|by Nikki Steele|
Dabo Swinney will take his team on the road for the second time this season, but this time they are headed out of the traditional ACC area.
Traveling to Syracuse will present its own challenges, but Swinney said that he as always embraced playing on the road – even as a player when he was given the finger by LSU grannies.
“To me it shouldn't matter [how far you travel]. It depends on who those teams are, the experience of your team - All of those factors make a difference,” Swinney said during his Tuesday press conference in the WestZone. “The biggest thing is it is hard to win on the road. That's a fact. In any league it's hard. Everybody is more comfortable at home. I personally always enjoy going on the road. I loved it. I loved the hostility of it. Growing up in the SEC, I loved going to Baton Rouge and see grandmas flicking you the finger when you ride in on the bus. But those external factors- if they are a factor then you aren't going to be a great team. Uniforms. Plane trips. It all comes down to execution.”
Not only is Syracuse the second longest road trip in the ACC for the Tigers – right behind Boston College – the Orange also play in an un-air-conditioned dome, but Swinney said that the Tigers’ indoor practice facility should give his team a good idea about the environment in the Carrier Dome.
“I think it would be if you didn't have experience with that. We played in the dome twice last year,” Swinney said. “We are very fortunate to have an indoor practice facility all the time. The only difference is sight lines. Other than that it's just a field. It's still football. It's all the same. The noise will be a little more compact. We play in a lot of loud places. Our defense, we play with tremendous noise at home.
“It's loud. It could be a factor if you let it. We can't let it. External things can't be a part of your performance. The big difference is there is no air conditioning. Carrier Dome has no A/C. Everybody tells me they shut the fans off and it's stuffy. But we are from Clemson. In August, we have hot stuffy practices around here and our indoor facility doesn't have air. Should not be a factor.”
Once you get past the external factors of the trip, Syracuse is a team that will be playing its first ACC game after an off-week, but is capable of beating anyone in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome.
“Syracuse, I'm excited about this trip. It's going to be a new experience for our team. It's good having Syracuse joining the league,” Swinney said. “They are going to be a quality opponent for years to come. A division opponent for us. They are 2-2. They lost to Penn State by six points. At Penn State. They kind of let it get away from them at Northwestern. They are coming off of two wins and an open date. They are going to be well rested and confident. And they lost one game at home all of last year. Teddy Bridgewater lost there. Geno [Smith] lost there. 6-1 at home last year and we are going to have to play well.”
Syracuse is under the direction of first-year head coach Scott Schaffer, who was the defensive coordinator last season, and Swinney expects Shaffer to dial up a lot of pressure.
“Defensively, they have six-plus starters back,” Swinney said. “One of their backers is back from last year. They bring a ton of pressure. They force you to be very sound in what you do. You have to get rid of the ball quickly because they will bring one more than you can block. They force you into mistakes. No. 96 [defensive tackle Jay Bromley] is one of the better defensive linemen in this conference. He has three sacks.”
Offensively, the Orange are playing a sophomore quarterback, but have experience on the offensive line and at the skill positions.
“At quarterback, they've made a change. No. 10 [Terel Hunt] comes in there and played really well against Tulane,” Swinney said. “Brings a running dimension to their team. Their offensive line is very physical. You turn on the film and that's what you see. They have a Remington candidate at center. Really good looking skill guys. Big wide outs. Very impressed with their running backs. No. 45 [Jerome Smith] is a big, big strong back. He had over 1,100 yards last year and leads the ACC in touchdowns. He keeps getting up and keeps bringing it. We have to compete with their skill versus our skill.”
Breast Cancer Awareness game
“Clemson will host it’s first ever Breast Cancer Awareness game on October 19th against Florida State. I’m really excited that it has come to fruition. It’s a partnership between Clemson University and our All In Foundation. Coca-Cola and Oobe have come together for a multi-year sponsorship.”
Evaluating the offensive line play
“I think we've done a lot of good things. We are 4-0. We are still improving. We haven't had the continuity. But it's been good because we are developing a lot of guys. Giff [Timothy] missed a game. [David] Beasley has. But Kalon Davis has stepped up. [Isaiah] Battle has gotten some work. That's been good to see and that will pay off for us. It's a long year and it's hard to keep five guys in there every play. We have to do some things better. Missed assignments that we have to get corrected. I don't see any issues from a physical standpoint. We have to be on the same page a little bit better. Haven't been happy with the protection issues we've had at times. But it's nothing we can't fix. Shaq Anthony is a sophomore who is inconsistent. He can do everything we need to do but he has to take ownership of it. We need Giff back to being Giff. Battle is coming on. We are kind of starting over with Joe Gore because he's had some set-backs with his knee. He'll be a good player for us. But Kalon- can't say enough about him. Shatley is playing great. Awesome football. Ryan Nortion has been awesome. To me, the's been the MVP the first four games. He's played sick. Get's an IV. Puking. Goes back in. We have to get that continuity. Haven't had that. But we are 4-0 and have two really hard fought wins. But we are much further along now there than we were last year.”
Syracuse’s defensive pressure
“They will bring pressure from everywhere. They will overload you from the outside. Secondary pressure. They play a lot of cover zero. House blitz where they bring one more than you can block. You have to win matchups. You have to know who the free guy is. The quarterback has to be dialed in. Our quarterback has to do a good job of checking us. Tajh has a good feel for it. That's why we practice and why we watch tape. At the end of the day, it's about making plays.”
Depth at running back
“Hot Rod is our guy. He's earned that. He's proven that. He's been tremendous. Other guys- he can't do it all. We have to rely on Zac and it's been good to see D.J. [Howard] reemerge. He had a scope the week before the Georgia game and he's really come back on strong. The way he finished the game against N.C. State really sparked him. He did some good things for us the other day. And Zac? He's a tremendous player. Very good football player. As he gets more opportunities you'll see him blossom. And then there's C.J. Davidson.”
MacKensie Alexander’s surgery
“It went very well. It was exactly what they thought. He's in good spirits and rehabbing. Probably we'll end up redshirting him. But we'll reevaluate him in a couple of weeks. He's doing well.”
Nikki Steele can be reached at email@example.com