Swinney: South Carolina game big for seniors

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson’s senior class has achieved a lot during their time at Clemson, including ACC Atlantic Division championships, an ACC championship and a berth in a BCS Bowl.

A win over arch-rival South Carolina isn’t on that list, however, and Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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knows it’s time for that to change.

“This senior group has accomplished a lot of things. A long list of things. A long list,” Swinney said during his press conference Tuesday. “But they have not beaten South Carolina. The list of things they haven't gotten done is very short. That's a big one for them.”

Clemson faces South Carolina Saturday night in Death Valley with a lot on the line, and Swinney said it will be the biggest game of the year.

“It's an exciting week. Biggest game of the year. Biggest challenge of the year,” Swinney said. “We will have to play an outstanding game against this crew. Watching them on film, they find a lot of ways to win games. Tough challenge ahead. Offensively, they are big up front and it all starts with their center. T.J. is an outstanding player. He sets everything for them. Their quarterback was probably the difference in the game last year. Very good scrambler. Good feel for the pocket. Can make the throws.

“The thing that worries about you when he scrambles, when guys come out of coverage, he finds them. He's the guy we have to do a much better job of what we did last year. They've got three wide outs who have gotten better and better. Ace Sanders is electric and has changed a lot of games for them. Offensively, defensively they are as good as we are going to play. As anybody is going to play.”

No conversation about the Gamecocks can occur without mentioning their defensive line.

“Their defensive line is outstanding. [Jadeveon] Clowney gets all the headlines but those other guys can play,” he said. “Part of the reason he is so good is because he's a dynamic player, but their players are good. Devin Taylor is like seven feet tall and has been there. They have a very good front seven. Backers are smart and tackle well. Physical. They challenge you in the secondary. They are a one-safety team. When you go against a one-safety team they challenge you to make plays and you have to make plays.”

The Tigers struggled in defending the return game last week against North Carolina State, and Swinney said Clemson will have to stay away from returner Ace Sanders.

“Their return game has been very, very good,” he said. “Especially the punt return with Ace Sanders. There is tape against good people and they've got him pent-up and he gets out of there.”

Swinney said the Tigers are playing perhaps the best they have all season, and that’s a good thing considering how much is on the line.

“We are a team that's been improving,” he said. “But we have to put it all together to win this game. It's Thanksgiving and we all have a lot to be thankful for. It's a blessing to be a part of this game and hopefully Saturday night to put our best foot forward. This is a great opportunity for this state. This game offers more nationally than what it normally does.”

Swinney was reminded that Clemson had trouble moving the ball against South Carolina a year ago, and he said that Clemson is a different team than the one that lost in Columbia at the end of last season.

“We are a better team than we were last year. No question about that. We are a smarter team,” he said. “When you have a quarterback who is in year two of his development you should be better. Our offensive line has improved tremendously throughout the year. We have an outstanding running back. Brandon FordBrandon Ford
Gr. Tight End
#80 6-4, 240
Wando, SC

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has stepped in nicely for Dwayne AllenDwayne Allen
Tight End
#83 6-3, 255
Fayetteville, NC

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. But Tajh has been the difference for us. He's a much better quarterback than he was last year. He was a good player last year but is a much better quarterback and that's one of the main reasons he is 10-1.”

He was asked about his back-and-forth with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, and if he had an issue with Spurrier, and he said no.

“This is not about me and coach Spurrier. Some people may want to make it that way, but I'm not comfortable with that,” he said. “I want our guys to play great. But I'm just trying to get a first down Saturday. Coach Spurrier is an interesting guy. I don't really ever have a problem with him. From time to time - I don't think it's personal. He' got a long track record and that's how he is. He likes to stir it up now and then. But I just worry about Clemson. I don't have time to worry about what's going on down there.”

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