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September 5, 2012

Dabo Swinney

COACH SWINNEY:  First of all, we're excited about starting off our home schedule here.  We'll be home for the next couple weeks.  Got a big challenge this week with Ball State.  This is a team that was 6 and 6 last year in Coach Lembo's first year.  They really know what they're doing.  They're very well coached.
I'm incredibly impressed with their offense, and what they did last week in particular.  600 yards of offense, 96 plays, 329 yards of rushing, so we have a tough challenge here at home this week.  Going to have to have a great week of preparation, but I think their quarterback is a very good player, and their back and a couple of the skill guys that they have are going to be a real challenge, so we're going to have to have a great week of preparation and play well on Saturday.

Q.  Quick question on the new helmet rule, because I believe Tajh lost his a couple times in the game.  Just wondered now that we've kind of seen it in action if you've had any other thoughts on whether you like it or how it worked out for you guys?
COACH SWINNEY:  Well, again, I understand the rule, but for us it's a little bit of a challenge.  When you run your quarterback and he gets hit, and sometimes he gets in some piles and sometimes helmets find their way in getting off their head.  The big thing for us in a real learning experience from the other night is you better have your back‑up ready to go.
One of the things that we're going to do moving forward when we're on defense is make sure that our back‑up, Cole, is getting some snaps and just throwing the ball and staying loose and being ready.  I don't know how we could secure the helmet anymore.  We were about to cut his circulation off trying to keep it on.
But it's definitely an issue, especially at that position.  It's not like a wideout or something else.  That is such a critical position where you have pretty much one guy playing all of a sudden, it's 2nd and 12, he loses his helmet, and now it's 3rd and 12 and he's got to go out.  So it's definitely something everybody's going to have to continue to adjust to.

Q.  What were you most pleased about as you look back on Game 1?
COACH SWINNEY:  Just our ability to finish in the fourth quarter.  One of the big things we talked about going into the game was I knew there would be some mistakes, probably on both sides.  But if we wanted to win the turnover margin and have more big plays than they did and we were able to accomplish that, and that's why we won the game.
But just seeing how we overcame some mistakes, a little bit of adversity.  Everybody kept their poise, kept playing, and then were able to finish the game offensively, defensively and special teams in the fourth quarter.  We had big stops, big drives and a big field goal in the fourth quarter.  So that was the thing that was most pleasing for me.

Q.  Anything you'd like to improve upon from week one to week two?
COACH SWINNEY:  Oh, yeah, there were a lot.  We had a bunch of drops and six penalties in the first half.  Most of them were pre‑snap penalties.  Those are things that you totally control.  We want to finish the drives with points.  We had some good drives that we just shot ourselves in the foot, again, with a penalty or drops.  Some really critical drops.
I want to see our tight end position, I want to see those guys step up and play like I know they're capable of playing, and defensively, you know, eliminate the busts.  We had a couple of really, really just bad busts on the back end that one was for a touchdown, the other we held them to a field goal.  But really costly mistakes.

Q.  Coach, I wanted to ask you about Andre Ellington.  He's obviously been a premier back for a couple of years.  But he seemed to take another step up considering he's gone against such quality opponent and national back of the week and all that.  Is the improvement health?  Has he done something to step his game up in the off‑season?  What's behind that?
COACH SWINNEY:  I think he's always been a great back since he got here.  He was a really, really good as a freshman.  He was really, really good as a sophomore.  Remember, he was having a great year his sophomore year in 2010 and had that injury up there at BC and was out for the rest of the year.  Our season kind of reflected that when we lost him, but we really weren't the same.  He also missed all of spring and all of summer rehabbing and getting ready for last season.  So I think last season just the fact that it took him a little while to kind of get his legs back.
But he still rushed for 1200 yards, but he was still not a hundred percent.  I think a big part of that was not really getting in the off‑season.  He was rehabbing as opposed to really preparing.  This year he was able to have a full off‑season, a full spring practice, a full summer of preparation, not rehab.  I think that's big a big difference for him.  But, again, he's been spectacular since the day he got here and just and not real shocking at all to see him run like he ran the other night.  He's had big games before, but it was special to see him healthy and to have that kind of performance and take care of the ball the way he did.

Q.  I wondered if having Brent Venables with you guys this year especially for this game helps because he's seen Ball State before?  And if there are things that he's seen or noted or pointed out that he dealt with last year in trying to stop an offense that in a lot of ways is similar?
COACH SWINNEY:  That's definitely a plus.  Any time you have experience against a team and you're familiar with their personnel, you're familiar with their scheme.  You've game planned against them I definitely think that is a plus.  So definitely a good thing that he played them last year and has some familiarity with them.  Doesn't have anything to do with the game and outcome on Saturday.  It's a whole different deal.  Guys got to play and perform.  From a preparation standpoint and game plan standpoint, I think he's got a good understanding based on what he did last year.

Q.  You were saying last week that you were comfortable with the players that you had to step in to do the roles of Sammy Watkins.  DeAndre Hopkins, 13 catches, I mean, would you have anticipated anything quite that productive?
COACH SWINNEY:  Well, they play different positions and even if Sam had been on the field, those opportunities would have still been there for Nuke.  Listen, I've said many times everybody talks about Sammy and nobody talks about Nuke Hopkins.  He's as good a player as I've ever coached.  He is a great, great wide receiver and for whatever reason he lives in the shadows.
No, I'm not surprised at all to see him perform like that.  He does it every day in practice.  He is a special, special player.  But I was proud of Charone Peake and Adam Humphries, and the roles that they played they played in the role that seem would have been in.  Charone in particular had a big catch that set up a fourth and one to allow us to convert.  Overall as a group they performed very well.
I wasn't pleased with our tight end position but I thought our receivers performed well.

Q.  What is it about Hopkins that makes him such a standout to you?
COACH SWINNEY:  He's a junior now, and I think he's the only guy ever, I think in ACC history‑‑ maybe it's just Clemson, but to have over 50‑something catches as a true freshman and sophomore.  So he's a guy that's been productive since the day he stepped on this campus.
But his competitiveness, his ball skills, his body.  He is a long, long player.  If he touches the ball, he catches it.  But he has a fanatical desire to go get it, and that is a special quality that not every receiver has.
Just, again, his ball skills.  His ability to catch the football.  Big hands, plays fast, he's tough, and very, very good instincts for the game of football, can make you miss.  Lot of people don't give him credit for the speed he has.  He's a make and miss guy after the catch as well.  So just a complete player in my opinion.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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