Swinney ACC teleconference transcript
COACH SWINNEY: Good to be back with you guys this week. For us we're getting ready to go back on the road. Play a very, very capable NC State team, a team that's competed very well within this conference. Outside of the Florida State game, every game has been a game that could go either way so they've got our full attention.
They're kind of getting healthy now, and playing probably the best they've played on defense. Got three of the top 12 tacklers in this league, and lead this country in interceptions, so a big challenge for us in that regard.
Then offensively I like what they do. They spread the ball around to three or four different guys in the passing game, involve their backs, quarterback can make all the throws. Then they've got the top returner in the league in Graham. We've got to play better than we played this past week. We're off to a good start with our practice, and it's going to be a big finish for us, an opportunity hopefully to finish strong these last few weeks.
This is our last ACC game, and we want to try to finish the best we can, and it's going to take a great effort and great execution on our part to be able to win in a place like N.C. State.
Q. As competitive as college football is these days with recruiting and whatnot, is it possible for head coaches to be friends in a conference? If you have a rival, can you be a friend of a head coach or do you need to keep your distance?
COACH SWINNEY: No, absolutely you can be friends. I consider coach O'Brien a friend. He's been very helpful to me, very candid in our conversations, and given me good advice and insight over the years in the opportunities we've had to spend a little time together in our meetings and stuff.
But certainly, this is a fraternity. Sometimes you may be -- well, just look at Florida and Florida State. Here's two friends that have worked together. Well, I know they're at rival schools. But it's kind of hard to just say well, we can't be friends anymore. That is a hard thing to do. Obviously it puts a little different dynamic in place, but I definitely think that you can be friends with other coaches.
Q. You've got some big games coming up including the ACC title game. What do you want to improve or fix before then?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we've got a lot of improving to do. We're a team that's found a way to win, and that's what good teams do. But we've had our share of moments in all three phases, and this past weekend was a tough championship type effort by both teams and mistakes by both teams.
Our guys are resilient. They come in and watch the tape. They say, golly, we've got to improve in several areas. We didn't do a good job defensively last week as far as being disciplined with our gaps. Really had a couple of busts there. Offensively, we are turning the ball over: seven times in the last two games.
We only had, I think, eight the first eight games or actually six the first eight games. So that is something that we've obviously got to improve upon taking care of the football. Then defensively everybody's doing their job. Not having some big busts that are really costing us some big plays. Really make people earn it and put big drives together and not give up the chunk-type plays.
And special teams we've done a good job in some areas, but we gave up a punt return for a touchdown last week. That's something we've got to improve upon as well.
Q. Coach, you touched on it earlier, but can you talk a little about David Amerson and what you see on film? He's the first guy in 30 years to average an interception a game in NCAA football. What does he do that makes him such a threat as a defensive back?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, he's had some good opportunities. First of all, you've got to be in the right place. He's put himself in the right place. They use him well. He's a guy that is long. You don't see many guys his size that can lineup and cover like he can. He's almost 6'3", I think. Gets his hands on a lot of balls.
Most corners don't have the size that he has, but he absolutely can lock a guy down and has the great ball skills to go with it. You don't often see that with DBs. Lot of times guys will get their hands on balls and they knock them down and that kind of thing. Might have a lot of pass break-ups, but with him he's got excellent hands.
We recruited him out of high school, a big, strong, physical guy that can really run. But I would say his cover skills and his ball skills allow him to be in position to make plays. When he gets his hands on them, he catches it. That is the biggest thing.
Q. That's interesting. You say you recruited him. I understand a lot of people recruited him as a wide receiver. Did you see him as a corner?
COACH SWINNEY: No, we recruited him as a DB. But you saw that absolutely he could have played either side of the ball. We felt like because he physically, you know, will light you up as well. We liked his physical toughness from a defensive standpoint.
Q. When it comes to Sammy Watkins and playing on Saturday, how much of his input will you take into it? I'm sure he's going to want to play. But how much do you weigh that versus all the other factors involved?
COACH SWINNEY: I think the players have the best gauge to be honest with you. They know their bodies better than we do. He'll know if he feels like he's ready to roll or not. So that's why, again, I've had the same injury, so I understand exactly where he's at. I played my whole junior year with it.
It's one of those things you can play with, but it gets better as you take a break from contact. It's one of those things that you'll probably have to get a shot to play with each week. But his is not so bad that I think there's going to be a long, lingering thing, at least I hope not.
We've got to be smart, and we're doing that this week in practice. We'll make the decision. A lot of it will be depending upon how he feels. He's' tough guy, but I don't want him to put himself in jeopardy for the remainder of the season. I want to make sure he's good to go the rest of the way too.
Q. I guess that's what I'm asking. I can't imagine if he -- you said the players are the best gauge. But at the same time you know they're going to want to downplay how much they're hurting to get a chance to play in a game. You know what I'm saying?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we test them. We look at the strength. Our trainers do a great job in evaluating as well. Then it's just a matter of how the player feels. But he's got to be able to do certain things in a strong fashion before we'd be comfortable with letting him go.
As I said earlier, if this was a championship game, there is no doubt he's playing. There is no question. But it's a matter of where he is this Saturday, and I just don't know right now because he's improving every day.
He's getting stronger and better, and the soreness is going away. We'll just have to make a decision. You pad it up and then you go play.
Q. Over the last few years there is a term that's come into media used a lot, trap game. You've already clinched the division. You've got your big in-state rivalry game next week. Is this one of those games where you have to guard against a let down or at this point in the season does that take care of itself?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, if you ask me, they're all trap games. We've had a trap game every week, because everybody on our schedule is capable of beating us. We're not so dominant of a team that we can just roll out there and win. Our guys have done a good job of focusing every week regardless of -- I've heard that a few times this year. We just practice. We prepare for the opponent, and it all comes down to just performance.
When we've lost the one time, we go down there with four turnovers and we just didn't perform well. I don't think it was because we weren't prepared or focused or anything like that. We just didn't do some of the things that you've got to do to win.
This is a team that our guys when you turn the film on, you certainly see the talent. You see their competitiveness. You see them shutout North Carolina, a team that we played. You see them play within a touchdown of Wake Forest who we just played. You see them go to Virginia and beat them by two touchdowns at their place, a team that's challenging for the Coastal.
There is plenty to see here with these guys to show that, hey, you better come ready to play, and that's what we've challenged our guys. We want to have the best possible season that we can have. So every game is critical. Every game is a trap game when you've only got 12 of them.
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