“We’re 2-0 and coming off of a great start to the season. The biggest thing, for me, is that I just want to see us get better as a team each week. Coming into this season, I really felt like there were going to be maybe three or four or five weeks before we could really settle in.
“That’s where we are right now. We’re coming off a game where we got to play a lot of people
and make a lot of corrections. It was a good opportunity to grow our team. I think we’ve got another opportunity to grow our team a little bit more.
“I’m very impressed with Furman from watching them on tape. I have a ton of respect for Coach (Bruce) Fowler. He’s a really good guy. They’re playing really hard. I know they’re 0-2, but when you watch the tape, they could very easily be 2-0.
“They’ve been on the wrong end of the deal the last couple of weeks with a really tough loss at Samford and a triple overtime loss to Coastal. They’ve turned the ball over. I’m sure Coach Fowler would probably tell you they’ve turned it over quite a bit.
“That’s hurt them. This is a football team that’s capable. They’re well-coached and they know what they’re doing.
“Offensively, they want to run the ball, but they do a lot of things. They went down to Florida last year and went to the triple option and went up and down the field. That was kind of out of their element at the time.
“There are a lot of things we have to prepare for in this game. But they do want to run the ball.
“That’s an area of improvement that’s much needed on our team, so I look forward to that matchup, that challenge. Their defense is an athletic group. I think they’re more athletic than Ball State.
“Their front is a very experienced group. All of their starters are back. They have eight starters back on defense. It’s a very experienced group over there. They know what they’re doing. We have to do a good job and play well.
“We’re back at home, it’s a 3:00 kickoff, and hopefully it will be a great crowd. I think this is a great opportunity for people in our state, for Clemson and Furman folks. It’s a fun game to be a part of. I’ve been in a couple of these since I’ve been here. I anticipate having a really big crowd here.
“ Last week was great. I really appreciate our fans for the job they do in creating a great environment for us. I look forward to that again on Saturday.
“Then obviously, a reminder to everybody that today is 9/11. I’m sure everybody in this room remembers exactly where you were and what you were doing 11 years ago.
“It’s something our country should never forget. These freshmen on this team were like seven years old. It kind of puts a different perspective on it. I know there are a lot of people out there that this day brings back difficult thoughts. Our prayers are with those people.”
On how some of his injured players looked yesterday:
“I’m pretty optimistic with those guys (David Beasley, Tig Willard, Giff Timothy) as far as their availability for this weekend. After I see them today and see them Wednesday, I’ll have a little better status update as far as their status for this weekend. I was pretty optimistic yesterday. Today and tomorrow will be physical days.”
On the return of Sammy Watkins:
“He’s excited, he really is. He’s been such a great example to his teammates by handling things the right way. He’s a part of our leadership group. I met with those guys yesterday and I told him, ‘Now, Sammy, we’re 2-0. Don’t mess it up.’
“He just kind of grinned. I would think you’ll see him pretty early. He’ll show up pretty soon. It won’t take him long to get back going. He needs to play a good bit. He needs to get a game under his belt like these other guys have gotten. We’re looking forward to have him out there. It was good to have him on the sidelines last week.”
On whether he has a range of touches for Watkins:
“Not really. We just know who needs to get it. We keep a touch chart on the sideline. It’s something I pay close attention to by quarter. From time to time, I’ll make sure I tell somebody to make sure so-and-so gets some touches. It’s usually not an issue. It’s usually in the forefront of all of our thoughts. He’s a special player. He’s going to return, he’s going to do all of that stuff.”
On not allowing his team to look past Furman to Florida State:
“You can’t just address that now. That’s something you have to address in the offseason, in fall camp, when you’re meeting with your guys. You try to prepare for those situations and try to get your team to learn focus on today.
“We’ve talked a lot about not looking ahead. When you do that, you falter. Great teams don’t do that. Great teams show up and take care of their business. Great teams play to a standard, not to an opponent.
“ I’m sure there were a lot of people that expected us to play a little flat last week. We’ve matured in a lot of ways. Leadership is key. That’s why you have leadership, that’s why you develop leadership on your team—to keep guys focused on the task at hand.
“You only get 12 Saturdays. A perfect example is a couple of years ago when Virginia Tech lost to James Madison and went on to win 11 games. It probably cost them a chance at a national championship. Everybody remembers Michigan and App State.
“This team right here, Furman, put 35 points and almost 500 yards of offense on Florida not even a year ago, and they have a bunch of guys back. Those are things that you just remind them.
“But to be honest with you, I really don’t worry about that with this team. I was anxious to see them play, to see if we were maturing as a program. I was really excited at halftime because we had gone out and taken full control of that game. We were able to start playing a lot of people and stuff.
“We’re not worried about who we’re playing or what division they are or whatever. Let’s just play to our standard. It’s about Clemson. Let’s just do our job to the best of our ability. If we do that every week and prepare the same every week and stay focused on what we call our formula for success, then we’re going to win a lot of games.”
On Watkins’ role on special teams:
“I don’t know how much it’s going to mean on punt returns because we can’t ever get a return. There are very few punt returns in the game today. Most people are going to this shield-like punt, and you don’t get many opportunities.
“Certainly, when he gets one, it’ll mean a lot. He’s a great player. The same thing goes for kick returns. He’ll be back there. I doubt many people will purposely kick it to him. But if they do, we’ve got a great chance to make a big play. He’ll have a little more rope than maybe the other guys right now from a decision-making standpoint as far as what that cutoff is for when he can bring it out.
“That’s the one thing about this rule that I don’t like. Just here at Clemson, you think about all the great plays we’ve had here, even in the last decade here—the Justin Millers, the Derrick Hamiltons, the C.J. Spillers, the Jacoby Fords. As far as kickoff returns, a lot of those would have never happened with this rule.”
On whether Watkins’ return will make the offense more explosive:
“I really like our players. Charone Peake has been great. He’s off to an excellent start. He’s going to be a great player. Adam Humphries is a really, really good football player we really think a lot of. Martavis Bryant led our team in all-purpose yards this past weekend. It’s good to see him get on board and have a nice touchdown play.
Obviously, Nuk Hopkins has been unbelievable. Jaron Brown is just steady Eddie. You can always count on him. All of those guys have performed well. They’re just a close group. When you plug one of the best players in the country back on the field, there’s a pretty good chance that good things can happen. There’s no doubt about that. We’re not disappointed that he’s back.”
On how the defense can improve against the run:
“First of all, I don’t want to take anything away from Ball State. Those two backs they have are really good players, above average players. A lot of us missed on that #32. I don’t think he had any offers outside of North Carolina. There are a bunch of schools that would love to have that guy on the team. He is a really good football player, a very determined runner.
“We’ve got to get things right defensively. When you’ve got teams that are really running power football at you, you have to be in the right gaps. We have some fundamental things that are very correctable. We’ve really improved a lot, but in the run game, it only takes three or four plays, and the next thing you know, you’ve had a bad day.
“The guys want to be good. That’s what I like. They are dialed in. They want to correct things. This is a young group of football players on the defensive side. There are a bunch of young guys learning things, seeing themselves for the first time a lot on film. They’re going to get better. There’s no doubt about it. We’re talented over there. As long as they’ll keep the right kind of attitude, they’ll be fine.
DeShawn Williams didn’t play really well against Auburn, but this past week, he played tremendously. That’s what we want to see. We want to see guys getting better. In the first half, we played well. In the first forty or so plays of the game defensively, we played really well.
“We had that one big play when the backer didn’t get in his gap. The next thing you know, there was a crease. When you give a back that kind of space, it’s usually going to be a big play. But they responded and did some good things. We ended up playing a lot of people. We’re going to improve, no doubt about it.”
On the conditioning level of the football team:
“We’re a different group than what we were three years ago. There’s no question, because we practiced it. From a conditioning standpoint, to run this system, you have to practice this way all the time. You can’t just practice at a certain tempo and then get in the game and be expected to flip a switch. They understand a lot more than they did last year at this time. I’ve been pretty pleased with our conditioning level.”
On what he wants to correct Saturday:
“We were the most penalized team in the game Saturday. We had seven penalties. We have to improve. One of our components in our plan to win is to be the least penalized team. We were the superior team, so we were able to overcome that. We’re not always going to be the superior team. There are going to be a lot of games where it’s going to be very even. Those missed assignments and penalties and turnovers get you beat. That’s definitely an area where we need to improve.
“You’re going to have a pass interference from time to time. You’re going to have a physical penalty. But it’s the pre-snap stuff that we’ve had for a couple of weeks—guys jumping offsides on defense, not being set on offense. We have to be 100%