Swinney says Louisville has a "bit more pizzazz"


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Swinney says the Tigers will have to play their best game Saturday
Swinney says the Tigers will have to play their best game Saturday

CLEMSON – The fifth-ranked Clemson football team sits at 4-0 as they prepare to take on third-ranked Louisville this week, but if they want to improve to 5-0 and 2-0 in ACC play they will have to have their best effort of the season.

The Tigers and Cardinals kick off at 8:22 p.m. in Death Valley Saturday night, a game that head coach Dabo Swinney says has a little extra pizzazz.

“I just want to reiterate how proud I am of our team. We played our best game and on a short week. Just really proud of them for getting themselves ready to go,” Swinney said during his weekly press conference. “We're 4-0. That's where we wanted to be. Our best football is still in front of us. I'm excited about being back home this week. It doesn't get any better. We've had a couple home games already, but to have a night game here is something that we always look forward to. To have a matchup like this, GameDay, this has a bit more pizzazz. I know our fans love that. For us it's business as usual, but I am happy for our fans.

“For us, it's a division game. We started conference play last week. This is a huge game because it's in the division. We're both undefeated. This is a great team that we are playing. They're definitely the best we have played. They are a complete team in every aspect and they're playing at a high level now.”

The talk about Louisville starts with dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.

“Offensively they are the best in the country statistically. It's really kind of freaky when you look at the numbers that they put up. It would be hard to put up these numbers in a video game,” Swinney said. “They're balanced. The biggest thing that jumps out to you is the big plays. They're averaging nine yards a play. They're averaging 7.8 yards a run. They're a huge, big-play offense that is playing with a lot of confidence.

“It starts with their quarterback. He is a great player. You could tell last year that he was going to develop into a nice player. Later on in the year as we studied their tape, you could tell the light was coming on for him. He's just a dynamic guy. He's explosive. He's not just a scrambler. They have a ton of designed runs for him and he is tough. He plays with passion. I have great respect for his game. He does not back down. There are a lot of play-actions. They do a great job with how they use their personnel. They do a great job with all their wing sets, naked and swap boots. They have heavy action out of the pistol formation. And Lamar Jackson is a weapon, no question. He makes a lot of plays. He's a handful.”

Swinney said Jackson isn’t the only talented player on the Louisville roster.

“When you talk about him, the other guys get lost. Nobody really talks about the cast around him. They're all well coached, they've got a great scheme,” he said. “This is a big, physical offensive line. It's the best we have played, for sure. Their running backs, they're explosive and they make plays. It's the best group of receivers we have played. These receivers are big, they're 6-4. One of them is 6'6. This is a complete group. It's a huge challenge for our secondary. A guy who doesn't get talked about is their tight end, No. 18. No. 89 is very good, too. No. 18 makes a lot of plays for this team. There are no negatives. We're going to have to play our best game. Something will have to give one way or another.

“Defensively, same thing. They're built similar to us. They're the best we've faced. They're big, they're strong and thick inside. They can get after the passer. They're very athletic. Their middle backer is sort of their quarterback for them. They have eight starters back. They have a big 6-5 guy back there at safety. We will have to play our best football back there to this point. Their kicking game. I think Ray-Ray McCloud is No. 1 in punt returns and their guy is No. 2. It should be a dandy. It's good for our guys to get a couple extra days to catch their breath. We love being a part of games like this. I know we will have a great crowd.”

The status of defensive end Austin Bryant

“We were just in shorts yesterday. We put him through some things last night. Today will be more of a tell-tale on him, and we'll see how he responds.”

His expectation on what it will take to win

“I would think we would have to score some points and they will. I'll take 3-2 right now. That'd be just fine with me. There are a lot of explosive athletes on the field. That's for sure."

The status of cornerback Adrian Baker

“He's close. He's at that point where we need to cut him lose. He's getting real close. He'll be back, unless there is a setback or something. He's done very well. He has done individual workouts. The next step is to get him loose from a man-to-man standpoint. It's just a matter of when we give him the green light.”

Is there a different intensity this week?

“No, not really. I think it is for the fans. The reason we've been so consistent here is how we prepare. It's not coach-speak. We are aware that some games have more vibe, but if you're going to be a great player or a great team, you cannot get distracted by that. You have to be locked in to your process in how you get ready. You can't vary. It doesn't work that way. S.C. State was the best week of practice we had all year. It wouldn't have mattered who we played that week. They were going to get beat.

"You don't want to prepare for an opponent or play to an opponent. You prepare and play to a standard. That's just what we do. Our guys have bought into that. When the game is over we move on. We don't linger around. If we get beat, we move on. If we win, we move on. It's a big game. There's no question. Next week, I'm going to say it's the biggest game of the year because it is. Just play what is in front of you. Win the day, win the practice. You win a championship literally one game at a time. To do that you have to be locked in from a preparation standpoint each and every week. That's just what we do. There is extra juice that comes with a game like this. It's a blast to be a part of these moments, but they're all big.”

Were you in on the recruiting of Lamar Jackson?

“I was not. Probably should have been huh?”

Does your experience in big games help you?

“Program-wise, yes. Several years ago we didn't consistently have games like this. In 2011 we didn't really know how to handle that type of success and all that came with it. This is our fourth GameDay since 2013. Only Alabama has had more. Our guys haven't lost many games in their careers. They've lost enough to know you have to bring it each and every week. We have great respect here for how we get ready.”

Surprised at what Louisville has accomplished thus far?

“We have great respect for Louisville and have. The last two years, man, you talk about some knockdown drag-outs with those guys. Down to the last play. (We're) fortunate to win both games. Their defense is tremendous and has been. Kid they had last year was a first rounder. Rankins I think was his name. He was a load. We got great respect for Louisville. I'm not surprised at all. I think last year you could see it was just a matter of them kind of working the quarterback situation out. As the year wore on, it kind of got solidified with number 8.

“I'm impressed with what they're doing. They have a lot of option principles built into this thing. You look at some of their formations, and they look like Georgia Tech, but they are in the pistol shotgun. They're not Georgia Tech, don't get me wrong, but they will get in some of those same types of formations. The diamond looks. It's the play-action out of the pistol. It's the quarterback powers. It's all the zone read stuff. It's the swaps, the double-dashes and the boots that come off of it and the throwbacks because he is such a weapon. He is not just a guy that sits in the pocket. They're just moving their quarterback all over the place. They create edges. They create extra gaps with all their double-wing sets and motioning and how they shift to these different alignments, and you come up short. Then you throw in the zone read with it and now you're really short, and then you put it in a guy's hands than runs, I don't know what he runs, 4.3 or something, it makes for some explosiveness. They've done a great job. They really have. Excellent job in utilizing the skill set of Lamar. He's a gifted athlete and can absolutely throw the football all over the park. I think they have done an outstanding job. They come right back and here is the power play right up the middle with their backs. You have always got to be alert with the quarterback. then they got all those big receivers and the tight end. They do a good job. They are a complete offense. I think their personnel groupings. They are an 11 personnel team. They get in a lot of 12. Sometimes they get in what we call 1 package with 7 who is basically another quarterback. He plays receiver, and then they get him in the backfield. It creates a lot of stress on you. There is a lot to get ready for these guys - formationally and all the things they can do in their run game.”

Will you stop rotating on the offensive line?

“No, we want to keep rotating guys. We don't rotate them just to rotate them. If we do that, it's because they deserve to play. We have good depth. It'd be like having Isaiah Battle at tackle last year and Mitch Hyatt not playing. We have Mitch Hyatt but Tremayne Anchrum deserves to play, too. We have some guys where it's closer than others.”

Where does Deshaun Watson stand in terms of improvement?

“He's doing great. He has some minuses like everyone else. He is ahead of where he was last year in some areas and a little behind in other areas. The biggest thing is 16 dropped passes in four games and six dropped touchdowns. 12 of those were in the first two games. We've had some miscommunication on a few things. He and Mike Williams are on the same page but we need them to stay within the system. We need to be more disciplined moving forward. They were just not on the same page in a couple of instances last week. Overall he has done a good job. He has led us to four wins, critical drives, critical throws. We're going to need him to play a great game Saturday.”

Is Deshaun not as accurate on the deep ball?

“Seems that way because we've dropped a bunch of them. Everything else gets exposed when you drop them. Yeah, he's missed a few. He's human. He's not perfect. He'll get better.”

Who is playing the part of Lamar Jackson on the scout team?

“Brent (Venables) right now is working on his hurdle move. He was our quarterback last night. He is quicker than you think.”



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