The Talk Is Over: Swinney breaks down Auburn
Swinney says he has a plan if the headsets go out

The Talk Is Over: Swinney breaks down Auburn

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – The talking is over. It’s game week.

All that can be said about Clemson and Auburn has been said over the last month. Now all that’s left to do is play the game.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney met with the media for the season’s first Tuesday press conference and he said his team is excited to finally face another opponent, but his goal for Saturday’s game is simple.

“We're excited to finally get game week here. There's not a whole lot that we can add today to what we haven't already talked about over the last month getting ready for this game,” Swinney said Tuesday in the WestZone. “We're just ready to kick it off and happy that it's finally game week. I'm anxious to see our team play. I think this is a team that's going to improve throughout the year, and we're going to get better as we go, but you've got to start somewhere. I think we've had a good camp. I think our guys from day one have bought into the things that we've asked them to do. The energy and the sense of urgency has been excellent. The leadership has been really, really good. You can only get so much done in camp and at some point, you have to go play. We're fairly healthy.

“You've got to start somewhere for us. As I say every year, our first goal is to win the opener and that's all we're trying to do. It's one of 12. We're not going to win the national championship on Saturday. We're not going to lose the national championship on Saturday. What I want to see is where our football team is at this stage as far as we can bring them as coaches without playing games. Let's go play the game and see where we are and then we'll go from there. We're really just excited to make the trip and get this thing going.”

The most challenging part of playing a team like Auburn – or any team – during an opener are all of the unknowns due to changes from the previous season.

“There's a lot of unknowns as you go into an opener but that's the way it is every year. That's why you have to know what you do and have ownership of your systems offensively and defensively so that you can make adjustments and adapt and apply your system to whatever you may see on game day when you don't have tape,” Swinney said. “We're watching LSU and the personnel is different and you're not really sure - maybe they're going to do what they did at LSU or maybe they're going to do something different because the personnel is different. From a Clemson standpoint, you've got to be able to make the adjustment. That will be a big part of the game. Their kicker and punter are back. Both of those guys are really good.”

Defensively, Swinney and the Clemson coaches are very familiar with the personnel because they recruited players like defensive end Carl Lawson and defensive tackle Montravious Adams.

“Openers are always tough for a lot of different reasons, especially when you're playing a great opponent like Auburn in a very tough and challenging environment for your first game,” Swinney said. “It's a big challenge out of the gate for us. Auburn has 14 starters back in different roles. Very talented team. A lot of talent and speed, athleticism. Defensively, they're very good up front. We recruited a lot of those guys that they've got starting for them. They've got very good depth up front. They're two and three deep in certain spots in the defensive line. They have three starters back in the secondary. They got a transfer in at backer that's played some football. I think defensively they're going to be a big challenge for us.”

Offensively, there are a lot more unknowns with Sean White at quarterback and questions at wide receiver and running back.

“Then offensively, what they do in and of itself is a big challenge with the amount of formations and the exotics that they present you - movements and shifts and quick huddles,” he said. “You have to be very sound and very disciplined in preparing and defending these guys in what they do. They want to run the football, and they don't make any bones about it. I think they averaged 49 or 50 rushes a game, and about 22 or 23 passes a game last year, so they hang their hat on running the ball You've got to be able to line up and handle all of the shifts and motions and the personnel groupings they're going to give you. You've got to set the edge. They want to get outside and then they want to pound you with all of their gap scheme stuff. You've got to contain the football, number one. Part of that is you've got to win on the perimeter because they're a big screen team, so you've got to be able to defeat blocks and get off blocks and not give up chunk plays with some of their passing game that's built into the run game.

“A big play action team where they try to create a lot of chunks of yardage. It's a challenge for us. There are a lot of unknowns - new people. They name Sean White as their guy, and this kid can really throw the football. The Arkansas game is really one that sticks out in my mind from last year - he made some great throws, and he has a very good pocket presence. He doesn't get rattled. I thought their protection was pretty good last year, but they didn't quite execute or have the consistency that they would've liked to have had. They had a lot of dropped balls. This guy did some good things last year from a coach's standpoint that I see on tape. He'll be better, and I'm sure the players around him will be more confident as well. They played a lot of wildcat last year whether it be with a back or another quarterback, I don't know.”

Other notes

On Mike Williams this year compared to last year

“More focused. He probably has a better appreciation for his talent and his opportunity to play football and his health. He's the best he has ever been since he has been here. He's the best version of Mike Williams that I have seen and that is a credit to his work ethic and his commitment and what he has done in the weight room and all those type of things. He's a special player.”

Austin Bryant’s health

“Getting better. I think he was in the underwater treadmill yesterday so he is making good progress. He is off his crutches and all that. He is walking so it is just a matter of him going through the process. He's getting better.”

Marcus Edmond’s health

“I think we will know probably by Thursday. He's practicing full go and working his way back. I don't know if he is 100% confident. I think he is close to 100% healthy, but he missed a lot and so until you really just kind of get those legs back the way they need to be and get enough for the fastball. I definitely think that he will be available for us.“

On the defensive backfield

“I'm confident in our guys. I think that our corners are pretty experienced. Mark has been here a year and seen a lot. Carter has been around the block. Cordrea has played a lot of football. I think Van and Jadar have demonstrated that they know what they are doing. They have not made a lot of mistakes in our camp. So I'm very confident with those guys. Our depth is inexperienced at safety. That's probably the greenest area. I really like our guys. Korrin gives us another guy that has got some experience as well. Denzel and Muse are going to be good players, but they are just green. They haven't played. I think all the other positions we got the type of competitive depth that's going to allow us to hold up. I know what I have seen on our practice field from Richard Yeargin and from Christian and from Cle, from Register. I think there is some good carryover going into this game will allow them to have a chance to perform well.”

On having to fire Kevin Steele, who is now Auburn’s defensive coordinator

“That's not something I hope I ever have to do a lot of. I think continuity is a great thing, and you strive for that in everything you do. But in anything, not just football, from time to time when you are in a leadership position you have to make tough decisions and sometimes change comes with those decisions. The people above me, I have bosses, and they may make a decision to get rid of me one day. That's just the way it is. It's not an easy thing to do at all, especially when you have great respect for the people that are involved. It was just what I felt like we needed to do at the time. Right or wrong or whatever. It's certainly not an easy thing at all, but I think when you are a leader you have to make challenging and difficult decisions and live with it.”

The headsets went out at Auburn in 2010, what are your plans if it happens again?

"Yeah, just everybody come on down boys (waving to the coaches in the box). And we will just handle it from the sideline. That is our contingency. That's about it. We have enough good coaches on the field and we keep rocking and rolling. That didn't have anything to do with us losing down there. They won. They beat us. When those types of things happen it's supposed to be the same for both teams. If you had some crazy situation like that, we would just wave for them to come on down and see if we can hold on til everybody gets there. That's the only contingency we have."

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