Dan Brooks has championship priorities, Boyd and Ford working scout team


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Swinney said he hopes Clemson fans make the trip to Orlando
Swinney said he hopes Clemson fans make the trip to Orlando

CLEMSON – Dan Brooks has his priorities in order.

Clemson’s defensive tackles coach was honored Wednesday as the American Football Coaches Association Assistant of the Year, but Brooks isn’t planning on attending the banquet to receive his award.

Head coach Dabo Swinney talked about Brooks – and his plans – following Wednesday’s practice.

“There isn't anybody better than Dan Brooks. The first thing he said was, 'I don't plan on being at the banquet.' That's typical Dan Brooks fashion,” Swinney said. “I said, 'Well, when's the banquet?' He said, 'It's Monday night of the national championship,' and I told him that I hope he's not there either. I'm really happy for Dan. I'm serious, he's just unbelievable as a person, coach, father, husband, you name it. I've been in this business a long time and I've never met anyone finer. I'm just happy for him. He's very, very well-deserving.”

The next step in the march to the College Football Playoff is Saturday when the Tigers take on Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, and Swinney said the game is important for recruiting purposes.

“We've been recruiting Florida a long time and we've recruited well. We have a strong brand in the state,” Swinney said. “Guys have come here and had great success and graduated. That's the main thing. They've had a good experience, so that's resonated. We lost one of those games, we've gotten beat at Florida State and that didn't change anything. We've got kids down there right now that are going to come to Clemson. It definitely doesn't hurt. It's always a plus, but I think our brand in the state of Florida is very, very strong and has been for a long time.”

The Clemson defense will have its hands full with Tech quarterback Jerod Evans, who leads the Hokies in rushing.

“He reminds me of Tajh (Boyd) as far as his ability and his size and his thickness. They run in between the tackles,” Swinney said. “He runs the zone read stuff but they're going to run the quarterback power, quarterback counter, jet motion power. He's reading that stuff and he's giving it or he's pulling it. He can split your defense. They do an excellent job of that and it's just what they do. Then the play actions that come off of it and if you get too aggressive all of a sudden that guy that's been coming out blocking, he's gone and they're throwing over the top. They know what they're doing and they've got a good plan. He's similar to Tajh as far as his ability to run. He's big, thick, strong. He's not a burner. He's not Lamar (Jackson), who's chasing Usain Bolt out here. He's fast. This kid runs well. He's athletic and he's smart. He's a smart runner. He's very, very effective.”

Preparing the defense – as scout team quarterback Jimmy Greenbeans – is defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

“Just Jimmy Greenbeans this week,” Swinney said. “That's it. It's so funny, we're coming in on game day on Saturday we're coming in up by the Hendrix Center and we come down and take a right on Perimeter and I swear on the corner there was a fan and he's standing up wearing an authentic Clemson jersey. On the back, it says Jimmy Greenbeans. I just fell out laughing. Brent was sitting right next to me and I was like, 'Hey man, there you go. You've got a big game today.' It was so funny. He's getting better.”

Swinney has also been using former players – like Alabama’s Nick Saban – to help simulate opponents in practice.

“We've already done it. We borrowed Tajh and Jacoby (Ford) for the Florida State game,” he said. “Y'all just never asked. It's new. I didn't know you could do that, so we brought Tajh and Jacoby in for that Florida State game, but that's the only time we've done it. I've been trying to talk DeAndre McDaniel into getting out there and Danny Pearman into getting out there for some scout tight end work. I haven’t had any takers yet. You can do it anytime but it has to be occasional. It can't be every day.”

He then said he hopes Clemson’s fans make the trip and support the football team in Orlando.

“I was just saying that I hope we have a great crowd. I hope we don't get complacent and say, 'Oh well, we'll go win that game and let's think about the next one.' This is the biggest game of the year and I hope people will appreciate what this team has done because it is so hard,” he said. “It's one thing to have an expectation. It's another thing to have an appreciation. I think our fans that's one of the things that sets Clemson apart is there's always been that appreciation - a genuine appreciation for each other, for the role that everybody plays. I know it's a game that's been moved and all of that and there's probably some frustration with that stuff, but at the end of the day, we're playing for a championship. I don't want anyone to ever get complacent with that like there's bigger fish to fry.

“No there's not. We don't worry about anything. The biggest game is this game and winning this conference. In the end, whatever comes after that, we'll deal with, but we're putting our best foot forward. That was really all I was saying. Hopefully, we have a great turnout and everybody is excited to be there because I know I am. I guarantee that Virginia Tech is going to be excited to be there. I want our fans to be the same way. I'm sure we'll have a great crowd. We always do. Obviously, it's not in Charlotte and that was the main message there.”

Injury notes

“Richard (Yeargin) will be out. He and Scott (Pagano) will be out this week, so nothing has changed there. John (Simpson) will be with us. He's done well. He's done really well.”

On covering tight end Bucky Hodges

“We'll get one of those basketball guys, I guess, and bring them out here. He's a big, long guy. You just do the best you can. At the end of the day, the ball goes up and you still have to play with good technique and attack the ball at the high point. Those are 50-50 type plays when you have those one-on-one matchups and the ball is put up in the air. You just have to win your share of them more than you don't win your share, from our defensive standpoint. Offensively, we have to win more than our share on that side. It's the same thing. You've just got to win with great technique and hopefully you can win at the line of scrimmage and not allow them to get in a rhythm or get comfortable - get clean, free releases and things like that to where he can get down the field. That's the first thing you try to do. He's really good. He's made one-handed catches.

"He's had a little bit of everything all year long. They're a lot like us in that they're going to take those one-on-one matchups and there will be opportunities that will be presented. Just the same, we'll have opportunities that will be presented. That's what football comes down to, ultimately, is who wins those matchups, who wins those competitive plays when they present themselves. We just practice harder, work on our technique, work on high-pointing the balls and things like that because that's the main thing. It's normal route running then it's being where you're supposed to be and timing things up front and disrupting rhythm. It's those 50-50 balls outside that go up.”

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