third down he's no longer on your tackles. Now he's matched up on your guards and your centers, and that's what makes it tough. So he's been a problem trying to get ready for.

Q. What does it say about a guy who missed basically all last season? (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Yeah, and I don't know him personally, but when you see that is a competitor, as a coach, you just have a tremendous amount of respect, because you understand the severity of an injury and what it takes to come back. And not just to come back, but to play at high level.

So just a lot of respect for what I perceive as his character, because only character is going to allow you to be able to overcome that type of adversity and then respond, and respond in a fashion that you were better than where you were before.

Q. What's this last stretch been like?
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, the first game was difficult because of the turnaround. It was such a quick turnaround, and then he had his time to go do what he need to do for South Florida, so really didn't have much time to think about. We had Grish kind of inserted in that role, so we were rocking and rolling.

These last couple weeks we've had a chance to just work together, but we try to keep it as normal as possible and really not focus on the future. We understand that that's going to come on Monday night after the game. Right now, we're just focusing on doing what we've always done to help these young men be successful. That's really what our work has been the last couple weeks.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: No, no, because the emotion for me is really joy for him. I know that's something he's always wanted to do, you know, he's had aspirations to do it. I'm just thankful that I've been blessed to have a small part in that, just a very, very small part in helping him accomplish that.

So not going to be sad. There are going to be some days next year where you go to say something and he's not there and it may set in, but for me, the only emotion I got for him is joy.

And hopefully it's a ton of joy after the game, for two reasons.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, it's good from the standpoint of at first you're like, Man, we got two weeks off. When you sit back and look in retrospect, it's been a long season. We started in July. We played our first game in August. Had two bye weeks. We needed this extra time just to kind of get our thoughts, to kind of recoup, because the calendar has been different.

At the same time, you want to make sure you don't do too much. In this game it's going to be about the players. It's going to be about winning one-on-one matchups. We're anxious to play, but the time has been good just for us to kind of catch our breath.

Q. Treat it like a bye week?
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, coach has done a great job managing the schedule, making sure we get proper amount of time on the field, giving the players a little bit of time off on the front end. So it's been a good mix of being able to work when we need to work, but then also recover when we need to recover.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, it's good to get him back out there, get his legs under him. If you ask him, it's a little bit different when you play that many snaps when you haven't played all year.

But we got to have everybody, and that's the good thing about having a little bit of extra time. You can really evaluate where you are, do a little bit of self-scout, and then try to get players in position to create matchup problems.

The difference in this plan is there is nobody on their defense that you can create a matchup with. You got to get your best players on the field that give you the best opportunity to have a one-on-one -- to win a one-on-one matchup.

Q. (Regarding Ohio State game.) When you look back, what was is that stood out to you that said, this is something we need to work on?
TONY ELLIOTT: It was really just the little things. You talk about little things lead to big things, and so it was our footwork. It was stepping. It was communication. It was on the perimeter running guys off that stretch the field to create greater running lanes when we get the ball on the perimeter. That's really what it was.

So it was just little things. I think part was it would been a while since our guys have been in that type of battle, and we got hit right out the gate. But then they realized, Okay, we been here before. Let's just calm down, settle in, and they were able to find a play.

So biggest thing for us is just stressing the little things. At the end of the day, you got two great teams, two gate coaching staffs; it's going to come down to fundamentals in the heat of battle winning one-on-one matchups.

So that was the biggest point the emphasis for us. We're going to have a great plan, but the plan is useless if you don't have the fundamentals to execute the plan.

Q. (Regarding Travis.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Really just he's actually been a little bit quieter, which tells me that he's trying get himself to the best place possible to play his best game. Not trying to play the game too early. Not trying to do too much. Really just lock in on the plan, block out all the noises so he can play his best.

So I wouldn't say necessarily a different pep in the step, because he's a happy-go-lucky guy. He practices well regardless of who we're playing, but I think he's just been a little bit quieter. Not necessarily isolating himself, but you can see he's got an intensity and a focus about himself, because he want to play well.

He doesn't just want to play well because of the magnitude of the game with him coming back home. He wants to play well because this is an opportunity for him to help his teammates accomplish a dream.

Q. Is this LSU defense one of the best you've faced this year? (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I would say so, yes. It's one of the best. Very, very good; very, very talented; very, very big; very deep in the defensive line. That linebackers, the two linebackers probably run as good as I've seen. I think probably the only one that I compare them to is they run around like Reuben Foster did. They're violent.

And on the back end, they got four of the best guys, cover guys in the country. So collectively, yes, one of the best defenses we've played.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I would say that it just helps from the standpoint of you don't have to change what you do, because at Clemson we treat every game like it's the biggest game of the season. It doesn't matter who we're playing. We challenge our guys, that if it's game one, prepare like you're playing in to the national championship.

And then now that he's been through these type of games, he understands, I don't have to change. I just have to prepare well. I don't have to change and try to do too much. So I think that's the experience factor this will help him the most.

Q. (Regarding Trevor.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Trevor is the same guy every single day, and that's what so beautiful about him. I think that's why he's able to play the way he does, is because he's the same person every day. There is no up and down. He's consistent. When he's consistent, consistency over an extended period of time equals greatness. I think that's what he understands, and doesn't deviate from that.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, it means a lot, because I think five years ago people on the outside looked at it like, okay, we're going to see how this is going to work. Can two guys make it work?

But they didn't understand the relationship that we had prior to, right, and the love that we have for Clemson, for Coach Swinney, the love that we have for the players. We decided to take our egos out of it from day one, and we both understand each other's aspirations and we both understand that in order for each one of us to accomplish that we needed to do it together.

So there is a lot of joy for me and his family, his dad. I mean, coach Scott was our position coach when I was playing at Clemson. He was a coordinator. Actually threw me some balls, let me play.

So the relationship is very, very deep, and so just happy for him to have an opportunity to fulfill a dream of his. I know it's a little bit bittersweet because we've been together for so long, but we also understood that this day was going to come. I think that we tell our teams all time that the teams, the best teams are the teams that win before they ever play the game.

We knew this day was coming. When it does happen, it's not going to be a shock to us. It's actually going to be some excitement and some joy for each other.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, yeah. You know, you watch early in the season and you could tell that they didn't quite have that -- especially in the Texas game -- didn't quite have their legs underneath them, but you just seen them over the course of the season, especially those big guys up front, got into better shape.

It looks like they kind of settled down with their plan. Just really locked it. Saw the communication on the back end start to pick up. Adjusting the formations. They weer a lot more consistent with the adjustment of formations. And then I think too that they finally just said, Hey, let these guys lineup and play and not try to do too much.

Third down they get a little bit exotic, bit on base downs they just let their athletes go play one-on-one. You've seen them become more consistent, and with that the effort level has increased, the communication has gotten better, and you see a confidence, the confidence of a championship team, which you should.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I wouldn't categorize it as fun. Challenging. But as a coach or a competitor, and so you like those challenges. But the good thing for him is there is not a whole lot of tendencies. Typically when somebody goes to an exotic package there is some tendencies, you can pick up some tips. But he does a great job changing it each week, moving guys along that front.

So it's going to be fun, but we tried to show our guys everything we've seen on tape, and hopefully our guys have enough confidence to recognize something is different and rely on the fundamentals once they see something different.

Q. (Regarding Justyn Ross.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, man, Justyn Ross is a guy that can do a lot of different things. He can stretch you vertically. I think he's one of the most elite guys in the country in terms of break points - for a big guy. You're talking about a 6'3". 6'4" guy that can get in and out of breaks like a small guy, so he can created some matchups in the slot.

Then if you need to bring him into motion and flip him a jet sweep, he can go that. He's a very, very vertical guy, and I think he has a quiet confidence about himself that exudes to everybody else in the receiver room and on the offense, that they know he's going to show up. He doesn't have to talk about it. He just goes to work every day.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, we always knew that he's ultra talented. Just needed an opportunity. Just so happened in that game that opportunity was provided. We knew all along that he could make the plays. Just needed to have that kind of opportunity. We also knew too that there was a little bit something extra in that game for him.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Hey, just find one more play to help us win another game. I think that's all the encore you need. Biggest thing for our guys is let's not try and do too much. This is the type of game right here where you can't try and do too much. Got to trust the system, play within the system, let the plays come to you, and when they plays do come to you, make the play.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Coach does a great job picking his points in time to remind us, to just help us understand who we are, what we've been able to accomplish, but then also remind us that's not guarantee that you're going to be successful going forward. That you have the DNA within you, but you got to go out and earn it. Coach will pick his spots to remind us, help us remind the confidence level we need to have, but at the same time understanding, too, that what got us to the point where we are is that one-day-at-a-time mentality, just that daily focus, that windshield mentality, is what allowed us to be on this run.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, what makes it so special is sometimes because who he is, just how humble he is, how gracious he is, how he goes about his business. You sometimes forget about what all he's been able to accomplish because he's just steady. He's the same guy every single day. Even when he was having the little issue early in the season trying to force a couple balls, he was the same guy. He wasn't trying to be anything other than just trying to make the aggressive play.

But I think that for all of us within this program, him included, we live in a bubble, we focus on blooming where our feet are planted, being the best version of ourself on a daily basis that we can't put into perspective what we've been able to do.

Right now it's not about going 30-0, it's about this moment, right? We may not get another opportunity to be in a national championship, so we just need to focus on today.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: It just puts pressure on the defense that you got to defend everybody, and so what that does is create some one-on-one matchups for some other guys that if you don't run the quarterback, may get a structured to where they can double team Higgins in the slot or the boundary, and they can double J. Ross out there to the field or put an extra hat in the box to take away Travis.

Now they got to figure out how to defend the entire field, because at some point in time you're going to tip your hand in how you want to play is, and if it requires us to get the extra hat with the quarterback running the football, that's what we're going to do.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I tell him all the time, and he's probably going to get mad for telling this story. I was in a bind when I reached out to Travis. We had been down the road for a long time with another back. Thought he was coming to Clemson, and then things fell apart. Had another guy lined up; didn't know anything about Travis; that fell apart.

So I just made a call to a couple people. They told me to check out Travis. Said, I'm coming to see you. He walks out, and if you ever look at Travis, he's kind of ten and two with his feet if you watch him. When you're a coach, and probably doesn't even matter, but you look at those things and I'm like, oh, my gosh. Can this guy really run? How is he going to change direction with his feet like that?

Low and behold I was like, Okay. I'm stuck though. I have nowhere else to go. So then I go watch him play basketball. Once I saw him on the basketball court, man, I was sold. I said, wow. Watching this young man, just his fluidity on the basketball court, the ability to jump, his speed, his quickness. And then the thing that probably catches you the most him is his smile. He's got such a natural and just an innocent smile about him.

So those are my first impressions. So I loved the kid at first just because of his smile. So unassuming. But then athletically it was like, man. When a guy walks like that, can he really, really run? He's proven me wrong, so I have to eat my words on that one. Worked out pretty well.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: No, because at the end of the day you got to realize, my first communication with Travis Etienne -- well, we had a young man committed. Travis reached out through another coach on our staff and said he had interest.

When they brought it to me I said, look, he's in Louisiana. I have a young man committed. Thanks, but no thanks, that's not how we operate. I didn't pay any more attention to him.

The next tomorrow I talked to him is literally would've been tomorrow night of this game. So literally we go to a movie on -- what we call -- got to forgive me. Today is Thursday for me. Would've been a Friday night in the movie theatre. I'm messaging him like, Hey, I need a running back. Would you be interested? That was the first time I talked to Travis Etienne.

Just so happened -- but that's a testament in -- you know, Coach Swinney tells us all the time in recruiting, do things the right way. When we had that other young man committed, we were doing it the right way. Another thing that happened there, too, is because of that I had to turn down D'Andre Swift.

So kind of went from I thought I was going to get D'Anre Swift and I was working hard to get D'Andre Swift, to another young man committed, to telling Swift no, now we're out; he's been committed for a long time.

It falls apart; I got another young man coming to now Friday before the 2016 national championship I'm texting Travis Etienne and saying, do you have interest, and then I show up there on Tuesday or Wednesday morning after we get back and the rest has been history.

If I could take a moment, just want to say I'm so appreciative to Coach Phelps, to Travis' entire family for trusting me. They didn't know me. They had longer relationships with love of people in the business. My approach was just to be transparent and say, Look, here is my situation; this is why I'm here. It was nothing personal, but this is how we operate. If you have interest, just come check it out.

We were what he was looking for. He was looking for that small college, true college town with that environment where he could go play on the biggest stage, but still not lose who he is. Travis is just as innocent country boy who loves his family, loves to play ball, loves life, and he didn't want to get caught up in a big atmosphere.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, I think that the first reason he wants to redeem himself is to help his teammates. One of the most beautiful things about Travis, is I've now coach him for three seasons, and he's had unbelievable success. He's never once asked me for extra touches. Never once came in and said, coach I need this many touches. That's unprecedented in this day and age.

That tells me that he doesn't care about his touches. He just wants to play well so his teammates can enjoy success with him. That's the first thing. He didn't play well and the team didn't enjoy success, right?

And then I also think there is a little bit something extra. Not so much that he's playing against LSU, but he's playing here and this could be his last time, last go-round in the orange and white. I think he just wants to play well to leave a lasting memory if this happens to be his last time.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Right. That was something that we talked about. Ultimately my responsibility is to Clemson. I got to help these young men be in a position to be successful at Clemson. But then I also want to help develop these young men, because they have aspirations to play on the next level.

So coming into the season, of the points of emphasis was we have to become more consistent catching the football, right? So you're going to have to put in some extra work, going to have to do some things schematically to help you gain that experience.

We went to work, and just so happened that the two biggest plays that he made were in the passing game, which we needed to. Just goes to show just how unselfish Travis is to put in the work and show up on the big stage. I tell my guys all the time, it's all about how you prepare and how you practice and don't practice a bad habit.

So he really took to heart that he didn't go through the motions. Okay, well, coach told me to go catch some balls. I'm going to go catch some balls. No. Be intentional with catching ball, so when you get into the biggest moment on the biggest stage, right, you're prepared.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Yeah, the criticism is unfair. It's probably because the offense was playing so well and they needed something to pick at. But what I've seen is that they've just become a lot more consistent and confident over the course of the season. You can tell that there were some guys -- I think 18 didn't play much last year; I know 72 is a young guy. You got some linebackers in there that's are young. Queen is a younger guy. Got a freshman corner.

So I think it was just more of a function of those guys needed some time to work together. You could take highly talented guys and put them on the field, but there is a certain level of cohesion, chemistry, communication, that goes into playing consist football throughout the course of the season.

Think they finally just found their consistency, and that's why they been playing at such a high level. If you watch them over the last couple games, there is nothing to criticize them about.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Man, he's going to be special. He's already special. You just see that down road. He's long; he's got unbelievable change of direction for tall guy; got unbelievable speed. You can tell just the way that he moves he's got swagger, confidence, but it's not an arrogance.

Those are the characteristics that I see when I watch a guy on film. Is his confidence a true confidence or is he trying to mask it with something? You can tell that this young man is -- he likes the big moment, he's got the skillset, and he's only going to get better.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Well, I said it for the last two years. People probably look at me like I'm crazy, because we all know what Trevor is capable of as a quarterback, with his mind, with his arm talent, his ability to stay in the pocket. But we said it al long: He can run. We have even said he's probably faster than Deshaun Watson, but nobody wanted to believe us until he got on that stage and he was able -- but I think what it really was a testament to was he wasn't going to be a denied. That was the heart of a champion. That's what you saw in Trevor, the heart of a champion.

You talk about this young man, he hasn't lost many football games this his life. Not just in college. In his life. You don't have that level of success playing at the high levels you played at in high school and college if you don't have the heart of a champion.

He was willing to do whatever it took to help his teammates enjoy that victory.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: It's hard to speak to that. I'm just excited to be a part of this one. Haven't watched Joe Burrow whole a lot, but did have an opportunity in the last couple weeks to just watch him. Man, he's special. I mean, and he's a quarterback. He can manage the game. He doesn't get rattled. He's poised. Knows where to go with the football.

He's just a complete field general, which is the same in Trevor Lawrence. So I'm looking forward to the matchup. It's hard to tell. Each guy develops different. Sometimes you put unfair pressure on guys to develop too fast.

I'm excited about this matchup. I know Trevor is excited about it. I'm pretty sure that Joe is excited about it as well. Got two of the best in the country going at it, and it's going to be a lot of fun.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I think you got to be good at all positions when you're talking about the four teams get into the playoff. If you look over the courses of it, yes, there have been marquee quarterbacks, but all the team have been solid on defense. Solid at all the other positions. You got to be great in the trenches, have a good offensive line, a good defensive line. But when you have a quarterback that can manage the game or that can go impact the game, it definitely helps.

Q. As a play caller, when he have that much time, do you have to guard against maybe...
TONY ELLIOTT: Correct. You got to manage the time and make sure you get a good, effective plan. You got to manage the emotions of the players. The last thing you want to do as a coach is to give them a sense that you're not confident going into the game. If you add too much...

Now, they want to see some new stuff to make sure you're doing your job as a coach. All right, coach, what kind of bullets you got for us in this game? But if you come in with a 1000 new bullets, they be like, hold on, hold on, hold on. We get here because we been successful doing this.

So you got to manage making sure you improve on the things that you're really good at and then add a couple bullets in case you need them in this game.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Actually, we've had that since about 2017 when Virginia Tech hit us -- they used to do that a lot back in the day, they would pop pass to the back. We tried to do it with Duane Garman and didn't quite work back in the day, so we kind of shelved it for a little while. We've had it in a couple other plans. Just haven't found the right opportunity.

The biggest thing here is when you have those kind of plays, you got to be able to predict. You got to be able to predict the look, or else you got to build a play with all the answers built in. You don't want to invest that much time in a specific play.

We say expensive. You don't want it to be an expensive play, meaning you have to have a ton of practice reps. You want to be able to predict the situation, work it versus that look, and then move on and go focus on your base stuff.

It just so happened that we had it in the plan, and to be honest with you -- and I'm sure you heard the other guys say it -- we didn't great execution throughout the course of the week getting ready for it, but Travis did hit me with a FaceTime. Said, Coach, all right now. If you want to score, throw me the pop pass. I'm like, Travis first of all, you struggle to catch the bubble sometimes. Now I'm going to through you a pop pass out the backfield?

You know what, it just felt like it was the right call at the right time. At that point in the game, the confidence level of those guys, they were going to make that play work. That's really -- so it's not anything about coaching as much as it is those guys were prepared in that moment to make that call work.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: That's going to be very similar to last week. Got two 6' plus guys that can run that are accustomed to playing bump and run coverage. It's going to be a challenge. Out guys are going to have to do a better job than they did last week of getting off the press man and going to making the contested plays.

Anticipate that these guys have had a couple weeks to get their bodies where they need to be, they're full go, and I think they are excited about the opportunity because they not necessarily want to redeem themselves, but they want to play better than they did last week.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Right. I think first and foremost they know they got to play well for us to have a chance to win when you're playing a secondary as talented as LSU. Obviously there is a great group of receivers on the other side.

I think that wide receiver U has gone back to the Sammys and the Nukes and the Martavises and all the guys that have come through. These guys want to continue to carry forward the legacy. I think that's where the pride is. They want to be able to perform at the same level those guys did to keep the tradition going forward.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: That's a good question. I know they got out there for a couple days in practice. I was with the offense so I'm not sure. We were in pads, and with the acclimation period they weren't able to get in pads. I don't know if they were able to get over there and throw some balls. That would probably be a better question for Coach V.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I think it's a testament to the philosophy that Coach Swinney has, that first and foremost we're built from the inside out, and so that five-hour radius around Clemson is where we want to get the majority of our players. Since we did a good job of that and built the brand to where it is, I think the brand recognition is now expanding outside of our footprint.

The challenge is to make sure that you're still bringing in what we call the Clemson fit. DJ is the Clemson fit. He was looking for what we had. Wasn't just looking for the big time football, an opportunity to play in the game like this. He was looking for our culture, environment, an opportunity to grow off the field.

I think that's the key going forward, is as people see the brand and have interest, that we do a great job of communicating exactly what we're all about, and then making sure that that's truly what we want before we bring them in.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, yeah. That's the story. But then again, it's also our responsibility not to it just get caught up because he's the No. 1 rated player in the country. Make sure he's the quite right. Same thing with a Christian Wilkins up north, making sure they fit the culture.

At the end of the day, what you saw last week versus Ohio State wasn't great execution from us offensively, but we feel like our culture is what won the game. Our guys take pride, right? They fight. They believe. They never give up. They were able to continue to persevere and find a way to make the plays in the end to win.

Yes, talented guys win football games, but I think talented guys plus guys that are committed, that are invested in the program, are what win championships.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: That's right. That's right. That's right. And that's at the end of the day whatever it takes. I mea, these guys want to win. It's not a selfish desire to win. It's a genuine desire to win because they want to see their brothers be successful. They're willing to do whatever it takes in any game.

I think it starts at the top with Coach Swinney and who he is, the vision he has for the program, the way he carries himself, and then it has it trickle and resonated through the coaching staff down to the players.

Q. ( Regarding LSU defense.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I think the biggest thing I've seen is just confidence. The confidence has come from now they understand how to lineup. When you don't have a confused player, he can play fast, he can play hard, and he can play with enthusiasm. I think that has resonated. If you just watch him on that D-line, just the way they're moving around, coming off the ball, the way the linebackers are running to the football, just the confidence that you see with DelPit on the back end directing traffic. Him and Stevens making all the adjustments, I mean, they're pointing and they're talking and consistent; whereas before you might have saw. Well, they're pointing and looking at each other and nobody is covering the guy. Now it's like, Boom, boom. You've over here. They're all on the same page, which I think now allows them to now let their talent to take over, because they're playing fast, they're playing free.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Right. I think it was aberration, and I don't want speak on behalf of them because I don't know. I believe that was right after the Alabama game. Right after the Alabama game. Looked like it was cold. Might have been some external factors. I thought Ole Miss got after them, and I think when I get into those games, what you cannot do is you cannot overlook an opponent, especially when the opponent -- you look at Ole Miss, and Ole Miss, what we saw preparing for Alabama over the last three years, Ole Miss believed they could beat Alabama.

I think Ole Miss was playing with that confidence level believing that they could beat LSU. Took those guys a little bit of time just to kind of, okay, let's lock in and go play ball, as opposed to, okay, we're going to show that we beat Alabama.

You know what I'm saying? I think that's kind of like the defining moment with us is what I saw, defining moment with North Carolina with our team that they realized they got the heart of a champion. For them, they realized and kind of got their wake-up call to say, Hey, it's time to go play ball.

What you see after that is they come out on fire because they understand the importance of every single play.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, bittersweet. But to be honest with you, we really haven't talked about it. Because as I said earlier, the best teams win before they ever play the game. Jeff and I knew this moment was going to come before it ever, and so we have been working together to make this happen.

I'm going to be excited for him. Really want to win this one not just for him, but everybody within the program. They've earned the right to be here and it's my job to be my best for them to win, but it'll be a little something extra to be able to send him off on his new journey in life with a t win.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: No. Again, Jeff and I made a decision five years ago that it's never going to be about me, about him. It's about the Clemson offense. What we've been focusing on is making sure we got the best plan to give our young men an opportunity to be successful. At the end of the day, that's why you coach. That's why he wants to be a head coach, so he can impact the lives of young people.

We wanted to put together a plan that can give these young men an opportunity to be successful, hopefully to impact them for the rest of their life. That they can have an unbelievable moment on Monday night that they can cherish forever.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Well, we knew it was going to be a challenge. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We see a lot of press coverage in our league and there are some really good corners in you are league. When you're talking about the guys from Arnett, those are big, tall guys. 6'2" guys that are long, aggressive at the line of scrimmage. There are different types of man coverage, and we hadn't seen as much of the aggressive. But I think more of it was our guys got banged up a little bit, so they're battling through some injury. When you're battling through some injury, you might not be full speed.

I think those guys kind of smelled some blood in the water and went after us. At the end of the day when we needed plays, our guys found a way to make them. Hopefully they learned from that that we got to be ready to go from the opening snap and be the aggressor.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Well, I think -- and I've never coached in the SEC so I'm not qualified to speak on the league, but from playing teams over the years in this league, they're going to stop the run. Teams are going to stop the run in that this league, and so to win you got to throw the football, right? Pick your poison.

You got Fulton or Stingley. I think people are going to maybe say, he's a freshman. Let's go at him. Either way, both of guys -- and then the other thing too is they play sides. So when they play sides and they're not rotating, just depends on where the ball is.

The ball may tend to be on this hash a little bit more, which makes it the short side of the field where you will focus on more high percentage throws to the shorter side of the field, if that makes sense.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, it's an advantage, because I think that being that I coach the running backs, I'm involved heavily with the run game and protection. It gives me some additional time to really focus on that. He coaches the wide outs, so it gives him the opportunity the really focus on the passing game, and then we bring it together.

So once he has his ideas in the passing game, I have my ideas in the run game, we get Coach Streeter in the middle, throw ideas together, and formulate the plan.

So it's been a great working relationship. Four eyes are better than two. In this day and age we want to make it about ourselves and think that one is better, but for us, hopefully we've proven that at the end of the day, if you want to win, it doesn't matter who is in charge. Everybody has to work together.

It's not just myself and Jeff. It's a great relationship with Robbie Caldwell, a great relationship with Brandon Streeter, Danny Pearman, and all of our support staff to build a plan. I know Jeff and myself are out front, but at the end of the day, Cam Aiken, Kyle Richardson, Bill Spires, I can keep on going down to our student assistants, Andrew Shipman, Bandy. Who else we got in there? Tanner. All those guys are important and critical to our success, and that's really what it's been.

So us being able to say, you know what, get out the way. Let's have our opportunities, divvy up the responsibility, and let's bring it all together and put together the best plan.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, yeah, for this game being back, it was tough initially with Ohio State because he had to go. Now he's been back, been with us every day, and we really just picked up how we were before. We had to make a little bit of an adjustment in Ohio State because he wasn't there every day, so inserted Grisham, but now what he's back, we inserted him back and been operating how we always have.

Well, if might be. It might be, but I'm prepared for that moment.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Over time I've really started to see the benefit of it. I think that as coaches you're looking for -- I mean, you want that perfect game. You want everything to be perfect. You know you have a comfort level with your experienced guys that they know what to do, and then when you start subbing guys you got mixtures. At the same time, too, you preach all the time that the standard doesn't change.

So if the standard is not going to change, those guys need an opportunity. I think that over the last several years it's been one the -- I think one of the advantages that we've had as a program is we got so many guys that when they get to this moment, the moment is not too big for them because they've had that experience throughout the course of the season.

So obviously as a coach you want to go with the guys that you know have the most experience, but he forces us to make sure we get other guys ready because you never know when you're going to need those guys.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I look at Lyn-J Dixon just if my position. I speak about the running backs. He comes in and Travis doesn't have any explosive run. He comes in and his first run is 17 yards because the moment wasn't too big.

He jumps in there, and next thing you know, he's got to scan and pick up a safety blitz and he's able to find it because he's been able playing all season long and he's ready for that moment.

Then Bachorse (phonetic) is another one too that's been playing all season. He's ready for his opportunity.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I have to give the credit to his mom and dad. They've done an unbelievable job of raising him, keeping him humble. He hasn't deviated from who he was before he got to Clemson. I think that's allowed him to be the same person every day.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I don't understand why anybody would tell somebody to forgo an opportunity that they've dreamed about their whole life. Trevor has dreamed about playing college football his whole life. Yes, he understands he wants to play in the NFL; probably dreamed about that, too, but he knows there is a process. To tell somebody that you need to be selfish and skip that process, I just don't understand that.

That's robbing a young person of just a natural progression in life. He needs that year not just a from a football standpoint, but from a maturity standpoint. You're talking about going from the college game where it's about team, right, and the college experience, to an NFL locker room where it's a brotherhood of men, it's about business.

Why would you tell a young person -- it's like me telling my five year old, I want you to skip 6 and 7 so you can be 8. It's the same concept. It's selfish from an adult to tell a young person that. I think you need that natural progression.

Now, he finishes his junior year and he's eligible to go in the draft, because those individuals that say that's the properly amount of maturity that we want to see before we accept you in our league, then you make a decision then. To tell him to do it a year early, I just think that's selfish.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: First he's a good man. I think that what you're getting is a man that cares about family, cares about the young person holistically, their education. I think he's going to invest in the young man first, which will pay dividends on the back end on the field and result in a winning culture.

He's not just a guy that's coming there to give you good you a good team; he wants to build a great program. That's first and foremost. He is a relentless recruiter, best I've ever seen.

I don't even know his secrets and I don't think I could replicate what he does in recruiting. He's just a tireless worker and a guy that has had this vision his whole life. He knows what it wants it to look like. If you talk about Clemson football, that's what Coach Swinney had. He had this vision for what we are way before it ever happened. Jeff has it same type of vision.

Q. Talk about his football career. You worked closely together. How smart he is about the football team?
TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, yeah coaching wide outs, and I played wide out, so he's taught me a lot things because he's very detailed. He does a great job going out and researching, and he also understands the importance of being successful is the not doing too much.

So he's going to have a lot fun with the plan, but he is going to be very detail oriented, very, very sound in what he does, and then he's going to be able to communicate effectively with all the players so they believe in the plan and can go out and execute.

Q. (Regarding third down pass rushing.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Yeah, I don't want to see it. That's what I've seen. I don't want to see it. It's very difficult because it's never the same. It might be the same personnel grouping but the presentation is different, so what it does is it challenges all your protection rules because the structure is different. Even though it's the same bodies, the structure is a different. You can't hone in on okay, Marcel Brooks is over here, No. 9 at defensive end. This is what we're going to do. Well, he's going to be inside, on this sides, so you have to make sure you identify structure. When you're playing fast in the course of the game, that can be confusing. And then they never end up where they start. They're everywhere.

So the speed is so much different than what you're seeing on the first two downs of the drive. So now when you're used to kicking on a 300 pounder and now here comes No. 9, he's gone.

So the moment that you're not fundamentally sound, you turn your shoulders, you're in trouble.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: I don't talk much about that. What I talk about anything about my kids, if I'm talking about finances, is I want to prepare them to have a sound thought process on their financial future, being smart with your decisions, understanding that every decision you make today is going to impact you 20 years down the road.

How about you start and work backwards? Where do I want to be 20 years now? Well then make your financial decisions on the base of that and never make it about money, because I believe that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, yeah, you can ask my backs. We have those conversations. We'll take five, ten minutes and talk about those things.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: You know, I'm not educated enough because I don't hear those conversations. I understand that there are issues on both sides, but at the end of the day all I care about is if I'm dealing with Travis, I want Travis to use whatever platform to make whatever he is able to make and use that to benefit his life in the future.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: Like I said, I'm not educated enough on the comments on the situation to really make a good comment on that.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY ELLIOTT: No. Don't surprise me at all. Just like if somebody from Daniel High School was playing at LSU and was and coming back to play Clemson in Greenville. We would want him to have a good game, but we would want Clemson to win, so I understand that.

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