Dabo Swinney weekly press conference

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CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney started off his weekly press conference with the media by asking the fans to come out early for Saturday’s noon home game against Wake Forest early, and called the contest the biggest game of the year for his Tigers.

A win over the Demon Deacons would give the Tigers the ACC Atlantic Division title.

“This is the biggest game of the year and we have a lot at stake,” he said. “It's the next game. We have a chance to play for the division title. That's our next goal. We've been working towards this goal all season long. It's a chance to get our ninth win. It's a chance to be undefeated at home. It would be the first time since 1990 if we can do that. That would be a great legacy for this group.”

Swinney said the team enjoyed the bye week, but he and the team are ready to get back to work.

“It’s good to get back to work. It's been a good open date,” he said. “We've gotten healthy. That was really our number one objective. A lot of guys benefited from the time off. They had a spring in their step last night at practice that I hadn't seen in a while. It was good that they got a few days off. I'm ready to get back going. I like watching the games but I'm more excited to be a part of it. It's been a great season in Death Valley up this point. Our fans have been awesome. I hope they come in Friday. I'm excited to see our fans and the atmosphere they are going to create. “

He said the Demon Deacons are better than their 5-4 record would indicate.

“Wake Forest has had a really good year,” he said. “To be honest, I know their record is 5-4, but they are probably capable of winning all of their games. They had five turnovers against North Carolina so that probably got away from them a little bit. But what I like about Coach [Jim] Grobe- his teams always compete. This is a tough out. We will get the very best they have and our guys know that. They are very improved offensively and that's been a key to them this year. It's a veteran offensively and their quarterback is playing good for them. They have talented receivers. Chris Givens is probably as good as there is in this league. They try to get him the ball in different ways. They want to get the ball in his hands because he makes things happen.

“They do a great job with their formations. For us, we've got to try to make them one-dimensional and not have the balance they want to have and try to stop the run. Then we have to play well in space. We have to tackle well. Defensively, we have to play very, very hard. I was just watching them play Virginia Tech - they flat got after Virginia Tech in the first quarter and a half. Those guys were relentless on defense. They play a little odd stack but against Notre Dame they stood up the whole game. A lot of movement. Never in one place. Lot of zone pressure. We have to catch movement. That will be a big challenge for our offensive line. Their secondary is as good as we've played. Very athletic. Very aggressive. Very well-coached. Their safety has five picks and they get their hands on a lot of balls.”

On ball security

“For us, we have to take care of the ball. Obviously in our last outing we did a poor job of that. We have to get back to priority No. 1 and that's protecting the football and doing what we do. Tempo is key. It's about us finishing. We've had a good year, but if we are going to have a great year, we have to finish. That's all we are focused on - to play the best four quarters we've played all year in Death Valley.”

On the division championship

“This is what it's all about. Winning your second division championship in three years and finish unbeaten at home for the first time in 21 years is big. Absolutely. And it's senior day. This is the last time these guys are going to play at Death Valley. For us that played, we all remember our last game. Whether it was in high school or college. Ironically, my last home game was against South Carolina. My last game in high school was against Thompson High in Pelham.”

On Andre Ellington

“He practiced. Took every snap. Looks good.”

On the defense

“Just trying to get everybody to do their job. It's a shared responsibility. That's critical - to have 11 guys do their job. We've just had some inconsistency in our execution that has cost us. Give the opposition some credit too, now. Our guys know what the reality is. Stay focused on fixing our problems and try to play better this week.”

On inconsistency of defense

“Well there's a big drop off for us right now. I've alluded to it many times - the biggest difference with this team was experienced depth. Right now, we are very talented, but we just don't have the experienced depth that we want or that we are going to have. We've just got a risk-reward that we are always dealing with. If we look at our snaps, we've had more guys play more snaps defensively than we have in a while. That's the depth. Plus the type of games we've had. We've fought for our lives and haven't had many coffee breaks outside of North Carolina. We've got a lot of guys that have made significant improvement that y'all haven't seen. “

On players who are improving

“DeShawn Williams, Grady Jarrett and Tavaris Barnes. Stephone Anthony. Even Tony Steward, who is hurt now. We have a lot of guys who are learning and going through the game day process. They are watching others and learning. Learning from others' mistakes. They are absorbing. It's like having money in the bank. At some point they will be able to tap into that.”

On senior leadership

“We've got really good senior leadership. Most are either starters or solid contributors. That's what you want. Hopefully at some point we are going to have this thing where you have veteran juniors and seniors are guys that you develop through your program. One of the things we've done a good job of is to develop leadership throughout the team. I meet with the seniors twice a week. Back before we got going last spring, they selected a couple of sophomores and juniors to join them. That helps. Marquan Jones is an incredible leader for this team and he's been in a tough situation. He's been right there - teaching and helping and working on special teams. That's what team is all about. Same thing on the defensive side with Andre Branch, Coty Sensabaugh and everywhere. That's been the difference in our football team. We are talented - but the leadership is what you have to have in place to get where you want to go.”

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