Dabo Sunday teleconference

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said during his Sunday afternoon teleconference with the media that he was pleased that the Tigers are 5-0 – especially after a three-game stretch that saw wins over Auburn, Florida St. and Virginia Tech – but still sees room for improvement for a team that soared to No. 8 in the country in both polls.

The Tigers defeated Virginia Tech 23-3 in Blacksburg Saturday night.
"It was a very tough, physical football game,” Swinney said. “We did just enough on offense and made some plays but there are still some things we can improve on. I didn't think our tempo was good. But they battled. Defensively, that's probably as good a performance as I've been around. To hold them to three points since 1995, that's a great accomplishment for a young defense.”

Swinney said he would like to see the Tigers perform in all three phases of the game.

"Again we really haven't put all three phases together, but we've been getting it done in two out of three phases each week,” he said. “I'm most proud of the fact that physically we won the battle. The offensive line did a really good job. All five graded winners. They answered the call, especially late in the game. We were able to get that big drive going. Our defensive line, they won it at the line of scrimmage. And that's what you have to do, especially on the road.”

He also named the players of the game for each unit.

Corico HawkinsCorico Hawkins
Jr. Linebacker
#42 5-11, 230
Milledgeville, GA

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was our special teams player of the game,” he said. “He was all over the field. Andre BranchAndre Branch
RS Sr. Defensive End
#40 6-5, 260
Richmond, VA

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was our player of the game defensively and Dalton[Freeman] was our player of the game offensively. We're 5-0 and that's great. We haven't been there in a long time.

"Our focus is 100-percent on winning our division. The best we can do for that is to get to 3-0. This team - Boston College - they've created some problems for us. We just have to try to keep getting better. I don't think we're a great team. We're just a team that believes and is finding a way to win."

Other notes from the call

On the No. 8 ranking

“We don't even discuss rankings. We don't even talk about that stuff. Ask me in December and I'll have a comment. All we are is 5-0. You go lay an egg this week, people forget about that real quick. We just have to keep moving forward and stay committed. And these guys have done a good job with that. You can fall a whole lot quicker than you can climb. Come December ,we'll see where we are."

On keeping team focused

“Same way we've kept them focused from the start of the season. You don't listen to all the negativity out there, people telling them what they can't do. You don't pay attention to the positives, too. Now, the bandwagon is full. None of that matters. You can't allow that to affect your performance. I've told the team. I've prepared them for this. I told them I felt we were on the verge. I told them at some point we'd have success and it would be important how they'd handle it. The leadership has to step forward and our leadership has done a great job. Chemistry and leadership are underrated on football teams. And we've got it and that's a big reason why we're 5-0."

On the play of the defense

“I thought they got better last week. You could see their confidence growing. We've got a lot of guys who are developing on that side of the ball. Obviously to play that kind of game in that environment against a team that had been running well, that'll go a long way for their confidence. By the end of the season hopefully we'll be a team that's in the hunt. Right now that's all we are - a team that's getting better. But I am proud of what we did defensively. We defended every single pass. We've only given up one touchdown in the second half this year. It shows we're getting better as we go. But there are still things we can improve on. But they're playing hard and they're improving."

On the reception the fans gave the team at the WestZone

"Unbelievable. I have never seen anything like that. I don’t know how many were out there, but there had to be at least a thousand. It was awesome. And for it to be 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning, to see that was special. It is something that I will never forget. It’s what makes Clemson special and our fans deserve it. I'm just happy to be a part of it and very thankful for the support they showed. I was very humbled by it, and I know our players were."

Injury status

"[Spencer] Benton does not look good. We'll get more confirmation. He does not look good with his shoulder. Breeland looked pretty good today. He may be out tomorrow but could be back Tuesday. You never know. [Jonathan] Meeks, he looks like he's fine."

On who will handle kickoffs if Benton is out

“We'll have to discuss that. Dawson has been our backup kickoff guy. But we'll look at it this week. Dawson wasn't quite ready for that the other night. Catanzaro has not practiced kickoff at all other than in camp."

On satisfaction of 5-0 start

"I'm proud of our players and our staff. People ask me when I felt like we could be a good team and to be honest I felt like we could be a good team last year. It created a lot of confidence in me as a guy who's here every day. If I could just fix a few problems I knew we had a chance to be a really good program. I thought we were making progress from a program standpoint. It's not about me. It's about Clemson and this program. My job is to win games. We're 5-0 and I'm happy about that."

On the performance of Andre Branch

“He was relentless. His effort was tremendous. His technique was very good. He had 39 production points. He was just all over the field. He provided great leadership and provided great energy. He won matchups."

On the decision to remove redshirt of linebacker Lateek TownsendLateek Townsend
Fr. Linebacker
#20 6-2, 215
Bennettsville, SC

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and play him Saturday night

"We've just been talking about it. He's a physically talented guy and we felt like he could help us in special teams. We wanted to grow him up a little bit this year. We think he'll be a heck of a player. You can win a game on special teams and that may be his main role this year. We also felt like he could be a guy that could help us from a pass-rush standpoint. So that helped us make the decision."

On the play of freshman linebacker Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Fr. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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"He's really improving. I think he played 29 snaps. He is a special talent and is getting better and better. He's got great range. He's a good tackler. We're real pleased with his progress. I think you'll see him in there more and more."

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