DABO SWINNEY: Well, we are excited that we got back on track last week. Really proud of our team and how they played. Just kind of responded to a setback, and looking forward to another big challenge this week. That’s just kind of the way it is in this conference. You know, every single week you’re going to have a tough challenge, and NC State is a really, really good football team, a very complete football team. They’re a veteran-led team. I think they’ve got 21 starters back, and I think 19 of those guys are either graduates or seniors or redshirt juniors. They’ve got excellent scheme on both sides. They’re well-coached. So just a — and right now they’re in first place. They’re undefeated in this conference. A huge challenge for us, and especially at their place.
But really looking forward to it. This is where you want to be. It’s November. You’re still in the hunt for the division, and that’s our next goal, and we know we’re going to have to play very, very well to have a chance to continue chasing that goal.
Q. What was the difference between the Lamar Jackson that you saw last year and the one you saw this year?
DABO SWINNEY: I mean, just this year, he’s just a little more mature player. I think he just has better command of the offense this year than maybe last year as a first-year starter. He’s done a good job of sitting in the pocket and going through his progressions, checking the ball down. From just what I’ve seen of him, we played them early in the season, but he’s electric just like he’s always been. I know the season hasn’t gone maybe the way they wanted it to from a win-loss standpoint, but he’s still a great player.
Q. What jumps out at you when you see Bradley Chubb on film to kind of explain why he’s so impactful, and what’s your offensive approach in trying to neutralize him this week?
DABO SWINNEY: He’s the real deal, man. He’s long, he’s fast, he’s explosive. He plays with excellent technique. He’s a very knowledgeable, instinctive player. I mean, he’s a senior. The guy has been there a while. He’s played a lot of football. You’re not going against a rookie over there who’s kind of green. This guy has got all the little nuances down. He understands what you’re trying to do offensively, so that allows him to anticipate. When you have the type of speed and skill and strength that he has, plus you have knowledge, you’re a tough guy to handle, which he is.
And then the other thing is he’s surrounded by other great players. I mean, all those guys on that defensive line are probably going to play in the NFL. It’s not just him. I mean, that’s probably the biggest thing. I mean, over on the other side, Street and Roseboro, those are good players, and B.J. Hill and Justin Jones inside. I mean, he’s got good people around him. It’s not like you can just go away from him and neutralize him. But you just try to do the best you can. I mean, we’ve played a lot of good players, and we’ll win some, we sure will lose some, but you have to have kind of a plan A, B and C when you go against a guy like this, and we certainly will have that in place.
Q. I talked to Christian before the season, and I was asking him about the offensive lines that you guys played last year, and he ranked NC State as probably the toughest that you guys faced. It seems like that group might even be better this year. What have been your impressions of what you’ve seen of them on film, and how much fun is it to have a challenge of a really great offensive line versus your really great defensive line and kind of see two strengths in the trenches going head to head?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, that’s kind of what championship football is all about. For the most part, our side is pretty much down to us and NC State. You know, when you’re in the mix for some type of championship, you’re usually pretty good in the trenches, and that’s the case for both of these teams. The strength of our team is our offensive line and defensive line, and the strength of their team is their offensive line and defensive line. It’s definitely going to be a great battle, and they are very good up front. In fact, I thought they blocked us well last year. That was a very physical game, and the same as I said earlier, you’re looking at a bunch of fourth-year juniors, graduates, seniors. It’s a veteran, veteran first group that have played a ton of football and have a good understanding of what they’re doing, and then again, on the flipside, they’re going against a veteran D-line. Should be a heck of a challenge, and the same thing for our offensive line going against their defensive line, vets on vets, strength on strength, and you know, that’s usually what championship games come down to.
Q. Do you know yet how you’re going to approach the early signing period with regards to expectations about your commitments signing?
DABO SWINNEY: How am I going to approach it? Guys that are committed, why wouldn’t they sign? I would say if you have a guy that’s committed that doesn’t sign on the signing date, then you might better go recruit.
But if you’re just recruiting guys that aren’t committed, then I mean, I don’t have any expectation because you know, they may not be ready to sign. They’re not even committed. I don’t have any type of expectation.
Now, there’s probably some uncommitted guys that do want to sign early, and they just haven’t made a commitment yet, so I have no idea how that’ll play out, but as far as our committed guys or guys that are committed and obviously can’t talk about anybody specifically or things like that, but I think for most coaches out there, if you have commits and you have a December signing period because there’s really nothing else to do, it’s just kind of a dead period up until January, so I think most coaches are going to expect their commits to sign. Like I said, if they don’t, then you’ve probably got some conversation to have.
Q. Obviously last year NC State gave you a pretty good scare. I was just wondering what you maybe remember about that one specifically and if you guys are kind of extra wary going into this year considering that they’ve only got better from last year?
DABO SWINNEY: It was a great game, and I mean, we were fortunate to win. They created some turnovers. I mean, we had three trips inside the 5 that we got zero points. We had another trip inside the 20, we got zero points, and we threw a pick six. I remember a lot of bad. But we still won the game, which ultimately is all that matters, so it was a very tough game, one, again, we were fortunate to win. A lot of mistakes in the game, a physical game. We’re going to have to play a lot better if we’re going to have a chance to win this year.
Q. And then last year at the end of that game, did you have a feeling that this team was maybe a little bit more on the rise and would be pretty good going into the next year?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, I’ve always had great respect for NC State. I really have. I mean, as long as I’ve been here, I’ve always felt like that they’re one of the toughest challenges that we face year in and year out, and I know we’ve been fortunate to win most of them, but none of them are easy. I mean, there have been a lot of close games, but certainly looking at their personnel last year and then the makeup of their team coming into this year, again, you’re sitting there with 21 starters back. I mean, they’ll be good, especially when they’re all seniors and juniors and graduates, and that’s exactly where they are. That’s why they’re in first place right now in the division, undefeated in this conference.