Swinney, Tigers primed for another "night game in the Valley"


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Photos by Mark McInnis
Photos by Mark McInnis

CLEMSON – Dabo Swinney is ready for another night game in the Valley.

Clemson plays host to Auburn this weekend in a primetime matchup, and Clemson’s head coach says he’s excited about the chance to show off Death Valley in another night game.

“I am excited about competing against a great opponent in Auburn and really looking forward to a night game in The Valley,” Swinney said during his Tuesday press conference in the operations building. “I know it will be a great crowd, and it will be a lot of fun to get out there under the lights and play this one at home. A night game in The Valley is special, but they're all special to me. Last week, that crowd, that's what makes Clemson special. You're playing a non-conference opponent that many people aren't familiar with in a noon game and it was unbelievable.

“Tiger Walk was amazing. There was a ton of energy. It's always great regardless of when we play, but there is something special when the lights are on, and it's a full day of enjoyment in Clemson, SC. Everybody has a chance to get here. You've got traffic backed up all the way past Mac's for these noon games. A night game, you don't have that and everybody is here and ready to go. A lot of fun to be a part of it.”

Clemson has beaten Auburn three times since 2011, and Swinney says this will be another big challenge for his football team.

“Got another great opportunity this week. Big challenge with Auburn. This is a really good football team, complete football team,” Swinney said. “Last year (a 19-13 Clemson win) at this time they were trying to figure out what they were going to do at quarterback and it took them a little while to get settled in, but they went on to have a heck of a year. It was one of the toughest teams we played all year. This year they've got a bunch of guys back, a lot of experience, a lot of starters on all sides. They've got a great kicker. Really, really good football team. Now they've got a quarterback that's got a lot of confidence and good experience and poise and understands what they're doing. A big challenge for us and one we're looking forward to.”

Auburn will feature new quarterback Jarrett Stidham and a bevy of playmakers.

“In looking at what they do offensively, they hit some big plays last week. They showed their strength in the physical run game,” he said. “They ran a lot of the wildcat, zone read and counters and powers. No. 21 (Kerryon Johnson) is a great back. No. 36 (Kamryn Pettway) led the SEC in rushing per game last year. Big, strong, physical guy. That's where it starts is being able to match up from a physical standpoint against a really strong football team and then win those matchups when the ball goes in the air because they've got a quarterback who can go make plays for them.

“Looking at their defense, this is a very good defense. They were very good last year. A bunch of those guys are back. Very deep in the defensive line. Deep, long, athletic, physical guys up front. A bunch of guys back at backer and in the secondary. A very experienced group, understand their scheme, play hard, well coached. Looking at last year, it was a very competitive game and I expect the same this year.”

He then said that the coaching staff will know a lot more about this team after the game.

“We like playing these type of games,” Swinney said. “You kind of see where you are and when you come out of it - win or lose - you're going to find out a little bit more about your team and what you've got to do to move forward throughout the course of the season especially as you get into conference play. This is a really good battle and matchup early in the year.”

Clemson should be healthy entering the contest.

“Healthwise, we're in good shape. We'll find out a little more about Denzel (Johnson) today,” Swinney said. “Hopefully, he has a good day at practice and gets cleared and ready to go. Other than that, we're in good shape. We'll know more today on Van Smith, but he's doing good. He looked good last night, so we'll watch him cut it loose today in full pads. I feel good about him.”

Tags: Van Smith
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