Michigan State’s Coach Mark Dantonio’s Press Conference

The Michigan St. Spartans have their hands full this weekend against Oregon. The Ducks are favored by 12.5, and Michigan St., with an eye towards winning the Big Ten and advancing to the new four game playoff this year, must put up a good game to impress the committee. Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio discusses this week’s game in his weekly press conference:

MARK DANTONIO: First off, it’s an exciting week for us this week, a lot of things that you are going to experience this week whether as a coach or as a player, these are things that you anticipate when you go play college football: Big football game on national TV. I think we embrace those situations. We’ve played in big games before, so that’s not new to us.

And this has been a progression for us, I think. If you look at our football program right now from when we’ve come in 2007, it was about trying to get to these moments where you have an opportunity to play across the nation and it has a sort of prominence to it or a prestige to it at this point.

We’ll look forward to that opportunity. When you look at Oregon right now, outstanding football team, outstanding program, and great skilled players. You look at them defensively a little bit, big strong guys. I think their secondary is very skilled. Linebackers are athletic, big front, 3?4 defense. I could go into schematics and concepts, but I won’t do that at this point in time.

And you look at their offense, Mariota is an outstanding quarterback. What impresses me most about him is you can tell he has leadership because you can look at him on the film and say the guy is tough; you can see he’s emotional; you can see people follow him; he’s creative, can take a bad play, make it a good one, whether it’s with his arm, with his feet. He’s surrounded with good skill, good offensive line, breakaway running backs and big play potential all over the place.

Special teams, same type of thing. Good returners. They do some different things that will create problems for you, and it’s going to be an exciting opportunity to play. I think usually the best way to do this is to just take some questions.

Q. Is this a game of innovators? Do you get excited as a coach knowing what they’ve done with their offense and what you’ve done defensively and how many teams have copied both of you?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think there is something to that. You look at Oregon, certainly you see what they’ve done offensively, and they are different from other spread teams. I think they’ve had so much success, a lot of people are taking some of the things and imitating them or not copying but using their concepts and trying to adapt it into their offenses.

And then when you look at our defense, I think, again, it’s cutting edge. There’s not a lot of people who have played our defense in the past. I think people are moving towards it and doing some of the things that we’ve done, and we’ve had tremendous success with our defense in the last three, four?? really the last four years. That trend need to continues for us to be successful. It’s my belief you win championships are great defenses.

But this is a football game, it’s not just against our offense, defense, it’s against how our offense is going to play and how we’re going to handle special teams. It’s all the components of a football game, and I think that’s what makes it such a great game.

Q. The team that’s had the most success against them is Stanford, who you’re very familiar with, and there’s some similarities in terms of style and philosophy. How much have you looked at those games, and how much is it true that you can kind of hit them in the mouth?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, we’ve looked at all their games. We’ve obviously done a study, a spring study, summer study on them, so we’ve looked across the board at all their games. They lost last year to Stanford, so I think Stanford’s offense is more our?? a little bit more like us maybe than some of the other football teams, so you can certainly see some of the things that they did there.

But we’ll look at all the different games and try and draw something from every single football team that have played them in the hopes that we have the answers.

Q. I was talking to a defensive coordinator who’s coached against Oregon, and he said the secret with them is that it isn’t necessarily they do 900 million different things, but they force you to make mistakes. Is this one of those weeks where you know the cliché do your job, but it may be more important than ever?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I mean, football on the defensive side of the ball?? offensively, as well, and special teams, but I think specifically on the defensive side of the ball because the ramifications are so high if you don’t do your job is such a?? it’s a technique game, but it’s an accountability game. You have to do your job. You have to fit that puzzle, and the way I sort of explain it is every play is a puzzle, every defense is a puzzle, you’d better have your piece fitted right or things don’t usually work out. That’s what you see, you see a fit here, a fit there not happening, and the next thing you know they’re in the end zone because they have good speed.

Big play ability is what you see with Oregon. They can be stopped for four or five plays and then all of a sudden hit a 70?yarder. You have to able to take that away from them. We’ve been good at that lately with not giving up a lot of explosive plays, particularly last season. This year remains to be seen because there are so many games left, but that’s something we have to hang our hat on. When they don’t have explosive plays, people don’t lose too often.

Q. Obviously it’s a big game Saturday, but do you feel like your program is at the stage that no game is too big, that you don’t worry about your team going into that environment?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I don’t really worry about that. We’ve played in big games, we’ve won away from home in every stadium in this conference. We’ve won our last three bowl games, played against good competition. We’ve been on a big stage at the Rose Bowl. We’ve been on a big stage with the championship games or at Penn State or wherever. I don’t really worry about that. I’m more concerned about getting the job done. I don’t think we’re going to go in there intimidated if that’s the question. But I worry about the accountability as we’ve just talked about and how we fit things defensively and not making mistakes that are going to?? really unforced errors or turnovers that are going to affect you on the offensive side of the ball.

Q. I wonder if you could address the challenges of preparing for a quarterback like Marcus Mariota, and does Damion Terry and his skill set help at all, having him available?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, he’s very much like Damion in a lot of ways. I think he’s a dual?type guy. You’ll see him probably run the ball more in big games, which this certainly is a big game. That’s been the trend with most quarterbacks like this.

But when you look at Braxton Miller, he’s a guy that can pull the ball down and take off with it. Same type of situation, he’s built to throw the football, so he’s got a great arm, he’s got good receivers down the field. They’ve got good receivers coming out of the backfield, as well, good ball carriers to hand the ball to. So they’ve got good tight ends, good offensive line. They’ve got things in order in that program. There’s no question about that. You see that based on the success that they’ve had in the past. It’s a good football team, it’s a very well?coached football team, and they play hard and they play tough. So you have a lot of respect when you turn on the film and you watch how they play and how rapid they are in terms of their offensive production in terms of how they’re running their plays and everything. You have to respect their toughness, not just physically but mentally, as well.

Q. With a forecast in the 90s on Saturday, does that change the way you’re approaching this week or the game at all?
MARK DANTONIO: I think in any game like this you’ve got to play a lot of players. That’s been our trend because it’s a no?huddle type system, so you’ve got to be able to substitute, get your guys on and off, and you’ve got to play a lot of players. We’ll be ready to play; we’ll be conditioned for it. There’s certainly things that obviously everyone has to do between hydration and things of that nature. But we’ll try and be cutting edge and see how it goes.

Q. In a game like this, how valuable are Rush and Calhoun, just keeping him contained and knowing that you can count on them the whole time?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, they’re two very, very?? our best defensive players, so contain obviously is a big aspect of any football game when you’re trying to pen in a quarterback. They’re big, but just as much the guys who come in after them are in place for them at times have to equally be impressive because they’re going to be challenged. That’s just the nature of it. There’s a lot of things that they do schematically that puts pressure on them and puts people in conflict. You know, a run?pass conflicts or a gap conflict as to how to play a particular gap or not, those things become issues that can create big plays. And you’ve got to play fast.

Q. Also, James and Kings and Langford are all listed on the depth chart. Does that mean they’re going to go?
MARK DANTONIO: I wasn’t going to list?? you guys know how I am about injuries. We’ll list them when we get to the game. If they’re not going to play in Saturday’s game, I’ll let you know, but right now we anticipate them practicing and playing.

Q. Last week Jacksonville State, a lot of nines in the box, a lot of gearing to stop the run. Do you anticipate at some point if Connor Cook and the passing game looked like that, defenses are finally going to change the way they approach your offense?
MARK DANTONIO: I think Connor Cook picked up where he left off last year. He’s got great?? I’ve said it all through spring and all through fall camp, I think our wide receiver group is talented and deep, and I think you saw that. I think we have an identity at tight end now. We’ve got guys out of the backfield, as well, and I think cook has got a great release, very strong arm. He’s big, he’s mobile, and there’s a lot of things that he can do that are untapped yet, and I really feel like some of that involved his running ability.
But I think he’s an excellent quarterback, and he’s resilient, and he’s very confident.

Q. Following up on Kyle’s question on Terry, would you use him some scout team this week then or do you have someone else in mind?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, we’ll use Damion a little bit on scout team and probably Tyler, as well, when the other one is getting reps, but we’re not going to have people standing around. There’s certain periods that we’ll do certain things and add people to the mix to help simulate. We’ve always done that, and we always will.

Q. You know how these inter?conference games get billed sometimes: Big Ten, Pac?12, the importance of having a high conference rating and whatnot. Do you ever get sick of hearing about the Big Ten and Wisconsin lost to LSU and that narrative reemerges, do you get sick of hearing that? Do you think it’s fair and do you think you can change it?
MARK DANTONIO: We just go out and try and play every game to the best of our ability. We can’t control everything that you guys write, obviously, something controversial up here. We can’t control everything that everybody writes, so why deal with it? I sort of shrug my shoulders and go. Last year the perception was that we’d have a good football team coming into the season. We went through the season, we had a good football team coming out of it. That’s the only thing that really matters at the end of everything.

We won against a very good football team in the Rose Bowl. I thought Georgia played for the championship in 2011, they were a very good football team, we managed to beat them, as well. You know, I guess that’s up to the fans in the SEC and all the other people that want to chant SEC or Big Ten, Big Ten, or whatever they want to chant in their stadium. We just play the game, but we’ll be ready to play.

Q. I want to go back to that embracing the big game. You mentioned a few years ago people yearn for these days. Hasn’t your program reached the swagger stage where this isn’t?? you can win games like this. You can go into enemy stadiums and win games like this; if nothing else, that’s what last year gave you, isn’t it?
MARK DANTONIO: Our program has taken steps since coming here in 2007, and I sort of feel like whatever year it was when we decided to play Oregon home and home, when they asked me do you want to play them, I felt like we needed to be at this point in 2014 to be able to play a game like that, we needed to be able to take the steps to be able to get there to play in a game like this and have a certain ability of respect that’s attached to it to go and play. I think we’ve done that from a program perspective, and now this creates another opportunity. Every game we play, every game on a big stage we play creates another opportunity for Michigan State and our football program to make a statement.

So one way or the other, and sometimes maybe we haven’t gotten there and taken a step back. Remember when we played Ohio State on game day in 2008 and we weren’t quite ready yet, and we lost convincingly. But the next week we gathered things up and we went down and played very well in Ann Arbor.

It’s not the end?of?the?world?type situation, but I think we’ve taken the right steps to try and get into a game like this so that people can say, hey, if they win this football game, it sends you farther up the ladder maybe, and that’s what you’re trying to do, I think, as a program. So when you look at what we’ve been able to accomplish long?term over the haul here, we put ourselves in a position to play this game and receive this type of notoriety to do it, and I want our players to have fun with this. I want them to be excited about this and our coaches, as well, and use this as a life experience, because that’s what this is all about. It’s really not about what you’re going to write or what some guy is going to feel off the streets. It’s about our players having a lifetime experience in this setting at this time in their lives that they’ll remember for the rest of their life, and if we do that and get excited about it and play hard, great things are possible, and that’s how we’ve always approached it.

Q. You’ve always talked about controlling emotion, but yet you want your guys emotional. In a week like this, you can’t hide the hype; it is what it is. What are some things you do to either embrace it or to try at least to control it?
MARK DANTONIO: We just ask our players to stay under control and make sure that on game day at game time that’s when your energy comes out, and you’ve got to have energy. I think if we get all crazy today and running around all over the place, you’re going to run out of it by game time, so it gets old, it gets tiring, and the most important thing is what you’re going to do at game time. So we’ll try and build towards that from a physiological standpoint, from a mental standpoint and from an emotional standpoint, I guess, mental.
That’s what we’ve always tried to do, and we have a system in place that we do that with, and it’s what we do. But I don’t think that we’ve come flat to many football games. I think that should be up to our senior leadership and to our coaches as a group and really to our seniors and to the chemistry on our football team, and I expect that to be the case again. How we play throughout the game will depend on being able to handle adversity. You know that’s going to happen. You know that’s going to happen. That’s going to be part of that football game, how we’re able to handle adversity, and it always is a big aspect of it. You have to be able to play through it.

Q. Nick Saban said the other day he thought at this point there are so many teams running spread offenses that maybe it’s almost hard for teams to prepare to face a more traditional offense. Do you think there’s anything to that? Do you think your offense at this point is almost becoming more unique and hard to play against?
MARK DANTONIO: I think there is something to that because they don’t see some of the things throughout spring practice and summer practice that they see when they get ready to play a game, so there is something to that. But I think you see?? I believe that everything goes in cycles in football, and we lined up against a T formation a couple years ago that Lou Holtz was running in South Carolina in 2001, which wasn’t that long ago.
So if there’s something good, it’ll always return, even the save the wing aspects of football have returned, and you see that in some of the spread offenses with the different type of handoffs and wide receiver things and different things that?? there’s always cutting edge thing, and I think Oregon does some amazing things cutting edge that we’re going to have to deal with. But I’m sure it works the other way, as well. They don’t have quite the personnel to simulate maybe some of the different aspects, so it probably works in both ways, but at the end of the day, the game is played on the field, and you’ve got to be prepared to do it.

Q. Watching film, what did you see out of Byron Marshall, and do you think they used him differently in their opener than they might have last year?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think they’ve had some different?? they’ve got different players, they’re asking people to do different things. Yeah, I think so, based on what you see. But they lost a lot of the wide receivers, so expanding different people’s roles based on what they’re able to do, and they’re allowing the playmakers?? they’re creating plays for their players, and at the end of the day, players make plays. Yeah, he’s a good football player.

Q. Always a lot of talk about keeping the players’ emotions in check before the game, but is there a difference for you and your staff this week? Do you sense a difference in the preparation? Is this not your everyday, normal game for you guys?
MARK DANTONIO: It’s a little bit of a fast week, I think, because we’re traveling. But other than that it’s the same preparation in terms of what we do. We got a head start on them, like I said, because we’d worked on them earlier, but now you go back and you look at different things and they all look a little bit different. Things seem to always change. We’ve got ourselves ready to go. I think it’s important that we’re fresh, as well, as coaches, that we’re thinking clearly and have our emotions intact.

Q. Obviously you’ll be arriving Thursday. Will you be practicing out there on Thursday?
MARK DANTONIO: No, we’ll practice here. We’ll practice here early, though, and do all the things physiologically that we can to prevent jet lag.

Q. I have to ask a uniform question. Can you tell us anything about what you might be wearing Saturday?
MARK DANTONIO: White.

Q. Nothing special, Nike, game?
MARK DANTONIO: It’s white.

Q. On a serious note on that, you guys have gone to that rotation, the pro combats and things like that at the Nike school. What has that meant the past few years?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, Nike has a great product, and when they choose a particular institution to do something special with such as they do with Oregon every week, you know, I think that’s a statement to young people, and I think people like to see that. They like to see change. They want to keep things fresh, and anything we can do to embrace that, we do. As we move through this cycle, you know, there are different things that we’ll be able to experience with Nike’s help, and very appreciative of it. We have great relationships with them and have gotten to know the people there personally, and I think they’re extremely innovative, outstanding people first of all, but extremely innovative and cutting edge in all their thoughts and the processes that they do to keep their product fresh. Maybe I’ll show up on a Nike commercial.

Clemson Looks Ahead After Georgia Collapse, Focuses on South Carolina St.

Clemson hung with Georgia in the first half of their opening game, but a second half collapse thanks to Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs defense led to a 45-21 defeat of the Tigers. Gurley ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score. He made the most of his limited touches on a sweltering night between the hedges, averaging 17.2 yards every time he got his hands on the ball and breaking Rodney Hampton’s mark of 290 all-purpose yards, set in 1987. Clemson head football coach Dabo Sweeney discussed the Georgia game and the upcoming game against South Carolina St.


COACH SWINNEY: Obviously coming off a disappointing loss from this past weekend. Missed a great opportunity I think to have a chance to steal one on the road and didn’t get it done obviously, but got a lot to improve on. There were a bunch of positives from the game, some things that we can really coach off of.

I’m excited to get back in the Valley. It’s our home opener, and we get seven opportunities a year. We live right here in this stadium. We drive around this campus 365 days a year, and it’s special when you get a chance to see this place come to life. So I’m excited about getting in the Valley and getting to do what we do with the Clemson faithful this weekend.

South Carolina State has got another good team this year. They went on last year and had a really good year and I think they have an excellent team put together this year, really good team. Coach Pough has done a great job with just the consistency in their performance over the years.

Veteran offense. Kind of the roles have changed a little bit last year to this year. Last year they had a real veteran defense. Had some young guys on offense and this year they have got a bunch of veterans on offense. They have got a lot of new faces on defense but offensively, they are confident, first of all. They are 1?0 and scored a ton of points in the opener so they are going to bring in a lot of confidence with that.

Their quarterback is impressive. He was more their wildcat guy last year, but he’s a guy that I think they will definitely involve in trying to create some opportunities for him in the run game. Very capable of making some throws.

Got a bunch of good skill people. Very impressed with their offensive line. They are well?coached up front and they are physical. It’s a good group. They have got some really good players. They have got a couple guys that we recruited.

Defensively, a bunch of new faces. Got a new defensive coordinator that came from Louisville and I think been with Coach Strong for a long time, since maybe all the way back when he was at Florida. They bring a lot of pressure. They are in and out of three down, four down, with their packages, and really do a good job and very impressed with just how hard they play. Obviously we’ve only got one game to watch, but I thought they played extremely hard.
Big thing, though, for us is to really work on Clemson. We have got a lot of improving to do in all areas this week. It is good when you actually have some game film now to coach off of, as opposed to practice, and got a lot of guys that have to learn and correct and stay confident. We’ve got to make sure that the commitment to the overall process of what we do and how we do it is kind of reaffirmed in a few guys.

But my objective is to see us get better as a football team this week. I expect that we will, and again, just everybody learn and correct and be confident. That’s what good teams do. All good teams after a loss, they refocus and they get better.

And as I told the team yesterday, the teams that finish in the top echelon of college football are teams that get better from a loss; that grow; that learn. There’s only one undefeated team last year, so everybody had a loss or two losses or whatever, and if you’re going to be a great team, then you have to grow and learn from those things.
Now, we could all be 1?0 today and having beat East Community College, and we’d probably have had the same mistakes but we probably wouldn’t grow as much those weeks from those mistakes. I obviously wish we had won the game the other night. Thought we were in position, had our chances. But just too many mistakes against a really good football team at their.

Place. Georgia deserved to win and Georgia is going to win a bunch of games, but I think Clemson will, too; if we improve and mature and grow into what I think we’re capable of doing. And this week is a big step toward that, and that’s my challenge to the team this week.

That’s my expectation is to correct a lot of these mistakes that we saw, things that were very, very correctible. So looking forward to getting back out on the field.

Health?wise, we are in good shape?? with Sam Cooper, just the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. He actually thought somebody had hit him with the football. He thought he had been hit by something, but he broke his fibula, which is the non?weight bearing bone. But we are very encouraged by his prognosis and I’m happy for him that we are going to get him back here in the short term.

So it’s good that we’ll play this week, and then we’ll have an open date. We have a couple weeks before we play again. So we expect to get Sam Cooper back, hopefully sooner than later. But other than that, we came through the game pretty good health?wise. Good to get a few of those guys back that weren’t able to play Saturday night. Glad to have those guys back in the fold, as well.

Q. You won pretty handily against SC State last year. Anything you see this time around that could be more difficult or challenging when you take them on?
COACH SWINNEY: No, I think they are a good team. I think last year we had a couple scores on defense. You score on defense, that’s a big factor in the game. I thought we just kind of got on them early and all three phases came together. When you put all three phases together, when you have got a talented group, that’s hard to overcome.
That’s what we did last year and that’s what I want to see this year. I want to see us put all three phases together, all three phases improve, get better in the areas that we need to improve in. As far as the score, I don’t care what the score is. I just want to see us get better, and I want to see us find a way to win, period, bottom line.

But South Carolina State, they will be excited. It’s a great opportunity for them to come. Again a few of those guys that we recruited that are really good players, really good players. No.10 on defense, a freshman, Leonard, that’s Anthony Waters little brother. He was a guy that we probably would have signed four or five years. He’s starting for them as a freshman. He’s a really good player, and they have got a couple linemen that we recruited. They have some guys, and they will come with AGame. But again it’s about us playing and performing to the standard that we have set.

Q. David and Corey were starting last year. How quickly do you give them their jobs back or how quickly do they earn them back?
COACH SWINNEY: Again they have done nothing to not be considered two of our best players. They just were not able to play in that game. But we have prepared and practiced with them all fall camp. We prepared for the season, not just one game.

Those guys, we’ll plug them right back in there and get going. We’ll see how we do today and tomorrow. Today and tomorrow are critical days for us from a practice standpoint and making some decisions how we are going to go into the game.

I loved both of those guys’ effort and energy last night on the field. Corey was ready to go. But again, consequences for your actions. I don’t have any doubt ?? I mean, those guys have been great since the spring, they really have. They have gone above and beyond, and I’m just glad that we can move on and they can get out there and go play.

Q. Any concern with the kicking gameas far as Ammon Lakip with the miss, is that an open competition? Is it that still his job?
COACH SWINNEY: It’s still his job. It’s one miss. I wish he would have made it. He’s 0?for?1. If he’s 0?for for a while, then we’ve got issues. But I’m not going to fire a guy because he’s 0?for?1.

Obviously that’s his job and he’s got to do that but we’re not to that point right now. Hopefully he’ll get better this week and hopefully he’ll grow his confidence a little bit more.

You know, it was a big kick. That was a big one, and that’s one of the things when you are always trying to make that point to your team about how critical special teams is, especially in games like that. Sometimes you can make a lot of mistakes and you’re just that much better than the opponent.

But when you’re playing against a very talented team, equally talented team, especially at their place, special teams is a lot of times, just it’s the difference. It really is four or five plays and if we didn’t change anything in the game, because we had enough mistakes to lose three times on offense and defense, and critical, correctible mistakes.

But if you just change the kick return and to make that field goal, we’re up seven in the fourth quarter. Won’t change anything else.

So that’s how important special teams is. We had a couple young guys on there that we’ve got to coach them. It’s unfortunate that you’ve got to?? sometimes you learn the most from some pain, but that’s part of it. Usually the biggest growth opportunities comes from a little pain and suffering and adversity. So we’ll coach from it.
I think Ammon is an excellent kicker. I think Ammon, I really think he’s going to have a great year. Wish we’d had a couple more opportunities the other night but he didn’t make that first one. And we’ll keep on plugging. Again, just one game and one field goal.

Q. How much of a concern was it from a tight end standpoint not getting off the line and not being a factor for you in the passing game?
COACH SWINNEY: I didn’t think our tight ends struggled getting off the line. We just didn’t really involve them quite as much as we’d like to, and a lot of that just got dictated into what we do. First half, we wanted to run the football, and we pretty much had our way the first half. Really did what we wanted to do. Probably played as good a first half as we’ve done in a long time.

Execution was great, with the exception of those drops that we had that killed two drives, but other than that, we were running it. And really liked what we were doing.

Jay Jay got in there and did a nice job, but we aren’t really throwing the ball all over the park. And then second half, we played backed up and we didn’t have the ball. I mean, that’s the offense’s fault. They were just three?and?out when we did get it. I think we only made two first downs.

But the whole time of possession completely flipped from first half to second half and just didn’t do a lot in the passing game. But those guys saying they struggled getting off the line and all that, I don’t think that’s accurate.

Q. Chad talked a little bit about I guess integrating young players, first?year players into a game situation too soon and perhaps maybe?? he implied that perhaps it wasn’t the perfect situation to give more exposure to first?year guys you’re going to count on as playmakers on offense. Was that pivotal in this game? Were you comfortable with the guys you have in those roles? Because it didn’t seem to me that there was anybody on the field you could say, he could make a play??
COACH SWINNEY: You talking about the freshmen? I don’t agree with that. Again, I think just the circumstances of the game in the second half changed drastically. We had all of a sudden just a rash of mental errors. There was one guy, two guys, one guy; we very rarely had 11 guys. And I wouldn’t do anything different, and it just affected a lot of things: Field position, backed up behind the chains, whatever it may be.

But we got playmakers. You’re going against a really, really good team. I think that’s a rush to judgment and a little bit of an overreaction. I think we have got really good players. As far as our young guys, you’re going to see some more of those guys as we go through.

But I think what Chad was saying is, I mean, that was a different stage, and some of these guys, it’s their first time to play and you don’t really know how they are going to respond; how is Wayne Gallman going to respond. Wayne did a nice job for what we asked him to do and he’s a guy you’ll see more of. He kind of catches your breath.
Same thing with Adam Choice. Adam Choice, a week or so ago, we were going to redshirt, and now we are going to get him ready to play. He wasn’t quite ready for everything with the amount of pressures and different looks that they presented. He wasn’t quite ready for that. But those two guys you’ll see continue to become factors in the running game.

And then those three young wide outs. Charone played a little bit on special teams. But I really love the look on Demarre Kitt and Artavis Scott. I thought they were ready and not overwhelmed with the moment. It was great to see Artavis make a great play. But again we had kind of limited opportunities in that second half.

You know, you’re going to play your best guys, and we have got a good lineup. We have got the best guys out there and we’ll keep developing the rest of our roster. But you’ll see a lot of guys mature and develop as we go through this year. You can’t?? one game, you can’t judge a season or a whole football team.

But I really like the young talent that we have. It’s the first time Joe Gore’s played. He’s played and been on the field but it’s been mostly he’s in backup role, he’s hurt all last year. So the year before, we threw him in there for about five snaps against LSU.

So it was good to see him, because he cares. Joe Gore really cares, and he played a really good first half. Didn’t play as well second half, fundamentally, technically and assignment?wise and so forth, but he really, really cares. I think he will drastically improve. He’s a guy that, like I said, up front, just hasn’t played a lot.
Jay Guillermo got some good playing time. He did a solid job and he’s a guy that’s going to get better. Reid Webster was a big, bright spot for us first time he started, and he’s got pretty good experience in his four years. But first time he’s been in that role. He really responded. I was very pleased with him.

So there was a lot of good things from the game that we can?? Jay Jay McCullough was a bright spot for us, kind of in flux right before the game, losing Cooper, big role that Cooper had in that game, and Jay Jay had not had some of those reps and he jumped in there and really showed more physicality than he had last year. I was impressed with him. He’s earned more opportunity.

So again, you’d have liked to have gotten the win to correct all those things because it just feels better because the fun is in the winning but we are going to improve as a football team drastically from what happened Saturday night.

Q. When you have a game like that where there is clearly so much good in one?half and not so much good in the other half, obviously you’re going to break down both halves of film. Which one was easier to teach off of especially for younger guys?
COACH SWINNEY: Both. Both. They are critical. You have got to learn from the success and you’ve got to learn from the failure and why, and you’ve got to be honest. Yesterday was a long, tough day, because, you know, you have honest conversations and everybody needs to know; and my job is to make sure that the offense knows what happened on defense, and that the defense knows what happened on offense and that they both know what happened on special teams and that everybody is on the same page, so that we can correct it.

That’s what getting better is all about. And same thing with coaching mistakes that we made. It’s everybody; it’s accountability, all of us and ultimately it’s a hundred percent on me. But everybody has got to have that accountability and that ownership.

It’s called teaching. That’s what we do. We teach. So you teach from everything. You teach from the good. You teach from the bad. You teach from the in between. And then you go practice and you get better and you get back out there. Everything in competition is about the next game, man, the next game, the next season, whatever, whatever it is. When you’re a competitor, you want to get back out on the field.

All I know is a win makes things just a little bit better. And then another win makes things just a little bit better. But we have got 11 more games, and I don’t have any doubt we’re going to be a really good football team.

Q. Do you look at these FCS games against FCS teams as a really good opportunity to correct mistakes and get people playing time? The last few years, these FCS games have been relatively easy for you.
COACH SWINNEY: That’s probably why a lot of these people schedule these games as the opener. You look around college football, that’s why a lot of people do that so they can play a bunch of people, see some guys that haven’t played. Probably make some first?game mistakes and maybe can overcome it, things like that.

But, you know, that’s just the way it is. At the end of the day, you have to play them all no matter when they are on your schedule. You play them and you live with whatever results you get. But I think it’s good for us to play an in?state school like this. I think it’s good for a lot of reasons.

I think it’s good for us to be able to have a home game here and grow our team. And I think it’s great for them because they get an opportunity to play on a big stage, and it’s great for our state because it keeps the money in the state and it helps them financially.

So I think there’s a lot of positives from that. You know, one of those a year, I think that’s good for football. It’s good for them. It’s good for us. You know, don’t get many of those opportunities.

Q. How much confidence can be gained from this football game to get guys believing and get the win for what’s going to happen when they get to Tallahassee?
COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, it’s very important. I mean, just cleaning up the execution from an assignment standpoint, getting guys consistently on the same page so that we can see what we can do. Because it makes a difference, when you’ve got 11 instead of nine or ten, it makes a big difference, and just correcting some of the mistakes.

At the end of the day, it’s about the little things. The game the other night is about the little things. It’s about the little things. We’ve been talking a lot about that. I mean, it’s stance; it’s footwork; it’s pad level; it’s hand placement; it’s alignment; it’s your eyes; it’s hat?in?hand shedding blockers; it’s catching the football. It’s little things. It’s taking on a wedge. It’s not the big things. It’s just little things.
So you want to see your team improve in a game like this and that’s what we’re looking forward toward.

Q. What’s the evaluation of the linebackers as far as gap control?
COACH SWINNEY: For three quarters, did a great job, we really did. The thing we have to do defensively is create the mentality that it don’t matter where the ball is or what the offense is doing.
We won the National Championship in 1992, and you know, we had a bunch of three and outs. We had a bunch of them. They were just fired up to go play defense again. They couldn’t get out there fast enough, and that’s a mentality that I think that I want to see us establish defensively.

I think defensively we got a little bit pouty the other night because they worried about what the offense is doing. Don’t matter what the offense is doing. Go play. Ball is on the five?yard line or minus?five, it don’t matter. Our job is to get stops.

And offensively we had probably our best offensive play of the game the other night, 60?yard punt. That’s an offensive play, 60 yards. We were backed up the whole entire third quarter and we finally, finally flipped the field. Instead of going out there and get a stop and winning the game on defense, you know, we give up an 82?yard drive, most of it on two plays.

I think a lot of that was mentality, attitude. We kind of faded a little bit in that regard from I think frustration of the moment, whatever it may be. And so that’s where we’ve got to grow, because we’re going to be in those situations again. And I think we have got ?? I think we have really good people on defense. I think we’ve got great talent, and I think that we have got good people that care on our defense. So I expect us to drastically improve and learn from what happened the other night.

As far as the backers, I think Tony Steward, he played a heck of a ballgame. He had a couple of times where he missed a steal and he was very disappointed in that, but we got a guy?? he also led our team in tackles on special teams. He had four tackles on special teams and was the first one down and played a ton of snaps on defense. There’s a guy that greatly appreciates his opportunity and is trying to make the most of it. He played a good game. Stephone didn’t play his best game. He cares. I expect him to bounce back and play better. I thought B.J. Goodson did a solid job. His particular job wasn’t necessarily set up to make a lot of plays, but he did his job and I thought played well.

Q. Do you think it’s easier to avoid distraction because Florida State is two weeks away after this week, you have the bye week in between. So the guys don’t really have to overlook or think about what’s ahead because they have to have the bye week for preparation and they can just dial into the task at hand and not worry about such a big game looming?
COACH SWINNEY: They had better get dialed in or they will get beat this week. Ain’t nobody right here talking about Florida State. Y’all might be but we’re not. They don’t get dialed in, [|]they’ll lose this week. We don’t correct some of the mistakes, we’ll get beat this week.

This is a team that ?? they are not going to come in here because they are playing Clemson and say, all right, give me a check, head on home. It don’t work that way. You got to earn it. You have to deserve it. I want to see our football team earn and deserve to win, I don’t care who we play.

So every game is huge. It always cracks me up when we try to create the mentality that one game is bigger than the other. They are all big. They are all big. If you don’t believe that, just come stand behind this podium and lose one of them. You realize just how quick, how big they all are. They are all big and we all want to win.

So that’s not even remotely in our mind. We’ve got to focus 100 percent on South Carolina State, that’s what we’re going to do, and we’ll move on to the next one. If the next one is Florida State, then that’s who it is. When that one is over, we’ll move on to the next one, and we’ll see where we are at the end of the year. But we have got to have the right mentality. The season starts today for this football team.

Q. I don’t know if you had a chance to follow what happened with the NFL over the weekend but a couple of Clemson that got named to 53?man rosters on Saturday and were cut on Sunday, and not without a chance to get picked up. Tajh was hoping he would get picked up by a practice squad. Seems like structurally that that’s a tough deal because there’s no place for those to go. Other sports, you slide down to the next level and you play and you get ready. Do you have any thoughts on that?
COACH SWINNEY: It’s hard. It’s hard. Listen, that’s why I tell our guys all the time, don’t buy the lie, man. Only 6.5 percent of high school players play college football, 6.5 percent. And only 1.67 percent of college players play in the NFL, 1.67 percent. It’s hard.

And not only?? there’s a bunch of them, all these guys that were cut this weekend, they were All?Pros. They are All?Pro players. If they were in our camp, they are a pro player. They are good enough to be pro players. But you know, there’s a lot of different reasons. Guys can play till they’re 40 if they want, if they are good enough. Finances, business, okay.

You don’t think Chris Clemons is good enough to play? They are going to give him $2.8 million dollars to play for the Texans. He played five years for the Dolphins. We’ll pay you $2.8 million; give you 500,000 guaranteed to come play. Well, all of a sudden, maybe?? I don’t know, maybe they make a business decision of, hey, let’s just write him that 400,00 or 500,000 and let’s take this rookie for 500,000, and we’ve saved 1.8 million dollars. That’s a business decision that gets made based on production and performance and all that kind of stuff. It’s a whole different deal.

That’s what I love about college football, I’m going to get five guys for four and five years, and you get to develop relationships and grow them, for life. That’s what I love about college football.

Pro football is different. It’s truly a business. You’ve got guys that made it on the 53 on Saturday and then all of a sudden them guys sitting around the table, they go, oh, well, such?and?such got cut. He’s been through all camp, he’s made the team and this guy got cut from some team over here, let’s bring that guy in. That’s just part of it. That’s why guys better get that education, because that education is ultimately what they all have to fall back on.

Play as long as you can. We have several guys that are in flux right now that are going to be on teams that I think will end up eventually being good players and getting opportunity. But it’s hard. It’s very, very, very difficult; timing, health, roster, who is on the roster already. There’s a lot of circumstances that go into it, and got to get a little lucky, too.

Q. A couple preseason All?Americans and some experience on the defensive line. What type of challenge do you think they might present to you?
COACH SWINNEY: They are. They have got three starters back in the defensive line and one of the starters got beat out but that No. 97 is a big ‘ole man now. He’s a full?grown man. That the quarterback from Benedict, he took some shots last week. He’s got my respect, I promise you that.

We’ve got to do a good job, and the biggest thing is getting them identified. They have got a nice package. Like I said, getting into their three down and four down stuff and the pressures that they mix with it; whether you’re in a three?by?one or two?by?two, or where your back is, whatever. They do a nice job. They do a good job disguising things, bringing safeties, bringing corners.

So we have to really be dialed in and have everybody on the same page. So it’s a good challenge for us. Nothing that we haven’t seen or practiced against, but it’s not easy. If you don’t have everybody dialed in, you’re getting hit with the amount of movement and the amount of people that they will mix?and?match in the pressures.