Dabo Swinney: Clemson Gets a Needed Break

COACH SWINNEY: We’re in the middle of our open date and really proud of our guys for finding a way to get to 7-0. It’s where we wanted to be at this point. Coming off a hard-fought win here at home against a really good N.C. State team last week.

It’s been a good start to the week. Good opportunity for us this week to get back to some basics and do a lot of our, you know, self-scouting, self-evaluate and get some guys healthy and get ready for a strong run to finish the season the next five weeks.

But again, really proud of our team. It’s a fun group to be around every single day, and looking forward to a big matchup with Florida State in Tallahassee next Saturday, and they are just typical Florida State, very good football team. I know this will be a huge challenge for us to have a chance to go down there and get it done (ph) in a long time.

Q. When Wayne Gallman went down, did you miss him more as a runner, a blocker or a receiver or all of the above?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, all of the above. He’s just a great football player. He’s the guy. He’s clearly our leader at that position and you know, we really like our other players.

But all of our other guys, we don’t have a lot of experience there, and you know, here is a guy that’s played in a lot of big games and has been our workhorse.

So definitely a loss for us, but it was more a game where we threw for almost 400 yards. Very good up front and we took what was there. Really moved the ball effectively the whole game. We just couldn’t finish some drives. We had four turnovers in the red zone, three opportunities inside the five, we didn’t get points. That part of it was the most disappointing thing.

But just his energy and his presence and that leadership.

Q. Is the bye week coming at the right time for you this year?
COACH SWINNEY: As a coach, I think whenever you get the schedule in the spring, that’s one of the things — I know I do, I’m sure everybody does. You kind of visualize and map out your year as far as how you’re going to manage the season.

Last year, we had in my mind, I’m like, okay, we’re going to have to play ten straight games, and we were a team that we didn’t have a lot of depth on defense last year, competitive depth.

So it was a grind and we kind of limped through the finish line a little bit. We were on E. Whereas this year, I think it sets up great for us, because we’ve played seven games. Now we get a nice open date, and just like I said, a little time to get some guys a little wind back in their sails, fill the tanks backup.

And then you go play five straight and hopefully an opportunity to play in the championship, as well, if we can earn our way there. But I think it’s coming at a great time for us.

Q. From a psyche point of view, how important was it for your team to win the game against North Carolina State the way you got it to overtime?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I mean, I think you just keep playing. That’s all you can do. Obviously it was a frustrating day, like I said, we had the ball inside the five-yard line three times and got no points and that’s kind of a double-edged sword because we had long drives. We had 500 yards offense. We had 14-play drives, 13-play drives, 11-play drives and then you don’t get the pay dirt for it; so now you’ve taken a lot of time off and defensively, we put them in a bad spot, a couple field position — but we only gave up one touchdown.

We did some good things and it really was kind of overshadowed. We did a lot of good things on offense but it was overshadowed with the turnovers. Again, for those guys to find a way to win and overcome it, we obviously caught a break but I think that our effort, they caused some breaks, too. That kind of works both ways.

When it got down to it, it’s overtime, are you going to make the plays you’ve got to make to win. We did. We made the plays and on both sides, offensively and defensively, to win the game, and you know, that’s what good teams do.

Q. As a follow-up to Wayne, do you have any updates on how he’s doing and do you expect him to play next week?
COACH SWINNEY: He’s doing great and yes, we definitely expect him to play. He’s doing really good.

Q. One other question, you had 16 turnovers I think so far this season, I’m sure you emphasized it in practice, is there anything more that you can do or say to the guys to cut down on those?
COACH SWINNEY: No. Just keep playing. That’s all you can do. We do everything that you can possibly do, drill work, you point it out where you have ball in jeopardy, charts, we do all kind of stuff.

It’s one of those things that has been a crazy deal where we just — it’s kind of been a rash, but that will turn. End of the day, like I said, we’re even in the turnover margin on the season, we’re not negative, but we’re fortunate because we had been one of the best in the country at getting turnovers. And when it’s all said and done and the season is over, we want to be on the plus side, plus five, plus six, plus seven, plus eight, somewhere in that range. That’s a goal of ours.

We’re going to try to get it turned around. Nobody is trying to turn the ball over, that’s for sure. Nobody is trying to fumble it. The biggest thing is their effort is tremendous. There’s some fundamental things we can continue to improve on. We do strip drills in practice with our scouts. We do ball-handlings drills, you know, all the things that you teach. But it’s one of those things, we can sit around and talk about it and state the obvious all we want. We’ve just got to keep playing, bottom line.

And just as quick as you have a couple little bad games like we’ve had, two games, where we’ve had nine, that’s the biggest, glaring thing. But give the opponent some credit, too. It can turn just as quick. We can go play three games with no turnovers. We’re very capable of all of that. But it’s not a lack of effort or focus or anything like that. We just kind of had some weird plays.

But I think the fact that we’ve still been able to win, I think speaks to what type of team we’ve got and what type of chemistry we have on this team and will to win.

Q. Your past efficiency defense is the best in the ACC, you’re tied for the lead in sacks, you have more interceptions than anybody else in the league. I’m sure that all working together, the pass rush and the coverage. Can you talk about what’s made you guys so effective in pass defense?
COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, we’ve got good players. We’re really good up front and we’re recruited well there. Got great coaches that do a great job developing those guys.

It starts there with Marion and Dan Brooks. They do a tremendous job developing the talent that we have, and we’ve recruited well. And then we’ve got good backers and good guys that can cover on the back. And Coach V, man, does an unbelievable job every and every week giving our defensive guys a chance to be successful. They played with great effort. They take a lot of pride in what they do. We prepare extremely hard each and every week.

So they have got — that’s really nothing more than that. You effect the passer each week, we’re able for the most part, I thought we were not as good against NC State. But we have been a really good team against the rush and our ability to usually take away what they do best. Bottom line is we’ve got good players that believe in what we do and play extremely hard.

Q. Speaking of good players, you have a true freshman on the defensive line, Dexter Lawrence has been pretty impressive. Are you surprised at all that he can be so effective as a young guy?
COACH SWINNEY: No. No. You’re talking about a phenomenal athlete there’s 342 pounds and can run and a great kid and smart and strong. He’s a very unique player. That’s why he was I think the No. 1 or No. 2 player in the country depending on who you ask coming out. He’s definitely a difference maker. Not surprised at all in what he’s doing.