Sunday night news and notes - Swinney talks about opening left by FSU loss

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The Clemson Tigers are fresh off a 47-31 win over Georgia Tech and face a bye week in which to not only get healthy, but make additional personnel or technique tweaks to the defense.

However, the Tigers also have new life – still flickering but a little brighter - in regards to winning the ACC’s Atlantic Division after Florida St. was knocked off by N.C. State late Saturday. Because Clemson lost to Florida St. earlier in the season, the Tigers would need to win out and hope FSU stumbles somewhere else down the line.

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
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held his weekly Sunday teleconference, and was asked about his team’s chances to get back in the race.

“It certainly gets you one step closer to getting back in the hunt,” he said. “But that game is in the rear view mirror and has nothing to do with us having a great season. We're disappointed we didn't win it. Anything can happen. Everyone knows it's a long season. We focus on what we can control. That's all we can do. I'm proud of our team. Going up there to Boston and coming back this week and getting another crucial win, that was big. It's a long way to go and we still have to have some help, but we have a chance to have a great season regardless of what happens with anyone else."

The Tigers knocked off traditional nemesis Georgia Tech Saturday, and get an open date this week before hosting Virginia Tech the week after.

“Just a big win for us, a very difficult team to prepare for and execute consistently against,” he said. “We weren't pretty the whole game but we got better as the game went and took advantage of some opportunities. A lot of positives in this game on both sides. It took all three phases to win the game.

"We are looking forward to the open date. We have a lot of guys beat up. If we were playing this weekend the one that would be the most questionable would be Brandon [Ford] with his ankle. I think everybody else would be good to go if we were to play this weekend. We'll get back going tomorrow morning. We just have to try to keep moving forward.”

The Tigers will have an abbreviated schedule because of the off week and the start of fall break next week.

"We'll meet every day, we'll practice Monday, Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. “Tuesday will be a community service day. Players will be off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They certainly have earned that. We'll get back together on Monday. The bye is very good timing for us. We have a lot of maturing and developing to do. We can get back to some basics from a practice standpoint and get in some extra time for Virginia Tech."

Swinney asked about the development of wide receiver Nuk Hopkins, who leads the ACC in receptions (49), yards (777) and receiving touchdowns (8). The next closest in each category? Duke’s Conner Vernon has 41 receptions, Boston College’s Alex Amidon has 644 yards and Vernon has five touchdowns.

Swinney said that being able to concentrate on football for an entire off-season made Hopkins a more physical player.

"He's always been a great receiver. He was outstanding last year,” he said. “Nobody ever really talks about him. The big thing with Nuk is that he's physically so much more mature than he was his freshman and sophomore years. He played basketball last off-season and this year he didn't. And that's paid off for him. Physically he's just a more developed player. He's a more capable guy from a physical standpoint.”

On what the defense needs to do to improve over the bye week

"Everything. We have to continue to get better with our recognition, our eyes, defeating blocks, everything, fundamentals. We're a long way away from being a finished product. Nothing is off the shelf. We've got to take advantage of some extra time and teach. Hopefully we'll become a defense that can grow in its knowledge this season."

On how the schedule sets up in second half of the season

"You have to come to play. When you don't, you get beat. Who knows how it will shake out with everyone on the schedule? It really doesn't matter. Whoever is next we have to completely focus on them. I am excited that we have some home games coming up. That is a positive. But we're going to take them one at a time. You have to play well each and every week and stay focused and committed to a certain standard if you're going to be successful."

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