Swinney previews Duke, talks about building foundation of a winner

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CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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want his Tigers to have a November to remember.

Clemson is 7-1, ranked in the top 10 in both national polls and 13th in the BCS, but Swinney said Tuesday during his weekly press conference that what happens in November will tell the tale of Clemson’s season.

Clemson travels to Duke this weekend for a 7:05 p.m. kickoff in Wallace Wade Stadium, and Swinney said the Tigers need to keep their focus.

“As I tell our guys all the time - it's about Clemson. Our focus. Our attention to details,” he said. “This is our last road game and this is a great opportunity for us to finish strong. If we can win we will be 4-1 on the road for just the second time in 15 years. We talked coming into the season of taking another step about becoming a consistent winner.

“We need to put three, four and five consistent seasons together. This would be another positive step. Great opportunity for us to hopefully have a great month of November. That's what matters. We just try to focus on winning today and at the end of November hopefully we'll be a relevant football team from a national standpoint.”

Swinney said this year’s Clemson team has been able to avoid the distractions that led to a 2-4 slide at the end of 2011.

“I just think they are focused. They've gotten more experience,” he said. “Last year at this time we were 8-0. Now we are 7-1. I just think the experience they've had is going to pay off for them. That's usually the case. We got a little distracted last year. We lost our focus a little bit with our attention to detail. The No. 1 thing was turnovers. We became a turnover machine down the stretch there. Hopefully these guys understand that. I'm confident with the guys we have and their commitment we can go do it one week at a time. Keep improving. That's the other thing- I see our team getting better. Guys are improving gradually.”

He said the 2012 team has made “gradual” improvement each week.

“We've been fairly consistently offensively. We've probably been up and down in the offensive line but we've been more up than down,” Swinney said. “We need a little more competition there- but they are going to get there. Next year, we are going to have a pretty special group on the offensive line. Competition will be different then than it is now. Defensively, started off a little slower than any of us wanted but they keep improving. Because of that - they are starting to play more confident.

“Then because they are more confident they play faster. It's one of those things you have to deal with. Up there at Boston College they started to come on. Then we now played our best game at Wake. We are playing better. Tackling better. Playing faster. Those are all positives. Hopefully we get [Bashaud] Breeland back this week. He will practice today and we'll see where he is.

Swinney said the Tigers can’t afford to overlook Duke.

“Duke is having a great year. Just really happy for Coach [David] Cutcliffe and those players,” he said. “They've done a tremendous job. Football is not an easy game. It's tough. Everybody works hard and everybody practices hard. The fun is in the winning. It's good to see them have fun there at Duke and to see Coach Cutcliffe have success. I'm sure it hasn't come as fast as he would have liked but it's great from the outside looking in. They've already earned a bowl berth for the first time in a long time. We look forward to going up there and competing against a good team. We need to play well. I don't think anybody on this team has played against Duke. Offensively, they do some good things. They've played all three quarterbacks. I don't know if Renfree is going to play or not but their third team guy is a wildcat guy and does a great job. They play all three running backs.

“They are very talented at wide receiver. Their offensive line is sound. They have given up some of the fewest sacks of anybody in the conference this week. We have to tackle well in space. These guys are good in space. They play with a fast tempo and their defense is playing well. They bring a lot of pressure. They are active up front and they play a lot of guys. They are confident in who they put on the field. They have a couple of really good defensive backs. They force you to make plays. They put you in situations and pick their spots with house blitz, cover-zero. That will be a key to this game. I'm impressed with this football team. They are dangerous in special teams. Their punter is averaging 44 yards per punt- leading the ACC.”

On playing at Duke and it being different than Clemson’s last visit to Durham

“We are going to get everybody's best game. There's no doubt about it. I don't expect it to be any different up there. Teams play different at home. They had a tough one last week in Tallahassee. We'll get their best effort. Look at what they did in the North Carolina game. Big crowd for them. They play all the way to the end. We are going to have to play well. And again, that's the focus for us. 7 o'clock kick - hopefully we'll have a lot of Clemson folks up there. Last time we were there we did.

The plan for Adam HumphriesAdam Humphries
So. Wide Receiver
#16 5-11, 190
Spartanburg, SC

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“Receiver. But we are going to keep working him like we did last week. We want to keep dusting off the skills from a coverage standpoint- back-pedaling, breaking on balls, stuff like that. We've got a good plan for him. That was a great side effect of the game to be able to get him in the game and play him. We may not need him. But now we know we have another capable athlete. We'll keep work him. He was kind of the answer to a crisis. Worked out great. We kept it simple for him.”

On being a consistent program

“I want to be a team when it's all said and done we are in the mix every year. We need to be ranked in the top 15 year in and year out. If you put three or four years together, you eliminate the up and down nature. We've been ranked 23 straight weeks. Third-longest streak in school history. To me, that's a step in the right direction. There are seven teams in the country who can say that. Consistency is something this program has lacked. That's the next step for us. That's what great programs do. I think we are headed in that direction. Finish with another BCS bowl bid. That would be great.”

On what it takes to have a long run

“Got to have a little luck along the way. Stay healthy. Gosh, look at Maryland for example. Recruiting is part of it. Staff continuity. Your players being developed.

His thoughts on Steve Spurrier’s Monday comments

“Yes I heard it. It obviously doesn't take long in this world we live in. Look, people need to back off the ledge. Personally, I think he was trying to pay me a compliment. I know it was a roundabout way of doing it. It's like me telling my wife you don't look as fat in this dress. I think he was trying to pay me a compliment to use something I said to talk about one of his players. Again, prayers to Marcus Lattimore. I meant exactly what I said. He's a quality person. If anybody can come back, he will. I'm disappointed we won't get a chance to compete against him this year. I want to compete against the best.”

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