Swinney in South Florida to talk Orange Bowl

by - Senior Writer -
Photos courtesy of the Orange Bowl

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
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and Sports Information Director Tim Bourret flew to Miami, Fla., Wednesday morning, where Swinney appeared in an Orange Bowl press conference along with West Virginia head coach Dana Holgersen

The Tigers and Mountaineers play each other in the Discover Orange Bowl on January 4th, 2012 in Sun Life Stadium. It is the first-ever BCS bowl for the Clemson program, and the school’s first appearance in the bowl game since 1982.

Swinney told the assembled media that making it back to the Orange Bowl has been a goal of his.

It’s an honor to be here and represent the ACC and be a part of the Discover Orange Bowl against the Big East champs in West Virginia,” Swinney said. “I’m proud of our team and our staff for the hard work that it took to reach this point. I’m excited to be back here. I had the privilege of being an assistant coach at Alabama in 1999 when we came down here and played this little ole Michigan team with some quarterback named Tom Brady. It was a great week and a great experience for me.

“Having been to a lot of bowls, this is one that I’ve always wanted to get back to. I’m excited for our coaches and our players to have an opportunity to be a part of it. We know it’s going to be a great matchup with this West Virginia football team. What coach Holgersen has been able to accomplish in his first year is a rare thing and it’s not easy. It’s not easy to win your conference, and it’s certainly not easy to do your first year. It’s a great accomplishment. These are two explosive offenses and two great defenses. It should make for a great night in Miami.”

Swinney said it has been emotional high for the team since winning the ACC Championship with a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech last Saturday in Charlotte.

“For us, it was an awesome, awesome night in Charlotte playing for an ACC Championship,” he said. “Both teams knew going into that game that the winner would punch their ticket to Miami. Unlike, their situation we were able to have a postgame celebration due to the circumstances of the game. It was incredible to see these guys and experience that type of celebration and to know that they had accomplished that type of goal. It was very exciting and rewarding.

“We have 42 freshmen on our roster. Half of our roster is freshmen and red-shirt freshmen, and for those young guys to be able to get a taste of that Saturday night will go farther than anything I could ever say to them. That makes everything better when they’ve experienced it and I promise you that they want to do that again. And, not just for our players, but in general it has been 30 years since Clemson has been in the Orange Bowl. This is exciting. That was our program’s greatest moment and we have been wandering in the desert for a long time and for us to make it back here is something that everyone is really enjoying.”

He admitted that playing a signature game in the southern part of Florida – traditionally a hotbed for recruiting – will have its benefits.

“This is a whole recruiting base for us. We have several kids on our roster now, but historically at Clemson we have had some of our greatest players from this state,” he said. “To know that they have the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl, the exposure that you get, the marketing that you get all throughout the stand when your brand is promoted-you can’t put a price on that. It’s a great opportunity for both programs to be able to have a presence in this state like we’re going to have over the next month. That’s what it’s all about. People call people and say you’re from Clemson, they know what you’re talking about. Same thing with West Virginia.”

The two head coaches were asked about the quarterbacks for the respective teams – Clemson’s Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS So. Quarterback
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Hampton, VA

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and West Virginia’s Geno Smith – and both admitted it will be fun to watch the two perform on a national stage.

“They both came out of the same recruiting class-Geno went north and Tajh went south,” Holgersen said. “Both quarterbacks have the ability to keep a play alive. Two tremendous players and two tremendous quarterbacks who will both continue to get better because they are both relatively young.”

Swinney agreed.

“Ironically enough, I think Tajh was going to West Virginia at some point, if I’m not mistaken. We got in on him late because I had just gotten the job about a week prior and I was trying to find a quarterback,” Swinney said. “He was committed to Tennessee, and they had a coaching change. Somewhere along the way I know he was going to West Virginia, so I know he has a tremendous amount of respect for their program. He’s excited about playing them. I think he knows some of the guys. I think we have several guys that know each other on this football team. I’ve seen West Virginia a couple of times. To be honest I’ve been on the road every day since the Championship and haven’t really had a lot of time to study them, but I have seen them. Geno is incredibly talented and can make all of the throws.

“Statistically, they’re as good as anybody. Tajh is right there as well. He’s a first year starter. He had a ton of success, but he also had to grow through a little bit of pain and learn on the job. He’s a winner and that’s the best thing I can say about Tajh. He’s won his whole life. Like Geno, he loves it. He loves to study the game. He’s extremely competitive and he wants to improve. Just last week, we saw how he responded after a difficult loss to our rival. He responded with a lot of toughness and a lot of maturity and played a great game. As he goes, that’s kind of how we go. We need our quarterback to play very well.”

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