Swinney previews Georgia, talks GameDay, Danny Ford and injuries

by - Staff Writer -

CLEMSON – Like many Clemson fans, head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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is ready for Saturday.

Swinney’s 8th-ranked Tigers open the season Saturday night against the 5th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, and he said during his Tuesday press conference in the WestZone that he was ready for the off-season and fall camp to be over.

“Like y’all, I’m excited to finally have game week here. It seems like it has been a long off-season,” Swinney said. “I’m really looking forward to getting on the field and playing someone other than ourselves and seeing how we match up with a great team like Georgia. Openers are always tough.

“It doesn’t matter who you play because there are a lot of unknowns, you’ve got more time to prepare for the opening game than any other game so there are adjustments and tweaks that staffs do in the off season. It’s even tougher when you open up with a team like Georgia as talented as they are and as well-coached as they are. I’ve got a lot of respect for Mark Richt. He’s done a tremendous job at Georgia. He’s a great coach. He’s one of the good guys in this business that I’ve got a lot respect for. I look forward to competing against those guys this Saturday.”

Swinney said Georgia provides a stern test, especially with the weapons the Bulldogs possess on offense.

“Offensively for them, that’s where everybody starts. They’ve got the top quarterback in the conference as voted by the conference coaches,” Swinney said of Aaron Murray. “He is a great player. He knows what they are doing. He’s got a great feel for them. They are very balanced with what they did last year- 37 passing touchdowns and 32 rushing touchdowns. They know what they are doing. They are very dynamic in calling plays, but they want to run the football. They do a lot of play-action, a lot of screens, a lot of double moves and things like that built into their plan. They’ve got a very veteran group at every position. It’s going to be a big challenge for us from a defensive stand point.”

The challenge in facing the Georgia defense starts with the new faces the Bulldogs have on that side of the ball.

“On defense, they have a lot of new faces and new starters, but don’t buy the lie or feel sorry for Georgia because they have a lot of great players,” he said. “They are one of those programs that just reloads. That’s what they’ve done in this case. The lost some guys from last year, but they have recruited at a very high level and will put a very, very good defense on the field Saturday night.

“For us, it’s about Clemson and how we play, how we prepare mentally and physically this week, controlling the things that we can control, and executing our game plan. Our guys that out definitely- Tyshon DyeTyshon Dye
Fr. Running Back
#23 6-1, 205
Elberton, GA

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, Scott PaganoScott Pagano
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#56 6-4, 280
Honolulu, HI

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, MacKensie AlexanderMacKensie Alexander
Fr. Defensive Back
#2 5-11, 185
Immokalee, FL

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and Joe GoreJoe Gore
RS So. Offensive Tackle
#73 6-4, 275
Lake Waccamaw, NC

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. All of those guys are definitely out. Everyone else is back at practice although Cooper will not play in this game. He is practicing and working on scout team getting work and his confidence back. The rest of our guys are on board. I expect everybody to be ready Saturday night.”

On the game itself

“I’m looking forward to being in The Valley. It’s a great opportunity for Clemson University and the City of Clemson. I don’t’ know how many people are going to be in this town this weekend, but what a great privilege it is to be able to host Game Day and for our students and fans to have that experience. I think that’s great. I’m looking forward to seeing Death Valley at its best Saturday night.”

On what winning the opener would mean

“It would be great to win the game. We will just check off the first goal. Everybody can talk about how great it is to beat an SEC team and win the opening night, but so what. We have 12 games on our schedule and every game is huge. We have much bigger goals than an opening game. That’s for both teams. In a game like this, you have to be careful because it’s not a win all end all type of deal. It’s a long season. Look at Alabama. They’ve lost two years in a row in a November. The way they’ve stayed on top of things is to control what they can control. All of those other things can’t enter into our mentality. We have to play the best that we can and let it all hang out. You can’t pay attention to the scoreboard. All you can worry about is walking off the field knowing that you gave everything you had to help your team when the game. If everyone has that mentality and you have good players, then you are going to win a bunch of games. Sometimes the ball bounces our way and sometimes it doesn’t, but the thing that matters the most to me is how do we compete and how do we prepare, what’s our mentality, what’s our attitude. That’s what matters most to me. The winner of this game has a good starting spot. The loser of this game may drop back a little bit, but they aren’t out of the race. It’s a long hard race and anything can happen. I think you have to have good perspective and do the best you can because you want to get out of the gate really, really fast.”

On the hoopla surrounding the game

“First of all, I think all of that stuff is great. I would much rather people give a rip about Clemson than really just not care. I was at Bi-lo until 10:30 last night. People are excited. I think that’s great. People care. It’s important. They spend family time. There will be people rolling in here tomorrow night just to smell the campus. Our players are human beings. They aren’t immune to it. They hear things. You have to really lean on your experience and your leadership. You can draw energy from all of that stuff, but you can’t let it be a distraction.”

On the injuries

“Tyshon [Dye] has had a couple of epidurals. He’s got a problem in his lower back. Hopefully that works for him, but if it doesn’t then you have to go to that next step and evaluate him further. It’s a shame he’s not well because he’s going to be a great player. He’s very different than any of the guys we have. We’re just kind of day-to-day right now. As far as Mackensie [Alexander], we’ve really ramped him up this week as far as things we will ask him to do and hopefully he will be ready to go next week. Jordan [Leggett] practiced yesterday. He’s back in green. There’s a strong chance that he’ll be available Saturday night. It’s a day-to-day deal. “

Danny FordDanny Ford
Former Head Coach
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and the Ring of Honor

“I’ve seen him already. We had a barbeque a few Saturdays ago. It’s a long time coming. It’s very well deserved. We’ve already expressed that to him. It’s a great moment. I do think that has been one of the things that has kept Clemson divided for a long time. I think it’s way overdue. I have a lot of respect for Coach Ford. He has always been loyal and committed to Clemson. He has gone above and beyond to try to help Clemson. I’m sure there have been some frustrations on both sides. I’m glad this is finally taking place. I hope this can bring people together and people can move on and embrace the good the keep moving forward.”

Adding walk-ons to scholarship

C.J. DavidsonC.J. Davidson
RS So. Running Back
#32 5-11, 185
Clemson, SC

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. [Michael] Sobeski is staying on scholarship. C.J. Davidson is the one guy that we could put on scholarship on offense. Taylor WatsonTaylor Watson
RS Jr. Safety
#30 5-10, 205
Simpsonville, SC

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was our defensive guy that we were able to put on. He’s had a heck of a camp. He’s in the mix at safety and a special teams guy. “

Concern with the secondary

“It’s definitely a concern. I’m more confident now that everybody is healthy. Last year we were so limited with health and depth. Guys were playing lots of snaps. We didn’t have a big rotation there. We have more depth and we are much more healthy. They are older and wiser. They’ve had time to grow up. Most of the time you get better as you move through your career. It’s good to see Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins
RS Jr. Cornerback
#14 5-10, 180
Roswell, GA

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out there. He is practicing very well. He can really help our team. [Bashaud] Breeland has had an excellent camp. I think he is mentally in a different place this year. Darius [Robinson] is the same thing. Garry PetersGarry Peters
RS Jr. Cornerback
#26 6-0, 195
Conyers, GA

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benefitted most from the experience that he got last year. He has really matured as a person and as a player. I feel good about him. I feel good about Robert [Smith] and about [Travis] Blanks. The concern is outside of those guys, we don’t have any experience. If those guys could stay healthy for at least the first part of the year so that we can develop the talent. We’ve got a lot of good young guys with athleticism and speed, but not a lot of experienced depth.”

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