Swinney holds end-of-season press conference, talks about the program


by - Senior Writer -
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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney held his end-of-season press conference with the media on Tuesday from his home in Alabama, where he is spending the remainder of the holidays with his family after not being able to be home in nearly a year.

Swinney opened the teleconference by saying that he was pleased with the recently-completed season, but he knows there is always more out there on the table.

“I'm pleased with the season that we had. I wish we could have won more games,” Swinney said. “My goal is to win them all, but I think we accomplished a lot of objectives. We are a better team than we were this time last year. We're a tougher team. We are a closer team. We're more physical. That was one of the great things I liked about the other night.

“We finished the game on both sides of the ball,” he continued. “I think that we've made a lot of progress in that area, especially running the ball when we've wanted to run it. I think we'll finish the year in the top 25 in scoring offense and scoring defense. So there a lot of good things to build upon.”

Clemson’s head coach said that even with the loss of experienced players such as C.J. Spiller, Michael Palmer and Thomas Austin, people shouldn’t overlook the wealth of experience returning in 2010, and getting two major injured players back should help as well.

"We've got a lot of experience coming back,” he said. “Players should have a much better understanding next year of why they work the way they work. The team will come back January 5, start school on January 6. I think we’re a pretty healthy team coming out of the season. The only big question mark is J.K. Jay and where he'll be in the spring. Mason [offensive lineman Mason Cloy] will be limited in the spring, but is on the road to recovery."

Swinney was then asked to comment on some of the things that didn’t go well, and he said the coaching will work on improving those in the off-season and spring.

"We made some mistakes throughout the year at critical times, things you can't have if you're going to win a championship,” Swinney said. “You can't turn the ball over in critical situations. Ball security is something we'll continue to address. Just the consistency, being able to do it every single week and play at a high level. We've got to develop some other playmakers. We did a good job this year of featuring the guys who could get it done for us, but those guys are gone. We've got to develop those other guys. That'll be critical for us as we go forward, with guys like Jaron [Brown], Xavier [Dye] , Marquan [Jones] and maybe a freshman coming in here. A guy like Dwayne Allen is someone I'd throw out there.”

He also cited the offensive line as a major source of improvement, and said the coaching staff is well aware of the defensive shortcomings.

"We made a lot of improvement on the offensive line,” he said. “We didn't give up as many sacks, but we still gave up too many. Defensively, the biggest thing there is having another year in the system. We've got a good nucleus of guys coming back. The kicking game, we've got to improve with our consistency there. We had a lot of good moments with Richard [Jackson] but we've got to get more consistent in order to win a title. I thought we missed way too many field goals. We've also got to be more consistent at punter. I'm pleased with our return game and coverage units. We have a lot of good things we can teach from on film."

One of the burning questions heading into spring is the quarterback situation, with incumbent Kyle Parker facing an uncertain future that will hinge in large part on his baseball career, and Swinney was asked how he will handle freshman Tajh Boyd during the spring.

“Tajh is a guy that we have great expectations for,” Swinney said. “Our plan is to get him ready to play. He's going to get a lot of work, whether Kyle is coming back or not. The first two guys get a lot of work and he's going to be the second team guy. Kyle's situation doesn't really affect Tajh as far as how we're going to prepare him. My expectation is that Kyle will be here in the fall. I'd be really surprised if he's not. But again, those are things that you cannot control."

The next question revolved around whether Swinney had plans to sit down with Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett and discuss Parker’s availability in the spring, and Swinney said that will indeed be addresses.

"We'll sit down when I get back,” he said. “We'll take their schedule and map out a scenario that works well for both sports. I want our baseball team to be very successful. We don't have a bigger supporter of our football program than Jack Leggett and I feel the same towards his program."
With Willy Korn’s impending departure [Swinney also said that Korn was the only known transfer] and the questions surrounding Parker’s availability, Swinney was then asked if he would consider adding a junior college quarterback to the mix in order to add depth.

"We've got all options on the table,” Swinney answered. “Sounds like y'all have Kyle not coming back. I'm fairly confident he will be here. Again, Michael Wade is a pretty good player. Tajh is a future star here. We've got a couple of good walk-ons on campus that we need to evaluate. This recruiting class isn't over, either. There are some things we'll try to make decisions on as we go forward, but there isn't a decision right now."

Another question surrounding the team heading out of the season is whether underclassmen, such as safety DeAndre McDaniel, might opt out of their eligibility to declare for the NFL draft, and Swinney said that was something he would not talk about at this point.

"Not really something I'll get into right now,” he said. “A lot are just trying to get a gauge on where they are. Same thing I said about Kyle is my expectation is that they'll all be back."

Swinney was then asked how much he sees this year’s incoming freshman class contributing, and he said there will be chances for the freshmen to compete.

"Certain areas, possibility-wise, tight end, wideouts,” he said. “I think you’re always looking for a guy in the trenches that could bump up and help you, maybe an O-tackle or a D-end. But we have a really good nucleus of guys coming back. But there will be an opportunity for guys coming in to compete. At the end of the day, we're going to play the best guy."

Linebacker Brandon Maye injured his knee during practice for the bowl game, and was unable to play past the second quarter in the game, and Swinney was asked about the health of his most experienced returning linebacker.

"He's doing fine. He got banged up right before we left. When we got to Nashville, we felt like he was going to be able to go. We limited him a little bit in the cold weather. Instead of throwing Jeremy [Campbell] and Corico [Hawkins] out there cold, we tried to start the game with them and then put Brandon in. He didn't feel like he could play full speed with the (knee) injury that he had."

Maye should not need any medical procedures on the knee, according to his head coach.

"No. I think he should be fine. I think when he got hit on it, it swelled up on him. They had to drain it. I haven't been back or sat down with Danny [trainer Danny Poole] but I don't think he'll have to have a procedure."

Now that he has a solid year under his belt, Swinney was asked if he felt like his team had developed an identity yet, and he said that is something that can change from season to season.

"I think your philosophy can show through regardless of your style,” he said. “Your style can change from year to year. A lot of that stuff is dictated by the playmakers that develop throughout spring ball. Your personnel changes every year. You have to adjust as a coach. Our team, what gave us the best chance to win, you saw us develop an identity with the formations and balance we had on our offense. We feel like we need to be a physical team and run the ball to set up everything else we want to do. We want to stop the run, create turnovers and pressure the quarterback. Hopefully those things will be a constant with us."

After the Tigers started 2-3, offensive coordinator Billy Napier came under fire because of an offense that was struggling to score points, especially in the red zone. However, the offense turned around and the offense scored a record number of points, and Swinney was asked to talk about the performance of his coordinators.

"Billy has done a tremendous job,” Swinney said. “I'm very pleased with our coaches. We'll sit down and evaluate all those guys, but I couldn't be more pleased with the job that Kevin [Steele] and Billy have done. That's why I hired Billy. I had all the confidence in the world he'd do a great job. He has done an excellent job since the day I hired him. Nobody has worked harder. He's extremely organized. I think the players have responded well to him. The chemistry on our coaching staff is good on both sides of the ball. I think we scored more points this year than any year ever, by five points, so that's a pretty good accomplishment.

"Scoring offense and scoring defense, they're huge categories and very important to me. Those are areas where I think we made drastic improvement. We rushed the ball for about 60 yards more a game this year. We were much more productive with the same guys to be honest with you. You look at what we had to replace, we lost some good guys, Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham. But we were able to develop some other guys."

With all of the questions surrounding Clemson’s linebacking corps, Swinney was asked how important the spring will be to his younger players.

"Critical. We've got Scotty Cooper back who's got good experience. We've got Maye back. We've got Corico back. I thought Corico did a fine job Sunday night, filling in for Brandon. He's a true freshman who made some progress. I think Tig Willard will be an outstanding linebacker. He got his feet wet. Quandon Christian and Spencer Shuey [a big middle linebacker] are coming off red-shirts. Nobody has seen them except us coaches. We're excited with what we've seen. I’m pleased with what we've got on campus at linebacker. I think they could be much better next year. Kevin is a great linebackers coach. The spring will be critical."

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