Sunday update: Gamecocks, punt return woes headline Sunday call
|Sunday, November 20, 2016, 7:33 PM- -|
Two goals down with rivalry week on deck.
Clemson completed its second team goal of the season with Saturday’s 35-13 victory at Wake Forest, clinching the ACC Atlantic Division and a berth in the ACC Championship Game. Head coach Dabo Swinney has team goals posted on the wall in the team room in the WestZone and they are:
Win the opener. Win the division. Win the state title (beat South Carolina). Win the conference. Win the bowl game and win the last game. Two down and four to go if the Tigers make the College Football Playoff.
“I'm proud of the guys for clinching the division. That's what it's all about,” Swinney said on his Sunday teleconference. “We'd worked all year and we had only accomplished one goal and that was to win the opener and now we've got two. We've got opportunities these next couple of weeks to hit a couple of more. This is a huge game for us. It really and truly is a season of its own and we're excited about getting back in the Valley and having a night game. I know our crowd will be excited. We've got a lot of preparation to get done this week. It's always a little different week from a Thanksgiving standpoint. We've got a good plan in place and how we manage all of that stuff. I'm excited to see our guys tomorrow and I know they'll be eager to get back to work.
“Injury wise, we got out of the game pretty good. We've got some guys banged up here and there from the wear and tear of the season, but I don't see anybody being out this week with the exception of Scott Pagano. We should get Trayvon Mullen back as well. Players of the game were Wayne Gallman on offense, Kendall Joseph on defense and Artavis Scott was our special teams player of the game. Ready to get back at it and get to rivalry week.”
The Tigers host South Carolina Saturday night at 7:30 in Death Valley. The Gamecocks clinched a bowl berth with Saturday’s 44-31 win over Western Carolina, and Swinney said he likes what he’s seen from Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp.
“I think he's done an excellent job. They had a very disappointing season last year and you've got to start somewhere,” Swinney said. “To come in year one and get them back bowl eligible is a huge step in the right direction. That's what as a new coaching staff you're trying to do - you're trying to create some momentum in your program and I think they've certainly done that. They've had some big wins and they've competed. They've played hard all year. They're playing some young guys in certain spots and they've got some junior college guys coming in and learning on the run.
“They've done a heck of a job and this is going to be a tough game. We all know that South Carolina and Clemson is a tough game regardless. You can just look at last year. It really doesn't matter what the records are and all of that type of stuff. When you get into these rivalry games, there's a lot of emotion and anything can happen. We know we have to play very well. They're back in a bowl and it's their last game and we've got another one next week. This is a season of its own and both teams want to win. I think they've done a heck of a job.”
Clemson has won the last two games in the series and is favored by 25 points this weekend, and Swinney said reversing the series back in Clemson’s favor has been big for his program.
“It's been important because it's a major goal in our program. As much success as we had the first few years, that was one thing we hadn't done a good job with,” he said. “It's certainly important to our program to do a better job in achieving that goal. We've been able to win a couple here but every year is a new season and we live with this one all year long. Everything is important when you're trying to build a great program. For the guys coming in here that we've recruited, they want to be a part of a great program and for us it's about hitting our goals and working toward those. Sometimes you come up short and some years you hit them all like last year. This is a new year and new teams on both sides. They've got a new coaching staff and we know it's going to be a big challenge.”
Swinney said the Gamecocks would present a challenge.
“We're just getting dug in deep on these guys today. They played multiple quarterbacks this year but they've settled in with Jake Bentley and he's a very good young prospect,” Swinney said. “He throws a beautiful ball. He's a big kid. He's got a good understanding of things. They've got an offensive line that they've kind of settled in on those guys as well. The Bailey kid is as good as you're going to see out there. He's a great football player. They're playing three backs - the freshman, Dowdle, Turner and Williams - all three are good players. Samuel is an outstanding receiver. Edwards has made a lot of plays for them this year. He's a bigger target.
“They're doing a good job of giving themselves a chance to win. They're playing good defense. Will has always been a great defensive guy. I see his imprint already taking form with these guys and what they're doing schematically and the effort they play with. It's a good football team. They took a kick back against Western Carolina. This will be a tough team. They've played everybody tough. We know we've got to come with a good plan this week and execute the plan at a high level.”
One Florida reporter asked Swinney if he would consider resting some of his regulars so they would be ready for the ACC Championship Game, and Swinney laughed at the thought.
"Our goal is to find a way to beat South Carolina and to play our best game. There is no other," he said. "This is the biggest game of the year, the one that's next. You're obviously not from South Carolina because you've got to live with this one for the rest of the year. We'll put everything we've got into trying to win this game; I can assure you."
Punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud has had an inconsistent season, and his dropped punt Saturday led to Wake Forest’s first points. He was replaced by junior Artavis Scott, and Swinney said the coaching staff will see how McCloud responds this week before making a decision on who will return punts against the Gamecocks.
“We'll go through the week and we'll make a decision as we get closer to game time,” he said. “It's Artavis and Ray-Ray and those are our top two guys right now. Ray-Ray is going to be incredible. This is as gifted a guy as I've ever been around. He's still got some consistency to work out and some maturing to do. These people wanting to bash Ray-Ray right now will be the same ones clapping for him when he's taking them to the house on a regular basis because I really believe that's going to happen for this kid. I think he has that type of ability and he's going to develop into a great returner, there's no doubt in my mind.
“It's easy to criticize, but it's a tough job and he's still a young player that's growing into his multiple roles that he has here. He did a nice job at receiver last night. He made a couple of obvious mistakes last night and he's not been as consistent. He started out as good as there is in the country and then inconsistent with fielding the ball and that's where it starts. The good news is he has the ability and slowly but surely we'll get him there.”