Notes: Swinney talks joy in 2020, new gameday plan and who made bowl trip

by - Senior Writer -
Dabo Swinney holds an interview with ESPN after arriving in New Orleans. (Photo via the Sugar Bowl)
Dabo Swinney holds an interview with ESPN after arriving in New Orleans. (Photo via the Sugar Bowl)

Clemson is healthy and at almost full strength heading into Friday’s Sugar Bowl against Ohio State (8:20 p.m. ET/ESPN), and even though it’s a different bowl season than all of the preceding seasons, head coach Dabo Swinney is still finding joy.

No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State class Friday night in the College Football Playoff’s Sugar Bowl semifinal with a trip to the National Championship Game in Miami on the line. Swinney and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with the media to discuss the game and entertained several questions in the final availability leading into the game.

Swinney said in the year of different -- everyone has had to be flexible.

“Everybody has had to adapt. It's been a great year. I mean, it's been challenging for sure,” Swinney said. “But I always say 'God never says oops.' That's how I look at it. There are certain things we go through that we don't like. That's how you grow. That's how we get better. In a lot of weird ways, as challenging as it's been within our world and what we do, it's also been a blessing. It really has. I mean, it's just kind of been us. It's just been us. And this group has been amazing to be with every single day.

“I'm thankful that we have the type of culture here. That's been awesome to see. It's not an accident that we're here. These guys are great, young people, first and foremost, and we've got a bunch of great leaders. We have a wonderful staff. And it's just been very different. We've had to make a million adjustments in the protocols, how you meet, how you eat, how you travel, how you practice you name it things you would have never thought of before, but we've made it work.”

Despite the different nature of the season, Swinney still finds joy in the journey.

“You go to games, and some games there's nobody there. Some games there's a few people there. But we found a way to still have joy in the journey. I love that,” Swinney said. “So these guys have been great. And seeing guys step up, I mean, we started more guys this year than at any time ever. We've had all kind of guys out here, there, even dealing with coaches out. And everybody just continues to step up.

“But for me, it's been a great year in a lot of ways, challenging. But again, we all grow through challenges. Learned a lot. Learned Zoom. Never heard of that before (laughter). Learned a lot of new technology. So, you know, that's something that's probably going to carry forward with us forever.”

Even recruiting was different.

“Recruiting was very, very different. We've got a couple of guys moving to campus on Sunday that I've never met, like, in person,” Swinney said. “So it's been unique. We've had to kind of learn our way a little bit. It's all good. It's all good.”

On missing Tony Elliott (out for COVID-19 positive test)

“We're certainly going to miss Tony. He does a wonderful job for us and always has. Been with me a long time. But, I mean, we're well prepared. We've got a great staff. We're all part of it. We'll find out. Ask me that after the game (laughter).”

On the motivation for his team

“We're motivated by winning just as much as we are losing. We've won a national championship. That's pretty motivating. You want to go do it again. And as you mentioned, we lost right here last year, and that's pretty motivating, too. So I think that every year you start over, and the goal is to be the best you can be. Our goals are laid out and pretty simple, but allow us to compete at the highest level, and everything goes to winning our league. That's where it starts.

“We're always motivated to be our best, and certainly we learn from our memories. As I always say, we just try to keep our dreams greater than our memories. Whether you had a tough loss or had a big, big win last year to finish your season, the season is going to end one way or the other. You either win it all if you are in a playoff like this, or you get beat or you're in a bowl game and you win that bowl game, and you have momentum and excitement going in your off season, whatever it is.

“I think all those things provide motivation. That's it.”

On who made the trip

“I think everybody is here except I think we had two guys that didn't make the trip; one walk on and one scholarship player that are just unavailable. But everybody else is here, even our injured guys and things like that.” (NOTE: defensive end Xavier Thomas was on social media late Wednesday and seemed to be at home).

On handling the running backs and QBs

“Typically myself or Street (Brandon Streeter) will rotate the backs when we need to. Streeter will go up where Tony was. As far as we won't have to rotate that. CJ Spiller will handle that. He will do a good job of that on the field.

“As far as quarterbacks, just like coming off the field after each series, typically Street is right there. I will huddle up with Trevor [Lawrence] as well. So just the difference is Street will be on the phone. So Trevor will go get on the phone and still have the same conversations you would normally have. It will just be on the phone versus right there in person.”

On Travis Etienne getting another shot in the Super Dome

“Obviously he wants to finish well. What a season he's had. Unbelievable what he's done this year, just his development into a truly complete player, a complete football player; can do it all.

“So great opportunity. We started the year here. We started this 2020 year right here in New Orleans, and hopefully we can get a better result as we finish it. And I know that's something that he really wants. And I know he's going to put his best foot forward to play a great game.”

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